Haters Gonna Hate: Owen Strachan is At It Again

Welcome to the world of Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion, where I shall now proceed to WINSOMELY convince you all that you are WRONG and you need to REPENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A couple of weeks back I linked a piece by Owen Strachan at Thought Life in which he blasted fellow evangelicals who engaged in what he termed “cultural capitulation” on the issue of homosexuality.  I noted that Strachan is part of a movement known as Neo-Calvinist, Neo-Reformed, and other such things which has arisen to prominence lately as a reaction to the shallow, entertainment-driven megachurch spirituality which pervades much of contemporary evangelicalism.  I noted that the Neo-Calvinist movement has a manner of engaging contentious cultural and theological issues which I termed “cultural Pharisaism” because it bears strong resemblance to the Pharisees of first century Israel, who saw themselves as the guardians of their nation’s purity before God, who were marked by intense zeal for the commands of God which they directed against pagans who sought to impose their will from without and break Israel’s national spirit and against disloyal Jews whose zeal was not equal to their own.  The Strachan piece I linked is an example of this par excellence.

Not content by any means to quit while he’s ahead, Strachan is at it again.  Earlier this week Strachan took aim at another prominent evangelical pastor who, as he put it, “self-congratulated” on endorsing gay Christianity.  The pastor, Stan Mitchell of GracePointe Church outside Nashville, Tennessee, preached on Luke 24:13-16, the famous “walk to Emmaus” story.  Elizabeth Dias of Time Magazine recounts the story and also provides a full-length video of the message.  Strachan pulls some choice quotes from the message:

The connection Mitchell draws between the passage and the legitimacy of same-sex orientation is that of “epiphany”: once God appeared to his disciples, surprising them, and he now manifests himself afresh. The epiphany Mitchell presents is that the church should, because of “a divine wind,” as he calls it, embrace same-sex orientation.

Mitchell’s rhetoric reaches fresh heights of self-congratulation: “One day I will write a memoir, and a large portion of that memoir will be about this life-giving experience. The book is not to be written yet, because the final chapters are yet unwritten.” He speaks to the difficulty of the issue at hand: “I have been broken almost to the point where I despaired of life, but I have been encouraged.” Finally, he compares the struggle before him to the civil rights cause: “Could you be a church in Selma and not march, just handle your own community? I don’t think I can do that. We are on the front edge of a movement that means so much.”

He then unleashes a withering barrage of vitriol:

…The move that Mitchell is making is not a heroic one. It is a cowardly one. It doesn’t cause true believers any trepidation. It deserves no applause. It merits no commendation. This is a moment of shame for this pastor, not a moment of acclaim.

I hear the verdant tones of self-aggrandizement. I see the storied hand of history raising up a humble servant to the misty heights of heroism. But pause that for just a sec. Cancel the memoir. Forgo the book tour. Postpone the Oprah appearance.

If you fear man, God will become small to you. The approval of fellow sinners will matter more to you than obeying God by the witness of his Word.

There it is, in living color.  As I noted a couple of weeks back, the Neo-Calvinist movement talks a great game about sovereign grace, yet what really moves the needle in Neo-Calvinist circles is the faithful obedience of God’s people–“obeying God by the witness of his Word.”

“Who will defend the honor of God? Who will speak for the righteousness of the King of Israel?” One could easily imagine such phrases as battle cries for the Pharisees of first-century Israel.  He then references the story of David and Goliath, how David was zealous for the honor of God while his fellow Israelites trembled in cowardice before the threats of Goliath, even to the point of rebuking David for his boldness as his brothers did.  As we know, David defeated Goliath.  God gave him the victory because he was zealous for the honor of God.

Are there any in the new Israel, the church, who will honor God?  Are the pastors of God’s people boys, and not men?  Will we defend the righteousness of God when Satan assails it? Or will we fall silent, grow fearful, and drown out our proclamation of the truth in a series of jokes, qualifications, and selective put-downs of David-like Christians?

From here Strachan goes on to castigate other pastors who “tremble before Goliath”, praying (in a manner of prayer that sounds an awful lot like preaching) that they “will be given eyes to see that they fear man, and not God.  They are setting themselves and their congregations up for destruction”, and calling on those who profess Christ to “do the loving thing, which is to say, to repent and turn back to the obedience of faith.”

Of course the shift will continue.  More godless pastors will turn away from the faith, bowing before the idol of popularity and the good opinion of man.  They will capitulate to the culture, rejecting the truth of God’s word on the issue of gay marriage.  And they will posture themselves as courageous heroes for doing it.  They will weep under the weight of the decision–but it’s all just an act, people.  They will congratulate themselves.  They will tell of impending memoirs and book deals.  And on and on it will go.

But never fear, people.  Because there are many other pastors and churches out there who will NOT bend the knee to Goliath!!!!!  They have fire in their blood, Spirit-given courage, a strong confessional foundation, and pastors who are men and not boys.  They will lovingly preach the Gospel to sinners like themselves (spend enough time in Neo-Calvinist circles and it will become clear that this doesn’t quite mean what you think it means).  And of course, praise God that many former GracePointe members have “recognized the path of destruction” that church is now on and refused to go along.

Strachan ends with a clarion call for more men and women of courage, more pastors of the mold of Spurgeon, Calvin, Cranmer, Huss, and Machen.  There are much higher stakes than being liked by a sin-cursed world.  So don’t be sad about defending orthodoxy.  Be winsome and be shrewd, but don’t be confused or compliant.  Because the stain of the blood of Christ is painted on the household of God and will not wash out.  Don’t be slow to speak out on Christ’s behalf.  Be leaders who “joyfully wake up every day with their blood pumping, and with these immortal words on their minds:  Those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”

Okay.  Couple of things here:

–As noted earlier, this is yet another example of “cultural Pharisaism” –engaging the culture in ways strongly similar to the Pharisees of first century Israel.  Recall that they were the culture warriors of their day–they were obsessed with Israel’s purity as a nation before God and they saw themselves as the guardians of said purity.  They had a long tradition of revering individuals who acted decisively against pagans who sought to impose their will on Israel (Mattathias and the Maccabeans) and against disloyal Jews who compromised with the pagan world (Phinehas) because they were zealous for the honor of God in the house of Israel.  Strachan clearly shows a similar obsession with the Church–the new Israel–‘s purity before God.  He sees himself and others of like mind as the guardians of the Church’s purity before God.  He sees the Church as under judgment because of its compromise with the culture on the issue of gay marriage.  He is quick to finger pastors and entire congregations as being on the path to destruction because they are on the wrong side of this issue.  He sees this as a time for decisive action–resorting to violence if necessary (at least the violence of words posted on the internet)–to defend with zeal the honor of God in the Church.

–Strachan is quick to castigate pastors who come out in favor of gay marriage for “self-congratulating”–yet seems to take a pretty self-congratulatory tone himself for being on the right side of this issue, for not bending the knee to Goliath or submitting to the yoke of the Philistines.  This is a time which calls for courage, for pastors who will be men and not boys, for leaders who will defend the honor of God, and he and others of like mind are answering the bell and rising to the challenge.

–Why this fixation with homosexuality?  The Bible is clear in its denunciation of homosexual behavior–yet devotes a very small amount of ink to the issue.  The percentage of verses in the Bible which address homosexuality is very low, both with respect to the text as a whole and the percentage of verses which address other issues.  So why are evangelicals, and especially those of the Neo-Calvinist persuasion, so completely and totally obsessed with this issue?  Why, when an evangelical church makes the decision to allow individuals with certain views on sexuality to participate more fully in its life, is it suddenly an issue where the Gospel and the honor of God are at stake?

–GracePointe may have gotten it wrong.  Their decision has certainly made a lot of people uncomfortable, as evidenced by the fact that attendance and giving is down this month (as noted in the Time article)–yet at least they are trying to address the issue.  At least they are trying to have a conversation, and it is clear (also from the Time article) that lots of other churches are joining the conversation and trying to figure something out on this issue.

But the one thing you must not do is the one thing Strachan is attempting to do in this piece and the other piece I linked a couple of weeks back.  You must not attempt to shut down the conversation.  You must not act as if we already have all the answers and it’s now our job to implement those answers and if you do it wrong or differently you and your entire congregation are on the path to destruction.

As Protestants, we are not the religion of “Roma locuta est, causa finita est”.  We converse.  We figure things out.  It’s very messy at times, but we trust that through it all the Spirit is guiding us into all truth, even if we don’t see said truth in our lifetimes.  What we do not do is shut down the conversation and act like we have all the answers.  We trust the process.  It’s better than the alternative.