Christian Morality & Resolution #6

Posted: January 20, 2012 in Resolution #6
Tags: , , , , ,

We should just focus on revival and not let issues like this divide us.

I’m sure someone either has said something like that, or will say something of that nature as we continue to discuss Resolution #6. I’ve been part of the UPCI for 27 years. I know how we talk.

But bear in mind the kind of issue we’re talking about. It’s an issue of Christians deliberately choosing to serve in professions in which they may be called upon to destroy the life of another human being. To some, an issue like this shouldn’t divide us.

Amazing.

Besides trivializing a significant alteration to our Articles of Faith, the “just focus on revival” mindset displays a remarkable short-sightedness. You see, what we’re dealing with isn’t simply another inconsequential issue of church politics. This isn’t just another debate about a “standard of holiness” drawn from an isolated verse of Scripture. This isn’t just another discussion of how to properly interpret Daniel’s 70th week. No. This issue is none of those. If it were, then I’d jump on the unity bandwagon and thump the big bass drum crying, “No Division! Focus on Revival!” But I can’t. I can’t because this issue is different.

This is about morality. That’s right; this is an issue of Morals. Those are pretty unpopular things in our culture right now, at least the way we define them, but we’re still supposed to be very concerned about them. Aren’t we? Aren’t we against gay marriage because it’s a moral issue to us? Trouble is that when we think of morality we usually default to issues of human sexuality like faithfulness in marriage versus adultery, or sexual purity before marriage versus fornication, or homosexuality versus heterosexuality. To most of us, an immoral person is one who’s lascivious. (There’s a great word.) But morality is about far more than the proper expression of human sexuality. You see, at the root morals are simply the rules that define for us what behaviour is good and proper.

The ancient Greek idea of Ethos is at the root of our concept of morals as rules of behaviour. Ethos referred to character and how character was made known. For a Christian, the idea of ethos (our character and its manifestation) cannot be separated from the life in Christ. In fact, the New Testament makes it clear that the character of Christ is supposed to be revealed through our lives. It teaches us that Christ’s spirit, attitude, and way of thinking are to be present in us. As ministers we spend years of our lives trying to influence parishioners to develop Christ-like attributes and to yield to Christ’s indwelling Presence. Christ’s influence on our behaviour is in fact His influence upon our morality. As Christians we recognize that we are moral because Christ is moral, that His morality is what stands at the centre of our morality…that His morality becomes our morality.

We innately know as Spirit-filled people that our Saviour’s moral compass was firmly pointed in the direction of life. But if for some reason our innate knowledge-base has been shut down by the Federal Government, the Scriptures should make this clear to us. Do the Beatitudes support the idea of “saints militant”? Does John 3:16 sound vaguely life-ish to anyone? How about Jesus statement to his rip-roaring, hell-fire breathing disciples who wanted to blaze the opposition? “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.  For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:55-56, KJV) That should be enough for any of us. It should be enough for any of us that our Saviour’s morality called upon Him to save, not destroy. Our morals as Christians should call for us to make the same choice, and they should scream loudly whenever we begin to consider making a contrary decision. After all, our Lord refused to take human lives. And didn’t He say that a servant was supposed to be as his Lord? Yes, I believe He did.

I’ve thought long and hard about why this…this…issue has me so troubled. The only answer I can come up with goes something like this; “This is about fundamental morality…and if we can’t get our morals right, how can we be trusted to get anything right?” Our entire existence as a church organization is based on the assumption that what we have to say has eternal significance. The Gospel we proclaim is of eternal consequence; believing or disbelieving the Gospel affects us forever. But how on earth can we profess to have the authority to proclaim eternal principles when we lose ourselves so easily and without concern over an issue of basic moral principles?

We in the UPCI like to proclaim, voluminously, our Apostolic credentials. We like to draw bold lines that connect us to the Original Church. We like to confidently assert that we preach the same message the Apostles preached; except, of course, when we don’t want to compare our contemporary message to theirs. And on this issue we don’t really want comparisons with the ancient Church…just keep all those comparisons to subjects like water baptism and jewelry. The whole early church thing is rather inconvenient when it comes to this issue.

For some time I considered writing a post that examined the historical Christian attitude toward taking human life in war, focusing on the first 250 or so years of the Church’s existence. If you’re wondering, the ancient saints were firmly and loudly against Christians bearing arms and taking human life. Yet as of this posting I’m inclined not to do it, and not to do it because I think it won’t make any difference. If the morality of our Lord can’t influence me to choose life, if the general tenor of our New Covenant can’t influence me to choose life, and if the Indwelling Holy Spirit can’t influence me to choose life, then all the convicting words and brutal martyrdoms of ancient saints for the very issue that Christians should not bear arms or shed blood won’t influence me to choose life.

At the heart of this morality play currently on stage (or back stage) before underwhelming crowds across our fellowship is this challenge; we must choose life. After all…if we don’t make the choice for life, what are we making a choice for? If we, the “originals”, the “People of the Name”, the “real” Apostolics, can’t discern the significance a moral issue like this one, what can we discern?

Comments
  1. Jtgefroh says:

    Realize this is a few years late but am curious , since as you said this was a moral issue of great importance , and since the traditional view was overwhelmingly voted out , did those who think as you do leave the UPCI and join another more conservative org ? I think if the subject would have been about is homosexuality a sin or more closely related is abortion wrong, that if the vote came in for those issues that those who were against them would have left. I am surprised that D. Bernard and others didn’t leave over this, how can you believe its wrong to kill others and worship with those who don’t see it as a moral issue , just a personal conviction ?

    • Dennis Munn says:

      I have to apologize to you for taking close to two years to reply to your comment. This issue is still very much a live one for me, and still sore. To my knowledge, no one has left the UPCI over this issue, though we managed in the recent past to lose plenty over the dangers of advertising on television. (Eh? What?) And no, I didn’t leave either. I didn’t leave because I’ve been a minister with the UPCI for over 30 years, and the resolution in question didn’t muzzle me. (That’s weak, I know.) And I didn’t leave because our local congregation is independently incorporated, and we make our position on this clear. But truth be told, you’re final question is both convicting and legitimate.

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