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Send in the Clowns

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Date February 16, 2007

Send in the clowns! Trinity Episcopalian church on Wall Street, New York, had a ‘clowning’ good time at a Sunday worship service. The congregation was encouraged to come as clowns, red noses and all, while the choir and clergy all wore clown outfits with oversized shoes and painted faces. The whole service was done in mime so one could only hope to guess the message. The lady who read the Scriptures, or I should say mimed the Scriptures, turned pages and found something quite hilarious. The most amazing thing of all, as far as I could see, no one had red faces and no one walked out.

And so this is what it has come to in the West as we face the biggest threat to civilization as we know it – we send in the clowns. We, who are the church, entertain the masses while the structures of a once great civilization are dismantled from within and without. It reminds me of the circus trick. The clown runs toward the crowd with a bucket full of water, and everyone ducks, only to find it empty. We fiddle while New York (or Toronto) burns! What a contrast to that of a Muslim quoted in Time magazine who said, ‘We know who we are; our religion is holding its ground; you don’t have one any longer’ (Time, November, 27, 2006).

Suddenly I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness. In my lifetime I have seen a once great civilization reduced to impotency, confusion and shame. And where is the church in all this? Busy, sadly, sending in the clowns. Dr. Price, former Pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in New Orleans, tells a parable of God driving the bus of salvation and stopping at various street corners. Some try to get on but God refuses them because he has not ‘chosen them.’ This is a slam against Calvinists but more importantly against God and his Word that teaches predestination. Calvinists have answered these cavils a hundred times over, but a Doctor of Theology is so biased or ignorant that he repeats childish insults while claiming to be a leading light in the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Canner, Dean of Liberty Seminary and convert from a Muslim background, claims that Calvinism is more dangerous than Islam, as he confuses fatalism with God’s loving choice of his own in Christ. Is this the best we can do when we see the great structures of a society built on Calvinist principles crumble about us?

In his book ‘Twilight of a Great Civilization’ (Crossway, 1988), the author, Carl F. Henry writes,

The Church of Jesus Christ is here: in a world halting between pseudo-lords and the Lord of lords, here with a specific message to proclaim, not merely a mission of projects and methods to probe. She is entrusted with God’s truth, not with man-made theories: our mandate is his Word. The late twentieth century is bone-weary of the indefinite, the inconclusive and the indecisive: what it needs is the sure Word of God. A Church that forsakes the truth of revelation, soon yields to the detouring modernity of the youngsters, or to the crippling tradition of the elders, and will ‘teach as doctrines the commandments of men’ (Mark 7:8).

Here is no clown.

Preaching to my own congregation a few Sundays ago I said the following:

Listen closely, my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Did you know that this is the only spot in the world you will ever hear the Truth, here in the Church? Did you know that the Church is ‘the pillar and foundation of the Truth’ (1 Tim. 3:15)? You won’t get the Truth in the universities of the land, nor in our Parliaments (what a laugh that is). You will not get the Truth in our public schools or in our great social welfare and justice systems. You will not get the Truth in a mosque, or a synagogue, or in a Buddhist temple, or in churches where God’s glory has long since departed. Only here, only amongst the elect, the redeemed of God, only amongst Christ’s sheep who are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. So you had better treat God-fearing, Bible-believing churches with respect and honour and serve them, otherwise the Truth will disappear from our land, and we will be in greater darkness than we are now.

Is it not time for parents to stop pandering to their youngsters? You who come to pastors in struggling works (often because they are trying to be faithful to God’s Word) and piously say that your children need programmes and music so you will need to move down the road to the biggest show in town – isn’t it time to sit your youngster down and re-enforce in his or her mind that the Truth is too valuable to sacrifice to the entertainment crowd and the clowns masquerading as God’s spokesmen? Just as men and women across the ages have shed, and still are shedding their blood for the Truth, so we pray that you as a family will stand by the Truth, support the Truth, and pay whatever price necessary to see that its flickering light burns in the darkest days of the coming holocaust when waves of vileness and violence sweep across the nations. Now is not the time for clowns, but ‘men of God’ like the prophets of old to stand and say, ‘Thus saith the Lord’. And now is the time for all good men to stand up and be counted, standing with their pastor and facing the onslaught that is about to descend upon the decadent West.

Brian Robinson is pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church in Pickering, Ontario, and editor of the Sovereign Grace Journal, from the January 2007 edition of which this article is reproduced with permission.

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