Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wanting Them to Be Silent

The sin was vile, and everyone knew about it.  A trust betrayed.  And there was behind the scenes wrangling... and finally, he was called on it.

And so Nathan looked at David, told him that he was the man who deserved death.  Temporal consequences would come - even a son would die (how do you like those apples).  And then Nathan told David that he would now need to be silent and fade into obscurity... wait. 

No.  That's not what happened.

Then David went and wrote, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Psalm 51.  One of the most beautiful Psalms ever.  An offertory, part of Matins.  Oh Lord, open my lips.  Create in me a clean heart, O God!

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I don't know this Tullian fellow from Adam.  Frankly - I'm not his Pastor, and I'm not even in his denomimation - so I've got no business really commenting on what he did.  (BUT THE SIN WAS PUBLIC!!  No, the sin was revealed publicly... and unless we have a bunch of people saying, "Well, now we can go sleep around" there's nothing much really to teach on or warn folks about with that sin... is there?)

But I can comment on what I have seen from Lutherans - the idea that now that he has fallen and resigned, he must be silent.

Think on that.  He must be silent.

Jesus rebukes the winds and waves, orders them to be silent, orders them to be muzzled.

Why do we want this for Tullian?

If he's preaching false doctrine, by all means, let him be silent.  For his own health and well being - grow, tend to your family, work stuff out.  But... be silent?  Forever?

Oh Lord, open my lips.  Create in me a clean heart.  Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me!

I just don't know what folks are thinking - I don't understand what we Lutherans think is our end game, our goal.  Is it not forgiveness?  Is it not restoration?  Be merciful as Your Heavenly Father is merciful -- and check the Greek on that, folks... it's not just normal mercy, but it's the full compassionate mercy.

Are you showing compassion -- is your call for him to be silent out of love for him and his wife... or are you with glee glad that someone who said things you didn't like can be forced to be shut up by shame?

Are you happily wringing your hands over how terrible this, or do you pray for mercy and forgiveness?  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart O God, You will not despise.

Do you want him to be silent because you despise him?

I don't know him from Adam - I hope he and his wife heal.  God grant peace to them.  And if the Lord opens his mouth, and he can speak with hard earned wisdom about the dangers of sin and power of God's love and mercy in Christ Jesus - well, that will be a happy day.

Unless you think Psalm 51 was just a horrid mistake on God's part.


Mary Jack said...

Must "silent" be pejorative? Isn't it honorable that some are silent, particularly within the churches?

Is silence really at odds with forgiveness and salvation?

Or couldn't "silent" be a synecdoche? Not literal silence, but the removal of the preaching station?

Salvation is certainly the end game. Does that mean nothing else can be discussed? Particularly regarding vocation? I read a post that I thought put it very nicely, encouraging Tullian to embrace his other vocations, resting in the forgiveness of Christ.

Are you suggesting that one cannot show compassion in saying God's grace is sufficient, even without Tullian saying another word? There may be a tremendous pressure for him to consider himself on display for the rest of his life. Why insist he stay vocal as a public figure? Couldn't the argument be much more about staying public than speaking literal words?

Too often we treat vocal and visible vocations as higher than others.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

One being silent for the sake of his other vocations and his neighbors is a godly thing.

Saying that the one who has sinned needs fade into obscurity forever - well, that just doesn't seem to treat "silent" as a synedoche, nor does it seem to acknowledge that most of the speakers in the Scriptures had many a terrible sin in their past.

I don't know if this fellow will ever write again. I hope he neither feels pressured to write nor is forbidden. But the future will hold what it will.

Myrtle said...

More and more and more I just cannot figure out what forgiveness means among Lutherans. Not the doctrine, but the body of believers. It seems as if forgiveness translates to something like: "Yes, you are forgiven but you will be forever labeled with your sin and will never be able to move beyond it." In reading comments on a blog post about single mothers in the church, for example, there was a discussion that morphed into how single unwed mothers shouldn't be teaching children at church. The comments read as if, having sinned once with visible evidence of that sin, the woman is forever relegated to being The Sinner, rather than the one who is forgiven. Yes, a woman who gets pregnant out of wedlock has very visible evidence of her sin, but are we not all sinners? Why does her sin appear to be less forgivable? I would expect the denomination that fights so hard against abortion to rally around single unwed mothers, seeking to support them and their child(ren) in myriad and merciful ways, especially helping to fill the void of a strong male spiritual role model in their children's lives.

I admit that I Googled to figure out about whom you were talking, and, frankly, I got to thinking. Yes, a pastor who has sinned in such a manner clearly needs to get help and heal his family, but does that mean that the sinner, who is forgiven, should never be allowed to lead a flock again? That doesn't really fit with the forgiveness given by Jesus to the sinners He came across. His forgiveness is not a "Yes, but" type of forgiveness.

I confess that I have become inordinately jaded, for it distresses me that the denomination that talks about being built around forgiveness is not all that forgiving of others. To put it in another way, I have learned from Lutherans the lesson of conditional forgiveness. And it confuses me.

I appreciated the boldness and bluntness of your post.

Aidan Clevinger said...


The distinction is between being forgiven of sin and being permitted to hold the office of the holy ministry again. In other words, it isn't a question of putting caveats on forgiveness, but of understanding what forgiveness applies to. Forgiveness applies to our relationship with God and to our communion in the life of the Church (which are really the same thing; God restores our relationship to Him through the Church's ministry). When someone, even a pastor, confesses to public sin, they ought to be absolved of it and re-admitted to good standing in the Church without judgment. However, that does not mean that there are no longer any temporal consequences for sin. You mentioned in your post that an adulterous man still needs to heal his relationship with his family. That is true even if his sin has been forgiven - it will take time for his wife and children to trust him again. In the same way, even if someone's adultery has been forgiven, it is still true that that sin disqualifies him from holding the office of the ministry.

"The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money." - 1 Timothy 3:1-3

"This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife,and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination" - Titus 1:5-6

Now, I'm not saying that the gentleman in question needs to be "silent," but he certainly shouldn't try to re-enter the ministry. Of course, all of this applies to people who hold the holy office, and not necessarily to the example you gave of the single unwed mother.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

As I have discussed this idea at length on Facebook, I want to bring up another point for consideration. In this post I was speaking simply and solely to the fact that there are folks who want him silenced, forever, and out of sight. Period. That I definitely think is too extreme.

However, I'm not sure if one of falls must be permanently disbarred from the Ministry. When you fall - yes - but how long does a reproach stand? Can one who is forgiven and has his life put into order be placed into the office again?

Consider also from Paul - Galatians 2:11-15: "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.[a] 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”"

So there you have an example of Peter himself falling into great shame and vice - teaching false doctrine, leading the flock astray. And yet - he repents... and he retains his office. His conduct was not in step with the Gospel - and he is reproached.

What does this mean?

Well - I think it is a bit rash to say that a man who has been removed can never be called back into the office. Simply put, there may (and I hope there will) come a time when... things in life are orderly. When there is no reproach to be had. At which point... what would disqualify him? His past?

... I guess you could point to David not being allowed to build the temple... but when it comes to temporal consequences, those are things that God works and brings about directly - not things we impose upon people to make sure they get theirs.