Fair disclosure: I had never heard of Iain Campbell until the news of his suicide broke. I do not identify as a Calvinist–although I support a Calvinist hermeneutical model while remaining skeptical of the dogmatic model–and, moreover, do not stay abreast of the celebrity pastor/theologian circuit. That is not to say I don’t like any of them–I like Piper, Keller, and Chandler, while having some differences with them–I just don’t fawn over them. They generally are good preachers, but I do not take marching orders from them either.
(As an aside: I started attending an Acts 29 church in 2008. While I was familiar with Mark Driscoll, I didn’t listen to his sermons very often. When MrsLarijani–who was not a “29er”–married me, she was more up on Driscoll’s sermons than I was. And, for the record, we each supported the expulsion of Driscoll from Acts 29, and I do not support his return to the pastorate.)
What Dee provides is not surprising to me, not in the slightest.
During my time in Anderson, IN, I became a member at Redeemer Baptist Church (RBC), which, at the time, was pastored by HL. HL struck me as a decent preacher who was affable. He was married and had children. I enjoyed public speaking–I did that on behalf of a number of pro-life causes at the time–and HL pushed me to get involved in teaching at RBC. In 1993, as my employment came to an end at EDS, HL was the one who pushed me to go to SBTS.
Over the ensuing years, I had two rifts with him, but we patched those up. I lived in Kentucky, but still was friends with several folks at RBC.
But in the late 1990s, HL was caught in an affair. Initially, he confessed, quickly claimed repentance, and was immediately “restored”.
A short time later, he was found to have continued the affair, and–at that point–he either resigned or was fired, I can’t remember which. His marriage would end in divorce. Can’t remember who filed what, but–at this point–that is moot.
While I was at SBTS, the local standard-bearer for conservative theology–Highview Baptist Church (HBC)–became embroiled in scandal. Their longtime pastor, BH, who had recently run (unsuccessfully) for the Presidency of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, was exposed for being in a 5-year affair. He was subsequently fired. (I was underwhelmed with BH’s preaching–he talked a lot without saying much–but I can’t say that anything jumped out that said, “That man is leading an immoral life!”)
BH had been the “go-to” man for Baptist conservatives in the Louisville area for many years. And yet, for at least five years, he would preach on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, all while sleeping with another woman.
Why do mention these cases? Looking back, there were men and women who really enjoyed them as pastors–HL and BC were not repulsive individuals, and they didn’t preach unsound doctrine–but, during that time, each was carrying on an affair.
Putting this in perspective: irrespective of what you think, if you are a Christian with any basic understanding of Scripture, having an affair requires a lot of work. It requires a lust that grows to overwhelm every alarm from Scripture. Taking off your clothes for someone else requires forethought. It requires purposeful effort. Heck, sex with your own spouse requires work–yes, it’s fun, but it is rarely “spontaneous”.
By the time a pastor disrobes for another woman, he’s thrown all that is holy and important under the bus. The spiritual erosion is disastrous. At this point, he is not qualified to preach to–or counsel–a pack of dogs.
Iain Campbell (IDC) was doing this for virtually his entire ministerial life. It was not simply one affair, although that would have been bad enough. What Dee provides is a glimpse into the utter depths to which he had sunk for a very long time. And, during that time, he became a revered pastor and representative of the Reformed tradition. The IDC who wrote books, contributed to popular ministries such as Ligonier, and preached on Sundays and at conferences worldwide, was a carousing pervert given to bizarre fetishes.
In the Church community, many held him up as their standard-bearer. But outside the pulpit, he had more in common with Hugh Hefner than with Charles Spurgeon.
When confronted by one of the husbands of a mistress, he apologized but did not resign his position. After he confessed to his wife and family, he refused to resign or confess publicly.
He refused to apologize to his wife, to whom he had been unfaithful for most–if not all–of their marriage.
Ultimately, he tore a page from the life of Judas and strangled himself to death.
Like Judas, there is no pretty way to assess IDC’s life and death. Not only did he commit suicide, he did so, like Judas, under a cloud of egregious sin. Rather than stick around–like Peter did–and receive forgiveness after feeling the brunt of the sin and shame, he chose an attempt at self-atonement. (That never works.)
IDC, like Judas, was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Like Judas, he had the best of Biblical teaching at his disposal; like Judas, he knew the Scriptures well; like Judas, he exchanged the truth for a lie at various critical points in his life. The same exchange that drove Judas to first betray Jesus and then attempt to atone for his sins via suicide, drove IDC to commit serial adultery and ultimately suicide.
The Scriptures are not encouraging with respect to where Judas is right now. And while I make no definitive judgment on IDC, I really do not envy him right now. While God will have mercy on those he will have mercy, I would not want to face the King of Kings knowing the last thing I did on this earth was commit suicide under a cloud like that.
As for his friends and colleagues who seek to rationalize his infidelities or even his suicide: stop. Just. Stop.
His wife is not responsible for his sins; IDC is.
I don’t care if she was Jezebel II; IDC, not his wife, is responsible for his sins.
She did not drive him to suicide; HE drove himself there.
HE was the one who–confronted with his sin–rejected the grace of repentance, lamenting his damned reputation rather than his offense. Contrast that with King David. Don’t believe me? Read Psalm 51.
Make no mistake: IDC was a wolf in sheep’s clothing!
If you have books written by him, I suggest one of two things:
(a) dispose of them, as you have every reason to cast anything he said under suspicion, even though most of what he said was probably sound;
(b) keep them, allowing them to be an example of what evil looks like.
I have harped in this before, but–for those new to this–I’ll say it again….
We often expect evil people to “look” evil.
We expect the child molester to look like Peewee Herman or some creepy pervert in a trench coat. In reality, the child molester is the affable family man whom everyone finds likeable, charismatic, and trustworthy. By the time the cops catch up to him, his trail of victims is at least a mile long.
We expect the philandering pastor to be a peddler of bizarre doctrine. Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Tony Alamo, and others like them peddled false if not weird doctrines. In point of fact, though, most of them, in interpersonal terms, were affable and likeable.
The same was true of the two pastors I mentioned: HL and Bill Hancock. They were each well-liked both inside and outside the church. Hervey, in his day job, was well-liked. Neither, to my recollections, preached unsound doctrine. They, however, failed to practice the otherwise sound doctrine that they preached.
Hancock, according to those I knew who knew him, repented and returned to ministry eventually. (Not saying I endorse his return, though.) He recently died.
I cannot, however, speak one way or another about HL.
The issue here, is what you DO when you are confronted with the premise that people you love are embroiled in hideous, evil, immoral practices, or–worse–commit suicide when confronted with their sin.
Do you attempt to justify or mitigate the severity of their actions by blaming others?
Do you attempt to mitigate the severity of their actions by appealing to what you think is his (or her) character?
Or do you grieve while accepting the possibility that the worst implications could very well be true?
Do you allow the facts–once they are known–to speak for themselves?
*When I say “ugliness”, it’s not directed at Dee’s writing, but rather IDC’s life.