Saturday, December 15, 2007

Attention: “Reformed Christian world”

I am so far behind in my “DUMB & Tan” series that I missed this one. The elders of the Evangelical Free Church of Pullman, Washington, delivered this letter to their congregation on November 10, 2003. It was the first of three times in roughly two years that they warned their flock about Douglas Wilson.

As you read this, please remember that the pastor of E Free was the only legitimately ordained man to “commission” Wilson to serve in a church plant, and notice their reference to the “Reformed Christian world.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ at E Free of Pullman:

Controversies and conflicts are ever-present features of human relationships both, inside and outside of the Christian church. The elders at E Free of Pullman have tried to keep our congregation’s focus on issues of primary importance, those being: eternal life granted by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, personal growth in this life, and corporate growth of the body into the head Jesus Christ.

Over the years we have been discouraged by the shift in focus caused by Christians both inside and outside our congregation. Sometimes this shift has come surrounded by passionate theological issues such as baptism, eternal security, or eschatology. In these instances we have attempted to teach with integrity from the Scriptures: maintaining the unity of the body by focusing on Jesus Christ and him crucified while addressing these issues as of secondary importance. Other times the focus shift has come from passionate application of Scripture on issues such as church priorities, schooling, appropriate dress, and styles of worship. Again, we have attempted to teach with integrity from the Scriptures, maintaining the unity of the body by focusing on Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Currently, many in the congregation are feeling pressure from a brother in Christ, Doug Wilson — by his teachings and the tone of his teachings. Properly addressing this concern is complicated by trying to separate rumor from fact and by appropriately applying the scriptural principles of “love covers a multitude of sins” and “separate yourselves from a divisive brother.” In this process, we also need to leave room for brothers within the reformed Christian world who are actively seeking to persuade Doug to repent of teachings that they believe are heretical or are becoming so.

We need to be clear on one point: Christ Church and Doug Wilson are distinct from our congregation. Although we once were very close in doctrine, preaching the Gospel, and tenor, we now are very distinct from one another. We continue to preach a Gospel from an orthodox evangelical perspective. We continue to teach that a Christian is one who passed from spiritual death to life, has been born again, once was lost and now is found — all by God’s grace through placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Their terminology has changed to the point that it is sometimes difficult to know where they stand regarding how one becomes a Christian. (Is it through their faith, or the faith of a parent exercised through infant baptism?)

We continue to honor Christ’s teaching to live at peace with all men, especially those of the household of God.

Their teaching style is often abrasive, even at times caustic toward both believers and non-believers. We believe this style of teaching is contrary to Christ’s teaching and to his example, and it is counterproductive to proclaiming the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

We want to encourage you to maintain your focus on Jesus Christ and not to let these disruptive teachings and this abrasive style distract you. Take to heart Paul’s encouragement to the Galatians (Gal. 6:7–10): “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Your Elders

Slavery Statement.
The elders of the Evangelical Free Church are opposed to slavery. The basis for that opposition is 1 Tim. 1:9. “We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers — and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.”

The trunk of the tree of slavery is slave trading — kidnapping human beings to sell as possessions to others. It is held to be in the ranks of those who kill their fathers or mothers, who murder, who commit adultery and lie under oath.

Finally, from a literary point of view, the E Free elders could not have finished their statement with three more powerful words: “lie under oath.” Brilliant.

Thank you.