What Should the Church Really Be Concerned About?

There is much that is good about Christian Concern. They are fighting for matters about which most Christians would bury their heads in the sand.

However this post (Court says Christians don’t keep Sunday special for it to be protected | Christian Concern) raises concerns for me.

Keep_Sunday_Special_lgThe case is about a woman who took a job believing she was given exemption from working on Sunday only to find later that her employer does not stand by that exemption. The case goes on with CC’s help.

The argument invokes a wider issue than just that of Sunday employment. The article above states:

“In passing the ruling, Mr Justice Langstaff held that Sunday was not a ‘core’ component of the Christian faith because some Christians would be prepared to work on a Sunday; and therefore Christians as a whole do not need Sunday protected.

The article goes on to express concern that we have the officers of the State ruling on what are core Christian beliefs. This is a right concern – the State must keep its fingers out of this sort of matter.

But the question is this: who does decide? Who gets to pronounce what is a core belief? This is where I have the concern, and it is a concern not so much about the State, which will always want to stick its fingers where they are not wanted, but about the church generally, and particularly in the UK.

There was a time when the church (that is, the visible church as a whole) expressed its core beliefs in creeds and confessions. It was a simple matter to point to what the core beliefs were: look up your confession of faith. Nowadays, with the wholesale fragmentation of the church under the pressure of enlightenment individualism (and, dare I say it, an erroneous belief in independency of the local church gone to seed) ask 100 people/churches what the core beliefs of Christianity are, and you get 100 different answers.

What we are left with, and I think it appears in this Christian Concern case, is not the defence of a Biblical and confessional position of the historic Christian church, but the defence of a particular personal belief as a core article of his/her Christian practice. What Christian Concern is defending is not the principle of Sabbath, which is Biblical and confessional, but what ultimately for them is more fundamental: the right to personal religious belief, which isn’t (see Acts 17:30 – “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” ESV, and then think about its implications). It is actually standing on a principle that derives from the Enlightenment.

This highlights for me how ill-equipped the modern Christian church is to fight the battles that are coming to keep the State’s sticky fingers out of the church’s affairs. The State wants to, but the church is confused about what it believes. So, it is unprepared and, for the most part, unconcerned about what should really be Christian concerns.

What Should the Church Really Be Concerned About?

4 thoughts on “What Should the Church Really Be Concerned About?

  1. David Morgan says:

    This is a little tangential to the point you’re making, but I’d appreciate if you could provide clarification on the following:

    Given the nature of her work (“providing respite care for children with severe learning difficulties at the Brightwell children’s home in Morden” – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9770825/Christians-have-no-right-to-refuse-to-work-on-Sundays-rules-judge.html), would you not consider this to be a job that it is lawful to do on the Sabbath (i.e. one that comes under the categories of works of necessity or mercy)?

  2. Absolutely! Your point only highlights the confusion further. Works of mercy and necessity should be done on the Sabbath. So, the question is: why is this woman going to court at all? If she were taught properly about the Sabbath then she would realise that her conscience should not bind her at all in having to work. It would be an act of mercy and necessity permitted by the word of God, as the Westminster Confession states (WCF 21.8). One wonders, therefore, what she has been taught in her church, but that is another matter…

    This illustrates my point further because the CC (or CLC) wants to defend her in her desire not to have to do these works of mercy and necessity on Sunday. She is the arbiter of what is a core Christian belief and the CC goes with it, even though it is clearly wrong!

    I remain concerned that the State does not understand the distinction you are making. It is only thinking in terms of “to work” or “not to work” and therefore would conclude that because some people must work out of mercy and/or necessity then any work on the Sabbath is permissible for Christians. It isn’t.

  3. Hmmm. I wonder. Suppose that the court decided that keeping the Lord’s Day *was* an essential Christian belief. Would the court then have instructed the employer to allow the employee to do so … or have told the employee that she needed to find a different job? It seems to me that identifying the lack of clarity in the church’s testimony to its own beliefs is only *one* of the problems. Secondly, with sadness I’d say that churches throughout the UK do give a fairly united testimony on this question; they agree with the judge, that keeping the Lord’s Day is not an essential part of Christian discipleship. The problem isn’t so much the lack of a consensus, as a consensus which is unbiblical. If the solution is that everybody should become a Westminster Presbyterian, then someone else will reply that no, the answer is that everyone should become a Continental Presbyterian, and then a third person will want to question which particular sub-species of Continential Presbyterianism you had in mind…

    I fully concede that the previous paragraph offered only problems and not solutions. 😉

  4. David A, yes I only point out one concern. There are others as you rightly say. And I agree with you: we are facing a headwind *within* the church let alone with the state.

    Sadly, history tells us that Presbyterians are as fissiparous as anyone! However, on this issue I think the ‘Reformed’ confessions are pretty uniform.

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