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When Honest Disagreement Becomes Snarky Self-Righteousness

Scott on November 28, 2007 at 1:30 am

Frequent visitors to Verum Serum know that we have had our share of differences with the “Reverend” Ken Silva, pastor-teacher and “president” of Apprising Ministries. While I believe that Ken is sincere in his love for and faith in Christ, I also believe that he is so blinded by his compulsion to judge others by his own subjective standards of what the Christian faith should look like, and by his desire to be a “mover and shaker” in the Church, that he only sees things through the prism of personal preference and the need to be viewed as an authority by those with whom he chooses to interact.

Today’s case in point – “Reverend” Silva has decided to rail against Saddleback Church’s Global Summit on AIDS and the Church.

To be clear, here’s the basic statement from the Summit’s website:

What is faith without action? This summit will provide you with the information and tools you need to discover how your congregation, organization, or agency can start to make a positive change. Every element of the summit is designed to start conversations and build networking that will make the movement to eradicate AIDS stronger.

So, in essence, it appears that the goal of the conference is to equip people to put action to their faith and faith to their action, specifically in relation to HIV/AIDS. Ken seems to have a problem with this.

Here are just a few of the speakers scheduled to be at this conference:

- Elizabeth Styffe, RN, PHN, MN, Director of the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church
- Peter Piot, MD, PhD, Executive Director UNAIDS and Under Secretary General of the United Nations
- Ambassador Mark Dybul, MD, United States Global AIDS Coordinator
- Jay Hein, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
- Robert Redfield, MD, Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland at Baltimore
- John Ortberg, Senior Pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
- Dennis Rainey, President, CEO and Co-Founder of FamilyLife
- Steve Haas, Vice President, World Vision Church Relations
- Susan Hillis, MS, PhD, Captain, United States Public Health Service, Epidemiologist, Division of Reproductive Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Moses Dombo, International Director, WorldVision
- Booker Daniels, Health Communication Specialist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
- Jonathan Uy, MD, Associate Director Virology Medical Strategy, Bristol-Myers Squibb
- Harvey Elder, MD, Professor of Medicine at Loma Linda University School of Medicine

I list these people to try and provide a snapshot of the caliber of people who are participating in this thing. These aren’t left-wing radical nut-jobs who are on the fringe of rationality. These are experts in their fields dealing with virology and epidemiology, medical treatment, community assistance and education, etc. Again, Ken seems to object to these people sharing their knowledge and expertise about the threat of AIDS in the world, mainly because many of them aren’t Christian and those do call themselves Christian don’t match his personal definition of what a “real Christian” should believe.

Why does the “Reverend” Ken Silva object? Well, why don’t we look at what Ken himself has to say. At the Christian Research Network site, Ken has linked to a statement he issued last year at this time. I guess he has strong opinions about the AIDS conference, but apparently NOT strong enough to write a new statement for this year. So even though these statements are a year old, obviously Ken still stands behind them 100%:

As a Southern Baptist pastor myself I welcome this opportunity to do what I can to set the record straight as to what the true Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is supposed to be doing while we are in this world. The central issue with “The Global Summit on AIDS & the Church,” is that by partnering with men like Senator Barack Obama, who support the murdering of innocent children through abortion, is that Warren has violated the Biblical command of 2 Corinthians 6:14 – “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”

As near as I can recall, I have never heard Rick Warren endorse abortion in any form. Now to be honest it is possible that Warren has come out in favor of abortion and I don’t know it, but I don’t think that is the case. This is basic dissembling and manipulation on the part of Silva. He is trying to poison the well by using a misleading guilt-by-association approach. Abortion is obviously a hot-button issue in this country, so to bring it up in relation to Rick Warren and his connection to Barack Obama is just dishonest. Silva isn’t claiming that Warren is in favor of abortion, but he is making the implicit implication by putting Warren, Obama and abortion all in the same sentence.

As far as the “do not be bound together with unbelievers” criticism, Ken is taking liberties (as usual) with the text and implying that it means something that most likely it does not. Spending time in some in-depth commentaries and word studies reveals that there are a few obvious applications of the text –

It could very well apply to marriage between a believer and nonbeliever. This is supported by the fact that the word translated as being “bound together” or “unequally yoked” is the Greek word heterozugeo. This word is only used twice in the Bible. In Leviticus it is a reference to a prohibition against cross breeding (such as between a donkey and an ox). This application would then make sense in 2 Corinthians as a prohibition against sexual union (marriage) between a believer and a nonbeliever. Look it up in an online commentary. Within the context it is an obvious connection.

The other common view is that 2 Corinthians is a reference to the idea of who is holding the power in a relationship between a Christian and a non-Christian. In other words, a Christian shouldn’t partner with a non-Christian if the non-Christian is in a position to control and influence the Christian’s actions, attitudes, beliefs, etc. This could/would obviously result in conflicts of conscience, conflicts of faith and morality, etc.

Ken seems to want this passage to mean that Christians shouldn’t work closely with non-Christians, thus Warren is wrong to bring nonbelievers into his church to discuss the issue of AIDS. Unfortunately, Ken is ignoring the absurdity of and the logical conclusion of his train of thought. The logical conclusion of Ken’s rationale is that Christians would never be able to work for or with non-Christians ever. So much for holding down a job or having a career in this world. Maybe we could all become presidents of our own ministries! (Sorry, I know that is kind-of-snarky but I couldn’t resist) But at the same time, since Ken and his peers certainly don’t like to interact with the unwashed/unclean of the unbelieving world, maybe a complete withdrawal from any and all working relationships and partnerships is what he really wants.

Please understand that we are not saying that those suffering with the dreaded disease of AIDS are not important or unloved. The issue for the Christian Church is actually quite simple: Who is Jesus Christ? Our answer as Christians is that He is our Creator, God Himself come into His Own world. And what we must do as Christians is what He has told us to do. This is summed up in John 20:21 where Christ says – “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” So we ask, “What was it the Father sent Jesus to do?” The answer is found in Matthew 18:11 as the Master tells us He came – “to save that which was lost.”

Here Ken makes the dangerous assumption that spreading the gospel is not important to Saddleback or to Rick Warren. He is operating under the belief that this Global Summit on AIDS and the Church is Warren’s attempt to substitute the salvation message with a social gospel. In Ken’s mind, the salvation message is the predominant, driving force of the Church and nothing else matters.

I guess maybe he’s forgotten this “oldie but a goodie” -

James 1:20-27
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Hmmm Interesting Don’t just hear the word but do it. Look into the Law and when you find the freedom that is there, keep doing what it tells you to do. Look after orphans and widows Gosh, I guess Ken’s got a point. It’s all about evangelism. I don’t see anything here that resembles putting love into action and meeting the needs of the “the least of these” in society. Not at all.

And what about this one -

Matthew 25:34-40
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Again I say Hmmm Give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, care for strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick, minister to those who are in jail. Once again, Ken appears to be right. It IS all about evangelism. Nothing about being the light of Christ in people’s lives by putting His love into action and being a conduit of blessing to the world living in darkness that is dying to see the Light.

This is the true message of the Christian Church. The incredible offer of the forgiveness of sins through the death of Christ on the Cross and His Resurrection from the dead, the gift of life forever with God in Heaven, and salvation from an eternity in conscious torment in a literal place Jesus Himself called Hell. This is the only cure there is for the problems of this world.

I certainly agree that the salvation message is of utmost importance to the world. But if it was SO important as to cancel out all other missions and activities for believers, why would Christ say what he said in Matthew 25 and why would James say what he said in James 1? Doesn’t this seem to indicate that putting Christ’s love into ACTION in the world is one of the ways to get people to listen to the message of grace and reconciliation between God and humanity?

And so today I exhort the Body of Christ to return to her primary mission in prayerful hope that God will once again be with us. That God will be with us just as He was with Jesus Christ and will once again smile upon this nation because only in His power can the Christian Church ever even think of benefiting this world no matter how noble a social cause may seem.

Here I completely agree with what Ken says but NOT what he means. The Body of Christ DOES need to return to her primary mission – that of being a light to a world living in darkness. Yes, we ARE called to share the Good News. Yes, we ARE called to make disciples of all nations. But what about the other “stuff?” What about the Matthew 25 and the James 1 exhortations? Shouldn’t there be a balance of both the preaching/teaching and the actions/service?

Ken and his peeps assume that there is only one way to do it – preach judgment and condemnation; pass judgment on all that do not live by a check list of approved beliefs; point out all that is gross and icky and disgusting in the world AND in the Church; and criticize those who don’t fall within the narrow confines of what they deem to be “acceptable” Christianity.

I guess that is one way to do it. I just can’t help but wonder if someday God’s going to say, “OK, Ken. Nice theology. Great doctrine. You even wrote your own creed and confession of faith in Old English. Pretty cool. But what did you do with all of that besides telling everyone else around you that they were doing it wrong? How did your theology and doctrine shape the way you shined My Light into the world of darkness in which you lived?”

I often wonder if the focus that Ken and others like him have on Conversion-First-And-Foremost is shaped by the fact that they live very comfortable lives in a very technologically advanced society. I wonder if Ken would be so quick to dismiss the importance of participating in something like this Summit on AIDS and the Church if Apprising Ministries was located in Kenya or Sudan.

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