Some Christians are up in arms about Ligonier Ministries suing Frank Vance, a fellow believer, and rightly so, as it is plainly against Scriptural teaching. But my question is: where do they go? Where are the ecclesiastical courts of which a Christian can avail himself? If Christians are to judge one another, who are they, and where are they?
Oh, there is some semblance of provision within denominations for "courts," per se, but they are extremely limited in their scope, and I'm not so sure how truly unbiased the "upper echelon" in a denomination truly is. Why, for example, did all those sexually abused altar boys wait until they were adults in their own right to take the abusive priests to court, and a worldly court at that? Where were their God-given advocates, their church "courts?"
We see that RC Sproul, the younger, for example, was defrocked by a Christian "court," but did it really mean anything? Did it really change anything? Were the judgments followed? Why did Doug Wilson feel he had the right to defy a Christian "court" and re-frock RC? Did the "court" truly have any meaningful authority?
What is the everyday Christian to do? God's Word clearly provides for Christians judging one another and amongst ourselves, but have we provided an acceptable alternative for carrying out God's plan for legal ethics and issues? Where are the wise men that God has established as judges for the church today? Would Christians really obey them? Where is their authority?
When Moses was worn out from adjudicating 3-4 million Israelites, his father-in-law, Jethro, came up with a brilliant plan: "You shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens... And so they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves. "
Rulers of thousands.
Rulers of hundreds.
Rulers of fifties.
Rulers of tens.
Where are these able men now? Where are those such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness (that's an interesing qualification, by the way! - God clearly foresees bribery in the justice system, doesn't He?), men who are able to adjudicate the SMALL matters, and men who are able to adjudicate the HARD cases? Where are they today?
I recently read a story about Constantine, in the 3rd - 4th century AD, bemoaning the ineffectiveness of his own courts and judges, but at the same time having a deep admiration for the judges of the Christian church. He then asked the Bishops to wear the judicial robes of that day, which were bright and colorful, out on the streets among the people, to denote that Constantine approved of the bishops as judges. Here we have a story of the church doing a better job in adjudicating than the world, as it should be.
But that was then. What do we have now? I recently checked out the Peacemakers website and found they have an allowance for being a go-between among differing parties. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but I don't think they have any legal authority, per se.
I know of several young, dedicated Christian men who are studying to be lawyers of the world. I wonder what they will do with their training?
I am a strong believer in NOT complaining about something unless I have an answer. If Ligonier Ministries cannot sue Frank Vance, under biblical authority, what should they do? First, we do have Matthew 18, of which apparently Frank Vance already has used every possible application, but has Ligonier Ministries availed themselves of Matthew 18 yet? Second, we have I Corinthians 6, where Paul says that if we can't get able men to judge, then "Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?" This is not always a viable answer, but it is Paul's answer when the church won't do its job and judge itself.
This is a call for the church to wake up and take over the judicial system, at least the judicial system that involves Christians. There is a need for judges of thousands, judges of hundreds, judges of fifties, and judges of tens, on a daily basis, in every town. Denominational ecclesiastical courts aren't cutting the mustard.
Where are the able men?