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Thursday, December 05, 2002 AD
Another Reason Why Church Discipline Doesn't Work
The most obvious reasons are 1) churches don't practice it and 2) if it is properly practiced, other churches don't recognize it. Here's another one that's just occurred to me: It doesn't do any good to disfellowship someone if there was never any fellowship to begin with! We have 15 minutes of coffee and cookies after the service and call that fellowship and then we forget that the church exists 'til the next Sunday. We're not in each others' lives, so an excommunicant would hardly notice if we withdrew from his life. (Of course this is a generalization. There's a continuum of community and some congregations do better than others. The 15 minutes thing is just too common in Evanjellyfishdom.)

This struck me today as I read some quotes posted by my opponent in a discussion about related matters. I didn't think the quotes served to prove his point, but they were good quotes none the less. I post them here for your edification (I hope my friend does not mind my borrowing the labors of his research!):

Calvin: "What Paul means is, that, in so far as it is in our power, we are to shun the society of those whom the Church has cut off from her communion."

Matthew Henry: "They were to avoid all familiarity with him; they were to have no commerce with him; they were to have no commerce with him: but, that they might shame him, and bring him to repentance, must disclaim and shun him."

Richard Baxter (in The Reformed Pastor): "In this exclusion or removal, the minister or governors of the church are authoritatively to charge the people, in the name of the Lord, to have no communion with him, and to pronounce him one whose communion the church is bound to avoid; and it is the people’s duty carefully to avoid him ...."

Here's a description of how Baxter handled excommunication as a practical matter with a good friend who went astray: "It appears that Pearsall did not heed this tender appeal and Baxter instructed the believers to avoid him. It must have been painful for Baxter to walk silently by Pearsall on the streets of Kidderminster and grieve for his absence at St. Mary's chapel on the Lord's Day. Imagine, however, Baxter's joy in London after three years absence from Kidderminster, when he received an affectionate and moving letter from many friends and neighbors, including the signature of John Pearsall, received back into fellowship."

Jonathan Edwards: "They are cut off from being the objects of that charity of God's people, which is due to Christian brethren. They are not indeed cut off from all the charity of God's people, for all men ought to be the objects of their love. But I speak of the brotherly charity due to visible saints. ...

"Much love and complacency is due to those whom we are obliged in charity to receive as saints, because they are visible Christians. But this complacency excommunicated persons forfeit. We should still wish well to them. and seek their good. Excommunication itself is to be performed as an act of benevolence. We should seek their good by it, and it is to be used as a means of their eternal salvation. But complacency and delight in them as visible Christians is to be withdrawn; and on the contrary they are to be the objects of displacency, as visibly and apparently wicked. We are to cast them out as an unclean thing which defiles the church of God. - In this sense the psalmist professes a hatred of those who were the visible enemies of God. Psalm 139:21, 22. 'Do I not hate them, O Lord, that hate thee! And am I not grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred.' Not that he hated them with a hatred of malice or ill will, but with displacency and abhorrence of their wickedness. In this respect we ought to he the children of our Father who is in heaven, who, though he loves many wicked men with a love of benevolence, yet cannot love them with a love of complacency. Thus excommunicated persons are cut off from the charity of the church.

"The people of God are, as much as may be, to withdraw from them as to that common society which is proper to subsist among Christians. - Not that they should avoid speaking to them on any occasion. All manner and all degrees of society are not forbidden, but all unnecessary society, or such as is wont to be among those who delight in the company of each other. We should not associate ourselves with them so as to make them our companions. Yea, there ought to be such an avoiding of their company as may show great dislike."
Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 12/05/2002 09:39:00 AM • Permalink

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