GlobalView from Bishop Bill Atwood
I have no question that the best scholar and thinker about Paganism (and a host of other things) is Dr. Peter Jones of TruthXchange. (Follow that link to subscribe to his excellent work.) In my view, his hallmark teaching is that of the battle of whether or not God is transcendent. If, as Paganism demands, there is no transcendent one, then the worldview easily emerges that trees, porpoises, hamsters, and bishops are all part of “the thing” that makes up god. For a true Pagan, there should be no distinctions between God and man, man and woman, or even different types of behavior.
There are two ways to look at this. First, if Paganism is assumed, then the “trickle down” doctrines will naturally be all the poster slogans of the liberals. Same-sex unions, worship of all gods equal, and no authority of Scripture. On the other side, if one looks at the doctrines of liberals to see where they project, the result is a description of god just as Paganism describes.
What is missing from those perspectives that makes them lacking, is the problem inherent in relating with a Transcendent God. Because He is Transcendent, He is essentially “other.” By definition, we cannot know much with surety except by revelation. Happily, God (The actual fellow Who is God) delights in revealing Himself in a whole host of ways: Creation, the Law, the Word, and Jesus Christ Himself, just to name a few.
One of the most powerful revelations that comes to Christians is that which tells each of us that we are a child of God. Paul wrote:
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. – Romans 8:16-18
Of course, the ultimate revelation is found in Jesus Christ.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14
These Scriptures are marvelous for telling us what is happening when He (the Spirit) reveals both the Son and our sonship, providing in the Word external confirmation of what we perceive, and even tying it to the truth that in this fallen world there will be temporal suffering. The promise is sure, however, that we will eventually come to a place without tears, pain, or lack. Such full disclosure provides a profound window into eternal truth. The truth is that there is pain and suffering even in the midst of the glory of sonship.
We can have real confidence in what the truth is only when we have the external verification of the Word. Without that, we are left to our own devices to determine what is truth. Sadly, our human hearts are easily deceived by the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.
When the church goes off on a departure course from historic teaching, practice, and discipline, and makes Scripture subordinate to anecdotal experience, there is no way to objectively determine what is actually going on. That truth—what is actually true—is called ontological truth. Rather than relying on established revelation, it is easy to convince oneself that the right course has been chosen even though it disagrees with Scripture. Usually, people say something like, “It just feels soooo right.” They may think it is truth, but it is not ontological truth.
That is what has been happening with the Episcopal Church. It is why virtually everything that leaders from TEC have been saying following the Primates’ gathering in Canterbury is confident and rebellious. They think they are right. The evaluation grid that they use tells them that they are right. But they are using a ruler of their own design—a “plumbline” that is askew. It doesn’t measure properly. They are not using Scripture. They remain deeply committed, but it is commitment to a mistake. Following the Primates’ decision to discipline TEC, there has been no shred of repentance or humility.
Here is why this is so very important. The institution has found itself capable of speaking about departures from the faith. True, it was a light rebuke of TEC and others deserved chastisement as well, but it actually happened. On top of that, the understanding of the Primates was that the deviation was ultimately a departure from Scripture. Of course, some try to spin it that it was just a matter of stepping ahead of where everyone will eventually go, but the truth is that linking discipline to the Biblical authority expressed in Lambeth 1.10 is critically important. Everything in the life of the church should now be held up against God’s plumb line.
Years ago I remember standing in line at a conference behind to ladies who were talking. One said, “I just love our Bishop, Jack Spong. He is so engaging and interesting. At first, I found what he was saying shocking, but then I realized that if he were saying things that were wrong, the church would discipline him.”
She started out with her internal gyro going tilt hearing what he was teaching, but was lulled into accepting Spong’s heretical teaching because of the silence of the Church. We have a responsibility to identify and reject false teaching.
As I have been traveling to a whole list of Provinces over these last weeks, what I am hearing from them is pretty much the same. They are saying that they were shocked to find out what was going on in the Episcopal Church. Clearly, they have said, what TEC does needs to be judged according to Scripture. For those of us who have been under the artillery barrages of TEC for years, it is hard for us to believe that people could find TEC’s behavior surprising. TEC, Canada, Brazil, and others are pursuing the same course. The difference now is that a plumb line has been brought to bear. It has not yet been used to judge everything that is out of order, but the process has started. Some of the Bishops in other countries have said to me, “Now that the Episcopal Church has been disciplined, surely they will repent now.”
That is the kind of thing that is said by the youngest and least experienced. In fact, as I have said, TEC won’t repent. They are too far turned over to their reprobate thinking. Other leaders, usually the battle hardened older leaders who have seen how far things have gone are saying, “Of course they won’t repent, but now, in three years’ time, we will have a much larger and firmer coalition to hold the line as TEC has to walk apart.”
Many things are still unfolding from the Canterbury meeting. People will offer lots of spin, but I am convinced that something profound was offered to the future of the Anglican way, the chance for the institution to speak the truth.
The other positive thing is that the Archbishops of several Provinces that have not been in GAFCON have indicated that they want to join now. There will be a process for the Province to make that move, but there is no question in my mind that they will follow through. Even better, there will be others as well.
With no repentance, there will be a separation. Rather than having a handful of Provinces walking out, we are going to have two dozen Provinces renewed and committed. Those who leave will be in the same boat as those who left the ecumenical councils…admitting that they are not what we are—not what the Church has always been.
Is my assessment too rosy? Time will tell.
The Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood is Bishop of the ACNA’s International Diocese and an American Anglican Council contributing author.