Friday, April 04, 2014

Why Damon Rambo is Acting Like a Pharisee

UPDATE, 10 March 2017: 
Damon Rambo has made a public statement that looks mostly like repentance, so let's be gracious and give him credit for it. Combined with the fact that he has deleted the posts on his blog to which my own blogposts refer, I am noting the facts here in this update so that all may be informed of the current situation. Note that he has not taken down any comments on other blogs such as Gospel Spam, which probably means he has not done as rigorous and thorough a job of scrubbing his slanderous and wicked comments as I would ask if I had opportunity. Thus, my own posts will remain public and all links will point to records of his posts until further notice. 

So Damon Rambo wonders why I deploy the "P" word regarding him.

What sort of extra-biblical, fundamentalist, outlandish rule have I invented? I dared to say that all Christians should be a part of a church, with a recognized membership, and at least one proper recognized and called pastor/elder. I have insisted that those who refuse the local church and its discipleship, fellowship and authority, are living in sin.

But that's not the problem here. He has misunderstood the objection. Let me try to clarify.

Here is his exact quote from before:

Such people are in grievous sin, and until that sin is repented of, further fellowship, discussion, and hashing out of differences cannot be had. Those who deliberately reject the visible expression of Christ's Bride must be excommunicated from any secondary fellowship, until such time as the Lord brings them to repentance.

Emphasis mine.
Look, I disagree that the people in question are in sin. Is Rambo willing to list postmillennialists, continuationists, Presbyterians, or Arminians as being in sin? Maybe he does; I'm just asking. Is he willing to say the same thing about them? Will he excommunicate Marcus Pittman for being Presbyterian and postmillennial? That's two areas in which Rambo disagrees with him.
If not, is he being consistent? What in the Scripture leads him to the conclusion that not having elders at one's church for the moment is something for which we should consider the offender damned and heretical? That's what excommunication is for, after all. It's way past saying "I disagree". We know Rambo disagrees. Disagreements happen all over the place about all sorts of issues. But we are not to excommunicate for minor issues. What is his argument that this differing ecclesiology jumps over the heresy fence? He didn't give one. But the thing is, if you're going to kick professing brethren out and deny them your fellowship, you need to have an argument.

That's why Rambo is a Pharisee - he is imposing this small issue on the conscience of other believers without the benefit of an argument, and in fact directly against what the New Testament teaches.
Who appointed Martin Luther? Zwingli? Calvin? Did they have elders?
Athanasius was removed from his bishopric several times and exiled, yet came back. Does Rambo have some evidence that another elder came alongside and re-appointed him? Does excommunication not mean anything? If church structures are only to be followed in some cases, where is Rambo's definition and explanation?
Acts 11:19-25 - Barnabas goes and helps preach the Gospel in Antioch, and yet doesn't stay to establish elders. Rather, he leaves to look for Paul. And yet there comes to be a church in Antioch (as soon as Acts 15:30). How?
Acts 13:44-52 - Paul and Barnabas are driven out of Pisidian Antioch after only about a week.
According to the qualifications for elders in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3, an elder can't be a new convert. I suppose we are to assume that no church existed in Pisidian Antioch at that time? Just... a ragtag bunch of people who loved Jesus?
Acts 17:32-18:1 - Paul sees converts in Athens but doesn't stay to train any elders.
The Epistle to Titus - Paul sends Titus to Crete to appoint elders in all the churches. There were churches there. They didn't have elders. Titus was supposed to appoint some. In the churches that already existed. Even though they didn't have elders at the time.

So that is what Rambo has done to deserve the label "Pharisee".

A few more comments on his article:
Its (sic) hard to throw people out of a group (1 Corinthians 5, Matthew 18) that is just a bunch of people hanging out in a field

1) Elders are not mentioned or even implied to be involved in any special or necessary sense in either of these passages.
2) How did Rambo get from the fact that this one local church in question doesn't have elders at the moment to "just a bunch of people hanging out in a field"? He does not inform us.

Wielding the story of the Good Samaritan like a club, the leadership of AHA insist that they are right, others are wrong...which they wield clumsily like a child swinging a sword

1) But is not Rambo "wielding" the NT passages about elders "like a club" or "like a sword"? Why is it so bad to try to persuade others, or defend one's church against divisive criticisms like that in which Rambo has heartily participated in recent months?
2) Of course we think we are right. Yet we remain open to biblical correction. Does Rambo think we ought to hold to positions we think are wrong? I don't understand the problem here.
3) Are these the words of someone who put a great deal of thought into his article?

any church that does not do exactly what they say in regards to abortion are in sinful rebellion and in need of repentance...ONLY abortion ministry matters

1) This is mistaken on his part. He does not understand the ideology, and I suspect it is b/c he has not done his homework.
2) Is it not true to say that any church that does not do exactly what Rambo says in regards to elder rule is in sinful rebellion and in need of repentance, in his mind?
3) Yet have abolitionists excommunicated anyone in that situation? No. Has Rambo, for his part? Yes.

Abolish Human Abortion calls out, pickets, and dare I say churches

1) I don't know why Rambo is defending
2) It would be nice if he would explain how calls to repentance and exhortation are "attacks". Is this not merely his prejudiced language?

(Perhaps in order to stay in AHA's good graces, you need to purchase their materials? Just asking).

Accusations unbecoming of a pastor. Very unfair of him to say such a thing.

The abolitionist who gets in his car and drives two hours, past stranded motorists, nursing homes full of elderly patients

1) Rambo mistakenly believes that abolitionists think that going to the abortion mill is the way abortion is to be abolished. He is mistaken. It's probably because, again, he is ignorant. Sadly, he seems unwilling to learn what we actually believe.
2) Is it legal and culturally accepted to murder stranded motorists and nursing home residents en masse? Are 3500 of those kinds of people being murdered by their mothers and fathers every day?
3) For my part, if I were on my way to the abortuary and saw a stranded motorist, I would stop to help. Is Rambo being charitable and fair here?

There is only one litmus test for the health of a church, and that is the Gospel.

Preaching the correct Gospel correctly is a necessary condition for a healthy church but it is far from the sole sufficient condition. Holy living, non-heretical views on the Trinity and Christology, pastors that don't fleece the flock and such... these kinds of things also have a very large impact on the health of a church.

you understand that ANY proclamation of the Gospel is a blow against abortion

Agreed. Which is why we wish Rambo would turn his critical attention to the vastly compromised pro-life movement, who show that they do not agree with this statement with every action they take.

Not the Gospel plus abortion ministry done in accordance with AHA's extrabiblical requirements.

Another unfair characterisation of abolitionists' views.

And the Gospel is to be ministered through the local Church.

1) What does this mean?
2) I suspect we will wait in vain for him to argue for whatever his position means from Scripture.


Darin Day said...

In light of the recent blogs against AHA, would it be wise to focus on the work before us rather than squabbling over the finer points of ecclesiology with the high churchmen?
I don't mean to act as your conscience, I only comment because this issue needs to be healed so that we can all proceed with the work of the Gospel.
I am distressed by what I perceive as hyper-discernment from the reformed community as a whole.
BAMH and AHA both work toward a common goal.

Rhology said...

I hear you. I just don't think BAMH does work toward the same goal. They SAY they do. Their goal is OSTENSIBLY the same, but by their actions they show that's not really true.

Anyway, I think we can do both, and should do both. I want to do what I may to turn other people away from imbibing the BAMH/Gospel Spam poison, that leads toward quasi-papism and respecting men over God, traditions of men over the Word of God.