Paul's Passing Thoughts

Why Non-Institutional “Church Discipline” is Very Unmessy

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 9, 2014

In most states, to tell someone under threat of public humiliation that they can’t do something legal, such as vacating church membership, is a criminal act. This is especially true of the institutional church.

Why? Because the institutional church has its roots in Europe where church states were common. In many cases, church membership was mandatory. Keep in mind; in many Reformed churches the Calvin Institutes are the standard of polity, but it was written under the auspices of and in context of a church state.

Hence, institutional “church disciple” often conflicts with laws in a free society. This is why institutional churches spend millions of dollars each year covering their sanctified rumps in regard to this issue…and it is money spent for no good reason at all.

First of all, the legal problems begin with orthodoxy that calls for a “tell it to the church” for purposes of shunning and declaring the person an unbeliever. The whole declaring people unbelievers thing goes back to the orthodoxy of  Calvin’s “Power of the Keys.” This is the belief that whatever Reformed elders proclaim on earth will be true in heaven. Basically, even if you are saved, if an elder wants to unsave you, heaven is bound by his authority. The Reformed can throw their little temper tantrums in denial if they want to, but this is a fact, and many who read here at PPT can bring their own testimonies to bear on that. Besides, the Calvin Institutes stake this claim in no uncertain terms.

Secondly, “tell it to the church” was NEVER  meant to be an announcement to the congregation that the elders have decided to “excommunicate” a certain person. It is a call to the whole assembly to get involved in the situation so that EVERBODY is accountable and the true facts of the matter are totally out in the open. In fact, the offended and the first two witnesses may have to stand alone against the whole assembly in some cases:

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

Thirdly, we see “the Lord’s discipline” in the Bible, and we see self-discipline in the Bible, but where is “church discipline”? Answer: NOWHERE. The church does not discipline, assemblies are a matter of voluntary fellowship, period. If the whole assembly cannot convince the offender to make things right, they simply refuse to fellowship with the offender until he/she repents—it’s just that simple.

Fourthly, per the usual, this should all be interpreted through the prism of home fellowships, not the institutional church with all its necessary legal drama. Said offender is no longer welcome in the home of the host where the meetings take place. In extreme cases, restraining orders in regard to an institution are very messy, but not when it comes to private homes.

In addition, if the home fellowship wrongly stands with the offender for various immature reasons, guess what? The three merely go off and start their own home fellowship. Who is with them?

See how simple this all is? It’s the institution that complicates all of this.

Lastly, it’s not a matter of humiliating someone publically via the institution’s public building—that obviously beckons a host of legal issues. It is a simple matter of discontinuing fellowship until the offender makes things right.

Moreover, in regard to a network of home fellowships in a given geography, a wronged person could appeal to other fellowships. Where there can be no agreement, you may have an actual split in networks as well. But the whole thing is based on fellowship—not authority or a public institution where things become legal issues.


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