Article from this weekend's ABC news website:
"Why a Christian minister turned on God but wants to remain in the Church
As a progressive Christian minister, Gretta Vosper has always tried to lead her congregation with reverence for how people live, rather than what they believe.She's written two best-sellers on relegating belief in a traditional or supernatural God and prioritising the importance of living justly with compassion.
It's a progressive position, and could be considered edgy in the context of religious orthodoxy.
But even more controversially, Ms Vosper has come out as an atheist."
Article by Nathan Coates
You can read this article in its entirety on the ABC news website : http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-06/atheist-christian-minister-gretta-vosper-wants-to-stay-in-church/7997028
If this article had not made it to the front page of the news section of our national broadcaster, I wouldn't have rated it worthy of even a mention. However, the Australian Broadcasting Commission obviously thinks that this Canadian woman rates publicity. Controversy makes headlines more interesting than stories about the millions of unknown Christians working positively in the world for altruistic purposes.
So, what are we to make of a self-professed atheist who wants to run a church? What is she going to teach? Who will prayers (if any) be directed to? Who gets the credit and the glory?
The Bible itself addresses those who seek to change the gospel. God gave His word to mankind through the writers of the Bible, writing under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It's a book like no other, God's living word, with great power to change lives and transform situations. It also has the power to cause conviction and discomfort, which is why some people seek to only use the parts of it that they like and ignore others.
Biblical doctrine is meant to be studied and discussed deeply and seriously. The apostle Paul tells us to “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Some of the final verses of the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation state:
"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
In addition, the office of minister is one that is specified in the Bible as being an office of great responsibility. The Bible compares the office to that of a shepherd, a role which in Biblical times bore great responsibility for protecting the master’s wealth of livestock. Shepherds were to tend the needs of the flocks, leading them into good pastures, watering them and protecting them from thieves and wild animals.
In the 34th chapter of Ezekiel, God sends a word of prophecy regarding the shepherds who do not care for those placed under their care. The prophet Jeremiah also warned that God would deal with those shepherds who led their people astray:
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: "You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds," declares the LORD.… (Jeremiah 23:1,2)
In New Testament times the apostle Paul warned against those who began preaching different gospels in order to please people and rightly warned that once people began preaching a gospel to suit themselves, it soon became no gospel at all. (Galatians chapter 1). He warns:
“But if we or even an angel from Heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” Galatians 1: 8.
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)
As Christians, we should be saddened, but not surprised when such reports surface. After all we've had the duplicity of the prosperity gospel and the sometime extreme antics of the Pentecostal manifestations. We have the soft- soaping "all you need is love" attitude - don't mention sin or conviction or repentance or sacrifice or any of those nasties. In fact don't preach the reality of Satan or his demons. Satan does his most active work in churches. He already has the non-Christians on side. Those in ministry leadership need our prayers and support, lest they be waylaid by the status and public prominence which can sometimes accompany the role.
Full marks to the United Church of Canada who are in the process of declaring Ms Vosper unfit to minister. Christ had the most anger, criticism and admonition for those who used the church for their own ungodly purposes. In all things Christ honoured and glorified His Father God, and the role of the Christian church is to also glorify God and fulfill the great commission of taking the gospel to all nations. I think of the two godly, Christian lady pastors on the pastoral team at my own church- their love of God, their Biblical preaching and teaching, their mentoring of young women, their community outreach. They are faithfully drawing people to God, without any need for "progressive" rhetoric.
In the Biblical book of Acts, the apostle Luke commends the church in Berea. We are told that the Bereans “received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11). This reveals a great truth. We should examine what we see and hear, even from those in ministry, in relation to the Bible. If a minister is truly following God and seeking to lead God’s people, they will be a person who knows and studies God’s word and preaches and teaches in relation to scripture. They will be a person of relationship with God, giving Him the glory and honour that is His alone.
May God grant us discernment when confronted with ministry and doctrine which is not Biblical.
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30)