EFCA church we left in 2004 has dipped into extremism

(This is being crossposted with the blog by Wondering Eagle, who writes on issues in Evangelicalism and, particularly, the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA).  My post is a bit longer.)

In the older sections of my website, particularly the theological pages and my conversion story,  you will find many writings about and references to a church my husband and I went to for several years around the turn of the century.  This church was the catalyst for my religious searching and eventual conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy.

My husband and I came from different backgrounds–him Lutheran, me Nazarene–so for years we searched for a church that would make us both feel comfortable.  We went to the local EFCA church starting in 2000.  It met in a middle school auditorium, and had about 200 members.

We were there for quite some time, even getting involved in different ministries.  I began helping in the youth group, and loved it.  I was happy being in this church.  My husband (“Jeff”) made friends with the pastor.

I saw little warning signs of extremism way back when we first started there, such as a group who went to witness to a palm reader at her place of business.  But I hoped it was just a few people like that.  Overall it didn’t seem extremist.

Jeff had some trouble with the tithing talk and Evangelical doctrines, and we were a bit uncomfortable around the hand-waving, but we felt we had found a home.  I got used to the contemporary music, and began to like it.  Before, I often had trouble getting out of bed on Sunday; with the Evangelical Free Church, I was encouraged to get back into the Sunday church habit.  I didn’t want to miss a sermon.

Each year, the pastor and several of the teens and adults went to Russia to evangelize.  They helped with a church plant there, or an Evangelical Free church which had been recently started by missionaries and was headed by Russians; they also helped with a church camp.

I didn’t know in those days that the Russian Orthodox Church feels like its toes are being stepped on by all these Protestant missionaries, that they want to rebuild their own church, which was persecuted by the Soviet authorities for so many decades.

I imagine the church that produced so many martyrs during Communism would be upset to hear what my pastor said in church one day after returning from a Russia Team trip: “I visited the Russian Orthodox Church.  It’s not Christian.  It’s full of idols and paganism.”

He used this as an example of how bleak the spiritual atmosphere supposedly is in Russia after Communism.  This must have been in 2003 or 2004; even then, when I had no thought of becoming Orthodox, I knew what he said was wrong.  I knew very little about Orthodoxy, but I did know that people in this Evangelical church sometimes judged other Christians wrongly.

Lutherans were not considered Christian unless they had a “born-again experience”; Jeff resented that.

We had a boy in our youth group who was brought in by some of the teens and eventually had his own “born-again experience”; then we considered him a Christian.  I knew nothing about his background, just what I had been told about his conversion.  When his parents resisted his going to our church and youth group, I thought maybe they were atheists or Pagans who hated Christians.  To my shock, I heard they were Catholic–in other words, that this kid was already a Christian from a Christian family.

As for Jeff resenting the attitude toward Lutherans: He never had a conversion experience, because he was raised in the faith and always believed it.  How can you “convert” to a religion you’ve always been a part of?

What probably made it worse was that there was a former Lutheran in the congregation who felt he wasn’t a Christian until he converted to Evangelicalism.  Once, this person gave me a book, meant for recent converts, to give to Jeff, because somehow he got the idea that Jeff had just had a “born-again experience.”

Another time, the usual sermons were put on hold while the congregation took a series of lessons on how to convert people.  I believe it was the Contagious Christian series.  Some people left during this time, feeling the church had “lost its focus.”

Jeff didn’t like the constant emphasis on going out and doing things, and people constantly “encouraging” him to join the Russia Team or the Cuba Team.  He didn’t feel led to be a missionary, since he did not know those languages, did not like Russian food, and had trouble dealing with people.  He felt like the church members were seen as tools, rather than people who needed to be healed and built up themselves before trying to evangelize other people.

I was raised hard-core premillennialist.  But sometime in 2001, I used several study Bibles–one of them the Oxford Study Bible–to read Revelations.  To my surprise, premillennialism did not make as much sense as the historical or metaphorical interpretations.  I began to lean toward amillennialism.  But premillennialism was part of the Statement of Faith for the Evangelical Free Church.

Shortly after 9/11, the pastor said that most of the people who died that day had gone to Hell because they weren’t Christians.  This pronouncement horrified me.  Even before this, I began wondering if people went to Hell when they weren’t Christians–not because they rejected God, but because they believed truth and deity to be more present in their own religion than Christianity.

What about a Muslim woman who knew something about Christians, but was taught that Islam was correct and Christianity was for infidels, and went through her whole life–all its joys and sorrows–believing she was doing right?  What about Pagans who were kind and loving?  What about agnostics who just weren’t sure?  What about atheists who didn’t reject God necessarily, but just didn’t believe one existed?

What about the Final Judgment, when Christ divided people based on how loving they were, rather than what religion they followed?  I felt like a heretic for thinking this, even though I later discovered that Orthodoxy read the Final Judgment the same way I did.

To become full members of the EFCA, you had to sign a statement agreeing to all the points in the Statement of Faith.  These were considered the essentials; on everything else, you could disagree.  Jeff and I both, though we disagreed in which points, were not in full agreement with the Statement of Faith, so we never became full members.

In 2002, some big tithers had left the church for various reasons, some disgruntled and some simply moving, leaving the church in financial straits.  Once, there had been a building program, which the pastor disbanded due to disagreements between committee members; now, we started going from one building to another because we couldn’t afford our own.

The pastor began preaching heavily on tithing: It must be 10% gross, given to the church, with charitable donations coming afterwards, no matter what your financial situation, or else you just don’t have enough faith.  But we just couldn’t give any more.  The pastor also said that if you couldn’t afford the tithe, there were people in the church who could come to your house, look over your finances, and help you figure out how to do it.  This sent up alarm bells.  The tithing talk began driving people away.

The pastor went on sabbatical and did a lot of reading and praying.  When he came back, probably early in 2003, everything changed.  The tithing talk still came up often, but now there was a new focus.

The pastor must have been reading a lot of books by John Piper and Rick Warren.  He began preaching “Cat and Dog Theology,” which used the supremacy of God doctrine which Piper, a Calvinist, has been spreading in Evangelical circles.  To us, this was strange doctrine, which we had never heard of before.

Coming from Calvinism, it says that every single thing God does is primarily driven by a passion for his own glory–even the Cross.  We knew this was wrong, that the main reason for the Cross and other things was love, though we had no materials besides the Bible to back us up.  I mentioned the supremacy doctrine to my parents, who agreed that it was wrong.

We didn’t want to de-emphasize glory; we merely felt that this strange new theology was over-emphasizing glory at the expense of God’s love for us and everything else in the faith.  All churches we ever attended said that Christ went to the Cross out of a passion not for himself, but for love for us, our salvation.

Now this love for us, this salvation, seemed more like a side effect which just happened to go along with glorifying God.  We could imagine giving God the glory, but could not imagine God primarily seeking glory for himself, like a warrior-king from Beowulf.

The image of the Loving Father was diminished, replaced by a deity that did not seem to care about fairness, justice or mercy, so long as he was glorified.  Don’t grieve for the death of loved ones, don’t pray for their healing, because you don’t know what purpose God has for their suffering or even death.  Don’t pray for your own needs.

Cats believe we’re saved from Hell; dogs go further, believing we’re saved for the glory of God (which figures greatly into the Calvinist predestination doctrine.)  Some people are born to be killed for the glory of God.

Basically, this deity causes death and suffering so he can be glorified.  The doctrines about glory were pounded into our heads every week for months.

And yet the pastor seemed to wonder why we didn’t consider this a wonderful theology.  We watched in disbelief as other members of the church embraced it and began teaching it to others.  Jeff tried to speak to the pastor about it, but felt bullied into agreeing with the glory theology.

We had gone to classes and I had scoured information on the church’s
theology, and there was nothing in there about Calvinism.  I thought
they were pretty lenient about theology.  We didn’t know Piper was Calvinist, just that this new theology sounded “wrong.”  This got me searching the Internet trying to find out where it came from and how to counter it.

I do recall there was a lot of activity between our church and local Reformed churches, but in those days I did not know that “Reformed” meant “Calvinist,” or that our churches could actually be sharing doctrines.  We did not know we were in a church that was becoming Calvinist, since I always thought that Evangelicals were by definition Arminian, that Calvinism was in the strict old-fashioned churches such as the Puritans and the old Presbyterians.

We did not know much about Calvinism, or that all the weirdness we were hearing came from it; all we knew about was the big Calvinist doctrine most people knew about, predestination.

The pastor did once say that the Holy Spirit works on us to bring us to faith, that we don’t do it ourselves, which was a new doctrine to me, but didn’t set off any alarm bells.

John Piper believes this to be a wonderful doctrine, because God’s grace saved us with no regard to who we are; to those of us who are not Calvinist, however, it has terrible implications for those who do not come to faith because God did not choose them.

The pastor began complaining about churches with too many “programs.”  This meant that, for us, all our programs were disbanded or put on hiatus.  No more Sunday School; no more worship team; no more songs which seemed to be about our reaction to God rather than focusing on God.

We now had one worship leader with a guitar, while a PowerPoint setup showed nature pictures.  Doing worship this way wasn’t “wrong,” but it was yet another way that the church was being entirely changed from what we were used to, and that people were being told to stop doing what made them happy.

In early 2003, the youth group was disbanded for lack of money to pay the youth pastor, and the youth pastor essentially fired.  It was so distressing that at least one of the kids cried.

I had helped in the youth group for nearly 2 years, and it had become my life, possibly a calling.  These were my friends.  My weeks revolved around youth group and going to leader meetings.  The youth pastor was my friend and gifted with his work; I loved the antics of the teenagers, especially two of the older boys who were also youth leaders.

The other youth and adult leaders, Jeff, and I tried to get the group back together, but with little success.  The kids started going to other youth groups, and one even said, “I thought we didn’t have a youth group anymore.”

It was now early 2004.  It took me a long time to get over the loss of the youth group.  I resented the pastor for firing the youth pastor.  Fortunately, the youth pastor found new positions; he believed God wanted him to head a new ministry for young adults, which he did for the next several years, and after that he moved on to other ministries.

A thriving Sunday School was one thing which first attracted me to this church.  Now that we had a child of our own and would need it, there was none, and there were fewer and fewer children, as parents began taking their kids to churches which had Sunday Schools for them.

The pastor also began taking scripture out of context to make points (“proof-texting”), heavily using paraphrases, and using various translations–apparently whichever one fit the point best.

Jeff wrote a letter to the pastor about the supremacy of God doctrine and some other things (the church was still losing members–gone from nearly 200 in 2000 and 2001 to about 40 or 50 in 2003), but felt ostracized after that.  We moved to a different church in June 2004.

To this day, we’re still skittish at the words “glory” and “glorify,” afraid of encountering Calvinism again.  Jeff feels the Evangelical Free church was spiritually abusive, especially since it took him a while to recover from it.  Even when he’s in a church and hears the same songs the E-Free church began singing before it turned Calvinist, he fears that church will start going in the same direction the E-Free church did.

And yet, I’m glad we went through this experience, because without it I never would have had an inkling that American Evangelicalism is suffering from great sicknesses: Not only is there materialism and pop Christianity in the churches these days, but bad theology keeps going hither and thither.

By the way, on May 2, 2007, I discovered on the EFCA website that a new Statement of Faith was in the works.  It went into far more detail than the vague 13 statements we were familiar with.  According to page 13 of the third draft revision (no longer available on the Web), “Throughout this Statement, we affirm that God’s glory is the ultimate aim of all God’s works in creation, revelation, and salvation.”

This Calvinist theology was nowhere to be found in the original Statement of Faith; it was not mentioned in the New Member classes; we never heard it in the sermons until the pastor introduced Cat and Dog Theology.  So, essentially, it seems like bait-and-switch.

Has the denomination changed its views in the past several years for whatever reason–reading John Piper, following Evangelical trends of bringing in Calvinism?  Or has the denomination always believed this way, but kept it under wraps for whatever reason?  Supposedly, you could be Calvinist or Arminian in an Evangelical Free church, but the supremacy of God doctrine tilted it toward Calvinism.

In any case, if the old Statement of Faith had been as clear as the third draft revision of the new Statement of Faith, we never would have stayed in the Evangelical Free Church for so long.  Rather, we were given to understand that outside of the 13 vague statements in our version, there was plenty of freedom.  That would have meant freedom to reject the pastor’s supremacy of God doctrine.

We heard in the summer of 2005 that the E-Free church was dying, with so few members they didn’t know if they could get another pastor when that one left.  Around that time, the ad for the church stopped appearing in the newspaper.  In the 2007-2008 phone book, the church’s listing no longer appeared.  For years I thought it was completely gone, especially when another EFCA church moved into town and began to thrive.  (Why have two of the same church in a town this small?)

But a few years ago, I discovered it still exists, under new leadership now, and finally with a building.

I’m not sure what to make of it, because–according to its website–the new version of the church has some very restrictive rules for members, and has changed the names of some Christian holidays to match Old Testament counterparts.  I have also discovered an Internet review from 2012 which says, “Full of religious fanatics masquerading as christians. Stay far away. And, don’t drink the Kool-Aid!”

On their Facebook page is pictures from 2017 of a protest outside of an inter-denominational celebration of Reformation Day.  It included various churches from the city–such as Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans–in order to bring them together.

The Facebook timeline of one of the people in the pictures includes anti-Catholic rants, particularly when he discovers what the celebration is for.  This guy is one of those megaphone street preachers outside of abortion and in-vitro fertilization clinics, who fills Youtube and Facebook with rants and videos about the people who argue with him on the street, clinics, the Catholic view of salvation, etc. etc.  He’s from Illinois, but he was there, participating with our former church at the protest in Wisconsin, presumably as an invited guest.

A flyer in one picture says “Still Protesting.”  In among actual sins–lying, extortion, greed, etc.–are listed homosexuality and unbelief.  In another picture is a picket sign which reads, “Catholics, thank you for being so pro-life, but why worship with those who cannot have salvation?”

And in the post which includes those pictures, someone asks, what are you protesting?  The response: “The errors of the Catholic Church….It is the 500 [sic] anniversary of the Reformation. October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses. Some today want to say the reformation is over. Unfortunately, the divide actually has become wider.  So we are still protesting. Pro= go forth publically.  Test-ing = To test and give witness.  We declare unashamedly still Salvation is the free gift of God.”

So–They’re protesting another Christian church, one which happens to have similar values, during an inter-faith celebration of unity, simply because they don’t agree with their doctrine or with the other denominations hanging out with them.  And saying that they “cannot have salvation”–i.e., that they’re going to Hell because they don’t agree with Evangelicals on how to be saved.

In a PDF posted on the website, I also find an emphasis on male leadership of the church, not just in pastoral positions, but restricting women from any leadership or teaching of men.  Also, according to this PDF, women are to submit to husbands and be quiet in church, learning from men.

In fact, from another page on the website, a couple must meet all sorts of high standards in order to be married in this church, so high that they would not have married Jeff and me.  One of the stipulations is that a couple “conforms” to the “Biblical teaching on the roles of male and female”!  Another is that “Both the man and the woman must be living out consistent Christian lives of worship, growth, giving and outreach.”  How do they define this?  Is it a set number of church visits in a month?  Tithing 10%?  Going on mission teams?  It all seems very intrusive on the life of a couple, who must be allowed to figure things out for themselves.

Poking around on the website, though the leadership has changed, some names I recognize are still there, and the old pastor is still involved.  So these changes are a continuation of what we saw all those years ago–and now it gives me cultish vibes which I never had there before.

For example, I remember the pastor doing a series on wifely submission around 2001 or so, and women and men not being permitted to counsel each other privately.  But I don’t recall restrictions on women teaching men, or such strict rules on who the church will marry.  So what we saw back then, has been taken to extremes in the years since.

This makes it very clear to me that, despite the guilt and depression I felt when we left this church, we dodged a bullet.  Yeah, the Orthodox church has its own issues.  But just as the EFCA as a whole does not appear to be extremist like the church I describe above, neither is Orthodoxy.  My home church is not extremist, for example.

When we went to the above EFCA church, I felt we could be more moderate, and I knew others who were also moderate–several Democrats, in fact.  (Also, in those days I was much more conservative than I am now, with Protestant views of theology.)  But these new revelations tell me that things have changed significantly in the years since we left.  Maybe all the moderates were winnowed out by the preaching on tithing and glory, leaving extremism behind.

 

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Our church in schism: Russia vs. EP

I’ve waited to write about this as I gathered information on what it means, and as I waited for my priest to get his instructions on how to proceed.

The schism between the Russian Patriarch and the Ecumenical Patriarch is very grave.  While here in the Diaspora, we’re half a world away from this and have nothing to do with it, we still are affected by it.

There are many repercussions in America to being told that Russians can no longer commune or share any other sacraments with those under the Ecumenical Patriarch (EP; includes the Greeks in America).  The following is taken from how my priest explained it, along with my own thoughts:

Here, we are of a minority faith, so the members of all the different Orthodox jurisdictions come together.  Maybe we have Greek churches, Russian churches and the like, but we also have Pan-Orthodox churches and services, such as an annual Vesper service in this region.  And a Russian is welcome to come into a Greek church and commune, and vice versa.  Which is especially necessary because many communities have only one type of Orthodox church for miles around.  I read about churches which have members from all over the place: Russians, Greeks, Serbians, etc. etc.

The schism is not because of dogmatical differences, as my priest says, but because of two hierarchs disagreeing.  It’s the biggest schism since the Big One in 1054.  He sees it as a great tragedy.

The EP, from what I understand, has not broken communion with Russia, though Russia has with him.  My priest says that Russians are welcome in our church, even if they don’t take communion with us.

The trouble is that Russia has said that its members are not allowed to share any sacraments or even services at EP churches.   And ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) supports the actions of the Russian patriarch and has also separated from the EP.

In my own church is someone from the Crimea who loves our church.  She’s too far from churches of her own jurisdiction to go there often.  A few weeks ago, she could come to our church without any hindrance or feeling like it’s a sin.  Now, she’s being told she can’t.  Not by US–we tell her we want her to keep coming, and Father will also let her keep coming–but by Russia.  And her mother.  Our church members told her this is men arguing, and that what matters is what’s in her heart.

And we’re just one church.  Just the thought of how many people this is going to affect, all the disruptions it will cause in the Diaspora, people who can no longer commune with their own families (ie, Russian married to Greek), people who no longer have a church to go to, breaking of Pan-Orthodox events…. When the split happened, I read on an Orthodox forum about someone who was supposed to be a godfather in a few days.  Now all of a sudden, he couldn’t do it.  Imagine the scramble to find a godparent, and after the parents had already decided they wanted him to do it!  Imagine the honor which was ripped out of his hands.

As one person said last week after the service: And they wonder why church attendance is dropping!

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Careful out there: Another abuse site is no longer safe

…Well, unless you ascribe to their particular form of Christianity, which is rather strict and exclusive.

I won’t name the site/blog here because I’m not interested in blog wars or public shaming.  But I will describe what’s going on so you can keep your eyes open.

For years, I’ve supported and occasionally read another site which ministers to Christian victims of domestic abuse.  For years I’ve been totally on board with the concept that churches often make things worse by telling women to stay with their abusers and “submit.”  That is dangerous and needs to be called out.

For years there have been many good things on the site/blog, and I’ve been on their side when other bloggers/preachers try to tell them that they’re not biblical enough, that they’re wrong, that those wimmenfolk should just shut up and submit to their husbands and preachers.  Or that the site is just spreading gossip or some other charge which is meant to shut up victims and make them feel like sinners.

Well, the blog has taken a disturbing turn of late, after a changing of hands.  I can understand a personal blog or a church-run blog taking a hard line on doctrine; they understandably are from a particular point of view.  But the site I speak of, while run by Reformed believers, is a ministry that was originally to all the churches, not just one kind of church.

But now, not only does the site hold to Reformed (ie, Calvinist) theology, but if you don’t agree with it, you’re treated like a heretic–and your comments are suppressed.

For years, I hadn’t read there very often because I’ve moved on for the most part from my own abusive experiences.  Usually I looked at it when I checked how my Blogroll page was working, and saw an interesting blog post title.  So I knew there had been a changing of hands, but not how it affected the running of the site.

I noted a series of posts criticizing a preacher for how he was trying to reform abusers, but that’s fairly typical for abuse sites.  Abuse sites often complain of anger management or counseling having a naive view of how to handle abusers.

But then the blogger began criticizing his particular salvation theology.  (Sounds like he’s Arminian–which, by the way, is how I was raised.)

Imagine my surprise when the following happened:

A few weeks ago, the site owner/blogger posted on some new doctrine (ESS, or Eternal Subjection of the Son) which has been making the rounds in Fundamentalist circles, which s/he takes issue with because of how it affects marital relationships.  Since I’ve been Orthodox for the past 12 years, I haven’t been following what the Protestants have been up to so much, so wasn’t familiar with this.

The blogger began by stating that classic theology is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  As an Orthodox believer, this got a little twitch going:

Careful out there: Another abuse site is no longer safe 1

That is, that little “and the Son” is referred to as the Filioque, which, rather than being classic, was a much later addition to the Nicene Creed–and has been one of the many sources of contention between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism ever since.  You see, it causes a change and imbalance between the members of the Trinity.

Now, I could turn that into a cheeky comment meant to be humorous, and be done with it.  But I suspected that little Filioque was the source of this ESS doctrine, so I went Google-digging.

In a short time, I found a few websites which discussed how this doctrine came from the imbalance caused by the Filioque.  For example,

Roman Catholicism, in its zeal to defend this error has merely transferred an old Arian subordinationist argument concerning the Son, to one about the Spirit!  The irony here is filioquism is ignorantly touted as some response to Arianism, while foolishly making the very same argument the Arians did about the Son and applying it to the Spirit- that He is a product of will.  On top of that, it is touted in their dogmatic manuals, everyday apologists and classic Catechisms.  To admit this to be in error is really the collapse of the entire edifice (which is already happening anyway). –Jay Dyer, Filioquism is Arian Subordination Applied to the Spirit

As you can see reflected above, they also explained that ESS is actually a revival of an old heresy from the early centuries of the Church, called Arianism, long-since condemned after all the trouble it caused.  Heck, even Santa Claus slapped Arius for saying that the Son is not equal to the Father.  The Nicene Creed itself was a response against Arianism.

Since–rather than being a cheeky comment–this actually supported the blogger’s contention that ESS is dangerous heresy, I posted about it.

Also, by posting about doctrine, you could assume that the blogger wouldn’t mind some theological discussion.

I’m used to lively theological debates and discussions online, either watching or participating in them, or–in some cases–starting them.  (No, not as a troll, but to challenge people’s assumptions and get them thinking.)  Usually, forum and blog moderators let them go, only stepping in when somebody gets abusive.  And I am the sort of commenter who never gets moderated because I don’t get abusive.

So imagine my shock when I got an e-mail from the blogger, informing me that s/he would not post my comment.  Why?  Basically, because it spoke of the differences between East and West, i.e. challenged Reformed doctrine.  S/he told me to e-mail the site’s preacher, who knows more about the Filioque.

Oookay….So instead of the lively discussion I hoped for, or little sidenote in a discussion on a blog post, I’m supposed to e-mail a preacher one-on-one about the Filioque?  It sounded like a trap to me, like he’d be teaching me “proper” doctrine, which of course, is Reformed, not that heretical Orthodoxy.

Careful out there: Another abuse site is no longer safe 2

And this is right after I read in this post by Lucky Otter about bewaring of narc-run blogs:

4. The group bans, blocks, or insults people who are self aware borderlines or narcissists — and those who challenge the status quo.

…8. If the owner of the group is religious, they are dogmatic and intolerant of other religious points of view or those who disagree with their religious beliefs.

(Please note: I am NOT implying that the blogger is a narcissist.  Just pointing out that this behavior can be perceived as spiritually abusive–and that it raises up alarm bells.)

I quietly took the blog out of my Blogroll, regretfully, since it appeared that my Orthodox beliefs were not welcome there.  Then I tried to move on and stop thinking about it.

Then I read another blog post, posted last night, on a totally different blog, run by a preacher who also ministers to victims of narcissists and abusers.  I’ll call this OtherBlog.  In the comment section, one person mentioned the Reformed blog.  The OtherBlogger noted that, of late, since the blog changed hands, he could no longer recommend it because of an over-concern for doctrinal purity.  The commenter wrote that she had noted some odd posts in the Facebook group.

So I went over to the Facebook group for the Reformed blog.  Sure enough, over the past couple of weeks, the blogger has been putting up some very troubling posts.  And when people disagree with the blogger’s doctrinal viewpoints, they are argued with, even silenced–while saying that it’s not the same as silencing people.

For example, the most controversial post, calling out Billy Graham as a heretic to watch out for, because he once said that maybe people who never heard of Christ can still be saved.  The blogger complained about all the posts that started coming in, defending Billy Graham or saying that we can’t just say all those people are going to Hell for not believing in something they never heard of.

My gosh, this all smacks of the very kind of Fundamentalism that I’ve been speaking out against on my website for some 14 years, the kind I’ve been actively running from ever since I encountered Reformed theology in an Evangelical Free Church in 2002 or 2003.  This is why, ultimately, I became Orthodox: because it was as far from Reformed theology as you can get.

I see Calvinism as the source of much spiritual abuse and other kinds of abuse as well.  I could’ve been Presbyterian or UCC, except they, too, are connected to Calvinism, despite being very liberal denominations now.

Purity culture, domestic abuse, child abuse–it all goes back to Calvinism and the extremes to which it can go.  Puritans were Calvinists.  Jonathan Edwards was Calvinist; re-reading his sermon years later about sinners in the hands of an angry God, I was horrified by the kind of god he portrayed.

Evangelical churches have been getting infiltrated with Calvinism for years now.  You can read in the comment section of, say, Spiritual Sounding Board about how people have been spiritually abused by this.

My husband felt spiritually abused by the Reformed theology of the E-Free Church we attended for several years.  It didn’t start off Reformed, but began sneaking in Calvinist theology over time.  We finally had to leave because of the damaging doctrines.  Story here.

Even the church I grew up in, which was Fundamentalist and very restrictive in those days, was not Calvinist, and did not say that people who never even heard of Christ are going to Hell.  There was allowance made for what you know.

Even Pat Robertson didn’t say that the unreached were eternally lost.

St. Paul even wrote that people who did not know the Law but lived according to the Law written on their hearts, could be saved.  An article in the Orthodox Study Bible points this out.

So saying they’re all going to Hell–No, that’s not biblical, no matter how it’s wrapped up in flowery words about how such draconian rules are actually Loving and Good.

Such views of such a tyrannical god are–according to Alexandre Kalomiros–what drive people out of Christianity altogether.

So no, I can’t support a site which now insists that part of “helping” people overcome abuse is to insist they follow “proper” doctrine which is not only (according to Orthodoxy) heretical, but spiritually damaging.

Another point: Aside from doctrine, you also have views of what is proper practice, what is sinful and what is not.  Here I deviate from Orthodoxy because I believe that too much reliance on tradition over people, is how you end up with a Pharisaical church.  I will support Orthodox doctrine to the death, because it’s not just the oldest but also the most loving doctrine I’ve ever seen.  But LOVE must be the driver of how you treat people in all things.  In other words, don’t condemn the same-sex couple who wants to get married, don’t condemn the transgendered, don’t enforce the extremes of Purity culture, etc. etc.

From what I’ve seen the Reformed blog become–I would be rejected there because of this, too.  I would be doubly rejected as a heretic now: because I’m Orthodox in doctrine, and because I’m progressive in practice.

I get the impression–since others have already tried–that trying to explain this to the blogger will get nowhere.  But I can warn my readers to take care where they go for spiritual support after abuse.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
%d bloggers like this: