Sunday, 19 July 2009

Orange Reformation

The Orange Order, unlike the church, is NOT a divine institution. Christians, therefore, and ministers in particular, ought to give their very best efforts to reforming the church, which is divinely ordained, rather than seeking to reform a man-made institution that clearly is not.

That said, I must add a few other points. The twelve qualifications of an orangeman demand that only genuine Christians are admitted to membership. What we have instead is a professedly evangelical and reformed institution that has in its membership many who hold to the teachings of Roman Catholicism, especially with regard to the way of salvation.

Ask your average Orangeman what a Christian is, and how does one become a Christian, and you'll get a variety of answers: be a good neighbour, keep the law, do good, go to your church, support your church, give to the needy, attend the sacraments, be religious in your observances, etc. Becoming a Christian, for many Orangemen, happens when you are baptised (they probably use the Roman Catholic term 'christened'), and becoming a Christian continued when you take 'holy communion.' Being a good Protestant means submission to the Bishop, believing whatever the church tells you, going to the Twelfth each year, flying your union flag, and joining the Orange Order.

I ask you: Is that biblical Protestantism or unadulterated Romanism? Well taught Christians will answer that it is the latter.

What is a Christian in the biblical sense? He is someone, who having a true sense of his lostness in sin before a holy God, flees in faith and repentance to Christ, just as he is, to the only Saviour of mankind, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is someone who loves Christ before and above all others, and seeks to glorify Him by the way he lives his life. He is a dedicated member of his local reformed and biblical church, and who is in regular attendance at its ordinances. He seeks to bear witness to God's saving grace in Christ Jesus, has a zeal for evangelism and world mission, and lives as holy a life that it is possible for a redeemed sinner to live. He is a gracious and kindly man who is not afraid to shout when his Master and His cause are attacked. He has been born again from above, converted, delivered from darkness and death and brought into light and newness of life, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, having been raised together with Christ. His love for Christ is real, and not just mere empty words.

That's what a true Christian really is. It is also what a true Orangeman really is.

The authentically Calvinistic, or Amyraldian, qualifications are to be welcomed, and they look good on paper. Jesus Christ is described as "the Saviour of mankind," which salvation is received by faith in the "only Mediator" there is between God and men. This begs the obvious question: why aren't only those who have received Jesus Christ by faith received into the Order's membership? If men who manifestly do not meet the membership qualifications are admitted into membership of this institution, then it ought not to surprise anyone that the trends within the Order are towards a weakening of its Christian witness. Indeed, why should we expect Christian behaviour from unregenerate people? To do so is to ask the impossible and is a denial of the Christian faith.

As a fraternal institution that carries no biblical mandate, I believe that genuinely concerned Reformed evangelical ministers within that body and who minister in seriously compromised, even apostate, denominations, ought to give their efforts to reforming what is biblically warranted, rather than dissipating their efforts on reforming something that is of no consequence one way or the other?

That the churches need urgent and radical reformation is an issue that hardly needs to be raised. Indeed, those more objective observers can see only too clearly that this is the case. Few within the churches see this in such a way that motivates them to commence the work of reformation within their own ecclesiastical bodies.

The sceptic within me will explain this as follows: to seek the reform of the Orange Order will not cost them their jobs, salaries, homes or pensions, if the reform does not work. However, if they are of truly reforming spirits and are employed by a church body, which has 'the power of life and death' over its employees, if the reform goes wrong, they will be left out in the street without home or income, not to mention the pension?  The answer is YES; and that is too great a price to pay for faithfulness to Christ's Gospel.

So I believe that these good Christian brothers are taking the safe option, showing that they care more for what God has not ordained than they do for what he has ordained. This is surely a very sad situation to be in.

But if the church as visible is not in conformity to the Word of God in its organisation and doctrine - both of which must go together - then trying to conform an organisation that professes to be Protestant but has within it, and right at the very top, people who hold to the beliefs of Roman Catholicism, then the task is futile. I know some might object that that was the situation at the REFORMATION, and God is the same God today as He was in the 16th century. Granted. But there is a most significant difference! The men of that time - Luther, Calvin, Farel, Bucer, Melancthon, and their Huguenot followers such as Amyraut, Jean Dialle, Claude Brousson, young Fulchran Rey, etc, - were men of true grit, men of courage, men of determination, men utterly committed to the reforming cause, whereas today, like our greedy politicians, many ministers really do count the cost of reform within the church, could not bear it financially and would dislike the lack of prestige and position that being a 'minister of religion' gives, and they decide not to go down that road.

And who suffers? The church of Jesus Christ on earth. No, we do not have the men of conviction and courage that mainland Europe had 500 years ago.

I ask again, as I did before, where are the men of truly reforming zeal, who care about Christ's body on earth, and who desire her to be perfected, that is, mature Bible-believing, Gospel preaching churches? Where are the reformers who have a greater eye to the final Judgement of the last day, than they do to temporal comforts? Is there anyone out there who cares about the theological and spiritual health of the church? Where are they? And why won't they come forward?

I know how costly being a reformer within a mixed and compromised denomination is, not only for myself but for my family also. This is not a decision to be taken lightly, given the track record of the church authorities (but there again, they are no different from how their predecessors behaved in the 16th century).

Let the reform of the Protestant churches begin!

Amazing GRACE!

Dr Bob Flayhart, a Presbyterian minister from the USA, speaking at the Keswick Convention at Portstewart in July 2009, made two very important points that I think bear repeating.
1. Grace does not fix! It enables us to live above our personal brokenness, but grace does not fix.
2. Why do we so often expect godly living from unregenerate sinners? They can live in no other way. Unless and until they are converted to Christ by the amazing grace of God, they will go on living as they do, and Christians ought never to be surprised at that!