Churchly Quality Control II: Why is it Important?
I got ahead of myself a bit with my first Churchly Quality Control (CQC) post yesterday. Perhaps we first ought to discuss why it’s important (or whether it’s important at all for my heretic friends out there ;^) ).
I see the church’s mission as falling into two categories:
1. To guard, teach, and pass on the written Word of God.
2. To be a manifestation of the living Word of God -- or as the Bible puts it, to be the Body of Christ.
I don’t see anything the church should be doing that doesn’t fall into these two tasks.
Both of these tasks imply that the church should strive to be pure and free of error. If we wish to pass on the written Word to future generations, we don’t want to dilute or mangle it with error. If we wish to be the Body of Christ, we certainly don’t want to bring dishonor to Christ with our sin.
And these are recurrent themes of the New Testament. Again and again, Paul’s letters especially follow this pattern:
1. The Gospel of God’s grace through Christ towards us is wonderful and glorious, which should lead us to . . .
2. Righteous living to thank and glorify God and adorn the Gospel and to . . .
3. Make darn sure that glorious Gospel of grace is passed on without error.
Paul, as well as Peter, John and Jude, in their letters therefore engage in CQC. While pouring out their love for the church, they at the same time had strong words for willful sinners and willful heretics in the church. Paul went so far as to pronounce anathemas on false teachers and even wished out loud that legalists, uh, mess themselves up with their circumcisions. (Galatians 5:12)
History has confirmed the inspiration and wisdom of the apostles on the necessity of CQC. The Gospel and the church have been threatened time and again with Gnosticism, Arianism, Legalism, and other isms. And it has taken more than “dialogue” and “study” to protect the Faith and the faithful from these heresies. Without God using the efforts of giants like Athanasius and of the great General Councils, we not only wouldn’t have the creeds, we would hardly have the Faith at all.
And today in the Episcopal Church USA and other mainline denominations, we see what happens when churches abandon CQC. As Phillip Turner spelled out a year ago in his First Things article The Episcopalian Preference, the current accelerated decent of Episcopalism has its roots in its bishops’ reluctance and failure to appropriately discipline apostate bishops.
Seeing the CQC patterns of the Bible and of defenders of the Faith through the centuries on the one hand and of today’s mainline churches on the other make the need for firm Churchly Quality Control clear. And it has brought me to the point where I ask the following question without apology:
If a church isn’t committed enough to the Word to discipline grave error in its midst, then why should I be committed to that church?