While others are spending October celebrating the Five Solas, I want to celebrate umbrellas. Actually, I want to celebrate getting out from under umbrellas.
And for good measure, so the non-initiate can understand my Umbrella Parable, here’s the expanded version of The Umbrella Diagram, for Reformed churches. That is, this diagram came from some inheritors of the Reformation that we’re celebrating this month.
Hopefully for those who aren’t familiar with The Diagram, the message of The Diagram will be self-explanatory: Don’t get out from under the Umbrella of Protection covering of your Authority, lest you get rained on by Satan, whose raincloud (or maybe it’s another umbrella??) is bigger than Jesus.
And this leads us to . . .
Once upon a time, long ago and far away, lived a fearful and guilt-ridden monk who began reading the Bible and receiving the lightning bolt of revelation of the life of faith. The people over him and the people under him and the people equal to him told him he needed to stay under the covering of the Umbrella of Protection that was to be found in his Authority. They said if he stepped out from under this Umbrella, he would be doomed.
But the monk’s problem was that he was already doomed, even while he was faithfully under that Umbrella.
Because this formerly fearful and formerly guilt-ridden monk was drinking in the water of the Word of God, he began to see the holes in the Umbrella of Authority and the holes in the entire paradigm of the Umbrella of Authority. He stepped out from under the Umbrella of Authority and out from the entire Paradigm of the Umbrella of Authority and began to experience the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and the fiery darts of the enemy, which he fought with the shield of faith.
This is the beginning of what we call the Reformation.
Once upon a time, not quite so long ago and not quite so far away, a friend showed me her entire correspondence with the pastor of the Reformed church that she eventually left when she escaped her abuser.
All through the first couple of years of that email correspondence, I saw my friend telling her Reformed pastor she wanted to stay under the Umbrella of his Authority and the church’s Authority.
I was puzzled as to where she had gotten the term. You see, even though the concept has been around a long, long time, far longer than that fearful and guilt-ridden monk, the term was a fairly new one and originated with a man who taught many thousands of eager listeners in my generation, of whom I was one, but I knew my friend was not. I asked her where she learned the term.
My friend told me her Reformed pastor taught this age-old Umbrella-ism from his Reformed pulpit, a lot. He assured his Reformed church members they were “under the Umbrella of Protection of the church.” He warned those Reformed church members that if they were to walk away from that Reformed church, they would no longer be under God’s protection. “So,” she explained to me, “our salvation was because of the church. And the children’s salvation was because of their families who were under the church.”
My friend observed that she couldn’t remember hearing any preaching about Jesus dying on the cross for us in that Reformed church. Instead, like that fearful and guilt-ridden monk and his peers of old, all eyes were on the church, which meant the pastor.
“The pastor represented God, and we were to huddle under and obey.”
My friend got out from under the Protective Covering Umbrella of her Reformed church’s Authority and began to experience the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but experienced the fiery darts of the enemy no less than when she had been under the Protective Umbrella Covering, and to her relief as she stayed out from under the Umbrella of Authority and drank directly and deeply from the Word of God, she began to experience the rain of God’s grace in a way she hadn’t in a long time.
This was the beginning of what we might call a new life.
And in the end, what do we make of it all? We find out the Umbrella Heresy is an age-old smoke-and-mirrors show:
The “Umbrella of Authority” is really a Specter of Control.
The “Umbrella of Protection” is really a Specter of Fear.
Some have shown the Umbrella hierarchy as just within the family, with fathers being the ultimate umbrella (though how it’s supposed to work when he’s sexually abusing those who are under his protection isn’t clear, except that somehow it’s their fault if he has holes in his umbrella or his umbrella is completely broken).
But we mustn’t forget about those church Umbrellas. Even those that would call themselves the inheritors of the Reformation. For example . . .
A biblical counselor tells us that the church as well as the father is an “umbrella of protection.”
The book You Can Be the Wife of a Happy Husband: Discovering the Keys to Marital Success (Darian Cooper, Destiny Image, 2010) describes Christ as being under the umbrella of God the Father (!) and then forming an umbrella for the men of the church, who are then the umbrella for their wives and children.
And it’s here in this teaching from Mary Kassian, in an interview with Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth of the popular “Revive Our Hearts” radio program:
. . . [T]he elders of the congregation protect all the women and the men who are under their covering of authority.
Ultimately this is the recipe for control and fear.
But there was once a fearful, guilt-ridden monk who became guilt free and bold as a lion when he stepped out from the Paradigm of the Umbrella Heresy. He is one of the many voices through the generations who has called to us,
“Look not to a ‘church’ for your authority and your spiritual protection. Through the Scriptures alone, and by faith alone, look to Jesus Christ alone.”
Happy 500th birthday, Reformation. Together we’ll celebrate not just the reign, but the rain of God’s amazing grace.