Email Correspondence with Dr. Grudem

When I was considering leaving GVCC in January of 2004, I sent an email to a well-known and respected theologian, to get his perspective on a certain practice in the church that I had a problem with. Clifton Burton

Here was my email to him:

Dear Doctor Grudem,

My wife and I are members of a nondenominational reformed church in Davis, CA. The pastor, is a graduate of Westminster Seminary, but has a charismatic background. He moved to Davis and started the church, and for a season our church was part of the "sheperding" movement – he was under Bob Mumford. As you know, that movement fell apart for various reasons but a remnant of its practices remains in place at our church – the concept of a life-time covenant commitment to the local body of believers, or “permanence”.

When a family or church member feels called to go elsewhere, they must ask to be released from their commitment. This is only granted to those who are moving reasonably far away. It has never, to my knowledge, been granted to those who wish to attend a different church in the same area.

I have come to the opinion that a person who makes such a commitment is not bound to keep it, because it is unscriptural and exceeds the bounds of ecclesiastical authority. My analogy is Martin Luther, who broke a sacred vow of chastity on the grounds that it was not Biblical. My wife takes a much more conservative view: if you make a vow or covenant before God, you are obligated to keep it. Can you shed light on this issue? Your insight would be very helpful. There is more riding on this than I can explain now.

God bless. Your brother in Christ – Clifton Burton

Here is his response

Dear Cliff,

It was unwise to make the vow in the first place, and I don't think it is anything God ever asks us to make or ever wants any church to encourage anyone else to make. Think of how God moved people around to various places almost constantly in the OT and NT!!

I do not think the vow was pleasing to God in the first place. It is promising that you will not be free to follow his guidance in the future, for your whole life. Therefore every day that you continue in it is further disobedience to God, it seems to me.

Rash and wrongful vows should be broken at once, with an expectation of God's favor on you when you break it. Both Jephthah's rash vow (Judges 11:31) and the vow of the men not to eat until they had killed Paul (Ac 23:14) fall in this category. Saul's rash vow is similar (1 Sam 14:24.) All of these should have been broken at once. God is not pleased when we promise him something he does not want us to do!!

Hope this helps.