Thursday, October 11, 2007

Church Discipline debate #2

A fellow over here asked me if I would participate in an online debate about church discipline a few weeks ago and I said I would. For the next few entries, I’ll be putting up his questions and my answers, just in case they might encourage you.

2a) If he is a representative then how far the headship of the husband extend? Is there a formal hierarchy involving family members?

Lets take a father A and his 18 year old living at home son B.
Does A's moral status effect B's salvation / election?
Does A's moral status effect B's effectiveness of prayer?

There is definitely a hierarchy involving family members. The Father is the head of the wife. The children honor the parents. The parents are to bring up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

A's moral status does not effect B's election. That is something only God knows about. But A's moral status does affect B's salvation because the sins of the fathers run down hill to the sons. B may be elect, but A's lifestyle may have taught him to follow in his path and thus influence his eventual salvation. B might grow up and need to run into someone from Campus Crusade in college to be saved as opposed to being raised in a godly home with a godly father who has taught him from the womb.

A's moral status effects B's effectiveness in prayer as well. His influence and ing teach B how to pray and when to pray and whom to pray to. So B's prayer is definitely affected by A's lifestyle.

If you mean does A's moral status cause B's relationship with God to be negated simply because of A's existence, then I'd say no to both questions. A does not cause B to lose or gain his relationship with God simply by his immoral existence.

2b) I'm assuming the answer to both of these no. If so:

Does A's moral status effect B's membership?
Assuming A is a member can A cause B to be disciplined?
Assume A can, can A prevent B from being disciplined?

If A is a member of a covenantal church, then B will be a member of the church. This is an effect.

If B is disciplined by the church it will be because of B's sin, not A's sin. A might be involved in the process. He might be the first contact, confronting B with his sin (see below), or he might be the one the sin is against and he may be the one who brought to the elders in the first place. In this sense he would be causing B's discipline.

A can prevent B from being disciplined by helping to bring B to repentance before church discipline become a reality. For example suppose A finds out B is sleeping with the neighbor's daughter. A can gently bring B to repentance and thus avert any further discipline by the church. He might be the first step in the Matthew 18 process.

Discipline is not for the censure of the one being disciplined, it is for the restoration of the one being disciplined. It is never to be seen as a punitive action, it is always a cleansing and purifying action. It is meant to protect and purify the church and to bring the sinner to his senses and back to Christ.

2c) Assume that A isn't a member.

It seems that B can independently be a member of the CREC church? What if A objects?
What if A is a member and B wants independent membership?
If in both cases B's wishes are respected in what sense is their a hierarchy?

B could become an independent member if A is not. If his father, who is not a member objects, it would depend. We don't have a rule for this. We would take it on a case by case basis.

If A were a member and B wanted independent membership, our loose rule is that B can't do that, but it would depend on the situation. I could see allowing B to have his own household membership in the right situation.

The main point here would be that B would have to be his own household. For example if, for some reason, B were to get married at 18 he would be his own household, or if he were in town as a soldier stationed here for some reason, we might let him join as his own household. And life is funny, I'm sure there would be other situations where it would make sense to recognize B as his own household.

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