This morning I read a short biography of Joseph Stalin. It was interesting to learn that Stalin, in his early years, was a regular attendee at Sunday service, was awarded for his reading of the Psalms in the service, and began formal studies towards ordination as a priest.
However, the seminary in which he was studying, was Liberal and compromised. During his time in the seminary, Stalin obtained a copy of Darwin's Origin of the Species and ultimately read himself into a condition of atheism. He never completed his studies, was never ordained, but became "one of the greatest mass murderers in history."
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:
"This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme." (I Timothy 1:18-20)
The Scriptures clearly lay out the path in relation to excommunication. It is the ultimate sanction that God has committed to the Church. However, whenever the church fails to administer the rite of excommunication, especially of heretical officers, then the fruit of such heretics is the creation of such monsters as Joseph Stalin.
Under the Law, God commanded that adulterers, murderers, sodomites, kidnappers, idolaters, and such like be capitally punished. He then exhorted that a culture which failed to removed such criminals from its midst would be judged by God, and he would remove the entire culture for its failure to remove the source of sin. In like manner, churches that fail to deal with its heretics through excommunication will be judged:
"Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce ... Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. ...."
In his book Crossed Fingers (1996), Gary North chronicles how the Orthodox ministries of the American Presbyterian Church extended Christian charity to the heretics in their midst. However, as soon as the heretics gained the ascendancy, they excommunicated the orthodox theologians and ministers.
God will not be mocked. We either do as He commands, or bare the consequences that He pronounces upon the disobedient.
To excommunicate, or not to excommunicate? That is the question.