Is the American church a religious caste system? Consider: seminary students do not teach what they learn in seminary to congregants. In fact, those who do are ridiculed for doing so. Secondly, why are American parishioners so dumbed down theologically? Are the first two questions answered in regard to a higher knowledge that only pastors can understand? In Reformed circles, elders state openly that they are gifted to understand things that parishioners are unable to. Point in case: New Calvinist Dr. Devon Berry: Elder Preaching is Infallible .
Academic degrees have become the primary qualification for a pastor in our culture. Who would deny that? In pulpit committees, any resume that states less than a Masters degree gets file 13 immediately. But yet, academic qualifications are nowhere listed in the biblical qualifications for an elder. Also consider: how can the laity obtain degrees while supporting a family, serving their local church, and working full time? While 90% of all doctrinal error is coming from seminaries, the laity is deemed less qualified. The salaries being paid to heretical sheep abusers is 80,000 per year on the low side. And I might mention that what I have learned in the past five years through independent study would have never been taught to me in a seminary, No way. Not even close. Seminaries are maintaining the status quo.
Parishioners are living from a steady diet of materials published by the academics and not their own Bibles. Who would deny this? Why? Because they are supposedly critical to understanding the higher knowledge that the laity cannot understand. They interpret for us. What is more obvious?
Why do well-known leaders turn a blind eye to the abused laity? Why is John MacArthur Jr. completely indifferent to what his pal CJ Mahaney has done to people? Simple, the value of the laity and where they are in the caste system strata.
Why is getting justice for the sexually abused ABWE missionary children like pulling teeth from a leopard? Easy, Donn Ketcham is high on the strata; the missionary children are low, and of less value to the organization. The caste system protects the organization that cannot be destroyed over justice for the lowly. Besides, the lowly are expendable for the pleasures of the upper crust. Absurd notion? Then why do GARB churches continue to support ABWE en masse? Where is the outcry for justice? Why does the money continue to pour in?
Though the Bible instructs the church to publically rebuke elders that sin, this is NEVER done. Pastors get a pass while parishioners are disciplined and excommunicated routinely. Again, value is the issue.
The New Testament is replete with examples of Christ and the apostles contending against religious caste systems—formal and informal.
Following is my pictorial thesis:
Yep, this one is interesting:
The present-day church is saturated with the gospel, and that’s not good news. It’s not good news for the church because the church doesn’t need more and more justification; we are already justified in full because we believe in what Christ did for us on the cross. The gospel is for the lost, not the church. We are ministers of the gospel. Our message is, “Be reconciled to God!” (2Corinthians 5:18-21). We are already reconciled, this would seem evident. Have Christians become so mindless that they have actually bought into the idea that the saved still need salvation?
We are justified in full. It is a onetime declaration by God. It’s done. In fact, it is so done that we were already considered to be glorified before the Earth was even created (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:30). How much more done can you get? Nothing that happens in sanctification can change that declaration. But today’s Christianity is saturated with a doctrine that teaches that justification must be maintained by good works. To be specific, it’s salvation by antinomian good works. Let me explain.
If justification must be maintained by good works, the works would have to be perfect, right? That excludes us. So who must do the good works to maintain the justification? Right. Jesus obeys for us. They deceptively call this “justification by faith alone,” while deliberately omitting the rest of what they believe: justification and sanctification are the same thing. They believe sanctification maintains our standing with God until glorification. They deceptively call this “progressive sanctification” when it is really progressive justification. Therefore, any effort on our part to keep the law would supposedly be an attempt to maintain justification. That’s where this doctrine becomes antinomian.
Who’s “they”? They are the New Calvinists and they are everywhere. And they are in the process of drowning the ABWE scandal (concerning the former Bangladesh missionary children [FAMC]) with the gospel. They will keep feeding this issue with “gospel” until it goes away and the raping of children will continue in the name of the gospel. As illustrated in chapter 14 of The Truth About New Calvinism, this is exactly what went on in the world’s largest Baptist church for years. The victims were shamed for wanting justice because of reasons like the following: “We are all sinners saved by grace.” “Justice? That just means you’re self-righteous.” “We are all totally depraved and in need of daily salvation. Besides, if this ministry folds just because sinners sin, the message of the gospel will be silenced.” “Real Christians forgive the way Christ forgave them, and move on with their lives. That’s the gospel.” “You’re a glutton, and brother Bob likes little boys; so what? We all need the gospel everyday just as much as we did the day we were saved.” “What happened is irrelevant; we aren’t here to be the gospel, we are here to preach the gospel. It’s not about what we do; it’s about what Jesus has done.” Sound familiar?
According to the New Calvinists, the answer to everything is the supposed practical application of New Calvinism which is Gospel Contemplationism. By contemplating the gospel and coming to a deeper and deeper appreciation/understanding of what Christ did for us, and continues to do for us, “gospel transformation” takes place. In their book, this is what all parties need in order to make this go away in the name of Jesus. More gospel for Donn Ketchum and more gospel for the FAMC. A deeper understanding of the gospel would lead Ketchum to repentance and lead the FAMC to forgive, and all would be well. In my own personal situation, I was told by New Calvinists that my continual effort to hold them accountable for what they did to my family was proof that I didn’t really understand the gospel. I was also told that I valued myself more than “a whole ministry.” Others who stood with me were threatened. One church told my son-in-law that they would ruin his ministry and his name if he stood with me.
In light of the Penn State allegations and the comparison to the ABWE scandal, the articles that have been held up as revelatory and edifying make my point. Each had its own thesis regarding the symptom, but all concluded with the same solution: the gospel. The first article was from pastor Daniel Darling. His thesis was that insular communities are the cause of such behavior. Then he concluded with these thoughts:
So what’s the cure? For churches and Christian organizations, the gospel is the only medicine. Our sinful condition and helpless state before God, our need of the redemption of the Cross, and our dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit should all serve as a constant reminder that nobody is above the worst kinds of sins.
So in these situations the only cure for churches is more salvation? More redemption? Do you believe that? I hope not. The Bible is very specific in regard to what the church is to do in these situations, and more salvation is not included. Here is how Darling concluded:
We should pray for the gospel to penetrate that campus during this dark hour. This is more than a story. There are souls at stake. And, yet those of us who live thousands of miles removed from Penn State should pray that God would use this to sharpen our leadership in creating open, authentic, gospel-saturated communities of faith.
Gospel saturation? Is that the answer? No.
The second post was from the Practical Theology for Women blog. The author’s thesis in this second post was that Christians often overemphasize authority over advocacy. The solution? Again, the gospel:
If the gospel is truly our foundation in Christian ministry, we have hope for redemption and transformation when we choose humble responses that seek to correct our mistakes. Humble repentance, not defensiveness, is the absolute key to dealing with past failures, and meditation on God’s strong admonition to do justice for the oppressed is key for the future.
Notice the emphasis on Christians seeking more redemption. She also alludes to the New Calvinist/Gospel Contemplationism tenet of deep repentance which I will not delve into here. In another post, she further defines how she perceives the gospel:
Be wary of the “gospel-centered” teacher whose gospel ends at penal substitution, for they have nothing for life after salvation except pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. The gospel becomes the source of OBLIGATION instead of the source of EQUIPPING. You’re exhorted to stop gossiping or sleeping around or overeating because it makes the gospel look bad. That’s gospel obligation that misses completely the value and power of imputed righteousness. The true gospel doesn’t obligate you to do good. No, it EQUIPS you to do good. There is a profound difference. That battle with your weight, the temptation to gossip, anger with your children—the gospel equips you to do battle with sin with the very same power that raised Christ from the dead. You have a lavish spiritual bank account, and this is integral to the very good news of all Christ’s life and death has accomplished for you.
Notice that sanctification is either all pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps or all of Christ. The fact that it is both is excluded.
The Third post was from Tim Henderson who I believe is a chaplain for Campus Crusade for Christ at Penn State. His Thesis was that lack of true love was the cause of what happened there. The cure? Again, the gospel:
He loved radically, gave himself away. Not just figuratively, but literally. He laid down his life as a sacrifice on the cross to protect us from the punishment our sins deserve. He loves you just as much as he loves himself.
To the extent that this penetrates your heart [the gospel] it will transform you and make you love better. It will give you not just the affection of love, but the courage of love. A love that moves to protect. That moves into danger. A love that doesn’t measure obligation, but that suffers so that the beloved won’t.
Also notice that Henderson excludes obligation (or duty) from being an element of love or at least a catalyst for love in some situations. True love is a narrow concept that comes only from contemplating the gospel. And in all three of these articles, accountability and justice is excluded and replaced with everybody, perpetrators and victims alike, embracing the shame of it all as common sinners saved by grace. This is not the biblical prescription for dealing with these situations.
In our day, there are two major schools of thought concerning sanctification, and the difference can be best defined by a longtime persecutor of Jay Adams, David Powlison. These two men represent the two schools of thought in our day. During a lecture at John Piper’s church, Powlison said the following:
This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification. And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves. I think Jay was wrong on that.
In all of this, the FAMC will be hearing many voices. They would do well to determine which camp the voices are coming from. Each camp will yield radically different solutions to their endeavor.
I am in the process of writing a post regarding the role New Calvinism is playing in this situation. In fact, the article Isaiah 618 cites here was written by a New Calvinist. Nevertheless, the article is apt for this situation by comparing it to Penn State in a biblical way.
And I guess time (and lots of it) will only tell: is GRACE out to salvage ABWE, or are they more in tune with the concerns of this latest post? As I have stated previously, GRACE’s overemphasis on “fair and balanced” is troubling. More on that in the post I am working on. How much of the New Calvinist attitude of “we are all totally depraved sinners save by grace—que sera, sera” is coming into play here? Just asking.
If the ABWE Former Missionary Children (Hereafter FMC, not “MKs”) put some stock in GRACE, the parachurch organization that “teaches” the Christian community how to deal with child abuse in a “Godly” way, then so will I, but not totally. I have some concerns.
First, let me be clear: GRACE’s involvement can (and probably will) yield some useful results in this situation. The GRACE report will probably be detailed and damning, a monument following the name of ABWE like a shadow until the second coming. Even if the report will take ten pages to make each point, and it probably will, the FMC can glean the relevant parts and report it on their website. And remember, if not for the FMC’s website, GRACE probably wouldn’t be involved right now.
Of course, instead of that monument, ABWE could have a monument like Penn State now has. The placard reads something like this: “When Penn State found out, heads rolled immediately—zero tolerance and not even Joe Paterno was spared.” Moreover, there is even talk now that Joe Paterno could be brought up on criminal charges. And trust me; Donn Ketcham is no Joe Paterno. The two cases are a profound study in contrast, and not for the wiser in regard to ABWE.
That brings me to the latest “investigation update” by GRACE concerning the ABWE horror story. It begins as follows:
First phase? How many phases are there going to be? Why is more than one phase needed? The document, throughout, invokes all kinds of questions of this sort. And, “GRACE plans to schedule additional interviews….” Why do they have to “plan” to schedule? Is it really that complicated? Once again, the FMC are waiting for somebody “important” to do something. My grandmother had a word for it and often scolded us with it: “lollygagging.”
The report continued….
Huh? GRACE “hoped” to gather information? The document is full of tentative, overcautious language. The interviews succeeded in “beginning” to “help” “build” (how big is the building going to be and how long is it going to take to build it?) an understanding? For crying out loud, the FMC have already built the case with all kinds of documentation!! The job is more than half done! And GRACE’s proclamation that God put his stamp of approval on it all regarding their interviews is just classic, and arrogant. But I will again mention that where GRACE will hopefully have some value is in their final ”thorough,” “balanced,” “independent” report; if it gets completed before the second coming. And we certainly don’t want any victims muddying up the waters with their own assessment of getting molested by the ABWE icon, Donn Ketcham—that just wouldn’t be “independent” and “balanced.”
Then, GRACE concluded the snail race report with the news that they are expanding the investigation to “non-MKs” in addition to the FMC they presently don’t have time to interview. Good grief! In addition, they are going to spend time singing Pat a Cake, Pat a Cake, with a “new” ABWE “liaison” regarding ABWE’s lack of cooperation with full disclosure—unlike Penn State which has committed to full disclosure—day one.
Somebody please convince me that GRACE is not just another organization like Peacekeepers International that is primarily in business to keep para-church organizations from going belly-up. The message from Penn State is clear: “You better not mess with our money, even if your name is Joe Paterno.” Our message needs to be, “You better not mess with our children, even if your name is Donn Ketcham.” That was Jesus’ message also. Rather than messing with the kingdom’s children, you would be better off tying a millstone around your neck and casting yourself in a lake. That is unlike GRACE’s message which is overly concerned with “balance,” thoroughness,” and a “Godly response.” We don’t need GRACE’s lectures on Godly responses, the FMC have already set that example and GRACE needs to learn more about that from them. How long have they patiently endured all of this? Enough is enough. It’s time to get this done.
Part 2: A GRACE Theology for the Former Missionary Children