Evangelicals Flying Blind
By: Michael R. Shannon
Prominent on the list of things we didn’t know we needed is the new code of ethics for preachers released this year by the National Association of Evangelicals. It appears evangelical pastors have been flying blind, without any sort of guidance as to Christian behavior in the pulpit and church offices.
Leaving church ladies at the mercy of pastors gone wild.
The new code also means I’ve wasted hundreds of dollars on Bibles and commentaries that — judging by the NAE — provide no real structure for living a life that glorifies Christ.
Dang! Where did I put those receipts?
Until now I’d assumed external offenses are handled quite nicely by criminal law and internal offenses governed by the Bible. That’s what I get for practicing theology without a divinity degree.
Luder Whitlock, former president of the Reformed Theological Seminary, explained in a Christianity Today interview, “Clergy intend to do the right thing, but…when you have a world that’s swirling with change like ours and so few people know the Bible well, it’s all the more imperative to come up with something like this.”
In other words, the Bible might have been comprehensive enough for nomadic tribesmen who followed a smoke signal instead of a GPS signal, but not modern iPhone man. But if these people “don’t know the Bible well” what are they doing in the pulpit?
Helping God out when it comes to rules and regulations is nothing new in ecclesiastical circles. I belong to a church that was so strict Jesus couldn’t be a deacon. You see the Lord and Savior was also a drinker and it was forbidden to imbibe.
But even our canonical rule writers failed to stay current. So it came to pass that one could smoke crack with Mayor Barry and be a deacon in good standing, but one “easy pour” Miller and you’re out.
However, I remain convinced the Ten Commandments, Golden Rule and the New Testament will cover any modern eventuality. The NAE cites pastors involved in extramarital affairs (7th Commandment), sexual assault (7th & Golden Rule) and financial fraud (8th & 10th Commandment, Golden Rule). Expanding our search we find pastors guilty of homosexual abuse of minors (7th, 1st Corinthians 6:9, Luke 17:2), visiting prostitutes (7th and 1st Corinthians 5:1), tax fraud (8th & 9th Commandments), stealing babies (8th & 10th Commandments), assault (Golden Rule) and misrepresenting credentials (9th Commandment).
So where are the loopholes?
Pastor Joel Hunter, who signed the code, told the Washington Times: “There’s a need that we’re reminded of when we see pastors living unethical lives. We want to raise the level of accountability because apparently some pastors believe they’re a law unto themselves.”
A statement that sounds remarkably like the boastful Pharisee in Luke 18:10–11: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”
Pastors are already held to a higher standard. In James 3:1 it says, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” Not a verse you hear too often from the pulpit since it puts a real damper on Sunday school teacher recruitment.
It just goes to show somewhere, someone is pouring the foundation on a new Tower of Babel every day. Codes like this were only a matter of time after churches started developing “mission statements.” If the Great Commission isn’t your mission, what is?
Too many Christian leaders are slightly embarrassed by the Bible. They’ve forgotten their apologetics and simply apologize when it comes to the eternal Truth.
No wonder people are leaving the church. If the religious leadership doesn’t have enough faith in the applicability of the Bible to modern life to live by it, why should the congregation pay attention? Meanwhile the morals and tone of the culture at large continue a precipitous decline as Christians and pagans alike make it up as they go along.
The earnest people at the NAE with their new “code” are unfortunately contributing to the erosion of confidence in the Bible among their own believers and certainly among the secular world. Where does this quest for relevance stop?
For example, NAE is currently holding firm on homosexual marriage, but for how much longer? Biblical marriage certainly doesn’t conform to modern mores. If you can revise and extend the commandments, what’s to stop you from joining the Unitarians and revising marriage?
Paul tells us — pastors and parishioners alike — to “put on the full armor of God.” He certainly felt that “armor” was up to the challenge. I wonder why the leaders of the NAE don’t feel the same?
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.