|By Al Baker, TE PCA, Evangel Presbytery|
March 6, 2020
“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness; or what fellowship has light with darkness?” -2 Corinthians 6:14
The story broke March 5 of Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA) and its connection with The Chapel, described as a ministry partner on the Memorial Presbyterian Church website. For those who are not informed or have not yet read the story I will only briefly survey the situation. I prefer, rather, to focus on two lessons we can glean from it.
As you probably know Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. Louis is the center of a major issue in the PCA concerning “Side B” homosexuality (one can call himself “gay” as long as one does not engage in the act) by hosting the Revoice Conference in 2018. The Church’s pastor is also one of the plenary speakers at the upcoming Revoice Conference in June, 2020. The present situation involves a ministry partner called The Chapel which hosts The Q Collective Theatre. This theatre describes its mission as exploring the spectrum of gender, sexuality, and romantic orientation. The Q Collective, meeting at The Chapel (The Chapel receives free use of space and utility expenses from Memorial Presbyterian Church), recently completed its Second Transluminate Arts Festival. Transluminate is a short-play festival and celebration of transgender, gender, non-binary, genderqueer, and gender fluid artists. One of the short plays, entitled Testosterone People, is about Andy, helping his husband Jack administer his first testosterone shot. They talk about their love, their marriage, and the oddities of being “testosterone people.” Another play, Transcodicil, is about a transgender man named Joe and Shawna, a transgender woman, who are married. Joe is carrying their child. Joe’s Aunt Tammy has recently died, and Joe was expected to be her sole heir. Tammy’s executor, Virginia, tells Joe and Shawna about a codicil Tammy added to her will, which may prevent Joe from inheriting the estate. It turns out that Joe’s transphobic mother, Loretta, and her church pressured Tammy into creating the codicil. Thanks to Shawna’s shrewd thinking, the codicil goes through its own transition, and Joe and Shawna stand up to the bullying.
Memorial Presbyterian Church (it is unclear in the letter whether this came from the Session or the staff) sought yesterday to address the controversy in a letter which they sent to their congregation but obviously to many others. In the letter Memorial PCA seeks to distance itself from The Chapel by saying they do not endorse art at The Chapel nor do they believe in transitioning to a different gender. They assure their congregation that they are looking into the situation at The Chapel and they will offer a fuller report when they have the facts. They say Memorial PCA’s agenda is to love people in the arts and therefore they provide the building and many volunteers free of charge to staff the events. Their motive is to “build trust and relationship with our secular neighbors in the arts community. The mission for us is to serve non-Christians in the arts, displaying the welcome of Jesus through our hospitality. It is an effort to build relationships with communities that often mistrust Christians.”
In the Apostle Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthian believers he is addressing the issue of false apostles coming into the church in leading the believers astray (2 Cor.11:12-15). In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul seems to be alluding to Deuteronomy 22:10 which says, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” That’s because the ox inherently pulls a load while the donkey inherently carries a load. Furthermore, one animal is clean and the other is unclean. It is unnatural, counter productive, destructive. In commenting on 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness; or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Simon Kistemaker writes, “This context, however, speaks about a separation of the Christian religion from pagan religions.” The root of homosexuality and transgenderism is without question paganism. In quoting John Calvin, Kistemaker continues, “For to be yoked with unbelievers means nothing less than to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness and to hold out a hand to unbelievers to signify fellowship with them.” Kistemaker then writes, “The passage (verses 14-18) conveys the message not to form any covenant relationships with unbelievers that violate the covenant obligations a Christian has with God. The Greek text reveals that being unevenly yoked means having a connection with a person who is entirely different. In this text, it relates to an individual who is not a member of the household of faith and who can cause a believer to break covenant with God.”
So here is the first lesson. Believers should not be in close contractual, covenantal relationships with unbelievers, and this certainly applies to the church. Why not? Because it is unnatural. It is destructive. It sullies Christ and His bride. It moves us away from simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Cor.11:3). To be in a close, covenantal (contractual agreement) relationship with pagans is to tempt the believer to move away from his covenant with the true and living God.
So, here’s my question? How can Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA), in seeking to obey the command of 2 Corinthians 6:14, be in partnership with an organization like The Chapel which hosts The Q Collective Theatre, which describes its mission as exploring the spectrum of gender, sexuality, and romantic orientation? How can they support Transluminate, a short-play festival which celebrates transgender, gender, non-binary, genderqueer, and gender fluid artists? What fellowship hath light with darkness? How is this possible?This leads to the second lesson. Memorial PCA says that their agenda is to love people in the arts, to build trust and relationship with their secular neighbors in the arts community, to serve non-Christians in the arts, displaying the welcome of Jesus through their hospitality, to build relationships with communities that often mistrust Christians. The letter to the church cites Jesus, the friend of sinners, who came not for those who are righteous but for those who are sinners. However, we should take a closer look at what Jesus said and did when He was hanging out with sinners. Of course, we should befriend the unbeliever. Of course we must be kind and gracious to everyone. But what did Jesus say and do?
After Jesus called Levi, the new disciple gave a big reception for Jesus and a great crowd of wretched people were reclining at table with Him. The self-righteous Pharisees and scribes grumbled about the company Jesus and His new disciple were keeping. To which Jesus replied, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,” (Luke 5:29-32). Luke plainly tells us that Jesus was not merely building trust and a relationship with these sinners. He was calling then to do something. He was calling them to repentance. This message of repentance (turn from your sin and flee to Jesus, the only Savior of sinners) is the first word of the gospel (Mark 1:15). Jesus repeatedly gives this word of repentance in his dealings with people. He did so with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:15ff) and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11). As He began His early Galilean ministry (Matthew 4:12ff) He did the same, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This clearly is the methodology of the apostles as they expanded the work of the gospel of grace from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and to the utter most parts of the earth. Paul never went into a pagan culture to serve it, to build trust with it, to be hospitable to it. He came and proclaimed the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. Some believed and rejoiced. Others scoffed and rejected it. Some received the apostles with great joy. Others beat them and hated them.
The way to reach pagan people in our day is the same way the apostles did in their day. We go forth in the power of the Holy Spirit, with utmost confidence in the word of God as our authority, and we proclaim the excellencies of Jesus who loves the sinner, who died and rose again for the sinner, who offers the sinner freedom from sin, Satan, death, and hell. Yes, of course we are to listen to them. Of course we are to love them and be gracious to them. Yes we are to honor the Imago Dei in them, but we must proclaim Jesus unequivocally as their only hope for this life and the next. When you have people’s hearts then you can tell them anything. And you can capture their hearts quickly, on the spot, by the love of Jesus on your face, in your eyes, in your voice. We do the unbeliever no favors by wasting hours, days, or months “gaining their trust,” when they might perish in the meantime and be lost forever.
1 <www.memorialpca.org> Ministry Partners.
2 A codicil is an addition or supplement that explains, modifies, or revokes a will or part of one.
4 Peter Jones writes extensively on this issue but only one example is “Androgyny: The Pagan Sexual Ideal,” <www.truthexchange.com>
5 Calvin’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:14.
6 New Testament Commentary, 2 Corinthians, Simon J. Kistemaker, page 228.