I finally get it. I get why some people think that using the song Highway to Hell in a worship service is OK. I also finally get why some men lie and manipulate to get things done in the churches they lead.
They’re Ethical Consequentialists. Their decisions are rooted in the ends that they’re seeking. So, the ends justify the means. In their minds, using a blasphemous, God-hating song such as Highway to Hell in a Christian worship service is OK if they can convince themselves that the song had a role in bringing some people to salvation in Christ. Someone might try to cite Isaiah’s nakedness in Isaiah 20 or Paul quoting Greek poets in Acts 17 as defenses for using Highway to Hell in worship but, really, is any thoughtful person falling for such a glib and careless abuse of the Scriptures? Using songs like that is more likely tied to a junior high school tweeny sin mentality that gets its jollies by embracing the outrageous and watching other church people get mad.
But, before I go too far on the Highway to Hell theme, haven’t we seen ethical consequentialists at work in other areas of church world?
It’s in the pastor who turned his relationships because of the fear of man. Like the one who said, If that church doesn’t like what I’m doing, they might put a video church close to my church. That would really hurt my church. OK, I get it. You’re afraid of man. To protect your small church, you do nothing to bug the big and powerful church. The end (protect your small church) justifies the means (getting yourself in line because of a sinful, pathetic fear of man).
It’s in the pastor who said: Of course, I know that I’m lying to our people when I tell them that. But you can’t tell them the truth about this. Wow. What causes you so much fear that you lie to the Lord's church? In this case, the good end was keeping the congregation in line so they would continue giving generously. The bad means was lying to get there. Living like that is like living in a carnival funhouse, where mirrors are distorted and you can’t tell the real look and the true shape of things. Church life then becomes a fearful, bizarre and lasting distortion . . . and a grief to our Lord.
That’s completely different from standing on the conviction that the precepts of the Scriptures are rooted in the Lord’s character. Biblical precepts are not rooted in so-called good results. Consequences should not be the root driver of decision-making. Of course, Scriptures teach the importance of wisdom and spiritual intelligence. But, we know that the Lord doles out consequences as He sees fit. The Scriptures are filled with men and women of conviction who acted on principle rather than on pragmatics. It’s in the one who swears to his own hurt in Psalm 15:2-4. The Christ-like person does what he says he will do, even if the fruit of the decision is bitter, even if acting on his principles hurts him. It’s in Daniel 3’s three teenagers—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—when they thumbed their collective noses at a king who ordered them to worship his idol. Golly goobers, a fiery furnace is a bad end. Just a little kneeling won’t hurt. The Lord will bless my shrewdness after I do this little act of idol worship. I'm smart to avoid the furnace. Think how pleased He’ll be.
Count on it, there is real fruit in living as an ethical consequentialist in leading the Lord's church. Absolutely certain and no doubt. You compromise your Integrity, Authenticity, Trust, Leadership and Service. And that has eternal consequences. But you did not learn Christ that way. Ephesians 4:20-30.