Ah well. some more suggested “constrained differences” or more accurately constrained departures” from biblical views and practice being asked to be made allowable for those who so choose at this year’s General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
I guess there is nothing new under the sun. Adam and Eve agreed on a constrained difference with what God meant when He had said “No” to something very clearly, resulting inevitably in a “constrained departure” from God. I mean, they didn’t take the decision to depart from the commandment to multiply and fill the earth. No constrained difference there! They didn’t stop gardening or subduing the earth. Their departure was “considered,” and restrained. They didn’t go wild and jettison everything God had clearly said. They set the limits to their own departure. They were sure it was a step into “enlightenment” not at all a temptation to move towards darkness. “How ridiculous that this could be the first step on a slippery slope for us or for our descendants!” (Mention “Slippery slope” in theological debates about “Constrained difference/approved departures” and you will quickly be made to look like and sound like a naive joke who deserves to be laughed at for a few seconds before the Moderator/Chair/ Presiding Bishop/ Professor intervenes to call everyone back to respectful debate, “whatever position may be being voiced.”
The trouble is that not only is a constrained difference/departure not the basis of a blessed relationship with God, it actually spoils everything. Whatever “subduing” meant it was harder with thorns and thistles. The very birth process of human beings, was affected too.
How arrogantly to politely solicit “a constrained departure” from the Word of God and think we can control the consequences of that to being “constrained” as well. Says who? What we reap, we sow, and the laws of sowing and reaping mean that you get back 30 fold. 60 fold or a 100 fold what you sow. So the wind, you reap the whirlwind. Or perhaps the redefinition of grace that has happened in many Christian quarters no longer believes that principle is there in the New Testament, not just the Old. Restrained departure sown means in time reaping a whirlwind of practices and beliefs which the polite theologically minded pleaders are sure will never happen.
Oh it is easier a bit for me to sit on the side lines and lob grenades. I am no longer serving in a parish having to cope with the pain and potential disunity and destruction of congregational life that can sometimes follow on from decisions made at the Assemblies, General Synods, Union Meetings for whatever Union of Churches, for some congregations and their leadership and ministers. However I still care for the parishes of this land. Despite every officially sanctioned constrained difference/departure, which at the moment seem to be susceptible to the tactic of delay for a year or two but not much else, I still hope and pray that local parish churches and churches of every denomination, traditional setups and new ventures might be led by folk whose prayer is that God would honour His Word and His Son. I pray for every ministry which realises that God’s glory is besmirched in Scotland, His Word mocked, His Son’s cross spat upon by much that goes under the name of “Church” and under the banner of being in some way “Progressive.” Be not disobedient to the heavenly vision given you in your call. Ask God how it is to be sustained and fulfilled. Honour the answer He gives you to that question and seek true grace to honour those who are sure they have heard something different from what has been spoken to you.
I feel an extra level of concern for those of you who like myself knew that you were specifically called to the Church of Scotland to be a preacher of God’s Word and a pastor to His people and to share as widely as possible the gospel of redeeming love for a lost world; for those of you who have perhaps felt grieved at the Church of Scotland’s chosen and increasingly cemented trajectory. If God is holding you to that original calling, may you discover, as I have done, that He who calls is faithful. Know that while no longer in active ministry, you have my prayers. There can come a day when according to Scripture God says he will not listen to His people’s prayers, even by those intercessors who have been proven to have power to truly prevail with God. I hope that day has not yet come around again.