Paul's Passing Thoughts

Why New Calvinist Church Discipline is Against American Laws

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 8, 2014

HF Potters House (2)Originally published August 17, 2013

There is something that everybody is missing in regard to so-called “Redemptive Church Discipline.” The New Calvinist movement is a return to authentic Calvinism. I read the Calvin Institutes almost daily, and I can tell you that the New Calvinists are making every effort to conform to every detail thereof. It is almost as if the Calvin Institutes are a higher authority than the Bible.

But there is a problem. Whether the Calvin Institutes or the Westminster Confession, those documents were prepared for a church/state venue. American laws are based on the separation of church and state. During the time that European government was in bed with the Reformation, the church could compel individuals to do certain things under threat of government force.

While seeking to have that same authority in the lives of American parishioners without government force, they are improvising through other means resulting in the violation of American civil liberties. When it gets right down to it, according to American law, you can’t restrict a person from the commission of a legal act by threatening to defame them publically. Church covenants with articles stating that parishioners cannot leave a church without the permission of the elders may be a violation of the law in and of itself. It’s a threat regarding loss of reputation if you exercise your legal right to leave a church. New Calvinist elders routinely tell parishioners that they cannot leave a church for doctrinal reasons. That’s against the law.

Furthermore, the so-called “Matthew 18 process” almost always ends up in excommunication if someone vacates their membership in-between one of the steps. I understand that they may be avoiding the issue in that way, but you absolutely can’t humiliate them publically for refusing to stay in the process. Leaving a church is not illegal; therefore, you can’t disparage them publically. Threatening to publically humiliate a person if they vacate membership (or any other legal act) is considered to be coercion under the kidnapping statute in most states.

I am presently doing research in preparation for a home church model. I am amazed to see how the New Testament model has a peaceful solution for almost every scenario. But in regard to this subject, the crux is fellowship versus authority. If a person leaves a church in the midst of a church discipline issue (for lack of a better term), they have merely vacated fellowship with the assembly on their own. That’s the only end result anyway if you’re in America, no? Trying to have authority over that person without government backing is where things get iffy.

Moreover, in many situations, the elders of a church really have no legal authority to ban a person from church property unless they are causing a disturbance. This has led to many ugly confrontations and legal challenges. A private home is different. If a home fellowship doesn’t want a person there for whatever reason, the homeowner can have the person removed by the local police if necessary. This is just one of many examples where home fellowships don’t find themselves in legal dilemmas.

The primary reason is that home fellowships are based on, well, fellowship and not authority. Breaking fellowship versus having some sort of authority over the person are two very different things, and the former circumvents a lot of unnecessary drama.



“Telling it to the church” would only involve telling it to the home fellowship of maybe 20 people. Somebody showing up at another home in that network is probably going to incite a phone call to the original fellowship anyway. Secondly, it cannot be restated enough that if a “member” leaves in the middle of the Matthew 18 process, the same result of no fellowship is accomplished anyway. The institutional church creates a bunch of unnecessary drama because of its penchant for authority.

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