Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Touchy Tom

Christianity Today has a case of church discipline involving a new pastor who kicks a guy out who is active in the church but is "touchy". He's excommunicated by community vote having done this for years. In many ways this is an example of the way church discipline and excommunication are supposed to work. However everything about the incident sounds fake, like a made up example. Tell me what you all think


Heretic said...

Do you think church member ship should be put to a popular vote as in this article?

And on what biblical grounds?

CD-Host said...

Yes. As far as biblical grounds the bible consistently holds up the model of excommunication being "by the church" a function of the membership not the leadership. So these actions require at the very least the consent of the membership.

Now in a structure where you have consent in advance to support all decisions by the leadership (like the catholic church, or the Jehovah's witnesses) I don't think a membership vote is required. But for non presbyterian american protestants I think it is absolutely vital to get the consent of the membership.

Heretic said...

I don't agree, and while unrepentant brothers are to be taken before the body, I do not find that it is for a vote. It is to make the discipline and excommunication public.

Putting it up for a vote, appears that in most churches today would be a popularity vote. We've bought a lie that might makes right.

That the mob rules. I don't see any scriptural basis for this. I'm not denying there isn't any, but I haven't seen it. If you have some, would you please share?


CD-Host said...

My feeling is virtually all of them.
Math 18: "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.
But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you
like a heathen and a tax collector." In other words its refusal to the church not refusal to the leadership.

In Cor 5: "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are
gathered together" again why would "gathered together" be important if this was just a leadership activity?

2Thes 3: "But we command you, brethren..." the command is to all the membership.

Moreover when excommunications occur that don't have widespread support that's when you often get church splits. One of those types of excommunications is what started the reformation. :-)

Heretic said...

I think you are drawing conclusions that are not implicitly stated in the text.

"Before the whole church" is because the discipline is to be public, not because it is to be put to a vote.

The publicity of the discipline provides covering for those who are conducting the discipline.

Again, I will state that discipline should only be conducted when there is clear evidence of sin. Once the evidence of sin is presented, why would the truth need to be put to a "popular" vote?

I still don't see any scriptural basis for the democracy you suggest?

CD-Host said...

I think you are greatly oversimplifying "clear evidence". People can disagree about evidence.
What in your opinion happens:
1) The pastor disciplines someone and the congregation doesn't think they are guilty?
2) The pastor disciplines someone and the congregation doesn't think its a sin?
3) The pastor disciplines someone and the congregation feels that the member is simply too valuable to lose?
4) The pastor disciplines someone and the congregation feels there are mitigating circumstances and the discipline isn't warranted?

Without the congregation agreeing to support the pastor the whole thing can become very complicated. You need the consent of the congregation for discipline to be effective. Essentially what do you think happens if a disciplinary action is opposed by the congregation?

Heretic said...

You place too much power in the hands of the pastor. I don't think the scripture advocates that type of authority and power to be in the hands of the pastor. But I don't think it says that we should put it to a democratic vote either.

Discipline should only be conducted where there is clear evidence of wrong doing. Facts. If the pastor has facts, then it shouldn't matter what the congregation feels or thinks. Conversely if anyone has facts in regard to the pastor the same holds true.

Sin is defined by the scriptures. Not by the opinions of men. Whether those men be the pastor, the president or the pope.

CD-Host said...

You have completely ducked the issues. Sure in a make believe world where everything agrees with everything that everyone does and evidence is clear we can have judgement without input. How often does that happen? In the real world evidence is often very murky and judgments on these sorts of issues are complex. Given a disciplinary situation where a variety of people have a variety of opinions who makes the choices. I gave you 4 situations where people might disagree.

You know that not everyone agrees on what constitutes sin. Some christians drink others consider it prohibited. Some Christians believe the scriptures condemn various forms of temple prostitution and pederasty others believe its a condemnation of homosexual sex. Some believe the trinity is obligatory others believe it is outright polytheism.

And people disagree facts of cases all the time. They may weigh different pieces of evidence differently. There are only 3 possibilities:

1) The congregation has to along with discipline regardless of whether they think its correct
2) There is no expectation that the congregation will enforce discipline
3) Discipline only proceeds when the congregation believes it is justified.

I think you need to address the real issue. Who in your opinion decides how to interpret scripture? Who in your opinion decides how to evaluate the facts? Who in your opinion sets the bar for the level of evidence required? etc...

Heretic said...

The answer to your question(s) is:


In the OT, when there was no clear evidence of murder, there was no disciplinary action taken?

Why, because men are falliable!

And the mob is easily entertained!

CD-Host said...

Well first off I thought you were done posting. Second I notice how on your blog you've twice taken ideas and articles from this blog and not given credit or a reference. So is plagiarism part of your values, how you were broken upon the rock?

Now on to your response. This is just simple nonsense. The standards for evidence in the OT are the kinds you find in any judiciary system. Standards of evidence increase as guilt as the severity of the offense increases. Criminal codes have higher standards than civil codes. Often the solution of not being able to prove a more serious offense is to plead down to a lesser charge. People disagree all the time and a whole appeals process is needed. Just to provide some examples:
circumstantial evidence
Admissions in evidence
attestation of documents

Heretic said...


I did give credit where credit was due:

"An Evangelical Definition of Heresy: From Church Discipline"

Where church discipline is a link to your site. Also notice how the information is in a block quote from your article.

The other was in reference to the CT article - not your's.

Please get a grip.

I am done here!

Just trying to wrap-up!