Disciplining a Retired Pastor

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Edwin Walhout, apparently a retired CRC minister, has written an article in the Banner suggesting and promoting the changing of a number of core reformation doctrines which the CRC holds to, and which are foundational to our understanding of who man is, who Christ is, and what our relationship to God is. This is contrary to church order principles, but even more importantly, contrary to the confessions which officebearers subscribe to, and contrary to the profession of faith all CRC members make. Most important of all, it is contrary to scripture, which the confessions themselves say is foundational and superior even to the confessions.  

If he (and the banner editor) are not disciplined strongly for this, then there is no justification for getting upset about being contrary to infant baptism, predestination, election of the chosen, and there is no justification for getting upset with anyone for living an immoral life either, since scriptures and confessions can obviously be contradicted with impunity. 

I would suggest that Walhout loses his credentials, and that the banner editor position be found a replacement.

What do you suggest? 

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From a personal point of view, when I thought that this article was merely on line and not in print, then I thought we could tolerate his article, but when I just saw it in print, going to every innocent household, I realized the implications were much greater, and this has passed the point of being charitable and patient.   (with friends like this in our church, who needs enemies?) 

Edwin Walhout wasn't suggesting change. He was suggesting that everything core to our faith is nothing but make believe.

Interesting perspective, Ryan.  Make believe huh? 

 

I wonder if the argumentation hasn't gone adrift somewhere in this and the related conversation thread, especialy as the author of the article is deliberatively hesitant by stating "The best option is prayerful attention, listening carefully to everything God is saying both in his original creation and in his redemptive gospel." 

To argue that Walhout and Demoor need to be disciplined verges on suggesting that heresy or apostasy lies at the root of what was published. 

The question as raised, steps over the line of Christian charity.

Lubbert, I think there was lots of Christian charity.  Especially when it was only online.  When it went into print into the homes of helpless innocent households, the article stepped over the line.  Although it is your judgement that asking for sanction or discipline steps over the line of christian charity, it also seems obvious that this article stepped over the line of reasonableness from the perspective of scripture, confessions and committments.  There were a number of people in the thread in the banner who suggested that it was heresy, the way it was written.  Being deliberatively hesitant in one statement in a long article is not providing the balance that this topic deserved.   The rest of it certainly was not deliberatively hesitant.  Feel free to demonstrate why the statements made were not heretical or contrary to the confessions and form of subscription. 

That would not be a fruitful exercise. 

No, it wouldn't be fruitful to try to suggest that Walhout's statements were not contrary to our confessions or to scripture.  It couldn't be done.  It does not make me happy to suggest that someone (anyone) should be found to lose his credentials or even to ask for an apology, especially an older gentleman who is "retired".   I find it sad.  and disgraceful.  and sad that it is necessary to even suggest it.   Of course, you are allowed to say it may not be charitable.   Which is a judgement, and it is a judgement that might seem to forbid people from asking for truth or conformity to confessions by those who should know better.   The problem is that this statement/article went to innocent helpless homes in our crc churches.  The problem is that if it is possible to make such statements in such a way without consequences, then is there any point at all of elders being enjoined to engage in "being firm and consistent in rebuke and discipline"?   Is there any real point in examining pastors, or in examining those who wish to make profession of faith?   What is the point?   What does it really matter what they believe?   What does it mean on page 995 (hymnal) where it says that a minister "must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."? 

There are brother's and sisters in Christ in the conversation thread "Tomrrow's Theology" who neither share your "particular take" on science and scripture. 

They desire, like you, to listen carefully to everything God is saying both in his original creation and his redemptive creation.

It's one thing to have a spirited discussion, and another to declare the author and publisher to be antathema needing strong discipline in a new conversation thread "How would the go about discipling a retired pastor who suggests and promotes changing many of the core CRC doctrines?"

If Walhout is to lose his ministerial credentials and DeMoor is to fired, what is to be done to those whose opinions differ from yours in "Tomorrow's Theology?"

Where is the charity? [1 Corinthians 13] This is what makes the conversation not fruitful.

Walhout's article is way off balance. He says we need to take science as fact. He is anything but balanced. Look back at science 500 years ago and we are certain to say that we can't believe we thought that. Yet, Walhout says we need to take science as fact and change everything core to our faith.

Walhout and DeMoor should be taken to task for this completely unbalance article. According to article 15 of the Belgic Confession, "We believe that by the disobedience of Adam original sin has been spread to the entire human race. . . " Walhout has denied this. Walhout and DeMoor have signed our Form of Subscription and have agreed to proper and healthy way of dealing with their doctrinal struggles. But with this article they have broken with that agreement have done what it right in their own eyes. They have not acted with charity or consideration. 

Walhout says in his article"

"It would be extremely difficult to locate any such Garden of Eden, and even if [we] were abelt to do so in modern Iraq, whereis the scientific and historical evidence of a pristine origin and expulsion from that Garden?" and "We say that our children are conceived and born in sin. But if Adam and Eve are not understood as real historical people, then there can hardly be an inheritance of sinfulness from parent to child all the way back to Adam-in which cas the entire doctrine of original sin falls by the wayside."

It would seem to me that Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden and sin don't actually exist in Walhout's mind. He goes on to say that our understanding of Christ's work will have to be revised. Well if science and scientific proof are Walhout's standard he might as well tell us that the virgin birth is scientifically impossible, rising from the dead on the third day is a scientific impossibility, miracles are scientific impossibilities and that God himself is not a real person because He won't bend to the scientific proof either. 

If I were take Walhout's direction I would have to conclude that our Scriptures are a bunch of fable's that can help us navigate our unfolding universe. They are nothing but make believe.

 

Lubbert, the "charity" ace card gets pulled out in a way that removes any possibility for understanding reasonable objections.   Walhout wrote about this in a way that clearly indicates that he believes that our basic doctrines will change in the future.  There are many who see that.   Most commentators on the banner thread have indicated that.   If we are misunderstanding him, then he needs to clarify it. 

If a former minister or an elder can make comments like this about basic doctrines, then it seems they are not exploring all the options.   If they can make comments like this with impunity, then there is no point in having classical examinations for ministerial candidates, and there is no point in having elder examinations of those who wish to make profession of faith.  What is the point of having those "examinations", and what is the point to agreeing to the form of subscription, and what is the point of making a profession of faith that subscribes to the three forms of unity, if you don't have any intention of abiding or holding to them.   Is that not a form of deception?   Is that not the heart of deceit?   Please tell me what it is. 

Charity means love for those who place confidence in office bearers.   That means that charity demands extra responsibility from "teachers, preachers, etc."  because of the potential impact of what they do and say, on the rank and file.   Sending comments like this into helpless innocent homes through a denomination support publication, where individuals barely have the right to even refuse the publication, is not charitable, and creates dissension and discord.  Charity demands a response of accountability. 

Furthermore, if the basis of our sinful condition is torn down (as it appears to be by Walhout), then what is the basis for a requirement that we need to be charitable?   Evolution certainly does not require charity from us?   If God used evolution to create us, and created us with the competitive survival of the fittest pre-eminent instinct, then it would be unreasonable for God to ask us to be charitable, wouldn't it? 

 

Is possible that you are reading more into what article lays out as questions of enquiry? 

For the last two hundred years sections of the church have painted themselves into a corner over what in the end is nothing more than a theory. Some christians in the 20th century, like their opponents have bought into a form of postivism, fighting over the factualism of evolution. It's no different than individuals in the field of science treating empirical data as metaphysical statements.

It's unhealthy for the body of Christ. We've lost a sense of the mystery in God's creation that He will reveal in His good time, or not.

 

Community Builder

Christians fighting amongst themselves, trying to figure out who should be kicked out of their little club and how they can justify weaseling out of showing 1Cor 13 love to one another... Any discouragement from the original article is certainly eclipsed by this discussion thread.

I fully agree with you, John (Zylstra), that--hopefully--some consequence will occur regarding the radical article by a Minister of the Word (Edwin Walhout) and the editor of the Banner (Bob DeMoor, who is also a Minister of the Word).  Both of these men are supposed to uphold and promote the central and clear teachings of Scripture as God's reliable Word for the edification and ecucation of the members of Christ's Church, especially the Christian Reformed Church as an expression of that Church.

The supernatural creation of Adam and Eve as the first real, historical human beings, their historic fall into sin, God's communication and acts regarding Adam and Eve and their sin, Christ's acceptance of these historical persons and events springing from them and their actions, etc., are all to be upheld and promoted by ministers and editors of the C.R.C., not cast into doubt or discredited.  True shepherds are to feed and protect the sheep, not breed confusion, doubt, and promote unevidenced theories that contradict the Word of God and factual science (World of God).  [See my previous comments, the 3rd or so from the top, in the original web version of this article by Walhout.]

Hopefully, the appropriate persons and bodies in the C.R.C. will address this harmful article and hold responsible the writer of the article and the editor/publisher of the article, especially due to its appearance in the printed version of our denomination's magazine, the Banner.  Loving-yet-biblical-and-firm discipline should occur unless both men publically (including in print) confess their error and offense in this regard and retract their perspectives, and--in DeMoor's case--probably be replaced as editor anyway since he has a history of radical statements in his editorials (e.g., treating homosexual sexual-relationships as being a topic in need of further exploration and not being sure of its perverse nature in the eyes of God as clearly revealed in God's Word).

This is a serious matter and in need of being seriously addressed.

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John,

You have such an interesting idea of what "core" doctrines are. A core doctrine is our belief in the Trinity. A core doctrine is our belief in Jesus as the only way to salvation. A core doctrine is our acknowledgment that God is sovereign Lord over all things, and that Christ will return as triumphant King of Kings. A core doctrine is THAT God created all things. The mechanics of how God created the world (as opposed to the question of whether He created the world or not) is NOT a core doctrine. You conflate these things. THAT God created the world is not equal to HOW God created the world.

I am saddened by the polarization that happens on online forums like this. Discipline requires a process that would involve face to face communication and ample opportunities for those being accused of wrongdoing to explain themselves and change thier ways if the church calls them to that. I hear John suggesting this article warrants disciplinary action and wondering what others think about this. I do not believe invoking 1 Corinthians 13 calls us to withhold discipline from people who err in the Christian life and faith. Do you withold discipline from your children because you love them? No, we thoughfully and carefully discipline our children because we love them. Those who are ordained leaders in Christ's church take a vow to teach the truths of the Christian faith and ask others to hold them accountable. I hope my church loves the gospel and loves me enough to call correct me when I go wrong. I imagine the author and editor are with me in this. All that to say, please do not frame Christian discipline in terms of "unloving" or "fighting."

About the article itself: 1) The author frames the whole thing in a reading of history that is simply inaccurate. Purgatory, indulgences, relics, etc. did not form the "backbone of Christianity" 500 years ago. When these became too important, the Reformation happened. To put creation, sin and salvation (think Apostles Creed) on par with these is simply wrong. 2) Apart from the concluding blurb from a synodical report, Walhout fails to mention anything about how the church has already been wrestling with these issues for the past 150 years. This includes the various ways Genesis 1 has been interpreted well before Darwin came along, the numerous scholars who have described Adam and Eve as the representative head of the human race, and the work of scholars today in wrestling with these questions (i.e. books and articles by the Haarsmas at Calvin College). 3) This article lacks helpful distinctions, such as the difference between evolution and naturalism, which help us ask and answer the important questions. 4) He does suggest evolutionary theory calls for a reworking of doctrines like creation, sin and salvation. About sin, he says, "We will have to find a much better way of understanding what sin is, where it comes from, and what its consequences are. Theologians will have to find a new way of articulating a truly biblical doctrine of sin and what effect it has on us." In other words, evolutionary theory will enable theologians to be true to the Bible in our theological articulations. The implication being that now we will really understand the Bible. I think the problems in this are obvious. I am a bit floored that anyone in this forum might suggest that sin and salvaiton are not core doctrines of the Christian faith. 5) The author makes a prediction about the future, a prophetic claim, if you will. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that we humans with our best sciences cannot predict the future. Unless Walhout received this from God himself (including being from Scripture), he should not put this forward as something that will inevitably happen. Being a false prophet is a serious matter in the Bible.

About editorial wisdom: I agree with the postings in this forum and the other in response to the article itself that publishing this article was an irresponsible editorial decision. I would suggest the reasons above as well as the need for the denominational news magazine which we all fund to edify and build up the church. What this article is essentially saying is that we are probably wrong about the truths of the Christian faith we have staked our lives on. If evolutionary theory gives us hope for getting the Bible right in the future, then evolutionary theory is really our hope. I have searched for what is positive about the choice of this article and the only thing I have found is the fact that it brings up the question. I will grant that, but why have an article that rasies a question and provides no helpful answers? We all know why we would never publish a once sentence article, "So what will our theologians do in light of the growing consensus among scientists that biological evolution is true?"

In conclusion, I would like to know how the Banner editorial staff makes decisions about what to and not to print. You can't be accountable if you don't have a standard, and everyone who works for a living is accountable to someone for doing a job effectively. Perhaps that would be a worth-while overture to synod next year. Let's establish some standards in writting before the diverse body of the CRC starts suggesting corrective actions based on differing indivual agendas. This article has brought more confusion than clarity about its subject matter. I hope the editor might see this and steer away from such unhelpful uses of paper and ink in the future. As far as Walhout goes, accountability must begin in his own congregation. I pray that his own church takes this opportunity to ask him what it is that he does believe and what it is that he stakes his life on? A follow-up in the Banner about what this retired minister does believe might give a counter-balance to the "let's question everything" tone of this one. Untimately, we care about the spiritual well-being of this man. We care that his personal conviction of sin has been met by the saving work of Christ and not simply that his lines in the sand are drawn exactly where we want them. Let's give this discussion thread that sort of charity.

Very well said.

A fine post, Brother Phillip.

John Kralt, since the article in question is in the denominational magazine, which members are virtually forced to accept, then this discussion certainly does not break the rules.   Every transgression or problem ought to be dealt with at the level that it is promolgated.  While a "private" sin ought to be dealt with as privately as possible, this is a public and denomination wide contradiction of confessions, subscription, and profession of faith.  Regardless of who actually deals with it, it absolutely requires a public announcement or knowledge of how it is dealt with.  Discipline is done as much for the sake of the church as it is for the sake of the individual.  That's exactly why Annanias and Sapphira received the consequences they did.  And that's why apostle Paul publicly rebuked Peter to his face, and publicized the discussion.   If this is not dealt with, it will lead to an eventual deterioration.  Those churches who do not defend the faith, are indicating that they really do not think it is that important.   They are like those identified in Jeremiah 7, who wish to worship both God and mammon.  We are all susceptible to that, and we all need to admonish one another in those situations.  I think Philip Westra has made some very good points in his post. 

Naturally, John K, you are entitled to your opinion.  But is "entitlement" really the issue?  Entitled by whom?  Human beings are "entitled" to be unbelievers, but of what use is it?   Why do we focus so often on "entitlement"?  

The real issue is not "entitlement", but being true to scripture, and true to your faith.  I agree with Calvin that some people are inclined to reject what they do not know or understand.  I also agree with Calvin, that we should not forbid scientists from working because we are afraid of some new knowledge.  But you have not drawn a connection between this statement and our present discussion... what I mean is that no one is saying that we should not do science.   So I think this is a red herring.  What some of us are saying is that perhaps science is not being done well;  that conclusions are being drawn which do not have substantive proof. 

Furthermore, are you implying that Calvin would agree with Walhout?  That there is no original sin; that no original Adam and Eve existed;  that God did not declare everything good?  That God did not make a promise to Adam and Eve that their seed would crush the head of the serpent?   What exactly are you implying? 

When you state that things that Paul stated went way over the head of Peter, did you get that idea from scripture?   Is that really what he said?  

When you say that all you need to know is that Christ is your saviour, what is it you are being saved from?  your sin?  your sinful nature?  But what if your "sin" is merely an outworking of the supposed "natural" evolutionistic tendencies to survival?  Why would you be redeemed from that?  And you say that Christ redeems the whole creation... but why does the creation need to be redeemed?   what's wrong with it?  How do you know?   What makes your beliefs different from someone who says that man is "naturally good"?  

It is my view that these views are fundamental, not peripheral.   They are basic to our understanding of ourselves, of creation, and of the creator/redeemer.   Does that mean that people should not be investigating fossils, and starlight, and planets, and genetics, and different types of rock, or the sequences they are found in?   No, all investigation is legitimate, but our interpretation is colored by our assumptions, and we do not serve the greek or roman gods, but we serve the true God.  We know the true God through scripture, not thru the imaginations of our minds, nor thru the wistful desires of our heart.  And we know God thru the majesty and order and magnificence of creation, not thru the supposed random accidentalness and ferocious survival instinct and desperation to survive, which if it was the dominating principle certainly would make it useless and meaningless to love God and our neighbor, wouldn't it.  

I think this issue is well worth discussing.  We need to know how to defend against such statements as Walhout makes.   The problem is that Walhout proposed it and gave it the appearance of a valid christian approach, which is highly, highly questionable, and certainly should not have been given the imprimatur of the banner podium in the way that it did. 

If I might try and walk a line in between, since we are all agreed that we are called to look to both scripture (theology) and creation (science) as the two books God has given us to know him, then argument seems to be one about the paradigm being used to explore and understand nature.

In particular, if the assumption is that Walhout's paradigm is incorrect, then there is also an assumption that the Zylstra paradigm is also incorrect. Unfortunately, it is possible that both assumptions are true, in that they are two sides of the same coin in that both theories rest on materialist positivistic scientific axioms. 

Consequently, if Walhout is to be brought before the church fathers, so ought Zylstra. 

There's a sense of the absurd at play here, like being in a Franz Kafka novel. 

Lubbert, you have taken this in an interesting direction.  "materialistic, positivistic, scientific axioms..."  hmmm.   They are all much the same, aren't they?  but my position is not based strictly on materialism, nor positivism, which exclude other aspects of life and reality.  My position is merely that there ought not to be a substantive contradiction between material things and our understanding of God's power and how God works in the creation that He created.  Therefore, when Jesus fed the 5000, I believe this to be real and material, but not originating from a material and physical origin.  Thus it is not a normally replicatable activity.  My position is not based at all on a materialist point of view, even though I obviously do not deny material reality.  The real issue is whether scripture means what it says.   You cannot argue this away by philosophical mumbo jumbo that diverts.  Are you trying to say that Adam and Eve were not material?  That they were created from spiritual dust?  That they were only created in the imagination of man's heart?   Do you get that kind of indication from scripture? 

 John K, the apparent perceived absurdity of the discussion... is based on  what ?   It would seem obvious, and not absurd, to suggest that Jesus statements, and the rest of the new testament's references to Adam and Eve ought to be taken seriously.   We do not believe in our confessions because John Calvin happens to agree with them, do we?   Is it not that Calvin agrees with them, because they are true?   "It is not true because it is in scripture, but rather, it is in scripture because it is true."  

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[quote=John Zylstra]

The real issue is whether scripture means what it says.

[/quote]

I'm sorry, John, but that line alone is such a pile of hooey. The real issue is NOT whether scripture means what it says. We ALL agree that scriptures mean what they say. The REAL question is whether or not OUR interpretation of scriptures lines up with what scripture actually intends to say. This is an ABSOULUTELY critical distinction. Your statement is inflamatory and wrong. I've not ever heard anyone say, "I want to argue that the scriptures do not mean what they say they mean."

I've heard people argue that "The scriptures don't mean what YOU say they mean." I've heard people say, "The scriptures don't say what we've thought they've been saying." But no one says "The scriptures don't mean what they say."

Case in point: Proverbs 26:4-5 has the following proverbs:

 

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.

Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

 

So, which is it? Do we answer the fool or not? Obviously the "interpretation" of these proverbs needs to be more than surface deep. You may use your hermeneutical tools to come up with an interpretation of this that is different than mine. We may argue about that. Are either one of us arguing that the scriptures don't say these things, or that they don't mean what they say? No. Are we arguing with the way in which you or I interpreted those passages? Yes. 

 

It's the same with the creation story. You might argue that God created the world in 6, 24-hour days. I might argue that God created the world in 6, "1000-years is as unto a day", days. Are either one of us saying that the scriptures doesn't mean what it says? No. Are we arguing that each others' understanding of the scriptures is better/worse and/or more or less correct. Yes.

Dan....

Thank you.

Daniel, Proverbs 26:4-5 has often been on my mind in some of these discussions.   You have a point, that we need to understand context and relevance of passages in order to understand them.   However, proverbs 26:4-5 does not contain two false passages, but rather, two true statements.   When these two statements are put together closely, it will be easy to understand that either situation could prevail, and that we must be careful about assessing when which one is appropriate. 

This highlights the fact that scripture is understood in the context of scripture.   We have the same issue with "judging".   Jesus said, "judge not, lest you be judged, for in the way you judge others, you yourself will also be judged".   This is a practical saying, also a type of proverb, more than a command.   It also seems to indicate a distinction between two types of "judging".   We might judge actions, but be very careful about judging the heart.   We know Jesus saying is a proverb, because obviously Jesus judged others, particularly the pharisees, and also his disciple Peter, and Paul also told the church to judge those inside the church, and made many judgemental distinctions.   The epistle of John also indicated that followers of Christ would not keep sinning, etc.   So this helps us to understand the context of seemingly contradictory statements.   Scripture interprets scripture.  

When we come to Genesis 1 and 2, how does scripture interpret this?   Do we find places in scripture that contradict Genesis 1 and 2?   If so, then perhaps there are some grounds for your claim.   But rather, we find scripture that substantiates and builds on the veracity of Genesis 1 and 2, pretty well as it is given.   Adam is indicated to be a real person in a number of places.   The fall into sin is not ethereal and imaginative.   Man's fallen state is indicated in the Psalms, as well as in various epistles.  

If we change our understanding of the basic principles in Genesis, that God created things "good" (not randomly evil), that God created man to have dominion (not as merely another animal), that God created the first man before the first woman, that God gave a specific command to Adam and Eve, that God established consequences for their disobedience, which Christ was the fulfillment of promise to absorb those consequences, .... if we change those principles into ideas such as, "man is basically good, just needing to be separated from bad influences", or "creation does not need redemption, because it is just proceeding as it always has according to natural law", then we have changed our basic understanding of who God is, and of what our relationship to God is. 

There are possibly certain interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2 that do not impact these basic theological principles.   But I do not hear that discussion taking place here.   Rather the entire raw theory of evolution as secularly presented in the absence of God, is being promoted and assumed, and this is the problem. 

John Zylstra: "Rather the entire raw theory of evolution as secularly presented in the absence of God, is being promoted and assumed..."

John Zylstra: Unfortunately John, you are the only one assuming and promoting this fallacy. I hear and understand that you love The Lord and His Word, however, it is time to show some charity towards your brothers and sisters in Christ and not put words in their mouths and thoughts in their minds that they did not express.

As Dan indicates, it is your particular theory of the natural world that they take issue with, not God's Word.

There is an element of hubris in your approach on this matter.

Lubbert, if it is a fallacy, then you will have to demonstrate how and why it is a fallacy in the case of Walhout.   Otherwise, I will have to disagree with you. 

John Zylstra: Let's set Walhout aside since not all agree with him, just as you do not. Some of these individuals also do not agree with your theory of the natural world. 

Nonetheless, you lumped them in with what you feel Walhout is arguing.

You're deliberately avoiding the point on "fallacy."

You're not engaging people in discussion but trying to beat them into submission to your "singular" notion of the natural world.

Therein lies the hubris.

Lubbert, again I disagree.   I am not lumping people together who should not be lumped together.   In fact, on the Banner thread on this topic, Andy Luchys seems to be in a different camp.  

 I agree with you that there are different possibilities, yet, I believe it makes sense to defend the possibility that one thinks is  most likely, not those that are less likely.   My supposedly "singular" notion of the natural world is not singularly held by me, but is held by many others as well.  

Frankly, you have not well explained your point on fallacy.   You claim that defending a particular viewpoint merely on the basis of material observation means that walhout and I have the same paradigm, even though different interpretations.   I have already disagreed with this in detail in response to your point, which you seem not to be aware of.   I have raised objections to his assumptions based on his paradigm, even though it is not my primary paradigm.   My paradigm is that God can do whatever He wants to, and that it is entirely legitimate for God to do so, no matter how "unnatural" it may seem to be.   But if someone suggests a theory that contradicts the more obvious writing of scripture (taking a virtually nonsensical figurative approach to scripture), then it is entirely legitimate to bring up material and physical objections to such a theory, which is what I have done.  

Merely arguing towards/within  someone else's paradigm, does not mean that I have adopted an identical paradigm. 

John, I've read the supporting documentation you have cited to back up your theory of the development of the natural world and the underlying premises are no different than those held by evolutionists who come to atheistic conclusions by inverting empirical data into metaphysical statements.

Your approach has the potential to lead believers not only to  atheistic conclusions if you can't step outside the positivist paradigm, but will also cause people to doubt their faith when they are confronted with the understanding that you have forced empirical evidence into a package that is inconsistent with their research findings.

Your approach is more dangerous to the faith life of Christians than Walhout.

For someone who was going to "bow out", John K, you are adding many comments....   Lubbert, I disagree with your perspective.  It is also difficult to respond to your vague generalities rather than to specifics, since they simply sound like judgements, rather than true analysis.  At least Walhout talked about specifics, and not vague generalities.   However, thanks for making your point. 

Okay, yes, sometimes we just can't help ourselves.... that's okay.   I did not miss your point about John Calvin;  I just did not like it, nor did I like the implications that he would allow materialism to determine his theology.  I did not see you irrefutably making that point based on evidence;  that's why I asked the questions I did.   

I loath lynch mobs as much as you do.   But if you are going to call church discipline merely a matter of lynching mobs, then how would you suggest that this discipline occurs?   What Are you suggesting here? 

I do agree that there are different points of view that should be possible in various things.   But obviously we don't agree with churches who think you can buy your way, or earn your way to heaven;  that is the basis for the reformation.   We also don't agree with those who think that water baptism gives you a ticket to heaven, or that the bread and wine turn into Jesus actual physical body in the holy communion.   A pastor who taught this would not be permitted to preach in the crc, and this would be contrary to a crc profession of faith, right?  

On the other hand, two services or one service, female office bearers or not female office bearers, short service or long service, hymns or chorus songs, organ or guitar, all seem to be issues that allow for variation.  So where does this issue fit in to disputability?   When someone says that some evolutionary mechanisms seem to be observable, and that maybe some days were longer, perhaps we can live with that difference.   But when someone says that Adam and Eve did not really exist, or that God did not really create everything good (every day), or that death and sin occurred before Adam ate from the tree of knowledge of evil and good, or that Jesus was not really the second Adam, etc., then we are in a different area of difference.  We are then in the same ball game as deciding whether we are eating Jesus biceps or not.   We are in the same ball game as deciding whether we can earn our own way to heaven or not. 

So yes, attacking one another for frivolous reasons does not serve our risen Lord well.   But, remember the story of Annanias and Sapphira;  they died for merely lying.  Remember how apostle Paul himself confronted Peter to his face;  it was for the building of Christ's church.   Remember how Paul indicated that some people who followed worldly principles and desires would not enter the kingdom of heaven.   And I'm sure you agree that a church that does not contend for the faith as the book of Jude encourages us to do, will eventually wither and die from complacency and ignorance.   In this case, I do not think this is frivolous.   It is serious, and needs to be addressed. 

I agree with John Kralt on the need for "due process." In court of law, for fairness to rule, it is not only Edwin Walhout's ideas which would be under examination but also those of John Zylstra. Though the empirical evidence they present about their examination of the natural world may be the same, the presuppositions (theories) about why it is organized the way it is may vary. 

It is possible that the court might rule that neither presupposition is correct because they are not sustained by the empirical evidence.

Perhaps a way forward would be to bracket the discussion of the Walhout article and focus on the practical question of the forum subject: “how would the church go about disciplining a retired pastor who suggests and promotes changing many of the core CRC doctrines?”

Imagine a retired CRC pastor suggests and promotes teaching contrary to Scripture, our creeds, and confessions via ‘The Banner.’  Let’s say this retired pastor denies the Trinity.  What would be the proper way of responding to such a situation?  Are retired office bearers responsible for their teaching and if so to whom?  Is the editor of ‘The Banner’ responsible for what he chooses to publish and if so to whom?  If there is teaching contrary to Scripture, our creeds, and confessions what is the proper avenue of addressing this teaching?

 

Hi Adam...

John is correct. There are ecclesiatical judicial processes in place with to deal with matters of discipline. Empirical science also has it's ground rules. God provides us with two books: scripture and creation.

At heart of this discussion thread and related ones is a difference of opinion on how to do empirical research, and that one particular position on the origin of the universe and life is core CRCNA dogma.

There is a helpful breakdown of the differnet postions in Shiao Chong's blog 3-D Christianity in two articles titled "Beyond Evolution vs. Christianity" & "Religion and Science, Faith and Reason."

I'm going step out on a limb, and say that the position being promoted by John Zylstra who raised the question on displince is position #1. Young Earth Creation or Creation Science. All others contravene scripture.

1.      Young Earth Creation or Creation Science – this is the popularly understood “creation” position – it believes that the earth is only about 6,000 years old and rejects macro-evolution (evolution across species) but accepts micro-evolution (evolution within species). The Institute for Creation Research (Henry Morris and Duane Gish) and Answers in Genesis (Ken Ham) are examples of organizations that espouse this view.

2.      Progressive Creation or Old Earth Creation – this position accepts the scientific consensus that the universe is 10-15 billion years old but still rejects macro-evolution. It holds that God directly intervened in the development of life in order to create the basic “kinds” or species of organisms over billions of years. An example of a progressive creationist is Hugh Ross and his Reasons to Believe.

3.      Evolutionary Creation – this Christian position believes the universe is billions of years old and accepts both macro and micro evolution. It holds that God uses evolutionary processes and sustains them for his purposes. It still holds to a personal God that works in the world, accepts the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus, and believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Lamoureux falls into this category, along with world renowned geneticist and evangelical Christian Francis Collins and the Biologos organization.

4.      Deistic Evolution – this is historically known as Theistic Evolution but Lamoureux argues that its position is more akin to Deism, where God is impersonal and doesn’t enter into our time-space continuum. In this view, God designed the evolutionary clock, so to speak, wound it up and then let it run its evolutionary course without any intervention or involvement from God. Some notable advocates of this position include Charles Darwin himself, for most of his life. Near the end of his life, Darwin waffled back and forth between Deism and Agnosticism. Other famous advocates are Michael Denton and the famous ex-atheist turned deist, Anthony Flew.

5.      Dysteleological Evolution or Atheistic Evolution – this is often popularly misconstrued as THE “evolution” position. Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens have championed this position as the only scientific position.

Unfortunately, John Zylstra's question raises a question whether he is attempting to discipline individuals without using due process, and secondly arguing that his position is dogma when his own position may be suspect and non-scriptural. 

I have just finished watching a video about a talk by Dr. Jobe Martin, called the evolution of a creationist.  It is fascinating!   The evidence against evolution of specific animals and birds is amazing. 

I must admit, I am amused by John Ks suggestion that one person could be judge jury and executioner in a case such as this.  I think that is simply unreasonable hyperbole.   In what way could one person in this case actually realistically be an executioner (even noting the word executioner is used as a metaphor)?  I would suggest rather that an appropriate analogy would be "prosecutor".   On the other hand, I agree that admonition is also a part of discipline, which it seems that Lubbert is attempting to administer to myself....  Is Lubbert  also judge, jury and executioner then? 

Then, supposing that the assumptions that an individual has advocated for doctrines that contradict the CRC confessions is upheld, and supposing that his supervising church does not administer discipline of any kind, what would be the solution for a denomination which is being subjected to such anti-crc doctrines?   Particularly in regard to  an individual leader who has formally subscribed to upholding the doctrines of the crc, as well as upholding scripture. 

I think Lubbert has summarized rather well the panorama of perspectives on creation/evolution, except that #4 and #5 are virtually identical other than a nominal distinction between deism and atheism, and that #3 is not discernably different from #4 and #5 without an explanation of where God has intervened.  However, he has put me into a YEC position which I have not categorically upheld, since I have maintained a possibility for a different concept of time prior to the fourth day, a fact which upsets some of my YEC friends.  

The issue is not that evolution could not be compatible in some degree with scripture.   The issue is that 95% of the scientific literature assumes evolution as an apriori assumption to the exclusion of the significance of God,  So if Christians talk about evolution without qualifying what they mean, as far as the world is concerned, they are simply buying into the atheistic version of evolution.  This leads to the conclusion that the seven mentions in the New Testament of the first Adam, are simply nonsense.   Is Lubbert happy with that? 

 

There are at least 25 websites which promote a non-evolutionary perspective on creation.  In addition to ICR and Answers in Genesis, there are also sites such as creationresearch.org, creation.com, wazooloo.com, drdino.com, christiananswers.net, pathlights.com, origins.org, creationscience.com, creationists.org,  creationism.org, and many more, including others in other countries.  It's worth looking at what they have to say.   

John K, it seems that you do not realize how extreme your own views are, and that the views of Edwin W are very extreme.   His views do not help the church at all.   When you say that we should stay out of the discipline loop, I think you are being very inconsistent, since I would argue that Ewin's column did not stay within his congregation, and therefore the discussion for discipline should not stay within that loop either.   This is not about shutting down the dialogue.   It is about putting the dialogue within the context of scripture and our confessions, something which Edwin W has not done, since he wants to revise scripture and our confessions, without following normal channels as prescribed for doctrinal discussions. 

John Z: Your respond is more than passing strange since:

1. it is your proposal that Walhout and DeMoor ought to be disciplined;

2. you chose to be an arbiter of what ought go into homes subscribing to the Banner;

3. regardless of your argument to the contrary, the material you cite is primarily sourced from position #1 Young Earth Science or Creation Science; and 

4. underlying your articulation of position #1 is that it constitutes the official position of the CRCNA whereby Walhout and DeMoor are judged to be in error and therefore need to be disciplined.

Dialogue means giving people who disgree with you the space to actually disagree with you.

The people who have disageed with you have been graceful in acknowledging the diferences and have not resorted to misinterpreting or twisting what you have said. 

As I have indicated in an earlier comment it is apparent that you love your Lord and his Word, but some of your brothers and sisters have expressed in threads on this topic in the Network and Banner that you are less than charitable towards them.

Yours in our Lord and Saviour  

I want to speak in favor of Zylstra's freedom to begin a discussion like this about church discipline in the forum. He posted a question and offered what I understand is his belief about what the the the church [CRC] ought to do through its disciplinary process. Those who say that we are not allowed to talk about such things on an open discussion forum and then defend the CRC's official news magazine's ability to say whatever people want to for the sake of "dialogue" are contradicting themselves. It seems to me that it should be the other way around--we ask our honest questions about anything on the Network but only publish what is edifying for the whole church in the Banner.

Discussion participants have sounded the "we must follow due disciplinary process" note over and over. I understant this as my previous posting indicated. I have no doubt that the person who initiated this discussion understands this too. The question remains what our churches should do in this process. Our congregations have read multiple articles by people who it seems should have been disciplined by their own congregations for teaching things that blatantly contradict with our Reformed doctrines and ethics. What are we supposed to do in response? Should our consistory write a letter to the consistory of the church who is responsible for this man's ministry credentials? Should we draft an overture to bring before classis? When the present process of discipline that begins at the congregational level does not seem to be functioning, what should the rest of the body [churches] do? This requires prayer and discernment, and this is what the consistory of the church I serve is currently praying and talking about.

Hi Philip W: 

What is at issue is not John Z's freedom to open a discussion on discipline, but his attempt to silence all discussion on differing points of view other than his own - even to the point of disparging Augustine and Calvin.

Secondly, is the grounds for disciplinary action against Edwin Walhout, et al. John Z. lays out an argument and cites source material which is grounded in position #1 Young Earth Creation or Creation Science [see above] with the underlying assumption that this is the official position of the CRCNA.

This is not to say that there are not people who agree with the Creation Science within the CRC, like John Z.

Nonetheless, there is a large body of people who are both scripture believing Christians and work in the field of science, et al. who disagree with position #1. 

"Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda"

This seems like a rabbit trail to the real issue that I have not found very helpful. I have actually read everything Augustine wrote about Genesis 1-3 and wrote a paper about it in my ThM studies. I've also read Calvin's preface to his Genesis commentary and everything he wrote about the first 3 chapters of Genesis. The conversations about Calvin and Augustine in this discussion might help us divide one Genesis 1 perspective from another, but they do not change the fact that Walhout's article calls into question the Bible's teaching and the church's confessional belief about sin and salvation. Perhaps Zylstra unpacked his objection to the article using too narrow an ideaology, but that does not invalidate the question he began with. I tried to unpack the issue in my posting in this discussion thread. This other tangent is going nowhere.

"Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda" 

 Maybe the understanding of this phrase underlies the problem in the discussion we are having.  What does it mean that the church is reforming?  What are we reformed by?  What are we reformed to?   I think we should understand that this phrase does NOT mean, to be reformed by the world.  Instead, it means to be reformed by scripture, and by the Spirit of God.  It does not mean that the church is to be reformed to worldly standards or beliefs, but rather to service of God and our neighbor in love that honors God as creator, saviour and lord, and honors scripture as God's word. 

"Dr. Case-Winters suggests that the phrase Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda has been misused or misinterpreted by Reformed Christians on both ends of the theological spectrum.  The Reformers understanding of the phrase was neither conservative nor liberal, but “radical, in the sense of returning to ‘root.’”  They believed that the church had become corrupt and wanted to return to a more authentic faith and life.  “The cultural assumption of the Reformers’ day,” she notes, “was that what is older is better.”  (Presbyterian Hist Soc News)

A) Science, in so far as I have understood it (and I have spent some time trying, though not as much as some), does not prove anything incontrovertibly. Theories -- a term used here and throughout most scientific disciplines to refer to  frameworks of assumptions that both efficiently and sufficiently describe an entire body of available, relevant, and replicable evidence -- are continually revised and updated. And you will hear many, many scientists say that the moments that make being a scientist most worthwhile, which in fact make up one of the primary motivations of science as a human activity, are the moments in which theories are shown to be critically insufficient and in need of major revision or indeed replacement. Science would not be exciting if established theories did not occasionally fail. So, you see, scientists as a group are in large part motivated by a desire to prove each other wrong; there is no lack of zeal in science as is to question scientific theories. That said, science would not be worthwhile (and it would not be CONVINCING) if doing so were not very, VERY difficult and demanding of entire lifetimes of very hard work.

Pretend you are observing a court proceedings. You see the evidence presented, witnesses cross-examined, etc.; this goes on for a long time. At the end, you feel like you understand the situation at hand as well as you or anyone else possibly can given the evidence available. It comes time for the jury to read their verdict. What do you do? You could stay, but you decide to walk out. In fact, what the jury says does not actually matter to you. You have seen as much as they have and have reached a verdict yourself; if the jury decides otherwise, then you would believe that they have it wrong, not that their verdict proves conclusively that YOU were wrong.

This is essentially what science does: it provides us with an extremely sophisticated apparatus with which we present ourselves (and anyone who bothers to listen) with all the evidence we can possibly collect and which we deem credible. There are no judges or juries in science; only investigators and attorneys. What is convincing is convincing, and what is not convincing is not convincing. The problem is not so much that we would fail to be convinced by the scientific process but that there is just so much evidence to consider. Those of us who are not scientists simply cannot be convinced or not convinced by the evidence for or against a sufficiently broad theory such as evolution, in the same way that scientists could be convinced or not convinced, and this is purely an effect of the amount of time and devotion required to collate and analyze the available evidence. Suffice it to say that enough biologists (that is to say, most) find evolution (albeit a thoroughly revised and updated form of it in comparison to the ideas that Darwin actually wrote down) to be an extremely convincing way of talking about the vast body of evidence they have acquired. Proof? No. Convincing? If you believe at all in the very notion of taking the word of a reliable source to be sufficient for a relevant spread of intents and purposes -- and I have a terrible time imagining how anybody who lives, works, and interacts in the real world does not -- then, to some degree Yes.

B) This idea of being convinced by evidence (as opposed to being convinced by a judge or jury) is at the core of the Reformation, which should not need very much explanation to any Protestant who has ever considered the words sola scriptura very deeply. Walhout may have been out of line when he suggested that 15th and 16th century Christianity upheld indulgences and the rest as core beliefs, but he would not have been so out of line to suggest that believing as the Roman Catholic church told you to believe (and not in any other way) would probably have been considered a salvific issue -- though I'm neither a Catholic theologian nor a historian of such, so I couldn't say definitively. What I'm trying to say is that the Reformation, the spirit of which our confessions are very much in line with, was a blow to precisely that reliance on church doctrine (as opposed to God alone) for the salvation of souls.

The only specific point I'd like to make in this vein is that the very metaphor of the "book" of scripture or of nature places the burden of interpretation on human heads. We will only ever get by in reading scripture by assuming that its authors shared with us the abilities of intention and speech and intended and spoke much as we intend and speak: that is to say, not literally, but to some extent, playfully. For goodness' sake, look at Paul! Galations 5:11-12 "11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" Whatever else Paul was, he was a skilled rhetorician, which means that he counted on his speech (or his writing) to convince people, not on the invisible and divine "meaning" of his words to prove it to them.

What brought this to mind is the curiously repeated insistence earlier in this discussion that the households that The Banner is delivered to are somehow "innocent." No one is entirely innocent who judges for themselves based on evidence which is not complete (what kind of evidence is there that we can understand which is?) yet which they decide is sufficient for their purposes. And yet that is precisely the activity that we Protestants struggle to preserve! "Innocent households." The idea is monstrous!

"Innocent" households are those who do not decide based on any evidence, but decide on the basis of "authority" or perceived authority which they attribute to those they assume they can trust.  That is why those who presume to teach must be doubly aware of their responsibility. 

Then it seems that any Bibles that one might find in these innocent households are little more than curios, since any decisions the people within them make about what they do or don't believe have nothing to do with the text of the scriptures but with the "authority" of anybody who happens to take a pen to the pages of The Banner.

As Christians we may choose to defer to those who we have reason to believe possess a greater knowledge or depth of insight about scripture, but if we advocate reading the Bible at all, we advocate exposing ourselves to the evidence upon which that knowledge and insight are based, and thus we implicate ourselves to some degree in the decisions we make regarding the revealed character of God and our relationship to him.

To some degree what you say here makes sense, and I agree.   But still, many place a lot of trust in the leaders and official statements and publications of their church as to how to interpret scripture.   Perhaps not technically innocent, but still not considering themselves expert or with more knowledge than their leaders, and thus I say they are innocent.   Just as Jesus said of those who crucified him:  "forgive them for they know not what they do".... you think they did not know they were crucifying Him?  

Community Builder

Sometimes I kick myself for not visiting the CRC Network more often. But then I skim a thread like this and am reminded again how such forums quickly become toxic for my spiritual health.

Stanley, are there not many aspects to our spiritual health?   Yesterday's semon mentioned a phrase:  "Calm seas do not make for strong sailors."   Complacency and apathy are very toxic for spiritual health, even though there may be a feeling of ease.   Your feeling of the impact on your spiritual health while reading this discussion is very real.   Perhaps you can understand that others have that same feeling of toxicity and depression not when they read this thread, but when they read Edwin Walhout's article?  

This specific topic aside, the bracing back and forth of this format reminds me of a quote from CS Lewis about different types of friends:

 

The First Friend is the alter ego, the man who first reveals to you that you are not alone in the world by turning out (beyond hope) to share all your most secret joys. There is nothing to be overcome in making him your friend; he and you join like raindrops on a window. But the Second Friend is the man who disagrees with you about everything. He is not so much the alter ego as the antiself. Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle. He has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one. It is as if he spoke your language but mispronounced it. How can he be so nearly right and yet, invariably, just not right? When you set out to correct his heresies, you will find that he forsooth to correct yours! And then you go at it, hammer and tongs, far into the night, night after night, or walking through fine country that neither gives a glance to, each learning the weight of the other's punches, and often more like mutually respectful enemies than friends. Actually (though it never seems so at the time) you modify one another's thought; out of this perpetual dogfight a community of mind and a deep affection emerge.”

New Tagline: The Network: A Place for First and Second Friends.

 

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