Wednesday, September 01, 2004

St Jude addresses the Blatantly Immoral – and the rest of us – in Anglicanism

If a devout Episcopalian in the ECUSA or a pious Anglican in the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster is looking for a description or prophetic word about what has been happening around them, then perhaps Jude 4 fits the bill.

There are certain men who have crept in unawares, who were foreordained for this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. KJV

Certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ESV

Certain men have wormed their way into the church – long before this they were designated for judgment – impious creatures they are – who twist the grace of God into a justification of blatant immorality, and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Barclay.

Here we have a description of heretics, of how they enter the church, of how God regards them, and of what they do and say.

First, let us note how they got into the church – “crept in unawares”, “crept in unnoticed”, and “wormed their way in”. The Greek word is pareisduein – and it is used of the specious and seductive words of a clever attorney seeping gradually into the minds of judge and jury; also it is used of an outlaw slipping secretly back into the country from which he is excluded; and it is use of the slow and subtle entry of innovations into the life of a state, which in the end undermine and break down the ancestral laws. Thus it always indicates a secret, stealthy, and subtle insinuation of something evil into a society or a situation. The heretics (Gnostics) entered the church with fine testimonials and speaking the language of Zion but they had a secret agenda.

Who would have imagined at the end of the 1960s that the new entrants into the Episcopal Church from the new middle class would have amongst them, and amongst those whom they soon attracted and recruited, those who were intent on making the Episcopal Church reflect the mores and values of the new left of center moral and political standards of America? They cried “Peace and Justice” and called for civil and human rights for all. They even got their philosophy into the “Baptismal Covenant” of the new liturgy of the ECUSA. Gradually, this minority got control of the House of Bishops and the General Convention as they sang lustily, “Peace and justice for all”.

Secondly, let us note how the heretics of the first century made use of the Gospel and the Grace of God. “They turned the grace of God into lasciviousness”; “who pervert the grace of God into sensuality” and “who twist the grace of God into a justification for blatant immorality”. In other words, they got control of the preaching and teaching and catechising and communications and they introduced what was later called practical antinomianism – “let us sin that grace may abound”; “let us celebrate our sexuality in sensuality in God’s presence for God affirms us in our orientation”.

The Greek word, aselgeia, is a word full of punch and grim reality. It points not merely to immorality, but the open show of it, the flaunting of it – blatant, flamboyant sensuality and immorality! The heretics flaunted their immorality and false teaching.

Who would have imagined in 1970 that by the end of the century the LesBiGay agenda would be a high priority for the Episcopal Church; that there would be the celebration of “same-sex commitments” and the blessing of “same-sex partnerships” and the ordaining of actively homosexual men and women? Who would have imagined that the attention of the whole Anglican Communion would be focused on the ECUSA and the Diocese of Westminster in 2004 because they happily justified and flaunted their immorality?

Of course the celebration of same-sex sensuality did not come out of nowhere for it needed the right context to make sense and to be acceptable within Episcopalianism and Anglicanism. And the context was there from the 1960s onwards in terms of the general divorce culture, the emphasis on personal fulfillment through sexual experience, the prevalence of the assertion of human rights, the talk of human sexual “orientation” as being part of the image of God in man, the changing of the language of theology into that of psychotherapy, and so on.

Thirdly, let us note that the heretics denied the true identity and nature of Jesus of Nazareth – “they deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ”. Perhaps they recited an orthodox creed and used familiar language; but, in reality in their preaching and teaching and in their behavior they denied that Jesus of Nazareth is the Master, who gives the commandments for all disciples to obey. They denied that he is the Lord, who rules over us at all times. They made Jesus into one amongst others, a unique supporter of them in their heresy and immorality. They separated the flesh from the spirit and believed that anything goes with the flesh as long as the spirit is free! They were in fact what were later called “Gnostics”.

Again, who would have imagined forty years ago that ornate liturgies and sung masses would be offered now in the Episcopal Church, by, and for, LesBiGay persons? Who would have imagined that the hymn, “Just as I am…” would become a favorite in such circles as they celebrated their particular “orientation” as being no longer any barrier to having a special relationship with Jesus?

But, it maybe asked, Who is the Jesus who is being named and called upon in such religious services, situations and circumstances? Is he Lord of lords and the Master of servants? Is he the One who gave us the Sermon on the Mount and who fulfilled the Law and the Prophets? Is he the Incarnate Son of God, by whom God the Father will judge the world? Or is he the Jesus of human creation and imagination, formed to justify human sin?

Fourthly, let us note how God sees the heretics. “Long before this they were designated for judgment”, “who long ago were designated for this judgment” and “who were foreordained for this condemnation”. God not only has foreknowledge of what shall be upon earth and in his Church, he also foreordains. That is, God knew that these persons would enter the church and in a vital sense he decreed it; however, he also decreed that they would be judged at the last day according to their deeds. Like all heretics they had the opportunity to reject their heresy (“Gnosticism”) and embrace the true message of the Gospel in the church, but they chose to stay with and multiply their heresy. God knew and decreed in advance their condemnation.

What was true in the first century is true of God’s foreknowledge, predestination and judgment of all centuries. The ungodly heretics of today are in the same position as those against whom Jude wrote this letter.

Conclusion: The description provided by St Jude of antinomianism and heretics should not make those of us who oppose both antinomianism and the LesBiGay agenda think that we are better or superior and that we are free from the chastisement and judgment of God. The questions we must ask is: Who ploughed the field in which the heretics could sow their seed? Who provided the lax sexual context in which the LesBiGay agenda could thrive? Who took chastity out of the church’s vocabulary? Who encouraged the wholesale adoption of the language of human rights and of inclusive language in church services and affairs? Who lowered the standards of the rule of Faith? And so on.

If we are to condemn the LesBiGay persons and their agenda in God’s name with Jude, we absolutely need to do so with humble, contrite hearts and with tears of penance in our eyes. For we who condemn shall only be saved by grace!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)

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