The Lost Art of Accursing

Last week when I gave my thoughts about the whole Burger King controversy, I mentioned an article that was written by Kurt Willems. In this post, I want to respond to a few statements he made. In his article, #FarewellJohnPiper, Kurt is mostly kind in his correction of John Piper. I hope to be the same in response to Kurt.

Kurt begins his article listing some of the differences between Piper and himself, namely what he calls “conservative hyper-Calvinism.” He then starts talking about scripture.

On the Scriptures, the lens that he reads through tends to emphasize inerrancy. I would argue that at times this seems like a selective sort of inerrancy and literalism. What this unfortunately leads to, is that his interpretation often comes off as “the” interpretation because that’s what this approach to the Bible easily lends itself to. So then, “orthodoxy” easily becomes a narrow word for defining who’s in and who’s out when it comes to fellow Christians. Not based on things like the ancient creeds, but on an innovative form of theology: Hyper-Reformed Theology.

He goes on in the next paragraph to state why this is such a big deal.

I have no qualms about someone who believes the Bible to be inerrant (I disagree, but this doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable). My concern comes in when such a reading is the “only” reading and the one to judge fellow Christians by. One of many issues that this approach brings with it is his understanding of gender issues.

He then talks about Piper’s Burger King tweet (which I mentioned in my last post). To be fair, he tries to speak good of Piper:

Now, before I go any further, I want to make something clear: I believe that at the core of his being that John Piper is probably a good and genuine man. He is following his convictions, albeit many wrong ones, but he is doing so in order to remain consistent.

After posing his thoughts on Piper’s tweet and how he is saying “farewell” and “good-bye” to believers and people outside the church who need Christ, Kurt gets to his climatic point:

What if we Christians chose to approach culture, not as their condemners, but as those who are FOR them. We are FOR human flourishing. We are FOR love. We are FOR equality. We may not all agree about our theology of sin (in this case, on blessing LGBTQ marriages as godly), but we can choose to live together as a people known for building bridges into culture instead of building walls against it.

Isn’t this what Jesus modeled? He never said “good-bye” to those who were labelled as “other.” Actually, Jesus partied with such people and allowed his presence in their midst to shape their common experience.

Jesus said “hello” much more often than he said “good-bye.”

And when Jesus says “good-bye” it usually is to religious people who fail to live God’s way, especially concerning issues of justice.

This last blockquote is what I want to talk about.

There’s a popular belief that’s talked about much, both in Christianity and in the world. The belief is this: Christians show themselves to be true Christians by loving everyone. This “love” is often stripped of all arguing, debating, warning, etc. It’s a very humanistic understanding of love that defines love simply as being man’s approval. In fact, Christians who argue for LGBT equality (for both inside and outside the church) often state they are doing so because it is the only way to show love to the LGBT population.

However, the poor definition of love aside, the belief itself is wrong. Jesus never said that His disciples would be known by their love of everyone. Rather, He said they would be known based on their love for one another, meaning other Christians.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35 ESV)

Now I believe that we as Christians should show mercy, love, grace, respect, and care for all people. But this is not the same love we should have for each other. The Father loves us (the elect, the saved) with the same love He has for His Son, but He doesn’t love the whole world like that. He loves them, but not as His family. Jesus loves the world, but not as His bride. Just like there are two wills (a will of desire and a will of decree), there are also two different loves.

But why does this matter? Because the call to love, be unified, and show support isn’t generic. The Bible limits it (in its true focus and command) to those in the faith.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…and he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:1-16 ESV)
Kurt writes:
Jesus said “hello” much more often than he said “good-bye.”
But He did say good-bye.

Let that sink in.

Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all said “good-bye” to people, not just outside the church, but to fellow “believers.” I agree that Jesus and the apostles were welcoming, though not to the point of celebrating and approving of their sins. Kevin DeYoung reminds us that every time Jesus was spending time with sinners, they were repentant, and He always had the mission on His mind.

So while they were welcoming, loving, and respectful of all people, they talked often about casting out those who would do harm to the body of Christ. They would call out these offenders as accursed.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-10 ESV)

So if someone comes into the church preaching another gospel, they are to be accursed, thrown out, rejected, and ignored?

If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. (1 Corinthians 16:22-24 ESV)

So if someone, anyone, has no love for the Lord, they are to be accursed, thrown out, rejected, and ignored?

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:8-11 ESV)

The ESV Study Bible notes:

Titus 3:9 But. The reference to the usefulness of correct doctrine in v. 8 sets up the contrast with the worthless nature of the false teaching. As elsewhere in the letters to Timothy and Titus, the exact content of the false teaching is not clear. The point is that it is foolish, unprofitable, and worthless.

Titus 3:9–11 The Problem Restated: False Teachers. Paul returns to the problem of false teachers. Thus, the discussion of gospel living (2:1–3:8) is flanked by discussion of those who claim to believe this gospel but fail to live it out.

Titus 3:10–11 Have nothing more to do with him describes the final stage of church discipline (see also 1 Corinthians 5). A divisive person who refuses to repent and change after being confronted (see Matt. 18:15–20) shows himself to be twisted by sin (warped); thus, he is self-condemned. The NT is clear about seeking the repentance of such people, but it is equally clear that refusal to receive rebuke eventually shows that one is not in Christ and must be excluded from the Christian community.

“[It] eventually shows that one is not in Christ and must be excluded from the Christian community.” As Marty McFly said, “that’s heavy.” These verses cannot be taken flippantly.

I don’t mention these examples to state that this is the regular and weekly practice of Christians and churches. We don’t participate in “Accursefest 2014″ where we celebrate the exclusion of an ex-believer (for accursing would mean that you are not saved). Anytime this exclusion happens, it should be done with much sorrow, trembling, and love. Yes, love. Looking at Ephesians 4, the reason the church accurses people is to show love and care for the body. Love compels the farmer to make sure the fox is not in the hen house. Love compels the shepherd to remove the new-found wolf from the sheep.

So while I’m not saying accursement is a regular and frequent practice of the church, it is a practice of the church. It does happen. It is biblical. It happens when someone continues in a way of living and/or teaching that is damnable. I’ve mentioned the boundaries of unity before:

Here is what I believe the criteria should be for unity: only the doctrines you must believe in to not go to hell. Those should be the bare minimum and the bare maximum. Our views on the end-times, baptism, election, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the like should not keep us from being unified and loving one another. However, the doctrine of Jesus being the only way to God, the infallibility of the Bible, the need for repentance, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the like should be required elements before the hand of fellowship is extended. Let those who deny Christ be accursed!

So to return to Kurt’s closing question, why can’t we choose to live together [Christian and not] as a people known for building bridges into culture instead of building walls against it?

In scripture, generic unity is never the goal. The goal is always unity of the faith (truth).

The church isn’t looking to artificially fill its membership roster. Since no one can come to Jesus unless the Father and Spirit draw them and they repent of their sin, we don’t pretend that people are a part of the family of God when they aren’t. We do that because of love. It’s not love to tell them that they are accepted and right in God’s eyes when they are celebrating and practicing things that will send them to hell. It is love to bear the burden of being hated to tell them that what they believe and do isn’t right and that they must repent.

Kurt, in his article, admits to having issues with the sovereignty of God but then he says that he doesn’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. He says this doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable. I take issue with that because the foundation of this family (the Church) is the inerrant Word of God. It is the sole authority regarding all matters of theology and living. I’m not saying that makes Kurt accursed (that term should never be used lightly), but how can we even have a true conversation?

And when it comes to those who are lost, if they don’t come to Jesus and repent, as laid out in the Bible, how can they ever hope to be part of the family of God?

Love compels me to tell them the truth, not to build bridges to nowhere.

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