Tag: Dr. Scott Sunquist

Well-Seasoned Words

How we respond to Dr. Sunquest’s words, is just as important as that we respond.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

To all the Saints and the Children of God at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, grace and peace from God the Father, in the unity of the Spirit, I, Jonathan Faulkner, greet you as your brother and fellow co-laborer for the full gospel of Jesus Christ as we all seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Let me make three things clear at the beginning.

  1. There is no “other side” in this debate, everyone involved professions Christian Faith and is a Brother and Sister in Christ.
  2. How we respond to our Brothers and Sisters when they sin against us is as important as the response itself.
  3. Gracelessness for gracelessness is not the way the Kingdom works.

Brothers and Sisters, I am angry too. For the last three years of my time at the seminary I learned to listen and then found my voice in actively engaging the situation we have on our campus. The fact that so many of our brothers and sisters have been hurt by statements made in classrooms and from the President’s Office at Gordon-Conwell is unacceptable for an institution that claims to be training church leaders. How can the pastors produced by Gordon-Conwell be expected to engage in the cultural issues around us, if the upper echelon of leadership is not demonstrating that for us, if there is not example of follow before us, then how are we going to do this in the real world. Dr. Price once told me, during a time when I was wrestling with my families own history and participation in Slavery and the opposition to the Civil Rights Movement that I now had a chance to “Redeem the family name.” Even though E.L. Faulkner (Dupont, Mississippi Prayer) never repented of his sinfulness in this area, I can, and then I go the other way. As with Paul writing to his protégé Timothy in Ephesus so long ago: “The aim of my charge is love, stemming from a clear conscious, a sincere faith and a pure heart” (1 Tim 1:5).

But one of the other things I learned from Dr. Price was that when we travel this road of reconciliation we fail when all we do is change the roles of oppressor and oppressed. Christianity should be the place where those roles are eliminated altogether. The world cannot understand this because the world does not have the Holy Spirit, I have advocated for Christian involvement in these discussions since 2014 for this very reason, but we have to be having them well within our own walls and again, that is something we as Christians have the capacity to do through the power of the indwelling, incarnating, presence of God within us. We cannot go so far the other way that we have actually reversed the harm back to us onto our brothers and sisters. If we do, we have failed to be reconciled to one another.

I do not say this to delegitimize anyone’s anger or frustration, on the contrary, we need to be angry about this, Charles Fick’s piece yesterday needed to be ran. Anger and hurt are justified because as both Charles and I wrote yesterday the language used and the lack of a cultural toolkit were unacceptable and are objects our Brothers and Sisters of Color have been asking us not to use and to build for more than a century. At the very least we can listen to this request and act on it so as not to hurt those whom we lead and teach, and that is only a starting point. However, if our anger and frustration causes us to sin, then we are no better then those who caused the hurt in the first place. There are a few encroaching sins we must avoid.

  1. The sin of divisiveness. The moment you say that you will not fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ who are on a perceived “other side” (again, there is no other side, we are all on the side of Christ and all Christianity’s) then you violating the text of Holy Scripture. Christ is not, and cannot be divided and we should be wary of cultural pressures and justifications to divide that are not biblical and are not healthy. Christian, our anger and hurt should drive us to worship and to a unified reconciliation, we should pray that the one who caused the hurt does repent and ask for forgiveness, but allowing this to divide the student body is not how God intended us to handle these situations. Many of us have already gone to Brother Sunquist privately, I have the emails to prove it, I went to him before I graduated to urge him away from actions just like this. It is okay to be angry, it is justifiable, but allowing further divisions and hurts is not.
  2. Self-Righteousness and unrighteous anger: It would be easy to say that we have the high grounds, and morally we may, but self-righteousness comes in and wipes that away, the moment we think we are better than the one who did the hurting is the moment we lose our credibility. Our anger can be righteous only if we act in such a way places the righteousness of God, ahead of ourselves. We can flip tables and run the money collectors out with a whip, but at the same time a kind word will turn away wrath. Humility is to be preferred over haughtiness; the original piece was born out of a language brewed by self-righteousness. Let us avoid using similar language when addressing Brother Sunquist.
  3. Hatred, Malice, Gossip and other vices: It can be so easy, and I have seen some, post some extremely hateful things on Social Media. Please do not do this, it undermines what we are trying to achieve here. Again, all the hurt that we are feeling is legitimate, but just like with self-righteousness and unrighteous anger, hatred causes us to lose the moral high ground and can alienate the allies you need to accomplish this. Malice is the effect of the original piece, the language used was patronizing, but we should not stoop to that level ourselves. Gossiping about one another only makes the situation worse and spreads misinformation and deceit around campus that further causes divisions that we should stay away from.

Again, all the anger and frustration we are feeling is legitimate, as a disable person on campus I experienced a lot of these same things, but no ones experience is a monolith and everyone is experiencing this situation differently. What we do now, how we respond, is as important as responding and if we cannot do this gracefully, if we respond to gracelessness with more gracelessness, we end up with a lot of toothless, blind people. Just think of where we would be if the Savior responded to our gracelessness towards him, with more gracelessness, there would be no drawing, no salvation, no eternal life. God would be justified in that, but He does not. Instead He sends Jesus, His son, to die on the cross for the sins of the world so that we would not be bound to the responses of this world but free to respond as the Holy Spirit responds, with forgiveness and grace.

I would recommend avoiding posting about this on Social Media, especially in a way that is dictated by pure emotion, and not by the word of God. It is okay to Lament, Lament is needed and good, but Social Media is hardly the place for it since it does 1 of two things, either it draws sympathizers and reinforces negative stereotypes about the one we perceive as “other.” It also becomes a place where fighting occurs and more divisions and grievances and hurts get amplified and multiplied. I am not saying we should not speak out on Social Media, but going there for things like Lament or looking for a fight in the name of “educating” our detractors does no good whatsoever.

I have intentionally left out forgiveness until this point, as Dr. Bryan Lorritts says: “You do not have a choice when it comes to forgiving someone, but with reconciliation there is a loophole.” I want you to forgive one another, forgiveness is the beginning of healing for you and opens the door for reconciliation. You cannot be reconciled with someone you have not forgiven and who has not forgiven you. And when someone comes, asking for forgiveness, do not require anything from them but the transformation of the Holy Spirit, allow them to have their journey, do not demand and instant arrival at your point of view, for that does not accomplish anything. While you are waiting for forgiveness, do not break fellowship with one another, that is the worst thing you can do and simply creates echo chambers where your negative perceptions about one another are reinforced, this hinders forgiveness and is graceless.

Finally Brothers and Siters, I appeal to love, not human love, but Christ’s Love, the Love you have for one another in Christ Jesus. This Love is poured out for you in prayers, in supplications, in acts of service, in this post. If we cannot engage one another respectfully and lovingly then the hurts and pains and struggles will only deepen and we will lose Gordon-Conwell completely. If Love does not drive our actions, then we have already lost, love for God, love for One Another. There is no Jew or Greek, Slave or Free, Scythian or Barbarian, we are all one in Christ Jesus bringing the uniqueness of the cultures God created and placed us in to the throne room where they are transformed not into a mono-culture, but their truest forms, what God intended them to be and we can all celebrate with one another, even where we are different. The love of God does this, may we be as much like the multitude in Revelation as we can. Our response must be well-seasoned and the only seasoning that matters is the Love of God, all other seasons and spices are included in that one action, the Love of God.

Peace be with you and with all the saints, the saints in North Iowa greet you.

To Christ be glory forever and ever amen.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center

A Student’s Response to Dr. Sunquist.

We no longer have time for this, we never really did. 

Charles Fick

Forward by Jonathan Faulkner

You can read my piece from earlier today here: 

I want to take a moment and thank my dear brother Charles for his response below. I also want to remind the reader that what we are discussing today, on this site, is not a liberal or conservative issue, it is a Gospel issues, there is no other way to frame it. Either we see the humanity of the men and women of Color on our campus, we care for their needs and honor them we treat them as we want to be treated, or we continue to sin against them. That begins with not referring to “them” as “them” but as human beings, made in the image of the God who need the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. To continue to deny that, to continue to treat them with contempt, as has been part of our seminaries history, is to violate the Gospel and to ignore the testimony of Scripture that declares all humanity is made in the image of GOD. The time for excuses are over, the time for listening and reconciliation is now. Thank you Charles for your boldness and continued work at Gordon-Conwell.

Charles is correct, we often lack the cultural toolkit to comment on these things at all. It is up to us to work to establish one and work together to find healing and reconciliation. The hurting of one another has to stop, it just has to, especially in the Church, and if it does not, if we do not keep violating one another and hurting one another in ways we should never have developed in the first place, King Jesus will not be someone we want to stand before one day. It is not enough to “do better next tie” we need to do better now.

Charles Response

I saw the picture of one of my heroes flash on my screen.  The president of my Seminary just posted something about Frederick Douglass!  I was excited.  But this excitement soon turned to disappointment and dread.   As I started to read what he’d written, I started to sigh.  Then as I thought about how public this was, I sighed more deeply.  He’s done it again.  He’s hurt all my brothers and sisters of color, because he just does not understand how his words sound.  He tries so hard.  But alas.  He does not have the tools to do this well.

Ironically, the reconciliation class here at the seminary is where I was reminded of this difficult truth: white people do not often possess the cultural toolkit to be able to understand racial inequalities, white supremacy, white privilege, tokenism, paternalism….  They just do not have the capacity to understand that systemic injustice and oppression are real or how they function in our society.  Individualism blinds them.  I’ve seen this pattern repeated over and over in interactions, especially between older white faculty and younger students of color.  The generational and ethnic gaps are wide and difficult to traverse.  This is exacerbated by trying to communicate about these complexities with cold, hard, soundless words on a page.  How do you understand the nuance and the tone?  This was supposed to be encouraging!?!?

Then the Facebook posts start responding to the blog.  Yup, many of my Black friends are hurt.  He has hurt them again.  He started by hurting the only Black professor we had on this campus and then denying any wrongdoing.   He tried to dialog with the leaders and the students.  He tried.  Sometimes trying feels like it should count for something.  But in the messy, long, difficult work of reconciliation, trying doesn’t count for much.  We need to really repent.  We need to change.  We need to stop hurting people who are already hurting from so much racial trauma in our country.  President Sunquist, please stop hurting my friends.

 

 

 

Charles Fick is in his last year of a Master of Divinity degree at Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Education & Development with concentrations in Inequality and Education from Cornell University. He lives with his wife and two sons in South Hamilton, MA.  His reconciliation journey began in 2001 as a missionary in the Summerhill neighborhood of Atlanta, GA and continues to this day.  He enjoys biblical theology, NY Giants football, Cornell Hockey, coffee, politics, history, legos and curling.

A Critical Response to: “Fredrick Douglas: Thirst for Knowledge”

These are difficult matters and difficult times, we should be more careful of how we discuss history.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

 

For the third time this year I find myself in quite the awkward position of critiquing someone for whom I have great respect. Perhaps some think it is disrespectful to do so, but I disagree, to interact with ones ideas seems to me to be the highest compliment, even if that critique and interaction is negative. In the case of men like Carl Trueman, R.R. Reno and now Scott Sunquist, it is essential that we hold them to the standard of the offices of which they find themselves. And we should pray that if we find ourselves in their positions some young theologian or historian would do us the honor of critiquing us out of love. Because as Christian’s we no longer have the luxury, or should I call it a privilege, to say whatever we wish to without taking the time to think deeply about what we are saying. This is why, after all, as a pastor and theologian I actively maintain deep friendships with people who think differently then I and when those friendships do dissipate for whatever reason it is saddening to me.

I do understand what Dr. Sunquist was attempting to do in his piece “Fredrick Douglass, Thirst for Knowledge,” and I believe his intent is sincere, however, there is a history that one such as he should be aware of and when delving into a historical example, one should be careful in how that historical example is employed and what is said about a historical figure, if possible, one should use that persons own words. In this case, the person was Fredrick Douglass and in our current times, that may be a powder keg when not handled well. It is not enough to simply “mean well” one should approach with absolute cautions, especially if one is the historic oppressor discussing the historically oppressed. When one does so using the patronizing language that white supremacy and dominion theology have assigned to be used for the topic, one has lit a fuse that is incapable of being snuffed out. One should always prefer the historical context of a situation and be willing to acknowledge what was wrong about a situation in history and perhaps use a different example. Because these guidelines were not followed the point was lost and the fuses lit.

Sunquist fails to follow through with sensitivity to his audience and as an Alumni of Gordon-Conwell who worked, while there, to decolonize the curriculum, it is unfortunate to see the language of colonization employed by one who, in private conversation at least, has spoken about completing the work. To describe Douglas time with the Auld’s as: “Hugh and Sophia Auld had not owned slaves before and so they treated Frederick, uncharacteristically, as a son.” Is to ignore the fact that underneath that description is the fact that the Auld’s bought Douglas and then later sold him as if he was not a son, but property and a child. According to his own Autobiography and the most recent authoritative biography by David Blight (which Sunquist quotes in the article), Douglass was never not aware that he was in fact a slave whose teacher, Sophia Auld, was illegally teaching to read and write. To say they treated him as a son, is to employ language that Douglass himself does not employ and detracts from his awareness that he was in fact owned. While he was learning to read, he was also beginning to develop his ideas about abolition which would move him to become a leader among the abolitionist movement after buying his freedom. When he calls what Sophia Auld did: “reasonable and kind as a Christian Woman” the implication is that in doing what was illegal to teach an enslaved person to read, she was doing the right thing when the right thing would have been to grant him his freedom and help him to adjust to life as a freeman. Some Abolitionists actively practiced this although the Abolitionist movement was fraught with its own racism and paternalism and many did not.

The approach Sunquist takes here is similar to George Marsden in his authoritative biography of Jonathan Edwards when he notes that Edwards treated well and freed many of the family slaves and many of those freed slaves and their families were full communicates in worship at Northampton. We are expected to revere Edwards for his fair and kind treatment of enslaved people, people who had been kidnapped from their homes and placed in horrifying conditions and then sold for a price. We are also supposed to brush over the fact that one of the pieces of “property” in Edwards Will was one of the families enslaved. No amount of kind treatment excuses exploitation of a human being against their will. This was true when the Stonewall-Campbell Churches were defending Southern Slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War and it is true now. “Chattel Slavery” as Schaff wrote in 1856: “Has no place in the Christian world and it cannot be compared to or defended by the Bible.” This is the kind of excusing language we should avoid because what it communicates is destructive: “It does not matter if the Auld’s owned Douglass, they treated him like a son.” I am sure Sunquist would not affirm that statement said so frankly, but it is what was communicated to some, if not most, of his readers and that has once again repeated the cycle of pain many of us were fighting against and many still are fighting against at Gordon-Conwell.

Sunquist is correct that it is remarkable that Douglass achieved all he did, but the same could be said about someone such as I who was told by peers I should “kill myself because (my disability meant) I would never amount to anything.” It is a form of tokenism to take the exception to the rule and place them on a pedestal while excusing what was done to them, in this case, his status as a slave who had to buy his freedom and who had run away after enduring brutal beatings at the hand of Hugh Auld, Sophia’s husband. This tokenism is something our brothers and sisters of Color have asked us to stop doing for 60 years, simply because you know someone who either disagrees with someone else in the popular sphere on Ethnic relations, or someone of Color defies the norm, that does not mean we should hold them up as tokens for all to see, this is no better than slavery, we end up using the person for our own means instead of letting them speak on their own terms, something, by the way, Douglas has no trouble doing. It becomes a means of assuaging our consciouses instead of allowing us to drill down and deal with the issues head on. A form of escapism so we can justify ignoring the pain of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have experienced this kind of trauma for generations. Sunquist likely thought he was platforming a person of color, honoring them, but the result is paternalism and tokenism and both are indefensible.

Finally, Sunquist paints an…um…rosy picture of slavery in the cities which simply does not add up when compared to the historical situation which Douglas found himself in. Lynn Austin, in her “Turning Back the Dark” Trilogy does a much better job addressing the historical situation of city slaves, but even she falls short in some areas. In many ways, life for the city slaves was much worse than it was for the plantation slaves, though neither should ever be romanticized as Sunquist does here. Both Plantation slave city slaves lived with the constant fear of beatings not just from overseers and masters but from anyone who might think them a threat. The life of a slave was one of fear and longing for freedom, there is nothing romantic about that, no one should have to live day to day like that, but unfortunately many did and still are to this day. Slavery as an institution should be considered one of the great atrocities of human history, nothing more, nothing less. Dehumanization is still dehumanization even if you try to gussy it up to look nice, a pig with lipstick is still a pig. Dehumanization of anyone is not something to romanticize. In fact, it should be condemned on the grounds that stripping someone of their humanity and reducing them to property is a violation of God’s created order. We are made in the image of God, we should uphold that in one another, if we refuse we will answer for that, dehumanization is a sin, it requires repentance, not romanticism. In short, those who rail against the dehumanization of a human in the womb, should not turn around and dehumanize a group of people by romanticizing a painful moment in their history.

It is these things, and more, that our brothers and sisters of color have been asking us to consider for 160 years and yet, we are still wrestling with the ghost of our history. A thing cannot be dealt with if our intuition is just to push it down and move on. No healing comes for a nation that refuses to recon with its history. Yet, we are being asked to do just that and continue to repeat the same mistakes, rip open the wounds that never stopped bleeding. This is not a Liberal or Conservative issue, to reduce it to such is to make it Partisan. No, this is a human issue, a life issue. The language employed by Dr. Sunquist continues a long history of dehumanization that we need to rectify if we are ever to be one again.

I was reminded today, as I rode to a pastors lunch with my area pastor that when Paul writes to the Colossians in 3 and says that there is: Now no Jew or Greek, Scythian or Barbarian, Slave or Free, man or women.” That the majority of those mentioned were dark skinned men and women from North Africa, Asia Minor, Greece and Rome and the light skinned people from the north were referred to (not just here but in all Roman Literature) were the Barbarians. We who claimed to be the overseers and paragons of Christianity were, in fact, once referred to as Barbarians, a term that was central to the Pope’s Inter Catera in 1493 and to the Stone-Campbell Theology that defended slavery because the enslaved were, in their words: “Barbarians.” This view, the Stone-Campbell view, would have been central to the Auld’s view of Douglas, regardless of how they treated him and if it was unacceptable for Christians then, it is unacceptable now. Paul says it should not be part of our language at all because of Christ, and yet, here we are.

I am saddened by Dr. Sunquist’s use of language that is better left on the scrap bin of history. When he was first elected president, reading his resume and things which he had written in the past I was hopeful for the future of my Alma Mater. I pray that he may take the lessons of the on-campus backlash from this piece not as an attack, but as encouragement to listen to the voices of those whom he has hurt and disappointed. We do not have the privilege of these blunders; it is a wonder to think that we never did but made excuses anyway. May God bring healing to the situation and to those who were hurt and may genuine reconciliation be found through the power of the Holy Spirit which has made us one.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center

The Tale of Two Speeches

One Speech and One Sermon, two different perspectives on the Church in America, One from the President of the United States, One from the President of a prominent Evangelical Seminary, who is correct?

Jonathan Faulkner

I just spent the last half-hour listening to the president’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. Like many, I am tired of the insults and put downs that have become common place within these speeches and so I would not normally have watched it, but since the President tends to talk up his accomplishments and since he was before one of his primary bases, Evangelical Christians, it seemed logical to expect to see much of the same in this speech. Guess what? I was not disappointed. Listening to the speech made it sound like Christianity was alive and well and he even used the word “Thriving” to describe what was happening. A similar word was used by Pew and Lifeway when they did their research on the ever-marginalized Churches in New England, Churches that are no longer sitting at the forefront of social influence and power and are increasingly further from those centers. The President also made mention of how he has done more for Christians than any other political leader in the nation’s history and one could infer “Since Constantine.” Still, between the self-endorsement and the attacks on political enemies one saw what the second speech reiterated over and over again.

The Second speech, which was actually a sermon on Psalm 85 by the new president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Dr. Scott Sunquist from GCTS Spring Convocation which served as my wife and I’s spiritual nourishment and preaching as we sat at home Sunday Morning waiting out the snow storm that canceled our own service. The sermon opened with one poignant and heart-wrenching line: “The Church in the United States of America is sick, Evangelicalism is sick, brothers and sisters, we are sick.” He then went on to paint the grim picture, combining for us all the statistics on church-decline all the reasons the people in our pews are so anxious, but at the end of that he gave us hope, he showed us the way back to health, his solution? Reach out to God and ask Him for restoration. I know this is likely the first time some of you have heard of this sermon so please go and take a listen before you continue reading.

I said above that the presidents remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast proved, in many ways what Dr. Sunquist said in his sermon, I will get back to that in a second. First, I want to ask the question that I asked in the tagline on this post because these are two very different views of the state of the Church in the United States of America. There is no compatibility here, either the Church is doing amazing and things are great, or we are sick and in need of a biblical restoration. The question we have to ask here is “What is the truth?” Is one of these men passing around false information meant to make himself look better in the eyes of a constituency? Or are they both way off base and the truth is somewhere in the middle? Many of us would like to believe the president, as a Pastor that would take a load off my mind. I would like to say that Christianity is thriving here in the United States of America. I would love to be able to stand before my congregation and say that all their fears are for not, we are in great shape.

However, I cannot ignore what I see with my eyes and hear with my ears. I cannot ignore what the cultural exegetes tell me, those people whose job it is to know exactly what the state of the church in America is like. I cannot help but think about Peter Bienart’s article in the Atlantic in 2017 that talked about “America’s Empty Church Problem” or the pianist at my church who lamented about a town where all the churches are either museums or condo’s or homes now (that was a town in Wisconsin no less). I think of what Barna Group calls: “the rise of the none’s” and what David Kinnamen calls: “the dropout problem” where young Christians who leave the church are not coming back and many are abandoning their faith altogether and the heartbreaking reasons why this is so. I think of the increasingly close entanglement between cultural evangelicalism and Political Power and the promise that all these things I mentioned above are no longer true, even though they are. I think of Dr. Peter Kuzmic who told the church we attended in Hamilton in 2019 that the president of the United States was: “Absolutely hindering missions work all over the world because of Evangelicals association with him in American Politics.” I see and read all of this, I hear the way people in my town talk about the people on the other side of the isle, people who are otherwise perfectly kind men and women who treat bitterly their political rivals. I cannot help but think that Dr. Sunquist is right, that we are in need of restoration. We have violated what Philip Schaff defined as the definition of Religious Freedom in the United States: “It is a Free Church in a Free State, or a self-supporting and self-governing Christianity independent but in friendly relation to the Civil Government.” That the very people who once wrote into their founding confessional documents like the Saybrook Confession that Christian Magistrates could not “proselytize” are now looking to the government to do just that.

Yes, Dr. Sunquist is correct, we are sick, and the president is incorrect, we are not barreling towards a brighter day, we are headed for our own destruction. Yet, I would be a fool to not look at the positive things that are happening in Christianity. The article by Peter Beinart I mentioned above does point out that one affect of our current situation in American Religion is that cultural Christianity is declining and biblical Christianity, which at the time was apolitical, is on the rise. According to a 2018 article in the Washington Post: “Conservative churches” which would better be defined as “Bible Believing” are growing while Liberal churches are dying on the vine. It is also true that 4 Million people between the age of 20-35 classify as what Barna calls “Resilient Disciples” that churches in the places where they are not longer the dominate power structure and where Power Religion is mocked and the church marginalized are laying down their denominational hard lines and embracing a biblical definition and the biblical example of the Church. In short, the Church is reforming, and though this time around there is not a one pivotal figure who has walked up and nailed 95 thesis on the Cathedral doors, there are many spirit led men and women who have found a more ancient voice, the voice of the Holy Scriptures. This new Reformation is taking place around our dinner tables and our fellowship times, at Theology on Tap and in Post-Sermon Q&A sessions. It is active and extremely organic, at times to a fault. Jesus is once again eating with the sinners and the tax collectors and the religious pharisees are once again condemning Him. It is true in Church History and it will prove true again, anytime the church aligns itself with the halls of power it never ends well for the church. Further, anytime we lose our power and influence it forces us back to a time when we had to live out what we believe rather than speak from a place of assumed authority. As Schaff predicted in The Principle of Protestantism, the cultural sects are dying off or reforming and rejoining the main body. Sectarianism has proven untenable.

Now, back to a point I made earlier, I said that the President’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast points to the truth of what Dr. Sunquist said about our sickness. If you listen to the president’s speech, he does exactly what James 3:9-12 tells us not to: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olive, or a grapevine bear fig? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” In almost the same breath the president of the United States both cursed and attacked his enemies, those who he saw as working against him, and then praised God and even, at points, touted his own accomplishments as being from God. It may also surprise you to find that the general way of speaking, by the president, or tweeting, by the president, tends towards cursing man more so than it does to praising God. This is a sign of how sick we have become; we have propped up and praised a man who is in direct violation of the commands and text of scripture, and not only James 3:9-11. We have embraced a man who regularly participates in “course joking” who has openly admitted to sexual immorality a man who, at the National Prayer Breakfast, openly and brazenly admitted to hating someone who is very possibly his sister in Christ and accusing that sister of making false claims about her own religious practice. His harboring of anger and hatred puts him direct violation of Jesus own commands in Matthew 5:27. If this is not proof of illness, I am not sure what is. We claim the bible is authoritative, we claim that scripture is the means by which we are to live through the Holy Spirit, but then we do not live it out in our own lives and ignore it when it is convenient or expedient.

We are quickly coming to a point of no return, will we pray the prayer of Dr. Sunquist, “Restore us oh God.” Or will we continue to whore after the god of political power and influence? Will we continue to ignore scripture in favor of our preferences and our safety? Or will we repent and remember that it was not Christians in power that brought the Roman Empire to its knees, but a Church under persecution? IF we continue this line of pursuit, we put ourselves in danger of increasing persecution (some places this has already begun). Or we can return to the intention in Schaff’s definition above, two separate and free entities with only a friendly relation unless that government is openly apposed to Christianity. We may not be able, at this point, to back to what Schaff described as: “The relationship of church and state in the United States secures full liberty of religious thought, speech and action within the limits of the public peace and order. It makes persecution impossible. Religion and liberty are inseparable. Religion is voluntary and cannot, and aught not, be enforced.” I fear we are passed the point of a return to this vision and continued attempts to use the government to proselytize we will only face increased persecution.

This is why the president was wrong and Scott Sunquist right, all that is happening that is good in the church right now is actually in spite of what the president is doing or not doing for the church. His own speech and actions, violation of the biblical text which we claim is sacred, and so on and so forth are proofs to Dr. Sunquist point. Further, As David French pointed out our propensity to make excuses for him and to justify his behavior is even more damning and destructive. As we have seen countless times, in the attack on Russell Moore, in attacks on Mark Galli and in too many other cases to admit, we have violated Biblical teaching and done damage to our Gospel witness in a world that already wanted nothing to do with God. We are certain not in the favor of all the people (Acts 2:42-47). Just the opposite, we have taken the offensiveness of the Gospel (you cannot save yourself) and added our own offensiveness to it by not turning to God, but to man, to save us. We should be quick to repent before it leads to our destruction.

Bibliography

Bornman, Adam S. 2011. Church, Sacrament and American Theology: The Social and Political Dimensions of John Williamson Nevin’s Theology of Incarnation. Eugene : WFPF & Stock Publishing .

Fea, John. 2019. Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump . Grand Rapids : Eardhman’s Publishing .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Antichrist: Or the Spirit of Sect and Schism (1848) .” In The Mercersburg Theology Series Vol Vi: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome One: The Ecclesiological Writings of John Williamson Nevin (1844-1850) , by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 160-245. Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “The Church .” In One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, John Nevin’s Writings on Ecclesiology (1844-1849) Tome One: The Mercersburg Theology Study Series Colum Five, by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 144-159. Eugene : WFPF and Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Thoughts on the Church .” In The Mercersburg Study Series Vol VII: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome Two: John Williamson Nevin’s Ecclesiological Writings (1851-1858, by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 131-152. Eugene : WfPF and Stock .

Philip Schaff, . 1964. “The Principle of Protestantism .” In The Lancaster Theology Series on the Mercersburg Theology V: VI , by J.W. Nevin, Ed Bard Thompson Philip Schaff, 48-219. Philidelphia : United Church Press.

Schaff, Philip. 1888. Church and State in the United States or The American Idea of Religous Liberty and its practical Effects . New York : Charle Scribner & Sons .

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.