Two sets of reading came together today. Firstly I was skimming the reports to this year’s General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the mixed mainline denomination that is in the midst of theological and moral confusion. A new terminology was being introduced, that of “constrained diversity”, meaning that within the new “mixed economy” of theological confusion the office-bearers and members will be forced to get along with their differences:
“The 2013 General Assembly expressed its wish to move to a version of the ‘mixed economy’ model which, while maintaining the traditional position on marriage and sexuality, was willing to accommodate a constrained diversity on the appointment of gay ministers in a civil partnership.” (2.7.1)
Basically this means, “We will say one thing on sexual ethics and marriage but you are free to do otherwise if you wish to do so, but we will all agree to get along together, willingly or otherwise.”
It is interesting that under the proposed legislation going down to presbyteries congregations will be able to opt for practicing homosexuals, and individual presbyters, while not being forced to participate in such ordinations, will have no right to bring discipline charges against such individuals. Indeed, if a presbytery cannot find enough members to form a quorum to conduct such ordinations, neighbouring presbyteries can provide the necessary numbers.
So what will professed evangelicals do in such cases? Will they register their dissent? Will they protest? Or will they quietly acquiesce because they will have no legal basis for such dissent and protest, and simply give de facto recognition to such individuals. Will they accept “constrained diversity”?
What would the Apostle Paul do in such a situation? It is tragic that when writing to the Galatians he was so ill informed that he did not recognise the legitimacy of “constrained diversity” and chose rather a confrontational model when dealing with the Judaisers…
This brings me to my other reading, John Brown’s timeless commentary on Galatians. Commenting on Galatians 1:8,9 (“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”), this is what Brown says:
“But what are we to understand by those words of the apostle in reference to the preacher of another gospel, "Let him be accursed."
Some consider them as a denunciation of vengeance on the corrupters of the Gospel of Christ. I have no doubt that corrupters of the gospel of Christ, and especially such corrupters as the apostle speaks of, are in extreme danger of aggravated condemnation— of deepest perdition ; and this seems implied in the words ; but I apprehend that the apostle's object is to point out the manner in which the Galatian Christians ought to consider and treat such persons They ought not to receive them. They ought not to listen to their doctrines, nor to follow their advice.They ought to consider them as a devoted thing. They should treat them in the way in which the Israelites were to treat the accursed or devoted thing.
I apprehend it is nearly equivalent to the injunction of the apostle John, — " If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." " I have never conceived," says a very acute expositor of Scripture, " the words, “let him be accursed,” as denoting a prayer that the curse of God should ultimately fall upon him (though we must be sure that it shall, if he obtain not repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth), but as a direction that he should be regarded as an accursed thing — as one (however specious and esteemed) upon whom the wrath of God lies. He that will not heartily join with the apostle in the solemn words, must be animated by some spirit very different from that of the truth."
How those Christians, who receive as ministers men whom they are ready enough to say preach another gospel, satisfy their own consciences, I cannot tell. To acknowledge such men as ministers, and receive Christian ordinances at their hand, is certainly not to treat them as a devoted thing. We should be very cautious how we charge men with preaching another gospel ; but whenever we are conscientiously persuaded that they do so, the line of conduct to be followed by us is very plain.
We must not acknowledge them as teachers; we must not listen to their instructions. They must be to us "anathema." I wonder what amount of worldly good could have induced the Apostle Paul to have acknowledged such men as ministers, and to have treated them as brethren. Never was there a man more disposed to bear with weak brethren; but never was there a man more determined to oppose, and to expose, false brethren; and I believe it will be always found that, when the love of the truth renders men kind and forbearing to others who really love the truth, it renders them just in the same degree intolerant (so far as church-fellowship is concerned) in reference to those who are the enemies of the truth.”
Somehow I do not think Paul would have accepted “constrained diversity” on either fundamental matters of doctrine or morality.