Idolatry on the Church Bulletin; do you walk out?

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by NaphtaliPress, Jul 28, 2012.

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  1. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I confess to a certain insulation but I was rather take aback when I read this recently at Old Life blog.
    Old Life Theological Society | Next Time You’re Tempted to Blame Escondido

    It’s reported by a convert to the RCC but it is accepted as a credible report in the discussion there. At Redeemer NY they had a church order of worship handed out: “A gory painting of Jesus, dead on the cross, covered the entire front cover of the bulletin.” It is not clear if this was a one off (think “Easter service”), or if every Lord’s day worshipers are greeted by such a thing.

    I guess I’m not too surprised even if this is an every week thing; but I find such a blatant disregard of the PCA’s standards rather breathtaking. Even if one personally has an exception, why such disregard for everyone’s views that walk in the door? In any event, if you were traveling and dropped in at the local PCA for a weekend and were handed such a thing, what would you do? I am pretty sure I would walk out.

    P.S. --- Yes; a lot of the argumentation in that blog thread displays ignorance of the argument against images of Christ. See some material in this post:

    ---It is indeed the view of the Westminster Standards that images of Christ are prohibited whatever the context (worship or not in worship). See The Intent of Westminster Larger Catechism 109 Regarding Pictures of Christ

    ---There’s plenty of threads here on the subject of images of Christ, and while they are worthy of rebuke, please no posts about Frame and Keller. This thread is not to rehash those arguments (and be mindful of board rules contra advocacy of unconfessional views). I’m curious here on just what would one do if confronted by such a thing walking into a supposed Reformed worship service.
  2. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    There is a part of me that says, "I will worship today in spite of this blatant, and gross, 2nd commandment violation." However, my conscience would be vexed by such an image throughout the whole worship service even if I did not have the bulletin in front of me. For that reason I would probably leave quickly and try to find another church to worship at for that morning.
  3. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    I wouldn't walk out. If I go somewhere where I might reasonably expect to see/experience questionable conduct, wouldn't it stretch credulity if I expressed shock or outrage at what I saw or experienced, even if the particular thing was unexpected.

    My reaction would be contextual, and despite the limits on debate set out in the original post, that context can not be ignored.

    My reaction would be quite different, however, if the same thing occurred at a congregation known for orthodoxy .
  4. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I'm probably less concerned about the occasional and careful use of pictures of Jesus than are many on this board. But I actually did take myself and my family out of a worship service once for something similar but even more blatant. In a (non-Reformed) evangelical service, the worship leader announced that they were about to show a clip from the The Passion of the Christ. We should watch it, he said, focus on the image of Christ, and use it to lead us to worship and pray and thank Jesus. Yes, he actually used the word "image" and explained that the purpose for the image was an aid to deeper worship!

    I'm sure he thought he was being creative in getting people to engage their hearts in worship, but he missed one of the clearest biblical principles of proper worship. We left, and I spoke (nicely) with the pastor afterwards. It's the only time I've ever walked out of any service (and I've been in some bad, mainline/liberal ones).

    I wouldn't like the image on the bulletin but would probably put up with it unless we were expressly directed to focus on the image and use it to engage our hearts for worship.
  5. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    I think we would walk out. Is there some reason that a Second Commandment violation is better than a Seventh Commandment violation on the bulletin? I assume most would walk out if the bulletin had a Seventh Commandment violation on the front...
  6. caoclan

    caoclan Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't know, I might just set the bulletin down. I probably would not have walked into Redeemer, NY in the first place.
  7. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    *Caveat: I do not say this to be flippant or uncharitable to many of my dear and solid PCA brothers* I think part of the difficulty is the naieve assumption that the PCA is really confessionally reformed across the board. Do the PCA standards forbid such images? Yes. Should they practice their own standards? Of course. But it is a commonly known fact that men routinely take expecption to the catechetical teaching on the 10 commandments and are ordained anyway. Are there many good PCA congregations? Undoubtedly. But do due diligenece by checking a congregation out before walking into one. Someone with no knowledge of the PCA who only knows what is said on paper may perhaps be shocked. But for those well familiar with the present ecclesiastical landscape it is hard to imagine how they could be genuinely surprised.
  8. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    My wife and I would be gone. No scene, just a quiet exit.

    Some shocks are not worth it to us to bear.
  9. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    I think that walking out right there and then wouldn't be right. The reason being, the church elders need to be told about this issue and the need to rethink their position. Did you know that many puritans (if not all) thought having a cross is idolatry? So would having a cross be considered a violation of the second commandment?
  10. Moireach

    Moireach Puritan Board Freshman

    That's very sad. I would walk out in that context, which is being a fellow member of that denomination. It's always outrageous when ministers start to eat away the Confessional standards and I think it is wrong to show any tolerance whatsoever towards it.

    Note, you can show your intolerance by speaking to an office bearer afterwards, which Jack said he has done. And if I walked out, I wouldn't leave them in doubt as to why I did. You would have to email them or something to show your disapproval and clearly explain it.
  11. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Per my opening remarks, that would be a subject for a different thread. I'm pretty sure we've discussed it before here at least once.
  12. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Why not approach an elder and explain your concern after the service? If you believe that this is a violation of the Second Commandment, walking out does not give the church the benefit of being talked to about it and examining whether or not they should be doing what they are doing?

    Granted, if you do approach them, you do it in a charitable and gracious way, not browbeating them with the Confession or condemning them.
  13. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    It seems that the PCA is having some difficulties with adhering to the reformed doctrine. My sister and her husband (he was an elder there) along with the other elders had to leave their church to which they have belonged for many years bc the pastor is teaching incorrect doctrine and he is letting his wife teach women that if they don't feel like reading the Bible and they still do that it's a sin bc they aren't reading with a pure heart. They brought the Presbytery in and they Presbytery didn't do anything to correct the doctrine of the pastor's teachings. This is in Canada. Before I found the OPC I went to a PCA church and it was very sloppy worship and the pastor would sometimes teach from the Lord of the Rings. I really disliked going to church while I was going there bc I knew the whole service was just not right. Finally, a friend told me about the OPC and it was like "Yes, this is where God is honored and worship is done according to Scripture" It's very sad that the PCA has stayed so far from where it's suppose to be. So it doesn't surprise me that you have found this in a PCA church. I probably wouldn't have even gone to a PCA bc I don't feel they conduct worship according to the Regulative Principle of Worship.
  14. kodos

    kodos Puritan Board Junior

    Sadly, there are many blatant violations of the PCA doctrinal standards that we are supposed to adhere to. I was researching the late Dr. James Kennedy one day, and found a wiki link to Coral Ridge Church. There was a snapshot of the front of the building - and it had a really blatant 2nd commandment violation towering over the entrance to the building! I mean something way worse than you'd imagine at a Catholic Church. It is bizarre.

    I am blessed to be under a session that takes the Westminster Standards more seriously than some others in the PCA. I have a lot of hope for the PCA, in spite of her many problems however, and love my denomination as a whole.
  15. Matthew Willard Lankford

    Matthew Willard Lankford Puritan Board Freshman

    Like Paul (Acts 17:16), I think I would be in a paroxysm. I would walk out.
  16. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Even beyond the second commandment, I object to any depiction that renders Christ as still being on the cross because His work is finished. The church should be focused on the fact that Jesus is no longer on the cross because His victory over sin and death has provided a means for those who are in Christ to be victors as well.
  17. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    It's not as if the PCA itself doesn't have a solution for preventing such things. You can order bulletins from Great Commission Publications that do not have any 2nd commandment violations. We've used them for years with only one problem ever (a ghostly image imbedded into the written font one time; I contacted the company and they apologized profusely and said they would look into how that happened).
  18. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well, the question put here is very specific to what we would do if we were TRAVELING and went to a church that did something like this. I actually think this is a more difficult question than it appears. First, I have a difficult time attending any church where I do not know the pastor at least a little, and so it would be presupposed that I had some prior acquaintance with the pastor or at least some good recommendation. So then I would wonder WHY this bulletin was being handed around. I would speculate that perhaps a well-meaning but theologically-challenged secretary had found some 'cool Easter bulletins' online and the pastor and elders hadn't picked them up yet and noticed. So I'd probably stick the bulletin in my pocket and wait to see if some good time came up at a later point to ask the pastor, "So, Mr. ________ , seriously, what's up with this bulletin? It looks like you are discovering that good secretarial help is hard to find."

    In other words, I think it is a situation that requires charity. You don't KNOW whether the bulletin was the result of a real church policy or whether it was just something that slipped through the cracks, as things sometimes do in any church. Especially something like the bulletin, which typically doesn't pass through an approval process with the Session every week.

    And, for the person who asked, "Wouldn't you walk out over seeing a violation of the seventh commandment posted?" --I'd react the same way, but alert the pastor with a little more urgency. I'd assume it was some bizarre vandalism, until I was actually told, "No, really, we post X-rated photos on our bulletins every week." I actually worked briefly with a website that had a problem like this--they let their domain name expire, and someone bought it and posted p0rn on the page and demanded $1000 to take the p0rn down. We refused, and so for a year, we were getting emails asking why there was p0rn on the website. That was not a church website, but in the event that ever happened to a church, I'd hope people would respond charitably and say, "Oh, no, what an awful dilemma," instead of saying, "You horrible sinners."

    I don't think one cover of one church bulletin is enough information to form a judgment about a church. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it really is blatant disregard for the second commandment. Maybe somebody just wasn't thinking things through. Maybe someone hit the wrong key on an order for church bulletins, and now the whole church is so enraged that they are preparing a bulletin-burning immediately following the service. As a visitor, you just don't know.
  19. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    I love the charitable attitude you have towards your brothers and sisters. Grace can never be too generous. I do have a question. If the pastor had taught the congregation about not violating the 2nd Commandment, in other words, if he had been diligent to preach about each Commandment and how they are to be obeyed, don't you believe that secretary would have known not to place that pic on the bulletin (I don't see how it could have been placed on the bulletin by the secretary on accident since ppl always look over their work)? When I went to the PCA, their membership class was so lacking it was incredible (i'm not speaking for EVERY PCA church). My OPC membership class was months long and we learned much. If that church even had in place the type of membership class that my church has, the secretary would have known about the 2nd Commandment and how not to break it. I'm not real sure but I do believe one should be a member of the church before they are allowed to function in any type of ongoing service to the church such as a secretary.
  20. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    As someone who has produced church bulletins for a variety of churches over the years, I can answer that, no, the bulletin is usually not reviewed in its entirety before it goes out, especially in the day of electronic communication. The internal part of the bulletin may be copied and pasted for the pastor (or someone) to double-check in an email (if the pastor is trying to be meticulous and careful), but I can easily envision a scenario in which some sweet old lady wanted to 'surprise' everyone with a 'special bulletin', and it went by unnoticed because nobody thought about the possibility that the external part of the bulletin would be changed. Most pastors are far too busy to review absolutely every detail of every ministry every week, and sometimes things just get by them.

    Members of the OPC (and probably also the PCA) are not required to subscribe to the Confession. Pastors, elders, and deacons are, but ordinary members are only required to make a credible profession of faith. One would think that faithful preaching would result in more awareness, but I am sure every pastor can give stories of frustration about people failing to grasp apparent basics even after hearing them again and again. A church that I know is very orthodox in its leadership and yet has a huge picture of Jesus at the front of their sanctuary. The problem--it came with the building. The pastors and elders assumed it would be removed promptly. But they are not trustees, and they cannot force the church to do that. They have been consistently outvoted by members, who despite hearing preaching on the subject again and again, get the heebie-jeebies about taking down a picture of Jesus and feel that it is disrespectful to remove 'Jesus' from the window.

    In a perfect world, everyone would listen to the preaching and be persuaded by it. In the real world, there are a lot of confused people in churches. And the Presbyterian system simply does not give ultimate authority to the Session. One can argue that in such cases (picture of Jesus in the sanctuary), the Session should do this or that, and to be honest, in THAT case, I'd be unlikely to attend that particular church, but it is a complicated situation, not a simple one, and the battle is likely to be a long one, especially since people OPPOSED to the picture of Jesus tend to leave the church rather than vote the picture out.

    But a bulletin picture... that could easily just be a one-week case of someone getting too busy with counseling issues and the VBS program to take a good look at the front of the bulletin. I'd be hesitant to assume it was anything more than that unless I knew for sure. Congregants (myself included) can be dense, and pastors can be busy, and sometimes odd things happen.
  21. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    That sounds like Congregationalism rather than Presbyterianism to me. The OPC Book of Church of Order clearly states that the session has "final authority over the use of the church property" (Form of Government, Chapter XIII, Section 7). In a case where a congregation has incorporated and appointed a majority of non-officer trustees, they are in violation of the OPC Form of Government:

    I do not see any way for a Presbyterian session to avoid responsibility in such a situation.
  22. dudley

    dudley Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    “A gory painting of Jesus, dead on the cross" only the RCC , "the whore of Babylon" I thought would do that. The only image I view as a Protestant and look to is the cross, not the crucifix, but the protestant cross only which is the symbol of the resurrected Christ, not the dead and dying Christ of the crucifix which the Roman Catholic Church wants its people to see. I say that in all truth, Rome wants Christ dead on the cross in the minds of men because she denies the finished work of Christ on the cross in her distorted gospel and all she teaches. She teaches a Gospel of works and despair, she teaches men that there are certain things not yet good for them to know. Those things are that we are made righteous by the redemptive act of Christ on Calvary alone. We are Justified in faith by accepting the gift of grace alone from God and placing our faith alone in Christ alone and looking to the scriptures alone as our only and final authority and giving all Glory and Honor to God alone!
  23. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well, I want to be clear in this case that I know only the bare minimum of the facts about the picture in that congregation. I know that there are many (including at least most of the Session, perhaps all) that want to remove it, but that it has been problematic in votes due to members who feel that it would disrespect Jesus. But please don't make me an authority on it--I'm not one. I have no means of knowing whether the Session is at fault in any way or in violation of the Book of Church Order, or whether there are plans to purchase another building at this point. But certainly, there are issues when the Session has no direct control of church funds for a project that requires funding (budgets have to be approved by the congregation), and minimally, that takes a while to resolve in the Presbyterian system. I don't want to start rumors on something that I know very little about, so I want to be clear that I know very little about it. It is not my home church, nor a church with which I have any great familiarity.

    My point is simply that preaching does not always produce instant results. The Presbyterian system may be beautiful, but it is cumbersome and things take a while to be resolved, even when they are bigger issues than bulletins, which are here one week and tossed out the next.
  24. gordo

    gordo Puritan Board Freshman

  25. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    My main point is that I am not aware of any polity reasons in a truly Presbyterian church that would prevent a session from immediately removing a Second Commandment violation. Perhaps officers in the PCA & OPC with a good understanding of their respective church orders may be able to speak to this further.
  26. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    I personally would assume some secretary was responsible and do my best to praise God that I live in a county where you can still go to church without getting your head chopped off and your house burnt down. I am sure that one of these days crowds of "rainbow tolerance" may stand outside and throw rocks at all of us while the civil authorities look the other way.

    I think this scripture is apt: ( 2 Kings 5)

    18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

    You didn't try to break a command, you obeyed your master Jesus Christ to go to church, you went in and saw something that to you is idolatrous, well, I would say you can be at peace.

    I used to be in the NY Metro Presbytery. This would not faze me at all frankly. Did you read the flap back when Pete Enns spoke at Higgens church ( NYMetro) and somebody blogged about it? The presbytery jumped all over Aquila for posting it. I like Keller's preaching, I've listened to quite a bit, but the women deaconess thing contradicts vows, the way they do it (it can be done more acceptably such as at Philly 10th Pres and the late Miller's New Life). Theistic evolution seminar, with secret lists of attendees at Redeemer, with Enns teaching ? Yuck.

    In the world of the internet, it does not take long to check out a church at least a bit. While I might enjoy hearing Keller preach if I was in NYC, I would go into the meeting knowing that it is not a conservative PCA church and I would not be surprised by this at all.

    This is from the link: It would be an understatement to say I was incredibly excited to see Dr. Keller preach in person. Even to this day, I have the highest respect for the man. As I walked into the Redeemer service, however, I was shocked by the church bulletin I was handed. A gory painting of Jesus, dead on the cross, covered the entire front cover of the bulletin. Having been schooled by “truly reformed” folk in the Deep South I could hardly believe my eyes. The leading church in my denomination was openly violating the Second Commandment! I was so disturbed I could hardly listen to a word of the sermon.

    I'd have to say whoever wrote this was maybe young?, gullible, too trusting, too into celebrities, or something. He obviously didn't bother to read anything online that questions his hero. I used to be young too and it is a bitter shock to see those you greatly admire turn out to be fallen sinners. I would say God ordained that he walk into church that particular day for a good reason.
  27. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would request that they do not. I meant it only as an example of complexity in church issues, and I have no interest in trying a church online, especially when they are not here to defend themselves, and none of us (including me) know much about the particulars. It would all be speculation and gossip.
  28. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    I have no interest in pursuing your particular example further. I only meant that I would welcome correction regarding the authority of session in the OPC and PCA. You have contended that the Presbyterian system of polity is cumbersome and slow in such a way that sessions may not be able to immediately address various situations of Second Commandment violations which might arise in a local congregation. My understanding of Presbyterian polity leads me to believe that this is not the case.
  29. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    Oh, I see now. Thanks. That may actually be a great topic for another thread (it's a little afield of this one). I personally have found the Presbyterian system extremely slow--things have to go through a big process, they get appealed to Presbytery, Presbytery only meets twice a year, etc. Things get appealed and re-appealed, brought to GA, GA only meets once a year, etc. I've never known a substantial case to take less than a year, and sometimes they drag on for decades. I think Peniel holds the record in the OPC. Started in the 1940's, and rolled right on through the 1970's. But that's actually a really interesting question (the cumbersome quality of the Presbyterian system), and interesting to discuss the pros and cons. If someone starts a thread, I will read it with great interest. :)
  30. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Well done, Caroline. My tendency would be to set the bulletin on fire and leave it in the foyer as I shook the dust off my feet while departing post-haste. But little is lost by making sure it was not an oversight, rather than indifference. Even in such a circumstance it is possible to hope for the best until such a time as that hope is dashed.
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