Monday, December 02, 2013

A Walton "Homecoming?"

They used to call Hollywood movie studios "dream factories." It's a fitting description. How many of us have watched shows through the years, falling in love with both the show and the characters portrayed? Then we find out that the real lives of the actors and actresses don't necessarily jive with what we see on screen.

Of course, that is reality. Actors are just that. Actors. They portray roles. Often the roles they play are far removed from their real persona.

So, why did I find such interest in this story about actor Ralph Waite, who played John Walton, the father on the beloved television series "The Waltons?" Because it touches on Christian theology and doctrine, and that's what this blog is generally all about. I've actually had several things catch my eye the past few weeks, but as you see from the dearth of posts, I simply haven't been able to keep up with the blog.

Ralph Waite's political liberalism is certainly no secret. He once ran for Congress in the same district where the late Sonny Bono (and later Sonny's wife Mary) served on the Republican side of the aisle. Waite was not successful in his bid for elected office, but his views on the issues were known. This article discusses something I had not known, i.e. Waite's past as a Presbyterian minister of sorts, and his 40-year time out of "organized religion." As the article states, Waite has returned to the Presbyterian Church, and now is part of a desert fellowship out West. I suppose I should rejoice that a wanderer has come back, but come back to what?

The Presbyterian Church branch involved here is the liberal end of the denomination, not the more conservative Presbyterian Church in America. The PCUSA is among the most theologically liberal out there, sort of akin to the Disciples of Christ or the United Church of Christ (remember Jeremiah Wright?). In my view (and certainly the Bible's view), Christian in name but NOT biblically Christian in practice or belief—at least on some very important issues. You'll see in the story that the usual nod to acceptance of homosexual behavior is in place, regardless of what the Word of God has to say on the subject. And that brings me to a point I have made over and over again, and will continue to make.

The church is not subject to a cafeteria plan where we can pick and choose what we believe. The terms "orthodoxy" and "orthopraxis" mean something. You cannot wear the label of Christian and teach things that the Bible does not teach, or declare something to be right and good that the Bible condemns as sin. The Apostle Paul made this case loud and clear in his letter to the church in Rome - chapter 6. "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" Paul declares, "May it never be!" Or if you prefer the King James way of putting it, "God forbid!"

I pray for Ralph Waite. In many ways, he is an admirable man and great actor. I am glad that he has picked back up on his spiritual journey. I just pray that he comes the rest of the way and acknowledges that God's Word says what it means and means what it says. And those who name the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are compelled to live it—not that we are saved by works of righteousness, we are not; we are saved by grace through faith. But Jesus, our Lord, said "If you love Me, keep my commandments." And that doesn't mean we go through the Bible with a pair of scissors. Scripture is clear, and Scripture is Scripture's best commentary. Scripture interprets Scripture.

If I tell someone that God's Word doesn't mean what it means, and that their lifestyle and behavior doesn't matter to God, then I am not loving them. I would be lying to them. And that is the challenge of this generation—indeed, every generation. Will we love the truth or prefer a lie? In the end, we will have to stand before God and give account. We won't be able to weasel out of our disobedience.

One final word. I usually try to look at a church's (or ministries') doctrinal statement first before delving further into one. Very frequently, you might find a doctrinal statement that looks fairly orthodox, but then find out later that the church really doesn't hold to that doctrinal statement all that tightly. If I was an ordained clergyman or a seminary professor, I could not sign in good conscience to something that I didn't believe in my heart. All too many do just that.

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