And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother.” – Mark 7:9-12, NIV
The dynamic of contradicting practices and expressed theology was alive and well in Jesus’ day. We see that at work in Jesus calling the religious leaders to account in the above quoted passage. He points out their expressed commitment to God as religious leaders is truly less than their commitment to their own, human rules. God takes second seat to their greed, and the vulnerable–elderly parents–are the ones who pay the price.
One of the most confusing part of dealing with spiritual abuse from Christian leaders is how their explicitly expressed theology may be mostly or totally correct while still ignored or even contradicted in practice. It is like the classical abuse case where the abuser says, “I love you” while punching the victim. Too often, I have seen such mixed signals being sent over the questions regarding adultery and divorce in Christian communities. The theology in practice is really man-made rules with vulnerable faithful spouses paying the price for such dogmatism in staying in such destructive marriages or being censured–unbiblically–for divorcing the adulterous spouse.
While I applaud Matt Chandler’s apology (see post here), I saw this dynamic at work earlier in that story regarding how leaders under Matt Chandler treated Karen Hinkley. Their expressed divorce/annulment theology did not match their theology in practice until Matt Chandler apologized to Karen Hinkley at the end of the whole fiasco. As evidence, you can read the email sent the to The Village Church on 5/23/15 with Karen’s response here. And if you find the annulment/pedophilia issues a bit confusing, I will just point out that Matt Chandler agreed pedophilia qualified for a Biblical ending of a marriage. Certainly, pedophilia is a sexual sin covered by the broad Biblical term “porneia” that Jesus uses in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 regarding an exception for divorce.
I wish this sort of mismatch on such vital theological practice issues was the exception and not the rule in the evangelical world. Unfortunately, I have had too many experiences to suggest otherwise.
After I had passed through my ecclesiastical divorce trial receiving a “not guilty” verdict regarding my character and thereby retaining my credentials, I had to work with a local denominational official in submitting to a year or more of “pastoral care.” I remember pointing out to this official how my (now) former denomination had explicitly taken a stance against unbiblical divorce prejudice many years ago even enshrining such a stance in the required reading for every pastor seeking credentials with them. Also, I pointed out how this year or more of “pastoral care” was not something the denomination insisted upon for widowers who also happened to be pastors. However, this official was unable to see how his words and actions were live examples of unbiblical divorce prejudice. The expressed theology did not match the theology in practice.
As I recommend in other places here, look at the actions.