The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prephesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds. Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel, who hae been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? ...
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you sheherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I willl rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. (Ez. 34:1-10)
Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers have killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this geneation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the alter and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering. (Lk. 11:47-52)
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. " (Lk. 14:26)
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. (Ps. 119:99-100)
I have just recently received an interesting comment with regards to a post in which I exposed some of the heretics present in Singapore, and I am of the opinion that the reply merits a post of its own, since it touches on a certain issue very prevelant especially in Singapore: conditioning by culture. I would like to first present the comment as it was made, followed by my reply to it.
I am very glad that you have such an informative blog which allows me to discover and reflect on many issues regarding church and christianity. However, these are a few things i just want to share with you.
I truly admire and envy your knowledge in the word of God. However, do take note that sometimes, we do not let knowledge rule our heads. You always like to call people heretics, and these people are senior pastors who have probably read the bible more than the amount of rice you eat, what gives you the right to call them names? Even if the docrine is wrong, even if it is blasphemy, out of respect for elders, we should honor them. Remember the 5th commandment? Would the children of pastors who practice wrong doctrine be righteous if they call their moms and dads heretics or apostates? I believe not just to parents, but also to elders we should give honour to also. What's more, at the very bottom line, these people are doing God's word more than you do, they preach more than you, they lead people to Christ more than you, and you are not even a pastor, why be so critical?
This comment reflects a fundamental mindset very prevelant particular among Asians, who have been brought up to honor their parents and their elders NO matter what. Anyway, I would tackle this topic first, before answering each of the points he posed one by one.
The idea of honoring your elders is very prevelant in Asian cultures, and definitely to a certain extent, the Scriptures do emphasize this. The 5th commandment, for example, does tell us to honor our fathers and mothers. However, the problem is that in such cultures like my own, the 5th commandment is ripped out of its context, distorted, and moulded to fit the societal norm. As a corrective to such a distortion, we could look to passages such as Lk. 14:26 where Jesus says that if we cannot hate our fathers and mothers to follow Him, we cannot be His disciple. Obviously, this is talking about comparative hatred; that is, compared to our love for Christ, our love for our parents should be like that of hate. In other words, what the Bible actually teaches is that we are to esteem God more than our parents. Between honoring our parents or elders and honoring God, all Christians are to do the latter rather than the former.
With this established, let us look as to what God would ask us to do first before we actually talk about honoring our elders.
As I have demonstrated earlier in articles on whether we should judge people and of the judging of heretics, heretics are to be judged, and this is the responsibility of all Christians, not just special "elite Christians". Such heretics are also to be named. Scripture teaches all this, and thus an obedient Christian must obey His Word and agree to and do all the above.
The problem supposedly lies when the heretics are elderly, or at least older and higher up in position than us. First of all, I explicitly reject and deny any qualitative difference between the so-called clergy and the laity. Whoever wants to make such a difference is in effect creating a "Christian" caste system. Scripture, however, mentions that we are all priests before God (1 Peter 2:9) and thus there is no caste system within true orthodox Christianity. Yes, in Old Testament times, the Levites, and especially the Aaronic priesthood, were a special breed of people who ministered before God and were the only one allowed to do so. However, with the coming of the New Covenant, the curtain in the temple was torn in two (Mk. 15:38; Lk. 23:45), symbolizing the fact that now all of us are allowed to minister before God as priests without the need of intermediaries (because Christ acts as our eternal intermediary; the one mediator between God and Man). Therefore within the community of Christians, no one, even if he is older, a Pastor or an Elder, is more 'infallible', more 'above reproach', or have a higher status than any other Christian. Just because a person is a pastor does not make the person less prone to temptations and to heresies either, and it certainly does not make him a pope! Also, the pastor does not become more and more 'infallible' with increasing number of people joining his church, unless your idol is 'church growth', of course.
The problem is actually easy to solve when we look at Scripture. Since where in Scripture is it stated that elders have a license to promote error? Is age somehow a mitigating factor? I don't see that in Scripture. Jesus was a relatively young person humanly speaking (30-33) when he pronounced woes on the Pharisees (Lk. 11:47-52), who were the religious leaders of his day and definitely some if not most were older than him. Yes, on hindset, we say that He is the Son of God and God Himself in the flesh, thus He is somehow given divine sanction to do this. However, we must look at the cultural context to see that His being the Son of God mattered little in the pronouncing of woes, except that He could do so infallibly. In the eyes of the Pharisees and the Scribes, here is an unschooled, young itinerant preacher, not trained in any of the rabbinical schools, yet challenging and pronouncing woes on them. Does it sound as if Jesus was honoring them because they are elders?
Let us move on to others, to show that Jesus as the Son of God was not the exception. How about the prophet Ezekiel? In Ez. 34:1-10, Ezekiel pronounced judgment upon the entire priesthood in Jerusalem because of their apostasy, and definitely there would be some that are older than him. Ezekiel wasn't a priest anyway. Or how about the prophet Amos, who was a simple herdsman and 'a dresser of syncamore figs' (Amos 8:14) before he was called to be a prophet. He was rebuked by the learned and elderly Amaziah the priest of Bethel (Amos 8:11-13), certainly a member of the clergy in Old Testament times when the clergy/ laity divide still held. Amaziah was in turn severely judged by the Lord as he was wrong (Amos 8:17). From the Scriptures, isn't it plain that God is no respector of age, nor of 'status'? Those who err, regardless of 'how many times they have read the Scriptures' (as if that equates to how spiritual they are), are to be judged, seniority playing no valid mitigating factor in the equation.
Having established this, should we then honor our leaders, elders etc.? Yes, the Scriptures did tell us to do that. However, how are we to honor them? Certainly, from what we have seen so far, excusing heresy or failing to judge heretics is NOT scriptural, and would constitute rebellion against God. How we honor them can be through expressing love and concern for them, and that we should listen to what they say UNLESS what they say is heresy. Also, we should always give them the benefit of the doubt (1 Tim. 5:19). However, if they have been proven to sin or are embracing heresy, they MUST be rebuked. For those who are ministering publicy like Elders, Pastors etc., they are to be rebuked and punished severely and publicy (1 Tim. 5: 20). Honor given to Man must always be subservant to obedience towards our Lord Jesus Christ and His commands expressed through His Word.
With all this stated, I would like to cover the points made by the commenter one by one.
You always like to call people heretics, and these people are senior pastors who have probably read the bible more than the amount of rice you eat, what gives you the right to call them names?
A heretics must be called a heretic; we call a spade a spade here. As I have said, seniority matter little in the Kingdom of God. The number of times a person has read the Bible does not neceessarily translate into the level of spiritual maturity and knowledge of God's truth. Witness the case of theological professors in liberal seminaries, especially in the US with groups such as the 'Jesus Seminar', where the professors do not even believe in Jesus Christ as being God. Yet are you going to dispute with these professors the number of times they have read the Bible?
A very pertinent passage to correct this madness and obsession with senority in service and years of being a Christian is to look at the Word of God itself. In Ps. 119:99-100, we have a very interesting look at what the Scripture says about spirituality and the Word of God. As we can see, those who meditate and keep God's Word are more knowledgeable than those who just merely read it (or don't read it but just progress in years of being called a Christian and serving God in some capacity). By meditating on God's Word, we can be more learned than those who are supposed to our teachers also; time is of little value here. Therefore, if I abide by the Word of God, I have all the right and authority to proclaim God's Word and apply it to all these senior pastors who have embraced various heresies.
Even if the docrine is wrong, even if it is blasphemy, out of respect for elders, we should honor them.
I have answered this previously. And the answer is no, we shouldn't.
Would the children of pastors who practice wrong doctrine be righteous if they call their moms and dads heretics or apostates?
Judging by the Scriptures, especially Lk. 14:26 for this matter, the answer is that they will be unrighteous if they do not do so. Note that I am not saying that you should condemn and hate your parents if they are heretics or apostates. You should say the truth in love, which involved doing BOTH, not loving them without telling them the truth (which is not true love anyway).
I believe not just to parents, but also to elders we should give honour to also.
Same answer as above.
What's more, at the very bottom line, these people are doing God's work [sic word] more than you do, they preach more than you, they lead people to Christ more than you, and you are not even a pastor, why be so critical?
Well, preaching and promoting heresy is not doing God's work. And if what they preach is wrong, or just plain shallow, it matters little how many sermons or how long they have preached. Better one sermon that has truly changed lives to live for God rather than many sermons that only serve to 'help' people improve their lives (self-help sermons) or worse still, sermons that promote heresy.
Regarding leading people to Christ, please kindly inform me how many of them (not their members) actually do lead people to Christ after they have embrace heresy. I have no desire to know of how many people they have led to Christ before they embrace heresy; that's irrelevant. And by leading people to Christ, I do not mean that these converts pay lip service to Him and be a regular worshipper. I am talking about true believers in Christ who are thus also disciples of Christ and obey His word, whatever the cost.
With regards to the fact that I am not a pastor, kindly do enlighten me what is it about a pastor that gives them a elevated 'immunity' status with regards to accountability. I'm sure you are well aware that many of Singapore's well known megachurch pastors do not have formal theological education, nevermind the issue of ordination. If being able to start a church by drawing members count as being a pastor, then almost anyone with the business acumen could potentially be a pastor also.
In conclusion, I hope that this missive of mine would help in answering the issue of honoring elders with respect to the whole issue of judging, and of judging heretics. As for me personally, I know enough church leaders who have way too much pride in them, and have bought into the entire Asian culture at this point, that I for one can honestly say that I have a very dim view of the leaders in the churches in Singapore. The arrogance coming out of their nostrils totally stinks!