Sep 21, 2012 | Comments 19
The following comments in the last issue of ARPTalk by the Reverend Scott Robar are helpful in jogging our memory:
I pray that Matt Miller and his session will withdraw the charges, and replace them with a plan to take care of the problems at Erskine, which you have helpfully and tirelessly exposed. Obviously they do not like the way that you operate. I recall Matt’s devotional/exhortation regarding the tipping Ark of the Covenant, which was given a couple of years ago at the Reformation Annex. As then, so now – Chuck and company are trying to steady the Ark by employing the wrong methods. Well, what is the right way? What are the things which your detractors have done to make things right?
The Reverend Robar reminds us of the meeting former Moderator, Mr. Steve Maye, organized for many of us at the Reformation Presbyterian Church, Hendersonville, NC, prior to the 2011 meeting of General Synod. Particularly, the Reverend Robar recalls the focus of the sermon preached by the Reverend Matthew Miller, Pastor of the Greenville ARP Church. The Reverend Miller’s sermon on 2 Samuel 6 has faded in our memories; however, as I recollect, the sermon was presented well. The problem with the sermon was the preacher failed to deal with the entire text, missed the central point of the text, and the application was strained.
The story of 2 Samuel 6 begins in chapter 5. David has been made King over both Judah and Israel. The Philistine princes, fearing the threat of a united Israel under King David, sent an army to Rephaim to destroy David. David inquires of the Lord, asking for God’s deliverance. God assures David of victory. At Baal-Perazim the Philistine army is smashed, and their gods are taken as spoils-of-war by the Israelites. A second time the princes of the Philistines muster and dispatch an army to Rephaim. Once again, David consults God and assurance of victory is given, and, in a running battle from east to west, from Geba to Gezer, the flower of the Philistine army is crushed and ground into the sands of the earth.
Having already taken Jerusalem, victorious King David organizes a great victory parade into Jerusalem with 30,000 soldiers. In his zeal and headiness, David also orders the Ark of the Covenant to be removed from the house of Abinadab where it had resided since the defeat and death of Saul and be placed on a new cart to be driven by the sons of Abinadab, Uzzah and Ahio. David wants the Ark to accompany him in his gala victory procession. Inexplicably, David, who had been keen to inquire of the Lord regarding the Philistine threat, did not seek the Lord’s direction or even consult with the Levites regarding the moving of the Ark of the Covenant.
As we remember, when Uzzah saw the Ark about to fall, he reached out his hand to steady it and was killed by the Lord for touching the Ark. David was offended. God had rained on his parade. God did not consult with David on this matter. In fear, David ordered the Ark sent to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for safe keeping.
The emphasis of the story is not on Uzzah’s death for touching the Ark; the emphasis is on David’s arrogance for thinking God would share His glory with the great King David. The story is about David’s impertinence, arrogance, pride, presumption, and foolishness. The lesson is clear: the God of the Bible does not share his glory with another – not even King David, the king of the Lord’s anointing and the sweet singing psalmist of Israel. We also learn here that the elements of worship are not to be hijacked by human beings for their own political purposes.
The story continues with 2 Samuel 7 as the king turns away from presumption to repentance and embracing God’s method. David turns from his I-am-the-great-king-and-I-know-what-I-am-doing-and-you-better-do-what-I-say-or-else attitude to inquiring as to the proper method for moving the Ark. This time the Levites are called out and a holy procession honoring God alone is organized. The Ark is mounted on poles and carried by Levites, as God had commanded in the Pentateuch. The Ark of God is the only focus. This time there are no soldiers in battle dress. This time the king is not mounted on a great war steed, dressed as a mighty warrior with his great sword and in his polished armor. This time David is dressed in a simple linen ephod. This time the king humbles himself before the Lord and cheers, sings, and dances in worship before the Lord in front of the Ark – making a spectacle of himself in repentance and abasement. And this time God honors David with a far greater appellation than victorious warrior – David is seen as a man of God.
Interestingly, Michal, the daughter of King Saul and David’s first wife, is offended by David’s humility before God. Her husband, the King, did not present himself regal-like in the presence of his people. She mocks her husband for wrapping himself in humility instead of kingly splendor and dignity. Her end is a curse. She is put away. Her end is to be a woman without children. The daughter of King Saul who should have birthed the heir to the throne of Israel is rejected and confined to a childless life because her pride was too great to honor and partake in her husband’s humility before God.
Now, before we leave the story, let us return to Uzzah. Why did Uzzah die? Obviously, he died because he touched the sacred Ark of the Covenant which was forbidden. However, how did it come to pass Uzzah was in a place of danger? Was it not because of David’s command? Was it not because of David’s foolishness and arrogance in failing to inquire of the Lord or consult the Levites? So, is David not the one responsible for Uzzah’s death? Is this not a warning regarding the collateral consequences of sin by those in places of authority?
According to the Reverend Matthew Miller, as Uzzah violated the sanctify of God in reaching out to steady the Ark of the Covenant, so the ARPC acted inappropriately in the 2010 “Snow Synod” in our attempt to denounce and correct decades-old abuses and institutionalized sins at Erskine. Well, how is sin and institutional faithlessness to be addressed?
Has the ARPC winked at sin and heresy at Erskine College and Seminary in the past and in the present? The answer is Yes!
Did the delegates at the “Snow Synod” acknowledge our failures? Did the ARPC attempt to rebuke and correct sin and abuses at Erskine College and Seminary at the “Snow Synod”? Once again, the answer to both questions is Yes!
After years of patience – even to the point of profligacy, and after years of pleading with the trustees and administrators at Erskine, the General Synod of the ARPC met at the “Snow Synod” and rebuked, admonished, and attempted to correct the sins, the heresy, and the malfeasance of the board and administration. How did the board and administration respond?
Psalm 141:5 reads, “Let a righteous man smite me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it” (ESV). In our naïveté, we forgot with whom we were dealing. We forgot we were dealing with people who DID NOT hold the precepts of the Bible faithfully. We forgot the warning of Proverbs 9:7, “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury” (ESV). We forgot the warning of Proverbs 15:12, “A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise” (KJV). We forgot the warning in John 3:20, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (KJV). Indeed, we forgot we were NOT dealing with people of “like precious faith.”
The response of the Erskine trustees and administrators was pride and arrogance. It was a “How-dare-you-question-us-even-if-every-indicator-shows-we-have-failed-in-our-stewardship-to-both-God-and-the-institution” response. Instead of embracing the rebuke and reproof of God’s people, both the administration and board joined in a civil court action against the ARPC. At least three trustees admitted their pride was wounded. Therefore, in fear for their little kingdoms, their positions of “honor” on the board, their jobs and salaries, and their academic reputations among their secular peers, they told the ARPC to “go to hell.” They counted other things more precious than the ARPC.
Note the following two verses: Proverbs 28:13, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (KJV); and Luke 12:2, “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known” (KJV).
The directions of the Bible pertaining to both personal and institutional sins are the same: Ephesians 5:11 and 13, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. . . . But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light” (KJV); and 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (KJV). Sin is not to be explained, justified, covered or protected. The Scriptural emphasis is on rebuke, reproof, admonishment, correction, repentance, and renewed faithfulness. To explain, justify, cover, and protect sins is to condone sins and bring the withering judgment of God.
The most significant voices in the ARPC decrying the actions of the “Snow Synod” are the voices of the Reverends Andy Putnam, Kyle Sims, and Matthew Miller. They contend the ARPC acted intemperately, prejudicially, and illegally in our efforts to deal with the sins and abuses at Erskine. Conveniently, they are especially zealous to level the charge of illegality. Since the law suit was dropped, we will never know whether the ARPC acted within the bounds of legal propriety.
Well, what are the solutions of the Reverends Putnam, Sims, and Miller? They acknowledge the sins and abuses pointed out at the “Snow Synod” are correct. How do they propose to deal with those sins and abuses?
The Reverend Andy Putnam’s solution was to tell us “all is well” and “I’m on it” while, as a board trustee, failing to exercise his fiduciary responsibility to the Synod appointing him, he helped to rewrite the Erskine bylaws so that the ARPC was written out. The solution of the Reverend Sims is to speak of reformation and call for peace in the same breath while failing to understand the work of reformation always brings disruption, for reformation involves the correction of long-standing sins and abuses. In a number of Facebook postings, on September 5, 2012, he wrote the following: “The ARP is known as a peace loving denomination. I am thankful for that and I hope that we can return to it very soon. . . . . [T]here is a new group that is making an idol out of war.”
The Reverend Sims is wrong about the ARPC being peace-loving. What he calls “peace” is a mirage. What we have been is indolent, indifferent, permissive, and unwilling to address issues to the point of sinful dissipation and folly. There is no other way to parse our sin. We have permitted outrageous sins of administrative abuse and heresy at Erskine College and Seminary. Even the Reverend Sims admits this. However, to call our struggle for Biblical faithfulness a “war” and to call those of us who are calling for faithfulness lovers of “war” is desperately wrong and unfair on two points: (1) This disrespects our veterans who have actually fought in a war; and (2) This is tantamount to saying, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14 and 8:11, NIV) and calling “evil good, and good evil” and putting “darkness for light, and light for darkness” and putting “bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20, KJV). Do the Reverend Sims and others of like-mind think the reformation for which they so passionately call for at Erskine and in the ARPC is going to be achieved apart from confrontation with and denunciation of Satan and sin? How is it they often refer to condemnation of sin and a call for repentance and restoration as “legalism”? Have they forgotten Proverbs 28:4 and 13? The passage reads: “They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them. . . . He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
The solution of the Reverend Matthew Miller is a curious three-fold strategy without Biblical warrant. First, he has helped to promote Messrs. Joe Patrick and David Conner to the position of Chairman of the board. In a conversation with me, the Reverend Miller stated he knew Mr. Conner and was assured he could be trusted to defend and carry the cause of the ARPC on the board. Well, is that what we saw in the board’s Ad Hoc Committee’s report to Synod in June? The answer is No! We saw Mr. Conner, the author of the Ad Hoc Committee’s report, ignore evidence and manufacture a conclusion that Xed-out the adding of the ARPC’s trustee removal policy to the Erskine bylaws. We saw Mr. Conner create an unprecedented level of distrust between the ARPC and Erskine. The level of distrust is now so high the Synod voted to form a committee to “birddog” the activities of the board on this matter. Where is the voice of the Reverend Miller rebuking the actions of Mr. Conner? Second, the Reverend Miller’s solution has been to act as an advocate for and a protector of both Dr. Richard Taylor, one of the trustees who filed legal action against the ARPC in civil court, and the ARP elders who are also trustees of the EC Foundation that has funded the attorneys’ fee for the civil suit against the ARPC. In both of these cases, the Reverend Miller turned to political cunning over simple faithfulness and loyalty to the church that ordained him.
Three, the proactive solution of the Reverend Miller for dealing with both the Erskine problem and renewal in the ARPC is expository preaching. His mantra seems to be: “We need more preachers who do expository preaching like me.” Is expository preaching magic? Many of us thought we had been practitioners of expository preaching method for years!
Interestingly, the only expository preaching we have seen by the Reverend Miller on the Erskine matter is his denunciation of the “Snow Synod” as an Uzzah-like sin against God. It also seems he has a view of expository preaching that knows no condemnation of sin or call for repentance and renewal. It is a magical word that is sent out as a “To Whom It May Concern.” What the Reverend Miller calls expository preaching seems to be a Barth-like antinomianism that embraces a grace apart from condemnation of sin, repentance, discipleship, and reformation. Where in the Bible is such an idea found? Has he turned to expediency over Biblical faithfulness to protect his position? If he has, he has become the coistril of those who are seeking to harm the ARPC. He is covering sin rather than exposing sin. And that does not bring the blessing of God; rather, it brings judgment!
President David Norman is the character of “woeful countenance” in this sad story. First, he wants to put behind all the past and, in his words, “going forward” do a new thing. The only way this can be done is to zero out the institution and re-charter, re-hire, and begin again. Apart from that, President Norman owns the past: the good and the misdeeds. The great prayers of repentance by Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel acknowledged the sins of the past and called for God’s forgiveness. Interestingly, the mercies of God are always remembered backwardly; in like manner, the sins of the people are always remembered backwardly.
Second, President Norman wants us in the ARPC to trust him. However, does not the highway of trust run two ways? How can we trust him when we see him being disingenuous and equivocating? He has said he desires to be “the servant of the church.” That is not hard to do. One of the ways to do it is to listen to what the church says. If the church asks the Erskine board to put its trustee removal policy in the bylaws, then, President Norman, do it. If the board does not comply, ask the ARPC to remove the board. Become the champion of the ARPC; we will honor you. President Norman, is there an adulation you desire over “faithful servant of the church of Jesus Christ”?
Third, President Norman says he wants Erskine to affirm what the ARPC affirms. The history of Erskine has been faculty members defiantly rejecting and ridiculing what the ARPC believes. As one alum recently said, “My experience at Erskine was an assault on what I believed as an ARP.” Indeed, the history of the Erskine administration is covering up and protecting the heterodox views of individuals like Drs. Margaret Cubine, Bill Crenshaw, Merwyn Johnson, Richard Burnett, and others in the name of academic freedom. Never have we heard a cry for faithfulness to the faith of the ARPC! And not much has changed! At the 2012 meeting of Synod, we made it very clear we affirmed the historicity of Adam and Eve. Instead of affirming what we believe, President Norman hurried to Due West to protect, affirm, and cover Dr. Mary Lang Edwards’ Darwinianism and academic freedom. And the explanation is this: “You just don’t understand how an educational institution works. You don’t understand SACS and ATS.” Well, I understand this from the Bible: “Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet” (2 Peter 2:15-16, KJV).
And we have discussions why the ARPC is not growing. And we have discussions why Erskine College and Seminary is not growing. We say we are baffled by it. Are we lying to ourselves? Is it not because sin is at our door and we will not address it? We ignore the sin. We cover the sin. We do not call for repentance. We do not call for newness of life. No wonder God is withholding his blessing! The God of the Bible says: “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10, KJV). The Hebrew word for “hate” is a powerful word. It is more than an attitude toward; it is also actions toward.
Returning to the story of 2 Samuel 5, 6, and 7, the character we are most like is David instead of Uzzah. We were convinced by the Reverends Putnam, Sims, Miller and others to turn from the direction of the “Snow Synod”. In fear of court costs and conflict, we followed the way of least resistance. We followed the old ways of the past – the way of “Miss Scarlet” in Gone with the Wind: “I’ll think about this tomorrow!” We have drifted far from the God of Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine who were bold to address institutionalized sins and corruption in the Church of Scotland. In our indolent inactivity, we have joined hands with those who desire the approval of the “big,” “tall-steeple,” “secularly suave,” and “politically correct” Presbyterians and the secular academic world over simple obedience. In arrogance and self-sufficiency we have not sought the Lord but turned to our own devices. We have been too proud to follow the directions of God and to dance before the Lord in a linen ephod.
The following is instruction for the folks at Erskine: “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy” (Jonah 2:8, KJV).
The following is instruction for those of us in the ARPC: “And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers” (Nehemiah 9:2, KJV); and “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5, KJV).
Therein are prosperity, growth, and renewal to be found. I think we can find more of this in the Bible.
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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