Sunday, January 15, 2006

Musings: Elitist theological snobbery in the church?

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are not they the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

James 2:1-7 (ESV)

With regards to the issues I have shared here, and with more developments happening over time, I seem to smell just a tiny bit of elitism on the part of pastors and full-time ministry staff in the people I am interacting with. As with Pastor X, there seems to be just a tinge of elitism in which there is a sense in which he looks down on the lay people; that is, those who dare disagree with him on theological issues. After all, who is this Daniel Chew? No official theological training, full-time minstry experience and definitely no large title (e.g. Rev. so-and-so from this large, sucessful church)

If what I have felt is true, then the Church is truly in dire straits. In this passage of James, James is preaching against favoritism in the church, i.e. disciminations based on the poor and rich. In general, James is preaching against ALL types of disciminations. When it comes to theological issues, Scripture is equally clear that those who disagree with the pastor or Christian worker, if they are in the wrong, be instructed gently (2 Tim. 2:25) and only when they persist in their errors then they are to be rebuked sharply (Titus 3:10). Totally absent from these two passages is the idea that people are to be treated differently according to their theological knowledge or ministry status, much less ecclesiastical titles. Since Scripture clearly prohibits discimination, all should be treated equally by the pastor/ Christian ministry worker, and they should be gentle to the person who opposes them, at least initially. Lacking in doing any of these things is disobeying Scripture.

The reason why the Church is in dire straits is because such elitist snobbery in Christian workers and ministers would create the clergy/laity divide, if it doesn't exist yet, and will result in Christian ministers being accountable to no one but their fellow workers only. If the entire clergy apostasized, the church in which it happens is gone. Given the fact that clergy often appoint men to the clergy who share similar views to theirs, the clergy is thus easily susceptible to falling into deception. It just requires one wolf to enter into the ministry, and then, if he conceals himself carefully, he can abide his time until he himself is in charge, and then woe is the church/ Christian organization when that happens. This has happened before in church history where the liberal ministers enter into the churches (during Spurgeon's era resulting in the Downgrade controversy) and then take and destroy entire denominations when they become the majority, which resulted in the fundamentalist/ liberal split in the early 20th century.

More personally, the problem it creates for the churches is that it shows the pride inherent in such ministers. Pride comes before a fall, as the maxim goes. Scripture says more specifically that God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble (Jas. 4:6). Therefore, how will God use such ministers mightily, when they have such pride in their theological knowledge, or ecclesiastical status, or ministry experience? The answer is of course, He won't. Therein lies the one of the saddest things that comes with the existence of such ministers serving in the Body of Christ.

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