In the fight against the abortion holocaust we must unite according to the Gospel. Not ecclesiology and not tactics. Theology matters. How much Theology matters also matters. We should consider first things first. Above all other things, we should be for Christ and His Kingdom.
Abolitionism (as in the worldview/ideology) has always affirmed the importance and authority of local bodies of believers. In addition, modern abolitionism was born in a local Baptist church, and those men are to this day faithful members of a church. Considering these things, it is very unfortunate that there are professors of Christ who obstinately insist that abolitionists (and specifically my own church in Norman, Oklahoma) are separate from the Church, anti-church, nomads, heretics, cult-members, or cult like. It is rather startling and disappointing that otherwise intelligent and faithful men of God continue to spread what has been repeatedly corrected.
Although these sort of easily falsifiable claims are disconcerting, what is outright dangerous and troubling is the loaded, vitriolic, and careless language used by some to characterize abolitionists or, as some would say, “AHA”. Based, apparently, on differences in ecclesiology, abolitionists have been called heretics and cult members. Hypothetically speaking, even if the founders of the Abolitionist Society of Norman or a great deal of abolitionists were separate from Biblical fellowship, there would still be no warrant for this sort of slanderous and extreme language.
Whenever we abusively use a word like “cult” it has an inflation effect on our use of the term. Every time the word “cult” is used in reference to abolitionists, it means less when you use it in reference to Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses. Be mindful. When extreme language is used to describe Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians, and other shades of evangelicalism, you delegitimize important and true accusations you may make. Why should you listen to a “discernment” podcaster who uses the same language to describe a PCA elder with AHA gear on and a Mormon? The answer is that you should not listen to such an unbalanced man.
Since the advent of Christianity the church has been plagued by those who seek to elevate a particular doctrine above its proper place. Many sins and many atrocities have been committed not only because of incorrect theological positions, but because those with a good and right position elevate their highly esteemed doctrine above what it should never be above. These are serious mistakes that have taken many different forms. At its least harmful it is a sign of abject immaturity. At its worst it is serious error that idolizes a good gift of God.
Christian (pseudo)discernment bloggers and multimedia producers, in the name of proper ecclesiology, have accused many abolitionists (and sometimes all of abolitionism) of many sensational things. We are accused of nearly everything, but from this particular clique within the broader evangelical community, the accusations most regularly are focused on ecclesiology and the Church Repent Project.
Theology matters. It does. It really does. Specifically, ecclesiology matters. It matters greatly. I, as an abolitionist, believe justice, mercy, and faithfulness are duties of the Church. Because the Church is the Bride of Christ and it has the power of the Word and the help of the Holy Spirit, it is only through the Church that all manner of evils can be abolished. The Bride of Christ is God’s regular ordained means of spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom and thus fighting injustice. Because of this, abolitionism has always worked in and through the Church and local expressions of Christ’s Church. We do not exist separate and distinct from the Body, but rather as the Body. Myself and other loud voices within the abolitionist community have always strongly encouraged the saints to not forsake fellowshipping together, and although there is diversity in the details, what I mean by “fellowshipping together” is the corporate and regular gathering for the study of the Word, the observance of the sacraments (or ordinances if you like), and the striving together for each others repentance and sanctification through discipleship and discipline.
Tactics matter too. If we sin in the hopes for good to come, we cannot and will not have the blessing of God. No matter the cause, we must be subject to God’s Law. However, we must not speak where God’s Law has not spoken. We must be careful to not put words in God’s mouth.
Soteriology also matters greatly. As does Eschatology. As does all the counsel of Scripture. I do not know any mature Christian or abolitionist who thinks that these things do not matter.
What we must be careful of is placing something important above its proper place. Just because something is important does not mean that you must break fellowship with another Christian, call him a heretic, block him on social media like a bratty diva, or speak to them as if they are an enemy. Certainly, we must have unity in the essentials. There are a few core doctrines that every Christian and every abolitionist should be unified in. Namely, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the efficacy of the Cross for the atonement of sins, etc. But, let us say, a congregationalist style of church governance versus an elder led congregation? Or Amillennialism versus Postmillennialism? Cessationism versus Continuationism? These are all important things to discuss, and I would even encourage everyone to strive together with your brothers and sisters for their edification. With love, charity, and longsuffering. If you truly love a brother who has a doctrinal position that you find dangerous, blocking them and going from blog to blog saying sinful things about them makes it plain that you have no genuine love for them, but rather your concern is for the purity of your petty Facebook fiefdom. You love your doctrine, not people. There is certainly a time and a place for harshness, but when radical divisions and sensational invectives are employed simply because of a diversity of views on a peripheral doctrinal point, there is a real problem.
Whenever you place your favored form of church polity, for example, above the unity of believers in Christ, what you are necessarily saying is that your ecclesiastical structures are more vital than Christ Himself. This is true of any non-essential doctrine. I am not saying that you must accept everything as equally true or even to not, at times, stress the importance of your secondary doctrine, but whenever you make an enemy of anyone who has a different nuance on a peripheral issue then that is a clear sign of making a good and important thing into an idol. We are to have unity in Christ. Don’t replace Christ with your pet doctrine, lest your pet doctrine becomes an idol in your heart.
As I mentioned above, there is diversity on the topic of the Church Repent Project and certain tactics. That is okay. We should work with one another while persuasively, gently, and lovingly trying to convince one another. There are many abolitionists who disagree with tactics that other abolitionists do not disagree with. We have unity in Christ and we share the same strategy, but we can and should employ different tactics. I commend any abolitionist who fervently disagrees with me on this issue yet refuses to allow that disagreement bring hatred and division between us.
I call on the Church to repent. I call on your local assembly to repent. I call on YOU to repent. Because I love you.
A theological foundation of the Church Repent Project is the historic, orthodox, Biblical truth of the nature of the visible church.
“The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.”
WCF Chapter XXV Article V
Another theological foundation of the Church Repent Project is the doctrine of sanctification. “Church Repent” does not mean that you’re unregenerate. It is not a condemnation.
“They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”
WCF Chapter XIII Article I
Before any profitable conversation can occur these things must be understood. We aren’t saying anything new. We aren’t saying anything controversial.
I encourage the dedicated anti-abolitionist to consider first things first, and I encourage the anti-Church Repent Project abolitionist to consider the lack of depth in your arguments. I firmly contend that all of the common arguments (found here) against the Church Repent Project are intellectually and Biblically hollow. Most have the shallowness of soundbites, many are begging the question, and all are hypocritical. Before we condemn the Church Repent Project or abolitionism(AHA), please give some serious thought to these matters. Are we mistaking emotionalism as wisdom? Are we confusing tradition with Scripture? Are we conflating tactical differences with heresy?
From the larger Church Repent article found here.
Everything that needed to be said in one place. Thanks, great work John. Grateful for the Spirit’s gifting in you.