DISgrace Institute: A Religious Disconnect

By Wayne Jackson

When it comes to religion, some folks have a real “disconnect.” By that I mean they are strong in arguing for a particular doctrinal platform, but they see no relationship between their theological peculiarities and their conduct of life.

The ancient Pharisees were of this sort. They adhered to the “strict manner of the law” (Acts 22:3). In fact, they were the “straitest” faction of the various Jewish sects (Acts 26:5). The Pharisees were meticulous in observing certain ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic system. For example, they would rigorously set aside ten percent of the smallest plants in their gardens, e.g., mint, anise, and cummin.

They would strain out from their drinking water the tiniest gnat, lest they swallow some “unclean” meat, and thus become contaminated. Jesus plainly said they “left undone the weightier matters of the law,” such as justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23). The Lord admonished that they ought to have been concerned about all aspects of obedience.

The Pharisees were horrified at the thought of being tainted with Gentile associations. They frequently washed their hands (Matthew 15:1ff), and even their vessels to ensure that they were ceremonially clean (Mark 7:4). At the same time, they themselves were filled with all sorts of extortion and excess (Matthew 23:25). They would occupy “chief” places in the synagogues and at the feasts, all the while “devouring” widows’ houses (Mark 12:40).

They professed an allegiance to the law which commanded: “Honor your mother and your father.” Yet they artificially segregated certain financial resources, designating them as “Corban,” i.e., devoted to God, so as to avoid parental responsibilities (Mark 7:10-13). They were heartless hypocrites. Christ designates them so no less than seven times in Matthew 23 alone.

To sum it up, Jesus said:

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat: all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not (Matthew 23:1ff).

But the Pharisees aren’t all dead! At least not in principle. There are numerous religious people who believe it matters little how they live six days of the week, as long as they zip through a religious “car wash” on Sunday. Everyone is familiar, for instance, with the concept of Mardi Gras—a revelling blast of lust and debauchery—just before the commencement of Lent.

A notoriously gross example of this spiritual “disconnect” was featured in the news recently. In Cedar Grove, Florida there now exists the Grace Institute Bible College & Seminary. This so-called “Bible institute” advertises itself as “conservative, fundamental, and evangelical.” However, here is the story on this sordid “Seminary.” Its founder, Jerry Stephenson, a graduate of North Florida Baptist Theological Seminary, contends that homosexuality is not at variance with biblical teaching. The philosophy of the school is: “We can be gay and lesbian and still be Christians.”

Now that is a “disconnect.” Anyone remotely familiar with Romans 1 has to know that homosexuality is a sin so egregious as to be worthy of the full brunt of divine wrath. This depravity is a “vile,” “unnatural,” “lustful,” “unseemly” exhibition of “error” (vv. 26-27). Those are the Spirit’s descriptives, via the apostle Paul. In one blistering sentence, the sacred penman employs five scorching terms to condemn this sin. How can anyone—with an ounce of spiritual integrity—argue that homosexual conduct is consistent with the will of God?

It takes someone “disconnected” from spiritual reality to argue such a position. What a tragedy it is that some of those who profess an association with Jesus Christ should sink so low. But this is the sort of sorry environment in which we find ourselves today.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.