Almost Everything That COULD HAVE Gone Wrong in a Home, Did

I will now attempt to weigh in on this sad, sordid account by Jeri Massi.

For a time, I’ve been following various watchbloggers. I often check in on the Deebs over at TWW, and also with Todd Wilhelm at Thou Art The Man, as well as Brent Detwiler and Warren Throckmorton. I also follow Amy Smith/Watchkeep on Facebook. I don’t agree with them on everything–Throckmorton leans well to the left of me politically, and the Deebs have a tendency to turn almost everything into a War on Complimentarianism–but they do a good job exposing atrocities and absurdities that various conservative elements have either ignored, swept under the rug, or are directly complicit in their commission.

Same is true for Jeri Massi, a Bob Jones University grad who also worked for a time at their publishing house. Over the years, she has done a remarkable job of documenting cases of sexual abuse and their coverups, particularly within the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) ranks. Along the way, she has also done a remarkable job exposing the absurdities in the IFB world.

While I have my differences with her on a few things, I have found her blog to be otherwise very insightful.


Why do I follow these cases?

I’ve always considered myself on the side of, “Let the word of God be true, and every man a liar.” When the Scriptures say that something is good, then it is good. If the Scriptures say that something is evil, well…then it is evil.

If I commit an offense–even a small one, like, say, flipping off the driver who almost ran me over while I was on the bike–and the Scriptures say it is evil, then there’s no ‘splainin’ to do: I have a duty to confess my sin and ask for forgiveness.

That also means that, if there is an abuse or atrocity or some egregious sin among the Church–and I am assuming that either (a) the offended parties have reported it to me and/or (b) I directly witness either their commission or confession or another party admitting to the fact of their commission–then I have the duty to do the right thing.

That means (a) reporting the matter to authorities and cooperating with any investigation (if the allegations are criminal in nature) and (b) ensuring that people are otherwise protected from such abuses.

It is my view that conservatives, of all people, OUGHT to WANT to purge abusers–that includes abusive spouses, child abusers of all types, and abusive clergy–from their midst.

During my time at SBTS, I personally witnessed those who wanted to undermine the Scriptures, promoting a theological model closer to Molech and Asherah than to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Al Mohler–for all his shortcomings–ran that element off, as well he should have.

Sadly, by accomodating abusive pastors–including those who cover for child sexual abusers–Mohler now threatens to undermine those accomplishments. (I would also suggest that by transforming SBTS into a NeoCal echo chamber, he is also undermining Biblical conservatism, but that is a different discussion that is beyond the scope of this post.)

And that is what bothers me: while conservatives OUGHT TO WANT to keep abusers out of their ranks, their leaders have often done the opposite: they have coddled them, accomodated them, even excoriating the victims and others who exposed the abusers.

Now, to address the sad account of Peter.


Massi’s account of Peter is a necessary warning to every would-be conservative Christian homeschooling family, as well as an indictment of many within that sector.

FWIW: I am all for homeschooling. MrsLarijani and I want to do it for the following reasons: (a) in general, given technological advancements, it’s a better learning model than the traditional classroom, and (b) we wish to introduce her to the world as we see fit. We do not wish to shelter our kids–as we will encourage their participation in group and team activities and even athletics–but we DO want her to learn about the world on OUR timetable, not a schedule decided by a school board that promotes an agenda fed to them by teacher unions.

At the same time, homeschooling appeals to various subcultures that are fundamentally unhealthy:

  • Quiverfull adherents: these types generally eschew all forms of contraception, as they assert that having a large family is a commandment and that any contraception is an affront to God’s design. They are often very hard Calvinists.
  • Fundamentalists: these types are often in the hardcore Southern Baptist or IFB ranks, but they can also include Missouri Synod Lutherans, Church of Christ, Christian Church, and various evangelical stripes. Their ranks include Calvinists and non-Calvinists.
  • Ultra-Calvinists: these tend to come from the really hardcore PCA/OPC ranks. They are among the Elect, and that Election has passed to their children.

While there are many honorable families in each of these sectors, the dysfunctional ones–and that includes the family about which Massi speaks–in each of these three sectors have the following in common:

  • They are often driven by the mindset that they are better than everyone else, and their goal is to show the world–by their chlidren’s accomplishments–that they are better than everyone else. Pride is often A key–if not THE key–driver in their choice to homeschool.
  • They often have embraced–actively or passively–the worst realm of Headship Theology, the end result being a profoundly dysfunctional patriarchy that spawns abuses.
  • They often reject the most basic understanding of original sin, as they think their righteousness–imputed to them via Jesus–is conferred to their children as a result of their own faith. They think that while all have sinned and come short of the glory, their kids don’t have the need to learn self-regulation.
  • Worst of all, they often reject the God of Scripture, exchanging the Biblical Jesus for the pursuit of a contemporary model of life on this earth: just go to church, confess the right things, teach children these things, make them memorize enough Awana sections, and they will be healthy, wealthy, and successful, and mom and dad will have all the wealth and all the things and they will have it all on this earth.

What I am saying: their sin is, at the root level, idolatry. They love neither God nor their neighbor; they love the life they hope to have by following what their popular homeschool advocate told them they need to follow.

Follow that far enough down the trail, and that festers in a myriad of ways.

In Massi’s account, Peter’s father was a serial adulterer who never had to face the gravity of his sins until after he dropped dead of a heart attack. While he was defrocked as a result of his adulteries, he was able to move on and continue leaving a trail of damage, even working as a “nouthetic” (i.e. Biblical) counselor.

In Scripture, Paul was very hard on the men. He chided husbands for being harsh with their wives, suggesting that their prayers aren’t being answered because of their treatment of their wives; he admonished them, many times, against sexual immorality (even homosexuality and at least one case of incest), excoriating them for even tolerating it among their ranks. He also pounded them over issues of gossip, slander, greed, deceit, even racism, and other profoundly sinful behavior.

Paul was also tough on the women. He chided women who were disruptive to orderly worship; he commanded wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord; he said, “woman was made for man, not man for woman”. He even precluded women from particular church offices.

Even as Paul was pro-Patriarchy, he pulled no punches on the men. Men didn’t have special spiritual standing on account of their plumbing. They were responsible for their sins. And women have no less access to the Father than the men, nor do they need a husband to “redeem” them, as the work of the Redeemer is sufficient.

Still, Paul commanded believers to love God and extend that grace to one another. And that included raising children with the appropriate level of discipline–which would “drive the rebellion out”–while not being overbearing.

That job is not an easy one, as some of the best people in the Bible (including Jacob, David, and other kings who succeeded him) failed at it.

But here is the thing: in every failure I’ve witnessed or read about–including Massi’s account of Peter–there is a common thread: a profound lack of humility.

While everyone, on a continuous basis, will struggle with issues of pride, the worst-case homeschool disasters often begin with a runaway pride.

That is the type of pride that leads parents to overrule teachers or coaches or even other church leaders in matters of discipline and achievement. In team sports, fathers often chide coaches as to why their kid isn’t getting the right amount of playing time; they’ll question the teacher who gives their kid a lower grade; they’ll question the Awana leader as to why they had to sit their kid out of game time. The problem can’t possibly be with their kid; after all, he (or) she is part of a special-Elect.

Massi speaks of Peter’s mother, who was often frustrated with the lack of respect Peter showed for her, even as she overruled Massi’s evaluation of Peter’s learning. Peter rarely–if not never–was held to account for his sins. Peter followed in the arrogance (and deviance) of his father, and–sadly–that ended in disaster.

Do the Scriptures promote such a parenting model? Of course not.

Throughout Proverbs, you have the father imploring his son to listen and learn and seek wisdom with humility; you have the father admonishing his son–repeatedly–about the seductive nature of sexual sin and its end results; you have the father imploring his son to work hard and eschew laziness; you have the father contrasting the work of a wise woman with that of a foolish one; you have the father contrasting the behaviors of wise and foolish men; you have the father warning the son about being short-tempered; you have the father warning the son about deceptive and malicious people; you even have the father warning his son about the pitfalls of desiring wealth.

What you get in Proverbs–or, heck, the entirety of the wisdom literature–is a man (Solomon) who, in spite of all the wealth and privilege conferred on him by God, at the end of the day, calling on everyone to love God, to fear God, to obey God, and to make less of the things of this world.

As Cain seethed in anger over God’s rejection of  his offering and his acceptance of Abel’s offering, God issued a dire warning to Cain: “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain did not embrace self-regulation that would lead to the mastery of his sin. And we know the rest of that story.

In Massi’s account, Peter–sadly–was denied the opportunity to feel the weight of his failures as a child. As a guy, he was never held accountable for his sins. He never learned self-regulation as his father never practiced it. His father was able to move in church circles with minimal hassle in spite of serial adultery. All the while, he was effectively told he was better than everyone else beccause he was a boy and had confessed all the right things and, most importantly of all, was homeschooled.


What are some key takeaways from all of this?

(1) We must not confuse the love of God with the love of dogmatic models about God.

I don’t care if you identify as Calvinist, Arminian, Catholic, Orthodox, or any other flavor of Christianity. I’m not here to debate the merits and pitfalls of the respective models. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

The problem arises, however, when you fall in love with your theology.

Many–not all–homeschooling families have the tendency to fixate on their theology, and, as a result, construct a mindset of family life that is more conformed to that dogmatic model while not necessarily reflective of Scripture.

Even worse, if you are in love with your dogmatic model, you are going to be in for a rude awakening when bad times hit. What happens when you lose your job? What happens when your child ends up in the hospital? What happens if you fall into hard financial times? What happens if you or your spouse suffer a health crisis?

If you are trusting in your dogmatic model to protect you from these things, you will find yourself disappointed.

(2) With patriarchal authority comes great responsibility.

Make no mistake: Christianity is Biblically and historically Patriarchal. That is inescapable. Egalitarianism is a modern development.

At the same time, while the Scriptures do reflect a Patriarchal design, it is also true that the Biblical writers went to great lengths to admonish the men–particularly the husbands–about the responsibilities that come with their authority in the home.

There were abusive husbands then, just as there are today; Paul was emphatic in his warnings to men about that. Some parents were overbearing on their kids; had that not been the case, then Paul would not have had to admonish parents not to exasperate their children.

Nor did any of the Biblical writers coddle children; far from it. Solomon was emphatic about the need to discipline children. He who spares the rod hates his son. Parents who undermine teachers (as Peter’s mom undermined Massi) are denying their children the opportunity to learn valuable lessons.

In the real world, you aren’t always going to get the grade you might deserve. You can do everything right in your company, and someone else will win the contract. You might not get the promotion or the pay raise you otherwise rightfully earned.

Women need to learn about these things, but the men do especially. This is because, as they have God-given authority in the home as husbands, they are responsible for loving their wives as Christ loved the Church.

With the Disciples, Jesus was always admonishing them, teaching them, praying for them, correcting them, training them, and even receiving them warts and all. And He often did these things with humor to boot. (“Sons of thunder” anyone?)

(3) Headship Theology is Poison.

When I say that, I often get the question, “So you don’t think that the husband is head of the wife? It’s in the Bible, you heretic!”

My response: you don’t know the first thing about Headship Theology.

Headship Theology kind of goes like this…

(1) It starts with the premise that the husband is head of the wife. (So far so good)

(2) If the husband loves his wife the right way–as Jesus loved the Church–then she will submit to him the right way. (Nope, not Biblical.)

(3) If the wife doesn’t submit to him the right way, it is because he is not leading the right way. (Nope, not Biblical.)

(4) As a result, if there’s any sin in the house, it is the fault of the husband, because he is not leading the right way.  (Nope, not Biblical.)

While starting with a correct premise, the Headship Theology crowd takes that to lengths that are nowhere to be found in Scripture.

Sadly, the HT teachings foster a dynamic of abuse. This is because if he is responsible for his wife’s–and his children’s–sins, then this incentivizes him to exercise the authority to make them submit and obey as they ought.

Let’s look at the Scriptures here from the high-level:

(a) Jesus loves His Church perfectly and provides perfect headship. But even then, the Church has never been completely faithful. The history of Christendom is rife with atrocity and failure.

(b) There are cases in Scripture where husbands have loved the right way (wives have submitted the right way), and yet the wives (husbands) did not submit (love) the right way.

(c) There are cases in Scripture where sons failed even otherwise good parents.

Hosea loved Gomer well, but she still prostituted herself; Abigail was, by all accounts, a Proverbs 31 wife, but her first husband (who dropped dead) was a dirtbag; and there is no indication that Josiah, an excellent king, was a bad father, although his sin–Manasseh–would sacrifice his own son to Molech.

Headship Theology–a very common teaching in conservative circles–is profoundly un-Biblical and downright heretical. It’s long past time to dismiss it to the dung heap where it belongs.

Ultimately, if you are a Christian and seek to raise your children to love and fear God, you must first start with yourself.

That requires the humility to face your own sin and deal with your spouse with humility and respect.

Leadership and humility are not incompatible; in fact, the latter is essential to the former.

The Best Piece on Hugh Hefner I’ve Read

I’m not a fan of Ross Douthat, but this time he hit one out of the park.

Hugh Hefner was the most pitiable and pathetic excuse of a human being.

I do not envy him now, and–in all honesty–never envied his life in the slightest. Yes, he had a plethora of ladies and enjoyed an amount of sex that most men and women–in their most hedonistic moments–can’t even fathom. At the same time, reading the accounts of his life, what we get is a personal hell of emptiness that his over-the-top hedonism never satisfied. Let that be a lesson for your life.

He was not a mass murderer like a Hitler or a Stalin or a Mao or a Pol Pot, but his work has fomented trends that push societies toward demographic collapse. The world looks at promiscuity as a simple pleasure at best, and a “victimless crime” at worst. But private sin, especially on a mass scale, can have far-reaching consequences. And make no mistake: Hefner was not a force for that which is good.

The Sexual Revolution that he championed has laid waste to many lives, and has led to the decline of the nuclear family. For all the glamorous promotion of the “free love” culture, the other side was rife with disease, depression, and nihilistic oblivion far worse than the paradigms that, whatever their faults, made for a stable society.

As a result of the work of Hefner and his ilk, marriage has been in serious decline worldwide, and this is not boding well for the coming generations.

Even then, I do not celebrate Hefner’s passing. Quite frankly, it is tragic that he squandered every chance that he had for 91 years to repent. Unless he had a change of heart on his deathbed–and I doubt he did–then the Biblical assessment of his future does not look encouraging.

As for us, the reality of his death should call us all to attention, as that will be us one day. And while many in the world will celebrate his life, the only thing that will matter–in the final analysis–is God’s assessment of his life.

That, also, is true of the rest of us.

Class dismissed.

Aspiring Pastor Murders Wife

By now, most of you have probably read about this case: Matthew Phelps, a graduate of Clear Creek Bible College and aspiring pastor, admitted to stabbing his wife to death, claiming that he had taken too much cold medicine. I have some friends who initially gave credence to his attempt at the Twinkie Defense, but–looking at his mug shot–I immediately dismissed that, as it is very clear that he was in a fight with someone who, go ahead and call me sexist for saying this, “fought like a girl”.

He did not accidentally kill his wife; this was a fight that ended in a stabbing.

I had friends who suggested that they looked like the “perfect” couple. I suggested that the facts will reveal a marriage that was very far from perfect, and–beneath the appearances–was a very

Well, the veneer of the perfect couple is beginning to unravel, as I long suspected it would: Matthew Phelps was previously married. (HT to Amy Smith of Watchkeep via FB.)

And while I realize that having a prior marriage does not a murderer make, it does show that Phelps’ character was at variance with the image he projected.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times:

(1) Charisma is not character.

(2) You CANNOT outrun your character. Your character will ALWAYS catch up with you.

Hold on to your seats, ladies and gentlemen.

Class is dismissed for recess.

What We Have Here, Is a Shortage of Rope

More people need a short-drop hanging than I have rope.

This will make your skin crawl. Read the details. It is long and sad to read.


As I have often said, I am not surprised that pedophiles target churches. I am also not surprised that pedophiles target Christian schools. Pedophiles want kids, and that is where the kids are.

It seems that Covenant Life Church, C.J. Mahaney’s flagship church, had multiple leaders who were given to pedophilia and/or other very dark sexual fetishes unbecoming of a minister of the Gospel.

That Mahaney and others in his inner circle actively sought to cover up the abuses is not news. However, I challenge you to read the details.

Yes, they are sad and sordid and dark. Yes, some very high movers and shakers of Neo-Calvinism are implicated.

I hope this pisses you off. And I hope you stay pissed off.

If you expect God to bless a Church that hides this crap, then you don’t get it.

That is why the fictional John Kelly is my alter-ego.

Class dismissed.

CBMW, TWW, and the “Nashville Statement”: Discuss Among Yourselves

Here is the original Danvers Statement, by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, on masculinity and femininity.

Here is the Nashville Statement, by the same council, which was released August 25.

Here is Deb’s assessment of it at TWW.

Here are my initial thoughts on which I will expound later:

(1) The original Danvers Statement is otherwise Biblically-sound. I see no problem with it. I’m not saying that every signatory of that statement has necessarily fleshed out the details properly–I think some of the Patriarchs/complimentarians, in their attempts to flesh out what that relationship means, have been more rigid than necessary, as the complimentarian framework, even as one looks at Scripture, carries great flexibility–but the statement itself is good.

(2) The Nashville Statement, at first glance, appears to be, for the most part, Biblically-sound. I will delve into more details and make a more in-depth assessment of it.

I would add this, however: having studied the issue of intersex–not to be confused with “transgenderism”, which is a sexual fetish–I cannot say that I oppose such a one, who may have genetic properties of one sex while having anatomical ambiguity, getting surgery. I see nothing in Scripture precluding that, as surgery, in such a case, would be tantamount to correcting a birth defect. It would seem that such surgery ought to be looked at as a good thing in those cases, which are not the same as “transgenderism”.

As a result, I would pick better wording for Article VI to provide clarification.

(3) Deb is conflating two issues: (a) the Nashville Statement–which, at face value–is good, and (b) the questionable doctrine of Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS), which many complimentarians have used to frame their case for complimentarianism/Patriarchy.

My view on ESS: that doctrine needs to be tabled, as any attempt to frame this issue in terms of the Trinity–something that NONE of the Biblical writers do–is risky and requires decades (perhaps even a century) of assessment and deliberation. I would stop short of calling it heresy, but I am leery of framing in issue in a way that the Biblical writers did not pursue. I wrote about that last year.

The Biblical case for Patriarchy is rooted in (a) Creation, (b) the relationship of Christ and the Church, and–in the context of Church offices–(c) the Fall.

When Jesus addressed the issue of divorce, He framed it in terms of Creation.

When Paul explicated the relationship between husband and wife, he did it in terms of Creation and the relationship between Christ and the Church.

When Paul precluded women from particular offices of Church leadership, He framed it in terms of Creation and the Fall.

None of the Biblical cases for Patriarchy are connected to ESS, so I’m not about to go there.

At the same time, The Nashville Statement is not about ESS, and I think Deb is going off on an unnecessary tangent here. They would do better to discuss the particulars of the Nashville Statement.

By focusing on ESS, they are creating a red herring.

TWW and Abuse in the Church: It’s Not About “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”

Lise, writing in TWW in a firsthand account of an abuse situation handled very badly at Providence Baptist Church, makes a very salient point:

People called Doug Goodrich a wolf in sheep’s clothing, I call the Pastors who knew and did nothing the shitty shepherds who let the wolf in.

Everyone should read Lise’s story. Sadly, her account underscores some key points I have made from here on many occasions:

(1) Pedophiles and molesters will flock to churches for the same reason (that’s where the kids are) that armed robbers hit banks (that’s where the money is).

If your church has a substantial children’s and/or youth ministry, you should expect that someone who is sexually-attracted to kids or teens will be trying to get a foot in the door. Don’t ever think that because (a) your children’s minister is a respected seminary graduate, or (b) you run background checks on everyone, or (c) that your people are of sterling character, that “that would never happen here.”

(2) Pedophiles generally don’t look evil or creepy. In fact, they are often the most trusted people you’ll meet. They will be “cool”, they will have charisma, they will be good with people, they will often be married and have kids.

When someone accuses them of wrongdoing, you won’t want to believe it!

(3) But what YOU do when an accusation is made is the difference.

Are you going to dismiss the accusations and even malign the accusers?

Are you going to “do your own investigation”, and intimidate the accusers into recanting?

Are you going to ignore the accusation altogether?

Or are you going to report the matter to law enforcement and allow them to investigate?

At Providence Baptist Church, leaders allowed Goodrich to skate: they dismissed and maligned accusers, they ignored obvious red flags, they even tried to cover up the truth when it became crystal clear that Goodrich was very guilty of heinous abuses.

Even worse, the pastor showed no sense of gravity of the situation. While I get that he was on sabbatical, there comes a point when one must show up for battle–ready to “bring it”–when a wolf shows up.

It’s time to say to Hell with the vacation. If you don’t understand that, then you aren’t worthy to be the shepherd.

In the case of Providence Baptist Church, it wasn’t about David Goodrich, who was a wolf in sheep’s clothing; it was about, as Lise puts it, the “shitty shepherds” who gave him an executive pass.

What The Gospel IS and IS NOT — Part 1

When I was a kid, my earliest theological instruction amounted to the following:

  • God made everything.
  • Jesus is God’s Son.
  • Jesus died and came back from the dead.
  • Good people go to heaven.
  • Bad people go to Hell.

As I grew, others explained to me that Jesus died for our sins. I hadn’t quite connected the dots about sin, though.

Then, when we moved to a town in the southeast, my stepmom began taking us to a Church of God (the denomination based out of Cleveland, TN).

I couldn’t stand the service: the pastor yelled and screamed a lot, but my stepmom liked him. I thought he was a blowhard.

So, as a compromise, my stepmom sent us to children’s church. The other kids in there were jerks who made fun of me, as I didn’t know the Bible at all.

But I had received a children’s Bible for Christmas that year. So I started reading that.

I also started reading a real Bible; there were plenty around, given that my dad worked in a hotel and The Gideons always left them in the rooms. (I’m not in the KJV-only camp, but I really enjoyed, and still enjoy, reading the Bible in KJV.)

Things started clicking.

Yes, good people go to heaven. But none of us are any good! I began to realize that, if it were up to us to be good enough, we would all fail.

Yes, bad people go to Hell. But we’re all bad!

So if none of us are any good, and all of us are bad, and God is good and heaven is only for good people, we are otherwise screwed. Hell is what we all deserve.

Enter Jesus, who took the punishment we deserve, and came back from the dead, and acts as our High Priest in heaven.

So easy a third-grader can understand, but so complicated that many adults won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

I can’t recall the exact nanosecond, let alone the date that I received Christ, but it was definitely in the Spring of 1976. I was 9.

Before long, I was the one in children’s church who knew the Scriptures better than everyone else. And it wasn’t an intellectual pursuit, either; I believed it.

I would get baptized that Summer, along with others in that church. I never embraced Pentecostalism–the only tongues I have ever spoken are English and Redneck–but I can’t say that my experiences at that church were all bad, either.


Nine years later, as a college freshman, I began to hang out with the Christian Fellowship Club. They were dominated by Pentecostals, good folks but definitely overzealous. They were members of the local Assemblies of God (AoG) church, and I typically hitched a ride on Sunday evenings. (I worked Sunday mornings in my first semester.)

That AoG church was a mixed bag.

On the positive side: the pastor at the time–JA–was a good man who preached the Gospel faithfully. One of the engineering professors–JJ–was also a member there, and occasionally preached. He was a good man.

On the negative side: many folks within the church were steeped in Prosperity Theology and her bastard cousin Word of Faith Theology.

There were folks within that church who taught that, if you are living “in the Spirit”, you will never get sick and will have more material wealth than you know what to do with.

While I had no doubt that God could–and did often–heal people, and while the Bible was very clear that God will provide for your needs, these “Prosperity” teachings did not seem to ring true with Scripture.

And Word of Faith theology? That was even more insidious.

I remember, during my time at a Fundamentalist school in 7th grade, spending significant time in the library. In that time, I stumbled across a pamphlet about three popular cults: Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Scientists.

Word of Faith theology struck me as straight out of the Mary Baker Eddy School of Christian Science, all with an evangelical/charismatic spin.

I remember a tract that was on display in one of the charismatic churches: How To Write Your Own Ticket With God. By Kenneth Hagin, one of the granddaddys of modern Word of Faith theology.

It struck me as downright arrogant. I wasn’t an expert in Scripture, but I couldn’t recall one instance where someone went to God and said, “Here is what I want…give it to me.” (The closest thing to that, the prayer of Jabez, still does not cross that threshold.)

In Scripture, it is God who tells His people what to do, not the other way around. Clay, meet Potter.

At my school, we had a flight instructor who was a Christian. He had become paralyzed, from the waist down, in a car accident. He was a faithful member of that AoG church.

He had prayed many times for healing, and many fine men of God had laid hands on him and prayed for healing. And yet he remained paralyzed.

“Is this man living in sin?” I doubted that was the case.

“Is God’s word not true?” That was a logical possibility.

“Does God’s word really mean what these Prosperity peddlers tell us?” That was also a logical possibility.

But as I looked at Scripture, it became clear: while God does heal people and deliver from suffering, there are times where God allows suffering. I was well aware of the historical persecution of Christians by hostile governments from the Romans of old to the modern Communists and Islamic governments.

If Prosperity Theology or Word of Faith theology was valid, then why have Christians suffered so much in the past? Why do Christians in the Communist bloc suffer so much? Do they not pray for deliverance?

I figured if Robert Tilton or Brad Champion (a Word of Faith hothead who was big for a season in the Daytona Beach area) were so right, then surely all they had to do is go to the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and Iran and preach their bold word, and all those people would be free! Surely all Champion had to do was go to the Halifax Medical Center and lay hands on the sick…he could put the hospital out of business!

But of course they wouldn’t do that…because they were full of crap!

If we are concerned about finances and physical health, I’d say American Christians have it pretty easy. Today, we speak in terms of “First World Problems”.

During those years, the Christian world would be rocked by scandals among the Prosperity peddlers: Jim Bakker would go down in flames and even end up in prison; Jimmy Swaggart would be caught in a sex scandal of his own; Peter Popoff would be caught using a transmitter, exposing his faux “spiritual gifts”. Pat Robertson, during his Presidential run, would have his own premarital scandal–more importantly his lying about it–exposed.

But others would arise to fill that vacuum. Robert Tilton, Paul Crouch, Benny Hinn, Keneth Copeland, and Marilyn Hickey would rise to prominence. Tilton would get his cover blown by network television, and Benny Hinn would get caught–time and time again–making theological pronouncements that were not just heretical but downright bizarre.

P.T. Barnum once said it: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” And there will always be a critical mass of people looking to have their ears tickled.

Those contentious years–the 1980s–gave me a boot camp of sorts on what the Gospel is and is not.

Jim Bakker, as he languished in prison, began to study everything the Bible taught about money and prosperity. He would arrive at the conclusion that would be the title of his best work: I Was Wrong.

Jesus, when preaching about material things, rarely had good things to say to those who had lots of money.

When He challenged the rich, young ruler, the man chose his riches over Jesus. A man asked Jesus to intervene in an estate dispute–to force his brother to divide the estate with him–and Jesus would have none of it. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus punctuates a comparison against the parable of the shrewd steward: the former, knowing his reckoning was imminent, taking action to prepare whereas the rich man arrogantly disregarded the most basic form of compassion for Lazarus, who begged at his gate for food.

He also had a terse word for those who expected Him to bring political revolution: “My kingdom is not of this world.”

The prosperity He preached pertained to eternal life, not life on earth. In fact, regarding this earth, He said it plainly: “Heaven and earth will pass away.” He promised He would prepare a place for us, and that He would come back and receive us. He did not promise to make this earth better; He did not promise us great wealth on earth.

In fact, Jesus told the Disciples that things would get very bad for them: many would pay the ultiimate price for following Him.

He did, however, promise ultimate prosperity:

He promised that He would go and prepare a place for us;

He promised that He would come back;

He promised that, when He came back, He would receive us unto Himself.

While we humans are created a little lower than the angels, when we–those of us who are in Christ–are resurrected, we will be like the angels in heaven.

And yet we will have it even better than the angels. You know why? None of the angels are children of God. And yet, when you receive Christ, you receive the gift of adoption as His child.

That gives you a privilege that even the angels don’t enjoy.

You know what that means? Even the lowliest toilet scrubber in Heaven will have more wealth than the richest men on earth–combined–ever had.

Think about that the next time you hear Joel Osteen or Benny Hinn or Paula White or Joyce Meyer or Creflo Dollar or any of the other Word of Faith wackos.

They wouldn’t know real wealth if it bit them in the nether regions. And unless they repent, this earth is the closest to heaven they will ever get.

SBC Pastor Robert Jeffress May Have Stepped In It

Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor and one of President Trump’s “spiritual advisors”, has made a very bold proclamation.

When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary – including war – to stop evil…In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.

He’s either on-par with the best of the prophets and Apostles, or he is on the same footing as Hananiah.

If he turns out to be wrong–as Hananiah was–then it’s a very big deal, as he will have established himself as a false teacher.

I don’t throw that tag–false teacher–around lightly. There are many folks with whom I have disagreements, but I would not hit them with the “false teacher” tag. That carries huge theological implications.

I reserve that tag for teachers, preachers, and other would-be “church leaders” who, among other things, either (a) preach a false gospel, (b) deny essential doctrines of the Christian faith (e.g. the Fall, the Atonement,  the Resurrection), (c) engage in behaviors that are immoral, malevolent, fraudulent, or otherwise disqualifying and then reject discipline when confronted, or (d) make prophecies that do not come to pass. There are other criteria on that list, but I’d say those four cover most of what qualifies one as a “false teacher”.

Examples of such teachers: Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Rob Bell, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Benny Hinn, the late Jack Hyles, the late Harry Emerson Fosdick, John Shelby Spong, Harold Camping, and Jack Schaap. That is not an exhaustive list, but those are examples of teachers/preachers who would fall under my understanding of “false teachers”.

And if Jeffress is wrong here, then he has earned a spot on that list. This is because he has taken an opinion, and–using Scripture–boldly asserted a word from God.

That’s a heck of a truth claim on his end. And while he could be right, he does not seem to carry the gravitas of Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Daniel. His exegesis of Romans, quite charitably, leaves some room for concern.

Keep in mind that this is no small matter, as Trump could act on Jeffress’ advice and start a war that quickly goes nuclear and leaves millions dead.

If Jeffress is wrong, that will put the SBC will be in the mother of all dilemmas, as they will be under severe pressure to take decisive action against a popular pastor.

Don’t get me wrong: I will cry no tears for Kim Jong-Un. If things go south, it will be the end for the Kim dynasty. Having been good friends with the son of one who escaped that regime, I will drink Guinness…Extra Stout…to the death of Ding Dong IIIKim Jong-Un.

Still, it’s a very bad idea to claim to have some special word from God on these matters. Unless, of course, you actually have such a word.

Having said that, as a recovering Baptist, I’m a tad and a half skeptical of Mr. Jeffress’ truth claim.