Dr. Iain Campbell, Reformed Leader Caught in Scandal, Kills Self

In all honesty, I had never heard of Dr. Iain Campbell until his suicide was reported by TWW.

Initially, his colleagues provided a sympathetic assessment of his suicide.

FWIW: I generally am very skeptical of such assessments. Suicide is a big honkin’ deal. I can understand a younger person–acting stupidly in a dark moment–doing it, but when a grown adult does it, what you have is either (a) a profound case of trauma (e.g. PTSD) or (b) a serious mental illness or (c) an attempt to evade or atone for one’s sins.

Apparently, Campbell got caught–proverbially with his pants down–in at least seven extramarital affairs, allegedly with at least one of those affairs producing a child. Other accounts suggest that he confessed his infidelities to his wife, then killed himself, then she found the details.

At any rate, Campbell, a revered leader among hard-core Reformers, was living a double life.

On one hand, he was a highly-respected Church historian and communicator for the Reformed perspective.

On the other hand, he had more in common with Donald Trump in the morality department, than he had with the Apostles.

Like the folks at TWW, I find it galling that others would blame his wife, even remotely, for his demise. If he had a bad home life, then he had no business being in any leadership capacity in the Church, as his house was clearly not in order. (That is a Biblical requirement for any would-be overseer.)

I don’t care if his wife was Jezebel incarnate; he is responsible for his own life before God.

There is no pretty way to spin this. Campbell, from what we know to be true about his life, was almost certainly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Did he teach unsound doctrine? I don’t know. I do not classify Reform theology as unsound doctrine. But false doctrine is not the only marker of a wolf. Wolves can teach otherwise sound doctrine while sowing discord through immorality and other practices. You can preach a 5-star sermon on Sunday while carousing in private.

But here’s the thing: you will never outrun your character. It will ALWAYS catch up with you. Your comeuppance may be private, but, in the case of sexual sin (particularly adultery) it is almost always public.

The Bible says it plainly: “your sin will find you out.”

The best thing you can do is address those matters BEFORE you enter the ranks of leadership. 1 Timothy and Titus present a set of requirements that, on balance, call for spiritual mileage.

Spiritual mileage is not about having “zero defects” in your life. What it entails: a track record of being a student and practitioner of Scripture, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, giving sound counsel, living it out in your own life, falling down often, getting up more often. It means working for a living, working through crises, dealing with personal failure, dealing with being wrong and being wronged, being honest and transparent.

If you’re married, it means having the kind of marriage that reflects Christ’s love for the Church. If you have children, it means that they comport themselves in a way that testifies to your faithfulness in both grace and discipline.

And, if you don’t remember anything else, I am going to hit you with two fundamental truths:

TRUTH #1: CHARISMA IS NOT CHARACTER!!!
TRUTH #2: A CREDENTIAL IS NOT CHARACTER!!!

I don’t care if you have an MDiv from SBTS. I don’t care if you have a PhD, a DMin, or ThD. I’ve known excellent pastors who had no college education; I’ve known some very damnable ones with high marks from the most respected seminaries.

As for charisma? Puhleeeeze. That’s actually a hallmark of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. The better one’s charisma, the more you ought to be on the lookout for BS. Fact is, the most evil people in your church–the child molesters, the serial adulterers, the fraudsters–don’t “look” evil. In fact, they are often the most likeable people in your church.

Sadly, as we are learning, Dr. Iain Campbell was a phony.

The purpose of his life, in retrospect, is a warning to YOU.

Class dismissed.

TWW, TGC, Joe Carter, and Broken Wolves

Fair disclosure:

(1) I have both praised and excoriated Joe Carter from these pages.
(2) Ditto for Deb and Dee of TWW.

I don’t view either one of them as all good or all evil. I am skeptical of much of the NeoCal world–I don’t fawn over the celebrity preachers, and have serious reservations of Calvinism as a dogmatic model (while supporting Calvinism as a hermeneutical model). TWW, in turn, assaults their credibility by attempting to spin every abuse into their War on Patriarchy when in fact the real issue is a culture where leaders are, like the pigs in Animal Farm, “more equal than others”.

Recently, Joe Carter posted an insightful piece on “Broken Wolves”. I personally don’t care to read the comments section, but the post–at face value–is spot-on.

I did not have any problem understanding what he wrote, nor do I see him singling anyone out.

In fact, I have seen exactly the “Broken Wolves” he describes. Many theological liberals come from those ranks. They include feminists of all stripes, but they also include at least as many men.

Some of them have had real abuse experience, and oftentimes from within the conservative ranks. Some of them grew up in churches within the Deep South, whose members included Klansmen, and whose leaders tacitly ignored immoralities, racism, and even murder. Some of them were raped and/or molested by said “leaders”. Some were drowned in hardcore legalism at both home and church. Some of them grew up in households where parents were “highly-respected” in the church, but who were complete jackwagons–sometimes abusers–who lacked any semblance of compassion behind closed doors.

The abuses they suffered do not make them “wolves”. That is not their sin.

When they use their abuses and dysfunctional upbringings as a pretext to ditch sound doctrine and undermine God’s Word, that is what makes them wolves. That Carter calls them “broken wolves” is simply descriptive. In Scripture, there were many types of wolves: some of them were Gnostic, some of them were Judaizers, some of them were libertine.

The same is true today. Carter is merely describing a particular type of wolf, one that appeals to a large swath of the Christian world.

So to make a long story short, I do think Deb and Dee doth protest too much. I did not see Carter aiming at them, nor did I remotely have them in mind when I read his piece. The element he is describing is something completely different, at least from my vantage point.

OTOH, I do think that Deb and Dee undermine their credibility every time they toss proverbial Molotov cocktails every time Piper, Mohler, Keller, or others in the NeoCal world speak on an issue.

The Tom Chantry Case: It’s Not Simply About a Pastor

Fair Disclosure: Tom Chantry has not been found guilty in a court of law; he is entitled to Due Process, which includes (a) the right to counsel on his behalf, (b) the right to contest evidence against him, (c) the right to cross-examine witnesses who testify against him, (d) the right to introduce evidence on his behalf, (e) the right to compel witnesses to testify on his behalf, (f) the right not to testify against himself, and (g) to have that case examined and decided by a jury of his peers, with a unanimous verdict required for a conviction.

The case of Tom Chantry, a Reformed Baptist leader who has been indicted on multiple criminal charges, including child molestation and aggravated assault, is not simply about Tom Chantry.

If the evidence supports the charges against Chantry–which are damning–then Chantry is far from the only culpable party here.

That is because, if Chantry is guilty, then his abuses were enabled by a culture that, in spite of ostensible proclamation of Scripture regarding sexual matters, knowingly coddled leaders who were sexually licentious and who abused children.

And if that is true, then every one of those leaders would be better off taking a long swim with a millstone around his neck.

Covenant Life Church Has More Trouble

This time it appears to be tangential.

Currently, across the pond, John Smyth, a prominent lawyer who ran Christian summer camps in England, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, is accused of horrific abuses. At least one death occurred on his watch.

While some might argue, “Nothing has been proven,” the accusations are of sufficient credibility that the Archbishop of Canterbury has apologized.

Why does this involve Covenant Life Church? Their pastor is none other than P.J. Smyth, the son of John Smyth.

As Todd Wilhelm of Thou Art The Man put it, the issue is what did P.J. Smyth know, and when did he know it?

And I am not impressed with his answers.

My $0.02 on Barnabas Piper

Our friends at The Wartburg Watch are having quite the row over Barnabas Piper, the son of John Piper. His defenders will point out that the divorce was due to his wife having an affair, whereas his detractors (among whom are the TWW crowd) will point out the hard line that John Piper–Barnabas’ father–has taken on divorce over the years.

For the record, I’m going to state it right off the bat: Barnabas Piper is not qualified to hold the office of deacon, pastor, bishop, overseer, elder, or any other title that we would ascribe to the positions specified in 1 Timothy and Titus.

I don’t care who was at fault for his divorce.

I don’t care if his (now ex) wife was sleeping with the entire New England Patriots football team.

The pastoral epistles are very clear on this matter: one who aspires to such an office must be above reproach.

If you’ve been divorced, it may be no fault of your own but the fact remains: you’re still disqualified.

Church leadership is not an Equal Opportunity institution. This isn’t about your “rights”. The qualifications are what they are for a reason: some of them are matters of character whereas others are matters of vulnerability and–still–others are matters of credibility. The latter two are not always within your control, but they still apply.

Even if you were divorced for a perfectly-valid reason, the problem is you’ll always have room for outsiders to say, “hey, I can get divorced…look at [X]!” It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t justified in his case. If you are a church leader, it will embolden others in bad marriages to seek divorces, appealing to your authority, even if their reasons for divorce might not be valid.

You can be a man of great character and still not be qualified to be a pastor. By accepting that, you are showing the Church an example of humility. And this is not without Biblical precedent.

In the Old Testament, you will be hard-pressed to find a better man in the post-Samuel period than Jonathan.

By all indications in Scripture, he was qualified to be King. He was the son of the sitting King; he was a war hero; he was loyal; he was Godly. He’s one of the few people in the Bible about whom we know of nothing of negative value. He would almost certainly have made an excellent King.

Except for one thing: because of his father’s sins–which were no fault of Jonathan’s–God had picked David, not Jonathan, to be King.

And Jonathan was cool with that! He didn’t mount an insurrection against David; he didn’t collude with his father, who was trying to kill David. In fact, Jonathan stuck out his own neck to protect David from his father.

A lot of folks long to be like David, and it’s not simply because he was a man after God’s own heart. They like David because he got to be KING. If it was a character matter, you’d see lots of studies on Jonathan.

But God has probably called more of us to be like Jonathan. The great philosopher, “Dirty Harry” Callahan observed, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Sometimes, God imposes those limitations, and those limitations are not always issues of character. You do, however, owe it to God and the general Body to accept those limits.

HAVING SAID THAT, Barnabas Piper is not in a leadership position in the Church; he simply happens to be the son of one of the more prominent pastors in that realm.

As for who was really at fault in the divorce, it’s anyone’s guess. He claims it was due to an affair; by his account, her turning away from him was due to his chronic dishonesty.

The problem is, his running his mouth does him no favors; in fact, his best course of action is to just shut up already. By running his mouth, he’s acting more like Tullian Tchividjian and less like a man of character. If he feels that he needs to speak in order to vindicate his family name, then he needs to know that he is only doing more damage by talking.

Now given that TWW seems to want to take a shot at the elder Piper at every turn, I have this to say: this isn’t about John Piper. Barnabas is a grown adult; he was married; his decisions (for better and worse) in that marriage were his own responsibility; his wife’s actions were her responsibility. The divorce was their–not John’s–responsibility.

Every family has a set of “family jewels”; I don’t care if you’re me, Ame, Cubbie, or even John Piper. John Piper may be all that and a pound of bourbon-cured honey bacon, but everyone has dark edges. And even if you do everything right–and who on earth does?–that is not a guarantee that your children will walk in those steps.

Even worse: in a marriage, you can’t make your spouse love you. Ladies: you can wear him out in the bedroom and he can still be a cheater. Men: You can be the President of Alpha Males for Jesus and your wife can still be an adulteress like Gomer.

You will never outrun your character, and neither will your spouse. At various times in your life, you will come face-to-face with your character; that is when, as the Bible says, “your sin finds you out.” It may be a public comeuppance. It may be a private comeuppance. But what you do when that happens can–and usually does–impact the very course of your life.

I cannot answer for Barnabas’ ex-wife. She must account for herself. To my knowledge, she isn’t the one running her mouth.

As for Barnabas, he needs to do himself, his family, and the Church a great favor and shut up about that whole matter. God will sort out the guilty and innocent.

Gospel for Asia in Hot Water: Suit Not Dismissed

And to that, I say good.

If Gospel for Asia (GFA) committed fraud–an allegation that has yet to be established in court but seems to have veracity–then they should pay big-time.

While I’m not a big fan of Warren Throckmorton–he has his own left-leaning agenda–he is, to his credit, providing some good reporting that merits mention here.

As I said last February, the larger issue in this is not GFA, but rather the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). Many churches and parachurch groups have relied on the ECFA as a credibility stamp: they use the ECFA credential to show would-be donors that they are honest and transparent.

If the ECFA was in bed with GFA–i.e., complicit in covering for them–then this will result in a big shakeup in the larger Christian community.

Baptist Congregation in DC Calls Lesbian Couple as “Co-Pastors”

I cannot say that I am surprised at this. It is what you ultimately get when you disavow the truth.

Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC parted ways with the Southern Baptist Convention a few years ago. While I can think of plenty of good reasons why a church might to that, theirs were not among them.

The SBC has, to its credit, maintained strong positions on Biblical authority, as well as the hard social issues of the day: particularly abortion, sexual ethics, and–even though they don’t get a lot of credit for this due to their heritage—race relations. I have my issues with the NeoCal cabal and their sometimes warped view of church polity, not to mention their disjointed theological grid that dismisses healthy tension in Scripture, but–with respect to fundamentals–the SBC is generally on the money.

In the early 1990s, many SBC churches, some disheartened by the shenanigans–and others by the theology–of the conservatives leading the SBC, formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Most of the CBF churches were really quite liberal: they rejected the high view of Scripture, they were pro-abortion, they were pro-homosexuality. Some were conservative but simply had issues with Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, Charles Stanley, Paul Pressler, and others who used strongarm tactics to retake the leadership of the SBC.

Sadly, the “good” CBF churches were drowned out by the leftists.

We have a few CBF churches in my back yard; I’ve even tossed some hand grenades at one of them from this blog. To say they are liberal doesn’t even do the matter justice.

That also brings us to the issue of women pastors, which is one of the hot-button issues over which many churches bolted the SBC for the CBF.

I’m familiar with the argument on both ends. And when I look at the totality of Scripture, at best I see a very limited case for women holding particular church offices. In the OT, we had Deborah and Huldah, and to a lesser extent Miriam (who was stricken with leprosy when she challenged Moses’ authority). Each served in prophetic capacities, but they were clearly the exception to the general rule: men were overwhelmingly in that office.

In the NT, you have Anna (a prophetess) and Phoebe (a deacon). While women were among the disciples–Mary and Mary Magdalene, for example–they were not among the Twelve, either. There is zero precedent in the NT for women in senior leadership positions, and in fact the pastoral epistles specifically lean against that.

Some folks take that to be a universal prohibition, whereas–looking at the totality of Scripture–others (I count myself in this camp) look at this is a general rule (no women in particular leadership offices) to which there are very specific exceptions (Deborah, Huldah, Anna, Phoebe, and to a lesser extent Priscilla).

That begs the question: are there specific exceptions today? My answer: perhaps, but there is a plumb line against which I evaluate any such possibilities: what are they preaching?

In my (almost 50) years on this rock called earth, I’ve seen a grand total of ONE woman who has ever served in such a capacity who espoused sound doctrine, and even today she does not serve in the office: she is a SAHM homeschooling mom in rural Tennessee. (Her husband, however, is the pastor of the church.)

But every other instance in which I’ve seen a woman pastor, it has been a theological train wreck.

The available statistics on this tend to reflect my experience: well over half of the women in clergy self-identify as feminists. This is important, as many left-leaning women HATE the feminist tag, as it carries a very negative connotation. So if over half of them self-identify as feminists, you can bet good money that the percentage of actual feminists is even higher.

We can talk all day about the failures of men in the Church. While those tend to make headlines–and we must denounce them for what they are, even as we self-examine our own churches, as no church is immune from such wolves in sheeps’ clothing–it is also instructive to note that those are the minority. In point of fact, you are safer in church than you are in the public school system.

But so-called “progressive” congregations are tragically off the reservation. Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, is a rest area on the highway to Hell.

Every Christian Needs To Read This

Rosaria Butterfield, a former professor at Syracuse University–and who departed the LGBT community when she received Jesus Christ–weighed in on Jen Hatmaker’s endorsement of gay “marriage”.

Priceless!

Hatmaker is a false teacher. I don’t throw that term–false teacher–around lightly, as I generally have a big tent when it comes to Christian preachers and teachers.

Good theology involves walking to the edge of the cliff.

Heresy occurs when you jump off the cliff.

People like Jen Hatmaker are in the same league as Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Rob Bell, Joel Osteen, and most of the mainline Protestant community: they not only have jumped off the cliff, they have erected water slides and invited others to join them. They are children of Hell.

I’m not a fan of LifeWay–or anything else that the Southern Baptists run for their marketing enterprises–but they were totally correct in pulling Hatmaker’s materials from their shelves and website.

Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, and Spouse Abuse

I’ve read Gary Thomas’s book Sacred Marriage. I found it to be very insightful, and I highly recommend it. I also agree with Thomas’s recent assessments regarding spouse abuse, although I also believe that the ranks of abusers in this are not restricted to men.

Having said that, Deb at TWW raises an issue regarding a common theme provided by Thomas in sacred Marriage: that marriage is less about your happiness and more about your holiness.

On its face, that is true, particularly for the Christian. And in the context that Thomas makes that statement, he does so against the backdrop of the divorce culture in which people often obtain divorces because the marriage is not satisfying their expectations.

Apparently, some pastors have used that to push couples to remain in abusive marriages. And, irrespective of the context in which Thomas made his statements, that is now his fault. Because Christians are too freaking stupid to read and assess for themselves.

How about this?

(1) If you’re being abused, then go straight to the police and FILE THE CHARGES! Don’t provide nebulous answers when asked about what ways you are being abused, and then–after the divorce–concoct a sanctified story about what a maniacal jackwagon he was. FILE THE CHARGES! You’re a grownup, and you need to act like one. FILE THE CHARGES! Did I say FILE THE CHARGES?

(2) If your church believes in discipline, then take your case to your elders/pastoral team. Don’t provide anecdotal quotes, and instead record the meeting. If they want to be jackwagons about it and use control tactics, then publish the video/recording on the Internet and subject them to the largest forum for free inquiry in human history.

(3) If he (or she) is cheating, or resorting to perverted behavior (porn, fetishes, hookup websites, etc.), then take your case to the Church. And, like I said, record the meeting. None of this “I said this, he said that”…get a recording. If they brush you off, publish it on the Internet.

What chaps my hide in this discussion is that we have people–who ought to know better–doing one of two extremes:

(1) Using sound Biblical principles as a pretext for forcing wives (or even husbands) to remain in marriages that are profoundly harmful and even life-threatening.

(2) rejecting those sound Biblical principles by subjecting them to the death of a thousand exceptions.

When a wife, whose husband is downloading child porn, is placed under church discipline for seeking to end the marriage, I’d say the eldership has screwed the pooch.

When a wife (husband), whose husband (wife) is clearly abusive, and the offended spouse seeks to leave, and the elders put the offended spouse under church discipline, then the eldership has screwed the pooch.

When a wife (husband), whose husband (wife) is committing adultery, seeks to leave, and the elders put the offended spouse under church discipline, then the eldership has screwed the pooch.

At the same time, if there has been abuse–and the offending party expresses repentance–then there is nothing wrong with encouraging a couple to seek counsel and attempt to work it out. That would be an application of a sound general principle–the sanctity of the marriage covenant–while accepting that, if the abuse continues, it may not be workable. (And if the abuses are of sufficient severity, then even that might not be a viable option.)

I know wives whose husbands beat them so severely that they ended up in the hospital. One was a friend of mine from college. Her church told her to just submit more and pray for him. He damn-near killed her. Didn’t matter…it was her fault it didn’t work out.

Yes, we know women can be abusive and manipulative. I’ve got horror stories–from within the Church–on that front. And if you don’t think women can’t be abusive, you’re either naive or breathtakingly stupid. (And yes, I’ve seen the men get blamed for those cases, too.)

What we are seeing is a reaping of the whirlwind by a Church that has spent two generations ordaining one of two extremes: (a) a bunch of pussiespastors who lack the balls to stand up to their own wives, let alone the women who sit on key committees in the churches, or (b) a bunch of hyper-patriarchal pricks who might as well be Islamists without turbans.

Having said that, we must remember, in this discussion of marriage and divorce, that the general is not the particular, nor does the particular nullify the general.

Fact is, if you’ve been awake for the last 50 years, then you know what the divorce culture is. The Church MUST confront it head-on. When spouses cheat, then they need to be called on it. When one engages in abusive behavior, we must also confront that head-on.

The issues here are nothing new under the sun, and in fact Paul himself had to address them in his letters to the Church.