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Overboard with Pluralism!

An imposter is taking the helm

By Rev. Bradley C. Knepp,
Pastor, Mt. Holly Springs UM Church,
Mt. Holly Springs, PA

If you were on a large ocean-going passenger liner, like The United Methodist Church, and you and all the passengers knew the ship had enormous gaping holes in its bow – you all knew the ship was taking on thousands of gallons of water per minute – what would you do? Would you take a casual stroll along the top deck to survey the night sky? Would you find other condemned travelers enjoying the stars with you? Would you walk near them, exchange a sterile smile, and glide on by as though nothing of any consequence were happening? Not a wise response – yet that is how countless many of us have been responding to the realities that are shaping our existence in The United Methodist Church.

Some of the leadership in The United Methodist Church are attempting to steal away our faith and shipwreck the truth by radical advocacy or appalling silence. For example:

  • We have 50 active bishops in the United States. During the 1996 General Conference, fifteen (11 active, 4 retired) bishops stated they are "grieved" by the law of our Church concerning the practice of homosexuality, or sodomy – to use the more accurate naming of the Bible and ordinary criminal law.

  • Two bishops, Melvin Talbert and Susan Morrison, along with their cabinets, have formally endorsed their support for sodomite marriages – or same-sex unions, or same-gendered covenant services, or ceremonies of homosexual unions, or monogamous sodomy (monogamous literally means "one woman"). Note: no one in the Church knows exactly what to call such unorthodox extremism – I call it sodomite marriage, for if you have a marriage union service for two men or two women, you have, to all appearances, a marriage that would naturally be consummated by an act of sodomy.

  • Some UM professors continue to controvert scripture and Christian tradition in their teaching and writing.

  • By June 1, 1998, nearly 1,400 (3.8%) of our denomination’s 37,000 clergy have signed the document "In All Things Charity," and thereby have gone on public record advocating for sodomite marriage and ordination.  The document states, "We affirm appropriate liturgical support for covenantal commitments between same-gendered couples. … The standards for preparation and celebration of such services with same-gendered couples should be the same as for weddings of heterosexual couples."

  • Since Nebraska minister Jimmy Creech’s acquittal in March of this year, 237 clergy of our denomination have gone beyond advocating and have signed a "Statement of Commitment" pledging they will conduct sodomite wedding ceremonies despite the clear repetitive prohibition of the Discipline. They say they will "not be bound" by the instruction to not perform same-sex unions. Will these 237 pastors be held accountable to the Discipline in light of their public pledge to violate it?

  • On April 30, 1998, the Council of Bishops released a unanimously supported "Pastoral Statement" strongly supporting the position of the Discipline prohibiting sodomite marriage. It says in part, "In covenant with one another, we are committed to uphold the General Conference’s action on the theological, ethical, and polity matters defined in The Book of Discipline, including the statements on homosexuality and all specified issues contained in the Social Principles including the prohibition of ceremonies celebrating homosexual unions by our ministers and in our churches." Bishop Melvin Talbert (San Francisco area) voted in favor of the Council’s Pastoral Statement, yet on May 4, 1998, he released a letter to his California-Nevada Annual Conference in which he continues his outspoken support for same-sex marriage services. How is such a bishop to be held accountable to the expressed will of the General Conference and The United Methodist Church?

The United Methodist Church is beginning to willfully cross the line from advocating for sodomite marriage to actually conducting sodomite wedding ceremonies – despite what the Bible, the Discipline, and nature teach us. How long will it be before those who are now publicly advocating for sodomite marriage "graduate" to conducting the same? How is it these things are taking place in the Church of Jesus Christ for all the world to see? And why is our response so often deafening silence?

The answer is because much of the thinking in United Methodism today rents some altar space from the post-modern god of Pluralism. A classic definition of pluralism:

Pluralism is the process of one system of

belief and behavior replacing another

system of belief and behavior.

The number of systems of belief and behavior operating concurrently is not singular, but plural – hence pluralism. Pluralism is the supreme over-arching god in the pantheon of modern politically correct gods. And post-modern Church Pluralism is enabling the system of belief and behavior of this world’s humanistic culture to methodically and relentlessly replace the system of belief and behavior of Christ and Christianity in The United Methodist Church (and many other denominations). The real Jesus is being removed; Pluralism and a good-looking phony "jesus" have been moving in.

This idolatrous process has been happening in our colleges, seminaries and therefore in our pastors and churches for 50 to 100 years. We may be overdue in getting rid of some ‘isms; but we seem to be exchanging all of them for one ‘ism – the false god of Pluralism. The Enemy of our souls does not care that we worship him; he just wants to make sure we do not worship the one true God to the exclusion of all others.

"Theological pluralism" is a special phrase identified by The United Methodist Church in its 1972 Discipline. The General Conference then said it wanted to recognize some of the diverse expressions of faith within the Church. But some in The United Methodist Church have taken pluralism and turned it into a license to rewrite Christian faith and practice. Pluralism, which has benefited us in some ways, has led to the multiplication of doctrinal beliefs that are an affront to Jesus Christ and the truth of Scripture. For example, since we live in a pluralistic church – it has been taught in our United Methodist seminaries – it is okay NOT to believe in the incarnation of God in Christ, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, Heaven and Hell, etc. If you want to dismiss any part of scripture you don’t like, you’ve got the nod! Theology and doctrine have become a matter of personal subjective choice because "we are a pluralistic church."

Heresy, I was taught in seminary (Asbury Theological Seminary), is any belief or teaching that denies Jesus Christ of his divine power or divine nature. Any self-chosen doctrine or teaching that does not emanate from God can be termed a heresy (2 Peter 2:1). Pluralism is enabling heresies to find a foothold within The United Methodist Church. We are supposed to be inclusive and tolerant of these heresies in the name of Pluralism – if we do not tolerate them, then we are labeled "intolerant." (The holy offspring of Pluralism, Toleration and Inclusivism have also been deified.) Enlightened champions of Pluralism now sincerely want The United Methodist Church to tolerate and include the life-style of sodomy by developing worship liturgies for sodomite weddings that are similar to traditional weddings. This is heresy because by calling for the blessing of sodomite marriages we are approving the sin of sodomy and therefore we deny Jesus Christ of his divine power to transform the homosexual. Such belief and practice does not emanate from God.

Pluralism has one unwritten, understood law: "Do not cross me; for to do so would be intolerable!" This is why our response is often deafening silence – we fear reprisal from the denomination. There are probably some in our denomination who have suffered unjust reprisals – but I believe it is the exception, not the rule. Though Pluralism by definition is supposed to welcome one and all into its embrace, there is one person modern Pluralism finally will not accept: the Christian who does not tolerate Pluralism! Such a Christian simply lives by God’s Word which commands "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." There is no room at the altar of a Christian except for the one true God – and there is the rub. Christians are not supposed to bow to both God and Pluralism – and yet it seems to be happening.

How is it one can worship both God and Pluralism and perhaps not even know it? By not deliberately accepting and appropriating, through personal faith in Jesus Christ, the authority of God’s Word, we can fall prey to the worship of other gods. God knows if we were not given an unchangeable objective source of authority for faith and practice (the Word of God, i.e., the Bible), we would invent gods that are not real because of our original sinful human nature – see our United Methodist doctrine of original sin (62. Article VII, Doctrinal Standards, 1996 Discipline). The Bible is God’s self-revelation of who He really is – and He gave it to us so we will be able to know Him, His ways, and His perfect will for us (Rom. 12:2) AND He gave us His Word so we would not wander off in our own sin nature which, He knows, only ends in idolatry (Ex. 20:3-6; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). When God’s Word is not intentionally taken to be the ultimate authority for the Christian, God’s will is lost on us and other gods can be developed and worshipped because of our fallen sinful nature. Without God’s Word as our ultimate authority, sooner or later we turn God into something He is not – a changeable subjectively designed god, gods, or goddesses.

A biblical example of this truth is found in Israel’s exodus from Egypt and entry into the wilderness. Just three months after they were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, Aaron and the Israelites had not yet received God’s Word of Law which Moses was receiving from God on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 20-31). While they were impatiently waiting for Moses – still without God’s Word – they fashioned a golden calf which they subsequently worshiped (Ex. 32). There was also sexual sin of some kind associated with their idolatry (Ex. 32:25 "nakedness" in KJV, "adultery" in The Living Bible). Where there is no Word of God present such as in this example, or where God’s Word is present but is not received as authoritative for faith and practice such as by some today, there will necessarily arise some form of idol worship. People have not changed; only their idols. In Moses’ day the worshipers of the golden calf did not like giving up their idol or their sexual immorality – so much so it caused a violent division and war in the camp and 3,000 men were destroyed by the sword (Ex. 32:26-28). So also today there are those who cling tenaciously to the god of Pluralism and its resultant sexual immorality (now sodomy) – and the sword of God’s Word clearly marks the lines of "battle" within the Church.

Pluralism in the Church today is guilty of the worst depravity and immorality, for Pluralism would have us rape God’s Word of its eternal glory and authority. It seems a growing number in the Church today do not believe the Bible to be God’s authority for all matters of faith and living. This is evident in part because of the growing number of clergy and laity advocating for the experience of sodomite marriage. The other three points on the Wesleyan quadrilateral – Scripture, tradition, and reason – are largely ignored to support this approach to homosexual ministry. It is the position of our denomination that Scripture is the primary authority for United Methodists (63, "Scripture," The 1996 Discipline). If so, no matter where tradition, reason, and experience may lead us, Scripture must have the ultimate say in our life together. This means we must bring all our traditions, reasonings, and experiences to be tested under God’s final authority of Scripture. If experience tells us someone is born homosexual, but Scripture tells us God forbids sodomy, then we need to compassionately minister to the homosexual in the context of our primary covenant with the one true God who speaks to us from Scripture. The Bible is never an object of worship; rather it is the light to our feet to direct us to the one true God of all creation. Let’s get back to the Bible and carefully judge the worth of the modern teachings of Pluralism by the standard of God’s Word. Regarding sodomy and homosexuality, the Bible is completely clear and intelligible. The scriptures regarding homosexuality should not be up for various radical interpretations. They are all amply explicit (Gen. 19:5-7; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Deut. 22:5; Judg. 19:22-23; Rom. 1:24-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Peter 2:4-11; Jude 7-8).

The whole Bible (the Word of God) from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is Jesus Christ’s holy and perfect standard for governing all relationships and beliefs toward God and others. The Bible is eternal (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25). The Bible calls itself a "sword" (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12). A sword is an instrument of division. Just as the Word of God is God’s instrument of uniting the true Church of Jesus Christ (John 10:16; John 17:17-21), so God’s Word is also His instrument of division – God’s Word will divide us all – personally and corporately (grain/chaff, wheat/tares, sheep/goats). Those who teach and live the standards found in the Bible will be blessed – if not now, later (Deut. 28:1-14; John 14:21; James 1:25). Those who teach anything other than the doctrinal standards and teachings found in the Bible will accordingly not be blessed and perhaps even cursed – if not now, later (Deut. 28:15-68; Luke 6:49; Gal. 1:8-9). God’s Word has the effect of bringing eternal life to some and eternal death to others (John 3:18). Jesus’ Word was eternally redeeming mercy to the humble; to a repentant prostitute He said, "Your sins are forgiven … go in peace" (Luke 7:48-50). By contrast, Jesus’ Word was eternally condemning judgment to the proud, "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" (Matt. 23:33). By His Word, Jesus forgave penitent sinners and made them saints; he also condemned the unrepentant idolatrous religious establishment and called them "whited sepulchres … full of dead men’s bones and uncleanness" (Mt. 23:27). God’s Word is an agent of division in His Kingdom – on earth as it is in heaven. The Word of God either divides us from our sin or it divides us from Jesus Christ. The Bible is the one objective standard by which Jesus is judging and will judge us all (John 5:22; 12:48). How we handle the Bible has everything to do with how we handle the modern god of Pluralism.

What happens when you do not bow to the god of Pluralism? Maybe nothing at first. Speak diligently against it and you may get some repercussions. Those who steadfastly do not bow the knee to Pluralism can unwittingly be a cause of anger or even rage in the worshipers of Pluralism, much like Haman was enraged with Mordecai because he would not bow to Haman or give him reverence (Esther 3:5; 5:9, 14). The Bible warns us Jesus and his Word of truth will be offensive (1 Peter 2:7-8). Yet we must boldly present his Word in love, endeavoring to not be personally offensive.

Pluralism has made so-called "hot" social issues, like sodomy, matters for "dialogue" and "collegial debate." The only reason such issues are hot is because Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience are so resoundingly clear. One has to be quite frozen in a systemic lie, like modern Pluralism, to believe homosexuality is a good gift of God – such as UM seminary Professor Tex Sample teaches. Such chilling beliefs demonstrate why speaking the truth about sodomy, even in love, makes it feel as though the hot fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah is falling from God’s hand again.

Pluralism has taught us to disagree agreeably – not on the color of new choir robes – but on whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin, on whether or not Jesus is the only way to God, on whether Jesus is Lord of life or just a great teacher from 2000 years ago. Pluralism has opened the door to the growing beliefs that the Bible merely CONTAINS the Word of God, that the Bible is largely irrelevant to modern living, that the Bible must be "demythologized" and re-interpreted to give us any benefit, that the Bible is a modern anachronism – an obsolete relic of antiquity, and therefore is not divine in origin at every jot and tittle. (See Matt. 5:18; Luke 16:17.)

Pluralism has taken the helm of our ocean liner and has fast diverted us into perilous waters. Pluralism and its allies are wrecking the ship. The boat is large and laden with much excess baggage and no one is quite sure with what, when or where we were hit. Some suspect the boat is going to sink. We have three remaining choices:

  1. We can succumb to Pluralism’s desire to take us down with the stolen, sinking ship – meaning we can buy into Pluralism’s bankrupt belief system and suffer the ultimate consequences before God.

  2. We can split up, run for the lifeboats and abandon ship – meaning we can quit the denomination, recklessly forsake our heritage, and let the Enemy have The United Methodist Church.

  3. My personal choice – we can join forces and tie a millstone around the neck of Pluralism and throw it overboard – meaning we can prayerfully and humbly unite around Jesus Christ with His true Word as our guide, boldly and compassionately stand up for simple Gospel truth, and no longer tolerate the dynamics of Satan in The United Methodist Church.

No matter which option you choose, the time for casually strolling the deck with the walking dead in the darkness is past.

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