17 March 2019

Who cares what you think?

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon


The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The MTP, volume 12, sermon number 676, "Man's thoughts and God's thoughts." 

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"God's thinkings are declared by himself to be exceedingly above man's, and yet if ever man is to dwell with God, he must think as God thinks."

A more current idea still is, that God will put away the past and give men a new start, and that if they go on well for the future, then in their dying hour, when it comes to a wind-up, God will speak pardon. But soul, there is nothing of that kind in the Word of God.

That truthful book tells us solemnly that as far as the matter of keeping the law is concerned, and being saved by our good works, we have all of us but one opportunity, and the moment we commit one sin that opportunity is over; nay, before we began life our father Adam had spoiled that chance for us by his sin. The Word of God never speaks about giving us a second trial.

The law says, “Cursed is every man that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” It says nothing whatever of starting you in business again, in the hopes that you may at last make your spiritual fortune; nothing of the kind: and those of you who are trying your hands at reformation, and so hope that in a dying hour you will get peace to your souls, are spending your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which profiteth not, for if you never sinned in the future, what would that have to do with the past?

Will a man’s paying ready money in the future defray the debts, which he has already incurred? God has a right to the obedience of your whole life; do you suppose that giving him the obedience of a part of it will be accepted as a satisfaction for the whole?

Moreover, who art thou that thou shouldst be holy? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. Thou wilt only repeat thy former life, thou wilt go back again like the dog to its vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

As for peace in the hour of death, he who is not pardoned living is not likely to be pardoned dying. Nine out of ten, perhaps nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand of professed death-bed salvations are a delusion.

We have good facts to prove that. A certain physician collected notes of several hundreds of cases of persons who professed conversion who were supposed to be dying. These persons did not die but lived, and in the case of all but one they lived just as they had lived before, though when they were thought to be dying they appeared as if they were truly converted.

Do not look forward to that, it is a mere snare of Satan. God save you from it; for in this case his thoughts are not your thoughts.

15 March 2019

The Difference Between Sexual Abuse and "Race" Offenses

by Hohn Cho



A    few days ago, an ordained PCA pastor from Washington, DC—Duke Kwon—said the following:



When people hear "reparations" many retort
"forgiveness is better"
which is also what some say to victims of abuse
"no, forgive"
but forgiveness and justice are not at odds
what I release as a cross-bearer
what I'm owed as an image-bearer
alas, racial oppression is abuse

Kwon is part of a developing cadre of Asian American social justicians that includes folks like Raymond Chang and perhaps the most extreme of the group, Timothy Isaiah Cho (#NotAllChos), the former Director of Operations of Michael Horton's White Horse Inn. I was busy last week at our church's annual Shepherds Conference, but I set aside the comment above for a reply, because the mentality behind it is one of my pet peeves, the false equivalence that flattens types of offense. (There's another big issue to discuss as well, specifically the increasingly popular idea of reparations, but I'll save that for another time.)

I've written previously about sexual (and physical) abuse, and although the exact extent of the problem in certain contexts and communities may be unclear, it is a problem which is common and substantial enough that reports ought to be taken very seriously. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that complementarians in particular have a Scriptural responsibility toward women, who are by far the more frequent recipients of sexual and physical abuse, as well as the fact that such types of abuse constitute actual crimes, which pursuant to Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 are under the jurisdiction of the governing authorities, who are to wield the sword for the protection of the good and the punishment of the wrongdoer.

It appalls me, then, when I see social justicians attempt to elevate matters such as microaggressions, or increased socioeconomic status in an already wealthy nation like the United States, or the unbiblical attempt to punish children and grandchildren for the sins of their ancestors, to the same level of importance as major, tangible, current sins and crimes, such as sexual and physical abuse. It is truly a false equivalence. And it is even more appalling when social justicians attempt to equate their pet issues to the holocaust of abortion, which kills nearly a million unborn children per year in the United States alone, a disproportionate number of which are from ethnic minorities. Some like to cite the importance of speaking up for the voiceless and destitute from Proverbs 31:8-9 as a call to "justice" work, but in our age of social media, who is more voiceless than a baby in the womb, and in our rich land where starvation is basically unheard of, who is more destitute than a precious little one who has no possessions or even rights at all?

Even in cases of "race" related sins and crimes, the actual numbers pale in comparison to cases of sexual and physical abuse, as well as abortion, by multiple orders of magnitude. I already mentioned the nearly million unborn children aborted each year, and in the United States in 2016, the most recent year with available data, rapes and sexual assaults actually reported (estimated at 23.2% of all rapes and sexual assaults) numbered 298,410, while domestic violence incidents numbered 1,068,120.

Compare and contrast these numbers with 7,175 hate crimes of all types and categories in the United States in 2017, of which 5,084 were crimes against persons (as opposed to property), and the great majority (79.2%) of those crimes against persons were classed as intimidation or simple assault, while 15 were murders (0.3%). Similarly, on the much-sensationalized issue of police shootings, as I stated in point E of a past article, more people die each year from constipation (189) than unarmed people of all ethnicities die at the hands of police.

If we are to be people of the Book, we need to care about equal weights and measures, because God cares about them, and considers unequal ones to be an abomination, as we see in Proverbs 11:1, 16:11, 20:10, 20:23. Similarly, there are matters of first importance in Scripture, a concept which clearly shows that it is not biblically appropriate to attempt to draw false equivalences between certain types of actions and offenses. Indeed, while any sin will send anyone without the saving grace of Jesus Christ to hell, all sins are not the same in type or degree, and in particular, while hating a brother might be as sinful before God as murder, and looking at a woman with lust might be as sinful before God as adultery, you'd better believe that the horizontal consequences of actual murder and actual adultery will far exceed their mere heart equivalents!

So too it is with Kwon's attempt to compare "victims of abuse" to "racial oppression"—and I would argue that before his comparison can have any weight, he would need to establish precisely what he means by "racial oppression" rather than just handwave it or otherwise assume facts not in evidence. Yes, on those rarer occasions when there are actual crimes being committed against people on the basis of their ethnicity, absolutely, the subjects of those crimes have every right to call the governing authorities and see appropriate consequences visited upon the perpetrators, including restitution wherever and whenever appropriate. And when we see restitution in the Bible, most commonly under the Old Testament civil laws of ancient Israel, it invariably takes the form of a definite and determinable sum levied against the actual wrongdoer. Even if there's no crime committed, but there is sin—such as actual, demonstrable racism within the church, as opposed to the epidemic of heart reading we see from many social justicians—it may be that an appropriate authority to enforce order is indeed the church, via the exercise of church discipline.

Based on what I've read and heard, everyone reputable agrees that actual incidents of racism are wrong and unacceptable, and indeed, the unanimously strong denouncement of racism by pretty much every sector of our society is both telling and encouraging, especially when we look back over the course of history when that has not always been the case. But most of the time, what social justicians today call "racial oppression" really amounts to marginal or even imagined personal slights, disputable statistical data that according to multivariate analyses have many different causes, and the admittedly bitter fruit resulting from the sins of our ancestors which were horrific but are simply not attributable to people today, as my pastor, John MacArthur, masterfully exposited from Ezekiel 18 and other passages in the sermon series starting here.

On a practical level, I perceive many of these false equivalency efforts to bootstrap certain types of ethnic discrimination into more dire problems to be a symptom of the current disease of identity politics and intersectionality, whereby activists regularly compete for finite attention spans and capacity for outrage. The thing is, when identity politics and intersectionalism work their way into practice, women often simply lose out, whether they're stacked against groups centered around ethnicity, national origin and immigration, Islam, or more recently transgenderism.

Much of this is due to the worldly philosophy of "allyship" in which identity groups work together out of political expedience rather than biblical righteousness. Allyship says, "You support my cause, I'll support yours, and hey, we'll just shut up about any annoying inconsistencies in the other's case... maybe we'll get to that after we finish sticking it to the man." On the level of political effectiveness, this philosophy might manage to score some points. On the level of biblical ethics, however, it leaves much to be desired. Better by far to speak the truth in love and put away falsehood per Ephesians 4:15, 25, and to walk blamelessly and do what is righteous per Psalm 15:2, and to have integrity per Proverbs 10:9, 11:3, 19:1, 20:7, 28:6, and to have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way per Hebrews 13:18, and to avoid worldly alliances and plans that are not of the Spirit per Isaiah 30:1-3.

I am glad to speak up and take action in my own Christian liberty and stewardship with respect to actual injustices, whether of the limited "social justice" variety or more broadly in the area of biblical justice, such as protecting the innocent and the weak from lawbreakers in Romans 13:3, or punishing the evildoer and the violent man from Romans 13:4, or understanding the truth from our Savior in Matthew 26:52 that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword, or submitting even to harsh and oppressive authority such as the mad Roman emperor Nero in 1 Peter 2:13, or valuing the importance of work in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 especially if you want to eat, or making it our ambition to live quietly and mind our own affairs in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, or to pray for those in authority so that we can live peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified lives per 1 Timothy 2:1-2, or even proclaiming biblical understandings relating to marriage, divorce, family, and gender.

And the reason I would do those things is because they're right, and not because certain "allies" expect me to. After all, if God is for us, who can be against us? Meanwhile, all of the allies in the world will avail me nothing if either the means or the end is ungodly, as is so often the case with the unequal weights and measures and myopic temporal focuses of many social justicians.

Hohn's signature

10 March 2019

Private deeds of love


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Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon


The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from We Endeavour, pages 96-97, Pilgrim Publications.


"Study carefully the story of the enthusiastic Christian woman who poured the alabaster box of very precious ointment upon the head of our blessed Lord and Saviour. Her first and last thoughts were for the Lord Jesus Himself."

Seek to do something for Jesus which shall even be above all a secret sacrifice of pure love to Jesus. Do special and private work towards your Lord. Between you and your Lord let there be secret love tokens. You will say to me, “What shall I do?” I decline to answer. I am not to be a judge for you; especially as to a private deed of love. 

The good woman did not say to Peter, “What shall I give?” nor to John, “What shall I do?” but her heart was inventive. I will only say, that we might offer more private prayer for the Lord Jesus. “Prayer also shall be made for Him continually.” Intercede for your neighbours; pray for yourselves; but could you not set apart a little time each day in which prayer should be all for Jesus? 

Could you not at such seasons cry with secret pleadings, “Hallowed be thy name! Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”? Would it not be a sweet thing to feel at such a time—I shall now go up to my chamber, and give my Lord a few minutes of my heart’s warmest prayer, that He may see of the travail of His soul? That is one thing which all saints can attend to. 

Another holy offering is adoration—the adoring of Jesus. Do we not too often forget this adoration in our assemblies, or thrust it into a corner? The best part of all our public engagements is the worship—the direct worship; and in this the first place should be given to the worship of the Lord Jesus. 

We sing at times to edify one another with psalms and hymns, but we should also sing simply and only to glorify Jesus. We are to do this in company; but should we not do it alone also? Ought we not all, if we can, to find a season in which we shall spend the time, not in seeking the good of our fellow-men, not in seeking our own good, but in adoring Jesus, blessing Him, magnifying Him, praising Him, pouring forth our heart’s love towards Him and presenting our soul’s reverence and penitence. 

I suggest this to you. I cannot teach you how to do it. God’s Holy Spirit must show your hearts the way.

03 March 2019

Silly putty


Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon


The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 11, sermon number 651, "A sermon from a rush."

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"If you do not mean your godliness, do not profess it."

The hypocrite will yield to good influences if he be in good society. “Oh yes, certainly, certainly, sing, pray, anything you like.” With equal readiness he will yield to evil influences if he happens to be in connection with them. “Oh, yes, sing a song, talk wantonness, run into gay society, attend the theatre, take a turn with the dice; certainly, if you wish it; ‘When we are at Rome we do as Rome does.’”

Anything to oblige anybody is his motto. He is an omnivorous feeder, and like the swine can eat the vegetable of propriety, or the flesh of iniquity. One form of doctrine is preached to him,—very well, he would not wish to contend against it for a moment; it is contradicted by the next preacher he hears,—and really there is a great deal to be said on the other side; so he holds with hare and hounds too.

He is all for heat when the weather is hot, and quite as much for cold when it is the season; he can freeze, and melt, and boil, all in an hour, just as he finds it pay best to be solid or liquid. If it be most
respectable to call a thing black, well, then, it is black; if it will pay better to call it white, well then it is not so very black, in fact it is rather white, or white altogether if you like to call it so.

The gross example of the Vicar of Bray comes at once to one’s mind, who had been a papist under Henry VIII., then a protestant under a Protestant reign, then a papist under Mary, then again a Protestant under Elizabeth; and he declared he had always been consistent with his principle, for his principle was to continue the Vicar of Bray.

Some there are, who are evidently consistent in this particular, and in the idea that they will make things as easy for themselves as they can, and will get as much profit as they can, either by truth or error. Do you not know some such? They have not an atom of that stern stuff of which martyrs are made in the whole of their composition.

They love that modern goddess, charity. When Diana went down Charity went up; and she is as detestable a goddess as ever Diana was. Give me a man who will be all things to all men to win souls, if it be not a matter of principle; but give me the man who, when it comes to be a matter of right and wrong, will rather die than deny his faith; who could burn, but could not for a moment conceal his sentiments, much less lay them aside until a more convenient season.

True godliness, such as will save the soul, must not be the mere bark, but the heart, the sap, the essence of a man’s being—it must run right through and through, so that he cannot live without it. That religion is not worth picking up from a dunghill which you do not carry every day about with you, and which is not the dearest object for which you live. Beloved, we must be ready to die for Christ, or we shall have no joy in the fact that Christ died for us.

24 February 2019

One More Plea for Impartiality in That Virtue We Call "Justice"

by Phil Johnson



One of my main complaints about all the rhetoric touting "social justice" is that most people who use that expression seem to have a patently unbiblical (and therefore unjust) notion of what "justice" entails. Specifically, the suggestion has been made (and seconded) that in order to even the record of past injustices and level the playing field of "privilege," our whole culture (including you and me as individuals) needs to adopt a new kind of favoritism in all the judgments we make.

From now on, they say, the scales of justice need to be tipped in favor of certain ethnicities, gender types, and other disadvantaged people groups. Cisgender white males have to go to the back of the bus. Impartiality isn't what's needed. Reparations are.

That mentality has given birth to a dozen or more hashtags, popular fads, and government policies: Affirmative action. Intersectional theory. #BelieveAllWomen. #CheckYourPrivilege. Don't appropriate the symbols of another culture. Don't be colorblind when it comes to ethnic differences. And whatever you do, don't say #AllLivesMatter. That's now racist.

Note what all those ideas have in common: they spurn even-handed impartiality. In other words. what's happening in the name of racial reconciliation and social justice is the very definition of injustice, because it's a shameless prescription for prejudice.

And again: rigorous impartiality is the sine qua non of true justice.

Scripture says, "You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike" (Deuteronomy 1:17). "You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:15). "You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit" (Exodus 23:2-3).

This is basic biblical truth. It's definitional of justice. And it's stressed in Scripture from start to finish: "If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors" (James 2:9).

So it's particularly annoying when evangelical virtue-signallers try to pretend they are upholding some vital principle of biblical justice by embracing the wider culture's currently-stylish hierarchy of intersectional victimology; or by binding heavy burdens of blame and scorn on people for their ancestors' wrongdoings; or by telling brothers to shut up because they belong to a "privileged" ethnicity or people group; or by acting as if the oppression suffered by one's forebears bestows a kind of gnostic enlightenment on a person, thereby giving him an automatically superior understanding of social issues; or by shifting the burden of proof in abuse cases from the accuser to the accused; or by refusing to acknowledge that the wider culture's determination to glorify victimhood has resulted in a epidemic of false abuse claims.

Here's a sample of the kind of thing that gets Tweeted and re-Tweeted endlessly in the evangelical districts online. (And by the way—I just screen-grabbed a random sample of what I've seen today. I'm not looking to single out the person who wrote this Tweet or any of the hundred-plus people who retweeted it before I even saw it, so let's keep it anonymous):



Seriously?

It would be much more plausible to say that the chief takeaway from the Jussie Smollett incident is that victimhood has become such a desirable status in American culture that even this highly privileged Hollywood celebrity faked a racist attack in a desperate attempt to win whatever extra advantages he thought he could get from the intersectional lottery.

Furthermore, Smollett's failure to pull it off was owing to his own ineptitude. It does not prove that it's "difficult to get away with" such a prank. On the contrary, the initial reactions to Smollett's claims revealed once again how ridiculously easy it is to gain widespread sympathy with a hate-crime hoax—even from people who ought to know better.

I need to say one other thing about that Tweet: I don't see how minimizing the damage to the life and reputation of someone falsely accused of a crime is morally any better than trying to excuse or downplay any other kind of abuse. I wonder, for example, what Justice Kavanaugh or the Duke lacrosse team or Paul Nungesser or Brandon Winston—or who knows how many other lesser-known people in similar straits—would think of the last clause of the above Tweet. But among the multitude of evangelicals who "liked" and approved that thoughtless remark were at least one or two evangelicals who are well known as victims' advocates.

It illustrates how seriously skewed evangelical attitudes are in the way we speak and think about justice these days. After my earlier post decrying both spiritual abuse and false accusations, I was hit with a barrage of emails and Tweets scolding me for saying that every accusation of sexual or spiritual abuse needs to be impartially and painstakingly investigated. Worse yet, by keeping the burden of proof on the accuser and not the accused, they said, I was in effect siding with abusers and enabling abuse, whether I intended to or not.

Evidently lots of evangelicals now believe that to maintain the presumption of innocence in an abuse case is an automatic injustice tantamount to shelling the accuser with a whole new bombardment of abuse.

But again, the biblical standard of justice is not the least bit ambiguous, and it starts with an uncompromising commitment to impartiality. True justice cannot favor poor or rich, accuser or accused, Jew or Gentile, female or male, weak or powerful. It abhors false accusations as passionately as it detests the abuse of widows and orphans. It sees every form of "mob justice" as gross injustice. It tolerates no excuses for evil behavior. (Even bona fide victims are not given a pass for their sin.) It stubbornly insists on every duty under God's law and holds every individual to the principle of personal responsibility before God as the Judge of all the earth. "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). That's what real justice demands.

In other words, justice as Scripture describes it is a reflection of God's own holy and righteous character. And yes, it is therefore fundamentally and permanently at odds with this fallen, cursed world's notions about justice.

So if you find yourself echoing talking points about abuse, victimhood, privilege, oppression or other social-justice topics that you've picked up from the secular academy, the mainstream media, American civil religion, Oprah Winfrey, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Masonic Lodge, the Tea Party collective, or any other worldly source, maybe you ought to give the biblical treatment of those topics a little more careful study.

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Priceless treasure

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Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 34, sermon number 2,004, "The lover of God's law filled with peace."

"As a conqueror in the glad hour of victory shouts over the dividing of the prey, so do believers rejoice in God’s Word."

I can recollect as a youth the great joy I had when the doctrines of grace were gradually opened up to me by the Spirit of truth. I did not at first perceive the whole chain of precious truth. I knew that Jesus had suffered in my stead, and that by believing in him I had found peace; but the deep things of the covenant of grace came to me one by one, even as at night you first see one star and then another, and by-and-by the whole heavens are studded with them.

When it first became clear to me that salvation was all of grace, what a revelation it was! I saw that God had made me to differ from others: I ascribed my salvation wholly to his free favour. I perceived that, at the back of the grace which I had received, there must have been a purpose to give that grace, and then the glorious fact of an election of grace flowed in upon my soul in a torrent of delight.

I saw that the love of God to his own was without beginning—a boundless, fathomless, infinite, endless love, which carries every chosen vessel of mercy from grace to glory. What a God is the God of sovereign grace! How did my soul rejoice as I saw the God of love in his sovereignty, immutability, faithfulness, and omnipotence! “Among the gods there is none like unto thee.”

So will any young convert here rejoice if he so loves the law of the Lord as to continue studying it, and receiving the illumination of the Holy Ghost concerning it. As the child of God sees into the deep things of God, he will be ready to clap his hands for joy.

It is a delightful sensation to feel that you are growing. Trees, I suppose, do not know when they grow, but men and women do, when the growth is spiritual. We seem to pass into a new heaven and a new earth as we discover God’s truth. A new guest has come to live within our mind, and he has brought with him banquets such as we never tasted before.

Oh, how happy is that man to whose loving mind Holy Scripture is opening up its priceless treasures! We know that we love God’s Word when we can rejoice in it. Fain would we gather up every crumb of Scripture, and find food in its smallest fragments. Even its bitter rebukes are sweet to us. I would kiss the very feet of Scripture, and wash them with my tears!

Alas, that I should sin against it by a thought, much more by a word! If it be but God’s Word, though some may call it nonessential, we dare not think it so. The little things of God are more precious than the great things of man. Truth is no trifle to one who has fought his way to it, and learned it in the school of affliction.

22 February 2019

On the Importance of Reputation

by Hohn Cho



As he is wont to do, Doug Wilson wrote and published to the general public a strongly-worded opinion piece regarding a matter of current controversy. I responded to him here, and Phil Johnson added a number of helpful points here. As an aside, I actually wasn't aware that Phil and Doug were friends, which I say only to highlight Phil's fair-minded impartiality in posting my article, and to reiterate that my words are my own and should not be attributed to Phil or anyone else. Regardless, Wilson replied here, which forms the basis of this blogpost. And like Wilson, I won't be addressing everything.

For all of Wilson's protestations about "one-sided story-telling" and people being too "free to accuse without consequences" the reality is that my conclusions have been formed based on formal judicial actions and official public documents relating to the cases of Sitler and Wight, and as I mentioned in the comments to my previous article, CREC's final 2017 Presiding Ministers' Report about Wilson. So yes, that means a lot of sworn testimony and opportunities to cross-examine, which is also the case with a large portion of Denhollander's March 1, 2018 summary about Sovereign Grace. In that light, my conscience does not impel me in the slightest to attempt to reinvent the wheel by interviewing or cross-examining witnesses who have already spoken on-the-record. In any event, putting to the side his many criticisms of GRACE and Tchvidjian, the organization that did conduct an investigation of the Sitler and Wight matters was Wilson's own CREC denomination, and I phrase it that way because Wilson essentially formed the denomination, has previously been its Presiding Minister, and is its most well-known minister. Despite the (again, potential) bias of such an in-house investigation, it was interesting to note that the final Presiding Ministers' Report contained numerous clear and at times rather searing corrections for Wilson, some of the most concerning of which are excerpted below:

A. Evaluation and Support of Wight
In the Jamin Wight case, Christ Church leadership should have been far more careful in evaluating his character and fitness for ministry, and could have done so at an earlier date... In short, the great damage caused by Wight could have been mitigated by more rigorous forms of evaluation and accountability... In dealing with the Jamin/[redacted] marriage situation, it seems that it might have been wiser for the Trinity and Christ Church counselors to have had more individual sessions with [redacted] separate from Jamin, since it appears that [redacted] was often intimidated by Jamin's presence in the joint sessions... The committee also questions the wisdom of some of the language used to describe Wight and his crimes. In a letter to Officer Green, Pastor Wilson of Christ Church denied that Wight was a "sexual predator."11... Weighing in on whether a defendant is a "sexual predator" or whether he is properly charged with a certain crime is almost certain to cause unintended harm. For example, it can easily suggest to victims, even as it did in both the Wight case and the Sitler case, that the crimes against them are being minimized by the church... Also, in a letter to Gary Greenfield, Pastor Wilson stated that the Christ Church session was "distressed over the way Jamin took sinful advantage of your daughter," but "just as distressed at your extremely poor judgment as a father and protector" (emphasis added).12 This kind of language, especially in written form, is virtually sure to be received by victims and their families, as well as by many in the public, as blame-shifting from the criminal perpetrator onto those who are suffering the pain of the crime. As such, it is counterproductive...

B. Counseling and Pastoral Care of the Greenfields
Christ Church should have done more to care for Natalie and her family after the abuse became known. Pastor Wilson appropriately has sought forgiveness for failing to press harder against Gary Greenfield's objections in order to reach out to Natalie. We also believe the church could have provided better counseling services for Natalie (preferably a female counselor specifically trained to deal with sex abuse victims), as well as providing a wider and more sympathetic support network to help her deal with the shame, isolation, and trauma that follow such abuse. It would have been good for someone other than Pastor Wilson to be her primary counselor; she needed to be ministered to by someone with expertise in sexual trauma.

C. Communications about Sitler's Molestations
In the Sitler case, it was a serious mistake for Christ Church leadership not to formally inform the congregation (or, more specifically, all parents of young children in the congregation) of his pattern of serial molestations immediately after it came to light... There were other communication breakdowns regarding the Sitler case. For example, Christ Church elder Ed Iverson, who helped bring Katie Travis together with Sitler, was unaware of the full extent of Sitler's sexual crimes (specifically, he was unaware that Sitler had molested multiple children).15... Finally, with regard to Pastor Wilson's letter to Sitler's sentencing judge, we reiterate our previous cautions about pastors interacting with the legal system.16 In the letter, Pastor Wilson stated that he was "grateful" that Sitler would be "sentenced for his behavior" and that he wanted "hard consequences for him," but at the same time urged that the sentence be "measured and limited."...

D. Sitler/Travis Marriage Complications
In the case of the Sitler/Travis wedding, several things could have been done with greater pastoral care and foresight by Christ Church leadership... Under the circumstances, we strongly question the wisdom of Christ Church leadership in supporting and solemnizing the Sitler/Travis marriage. Looking at the court record, everything seems to have been barreling down the tracks, with both the court and the church on their heels. The judge was brought in only ten days before the wedding, and regarding the child, the judge was not brought in at all until after the child was born... Unfortunately, in the Sitler situation, we see no evidence these questions were seriously explored, let alone answered. There did not seem to be time. But would not that fact alone be reason enough to withhold support for the marriage and childbearing, at least until these questions could be adequately addressed?...

E. Sitler's Reintegration into the Congregation
Churches should carefully consider whether it is feasible or wise to try to minister to a sex offender if the offender has victims in the congregation—even if the church has the victims' consent. It is very difficult for churches to ensure that all of the inevitable distress, inconvenience, and awkwardness are borne by the offender, and none at all by the victims. This is not meant as punishment for the offender; it is simply part of accepting responsibility, which is the first step on the road to rehabilitation (as many sentencing judges have told defendants before them). Having offenders remain in the congregation can lead to victims leaving, as in fact happened in this case...

Pastor Wilson's Blogging Responses
...But when it comes to matters such as the Sitler and Wight cases, especially when victims are involved, an entirely different voice needs to be heard—one clad not in battle regalia, but in a humble linen tunic. Not only is this glorifying to God and the right thing to do, it is a kindness to victims, as well as to internet onlookers, who may already be confused by the allegations, and who will likely become even more confused by pastoral responses made with sword and mace. Had biblical humility and prudence been placed more to the fore—and that is what our suggestions are trying to express—we believe it would have placed Pastor Wilson and the entire controversy on a higher road.

In that regard, let us point out a few specifics we believe are inconsistent with the high road:

Engaging in online disputes with a person formerly under a pastor's care, particularly when the person has been sexually abused in any way. It is not wise for a pastor to argue with a sex abuse victim in public over the details of her case. It would be better for the pastor to absorb any wrongful accusations rather than engage in this kind of argument (I Cor 6:7).

Discussing sensitive pastoral cases online. Such discussion can make others who need help more reluctant to seek it, for fear of having their cases turned into blog posts or Twitter fodder. It can also give the impression that a church is not a place where victims' voices can be 2heard (and all too often victims' voices have been suppressed in the church). While many in the general public may have no qualms about such discussions of personal matters, pastors should always take the high road.

Using unnecessarily provocative language, including derogatory or calloused language about women. Referring to certain women as "small breasted biddies" or "lumberjack dykes" is not likely to serve an edifying purpose in this context. We note that this language has caused a good deal of anguish among pastors and elders of CREC churches who would otherwise be supportive of Pastor Wilson's ministry. Pastors should be careful not to give women reasons to avoid seeking help from the church. Instead, we should make it clear that the church is a place where all people are treated with honor and respect, and where victims can find grace.

In this particular case, Pastor Wilson's rhetoric has, unfortunately, been found offensive and inappropriate even by many in his own denomination (including other pastors and elders). Pastor Wilson's blog posts regarding these cases have proved to be quite divisive even amongst those who consider him a friend and ally. A more prudent and temperate use of language would be helpful...

Interestingly, even after much clicking, I can't seem to navigate to the report from the Christ Church home page, it doesn't appear to show up on the Christ Church domain after even very specific Google searches, and when I go to the direct link, the report is contained within an odd and difficult-to-use document interface that prohibits copying and pasting and downloading.[*] Say it ain't so, Joe, but it's almost as if Wilson is doing his level best to downplay or even bury the public report! I also note with great interest that neither Wilson in his reply article to me, nor his daughter-in-law in the links she kindly provided in the comments to my blogpost, nor any of the other supporters of Wilson in those comments, either linked to or even mentioned this report.

Accordingly, it's deliciously ironic to see Wilson question whether or not I am to be "a trusted purveyor of information" and speculate about my "agenda" merely for declining to link in advance to some of his favorite defenses, particularly since Wilson himself is not a constant practitioner of this type of linking, and my blogpost was obviously an opinion piece opposing his position which made no claim to being comprehensive, devoting just two sentences to Sitler and Wight, since my focus was on broader issues.

In any event, it's true that no one will ever know the full or complete story, that there's always that one last detail which could potentially turn the case, here in the real world we will always have limited capacity, imperfect information, and fallible minds, and yet we're still called to make discernments and judgments, particularly of people in the church per 1 Corinthians 5:12. Sometimes those judgments will happen in criminal or civil court (with the caveat that I certainly agree with Wilson that believers ought to heed 1 Corinthians 6:1-8), sometimes it will be an ecclesiastical body with authority over the subject, as was the case in the CREC report and Wilson.

And sometimes it will happen in the court of public opinion, both inside and outside the church. That's the plain reality of the concept the Bible calls reputation and we see it in places such as Ecclesiastes 7:1, Proverbs 22:1, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 which I highlighted in my previous article, and 1 Peter 2:12. That last verse is particularly interesting, in that it calls us to make sure our conduct is so honorable that even when non-believers (wrongly) speak against us Christians as evildoers, our good works will serve as an even starker witness. So when a watching world condemns us for holding a biblical view of marriage, they will also have no choice but to acknowledge begrudgingly that we have in fact loved and cared for all people regardless of their particular inclinations... and not, say, insulted them as "small breasted biddies" or "lumberjack dykes" in Wilson's inimitable style.

To be clear, I stand against "mob justice" and "lynch mobs" right alongside Phil and Wilson. I also deplore the Twitter and mainstream media "rush to judgment" mobs, with the recent Nick Sandmann and Jussie Smollett cases giving us two prime examples why. As I stated in my previous article, I share Wilson's views on the importance of the presumption of innocence and his concerns about the "woke" movement in the SBC and beyond. And I have absolutely zero interest in defenestrating, detaining, deporting, or even denouncing Wilson, really. None of those factors are at issue here. What I am saying is that people make reputational judgments all the time, from Yelp reviews to dating decisions to job prospects to churches, and usually with far less information than months and years worth of public court documents and other hard evidence that we've seen in the Sitler, Wight, CREC, and Sovereign Grace situations. And from that wealth of information, after careful consideration and not rushing to judgment, my utterly draconian proposals are that maybe Wilson should think twice before turning his rhetorical blowtorch up to 11 on the topic of abuse, and that Sovereign Grace should engage an independent investigation. Remember that, the next time someone tries to tell you I'm looking to jackhammer the foundations of Western Civilization.

This brings me to the matter of Wilson's reputation, for he does indeed have one, given his high profile and his frequent and eager use of serrated blades on the Internet to propagate his own strong convictions and viewpoints. As a slightly more than casual observer for over a decade, I'd say that Wilson has a reputation for being a brilliant writer with an acid pen. He preaches a generally sound Gospel and promotes a generally biblical worldview, despite some minor to moderate concerns over matters such as paedocommunion, postmillennial theonomy, and Federal Vision, whether he's actually calling it that or not, these days. Obviously, he has a highly devoted flock of congregants, and I say that with genuine appreciation. And he's Mr. No Quarter November, who hates giving even an inch if he can possibly avoid it.[**] And I'd close by saying he's more than a little bit brash and bold, so much so that he often comes off like a bull in a china shop. Wilson himself has acknowledged similar things in the past, but the thing I'd sadly add is that from my perception, it's true to such an extent that I honestly cringe at even the notion of him attempting to counsel and shepherd abuse survivors, particularly in light of the public record on the Sitler and Wight matters. And before he or anyone else accuses me of being uncharitable, I will simply repeat the findings of the final Presiding Ministers' Report:

We note that this language has caused a good deal of anguish among pastors and elders of CREC churches who would otherwise be supportive of Pastor Wilson's ministry. Pastors should be careful not to give women reasons to avoid seeking help from the church. Instead, we should make it clear that the church is a place where all people are treated with honor and respect, and where victims can find grace.

In this particular case, Pastor Wilson's rhetoric has, unfortunately, been found offensive and inappropriate even by many in his own denomination (including other pastors and elders). Pastor Wilson's blog posts regarding these cases have proved to be quite divisive even amongst those who consider him a friend and ally. A more prudent and temperate use of language would be helpful...

Despite all of this, Wilson still considers himself to be well-positioned to speak on these issues, apparently because he's a longsuffering martyr who's used to false accusations. In light of the CREC report and the court filings, however, I can't help but think that adopting a course of discreet humility would be far better than the risk of harm and disaster that comes from speaking out of a potentially misplaced self-righteousness.

Anyway, Wilson is a big boy who gives far better than he gets, while I'm merely "a gent named Hohn Cho". And I have great confidence that this series of exchanges will have no lasting impact on his feelings, reputation, or honor. My far larger concern, and the reason I was even moved to say anything in the first place, is for the feelings, reputations, and honor of the victims of Sitler and Wight, for Denhollander and Mohler, and for survivors and their honorable advocates. They're inevitably the ones who are harmed by careless and unprofitable words, as I believe many of Wilson's have been, as CREC wisely pointed out. But again, I'm of no real account here, and so I don't have any expectation whatsoever that Wilson will heed what I say.

I do pray, however, that as a minister called to the biblical standards and qualifications of an elder and as a man under authority of his denomination, he will ultimately heed the wise counsel of his own denomination's Presiding Ministers' Report.

Hohn's signature


[*] The Website That Shall Not Be Named, for the benefit of Wilson's supporters, has conveniently provided a fully-searchable document with added hyperlinks to other referenced documents. As far as I could tell, the text otherwise appears identical to the version on Christ Church's website, but I will patiently await accusations that it's somehow a fraud.

[**] I stand by my perception that Wilson is known for doubling down far more than for apologies, but I acknowledge with thanks his link to point #7 of his Controversy Library, which I had never seen before. It contains links to two apologies from 2005 and 2015 for what I would call negligence relating to co-authors' apparently unintentional plagiarism (the latter of which happens to relate to A Justice Primer, the very book he cited in his original blogpost that I responded to), an apology to friends for a certain paragraph order Wilson used in the Sitler matter in 2015, and what I think is an apology relating to any offense from his "race" conversations with Thabiti Anyabwile in 2013. Whether the form and substance of these statements constitute "material" apologies I will leave to the reader, but having now been informed, I'm more than willing to stop saying that I cannot recall any apologies by Wilson.

20 February 2019

I Walk the Line

(Well, anyway, I try to)
by Phil Johnson



If you have friends on FaceBook or people in your Twitter feed who traffic in evangelical scandals, you must be aware that the religious online community is host to some forums where spiritual abuse is always the topic du jour, and some of the regulars who hang out in those neighborhoods have at times—rather aggressively—accused me of lacking appropriate sympathy for their cause.

So not a few people have asked for clarification regarding whether I am in complete agreement with the article Hohn Cho posted in this space yesterday.

The answer is yes. It's not a totally unqualified yes, but it's a hearty yes to pretty much everything Hohn actually said.

My one qualification: I would say even more. And although Hohn contrasted his opinions with the position taken by Doug Wilson, I don't think Wilson is entirely wrong. (I am also pretty sure Hohn himself doesn't believe Wilson is entirely wrong. Also, full disclosure: both Hohn Cho and Doug Wilson are friends of mine.)

Let's suppose that Hohn's point of view and Wilson's published remarks represent two points on a spectrum of evangelical opinion, with the spectrum's center exactly midway between the two. The fact is, if you go much further from the center than either of these two men, you'll encounter lots of poisonous passions and dangerous pitfalls lying along that spectrum in both directions. That's not a mere guess; I'm not wildly extrapolating into the realm of pure conjecture. There are, in fact, some extremely noisy people with villainous tendencies at both ends of that spectrum.

On the one side, you have the undeniable fact that there's a disastrous epidemic of both spiritual and sexual abuse in churches across north America—and the guilty parties are usually men in leadership.

Furthermore, that's not really a new phenomenon.

Adding to the scandal and compounding the abuse suffered by victims is a tendency among far too many church leaders to give cover to the perpetrators—sometimes with patently nefarious motives; sometimes because of a willful naïveté; and sometimes out of sheer ineptitude. Whatever the underlying motive, any attempt to sweep such abuses under the rug is a sinister transgression. It is a true and appalling injustice and a blight on the reputation of biblical Christianity.

And whatever instinct might cause someone to try to minimize, deny, or excuse such gross evil is inconsistent with authentic evangelical conviction.

My position is and always has been that serious charges of spiritual or sexual abuse should never be automatically rebuffed by the elders of a church. All such accusations do need to be investigated—thoroughly and without partiality. The fact that either the accused or the accuser might be made uncomfortable or feel threatened is no reason to forego a careful inquiry or (worse yet) to declare a verdict one way or the other without actually doing any serious, in-depth, objective fact finding.

To know that someone in the church is guilty of spiritual or sexual abuse and fail to deal with it—whether deliberately or by neglect—is to abdicate one of the essential duties of a shepherd (namely, the duty of guarding the flock against predators). It's tantamount to the negligence of a hireling; it is not the work of a true shepherd (John 10:12).

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the "survivor blogs"—websites that specialize in publishing practically any kind of obloquy or unsubstantiated allegation against church leaders—all in the name of victim advocacy. If the target of someone's incrimination is particularly well known and widely respected, the accusation will inevitably receive maximum publicity and encouragement. No proof is required; the denizens of these forums are expected to treat the accusation itself as sufficient evidence. Visitors who inquire about evidence will typically receive a scolding.

The stated goal is to provide a "safe zone" for people claiming victimhood, and the policy is to discourage as strongly as possible (I'm tempted to say they prohibit) anyone from expressing doubt or asking challenging questions of the person claiming victim status. Typically, a disgruntled excommunicant (or even an angry apostate) will receive the same approbation, sympathy, and encouragement as a genuine victim of sexual abuse. Violations of 1 Timothy 5:19 are commonplace, and remember: if you cite that verse or ask the accuser for evidence, you'll be rebuked (and possibly overrun with a stampede of angry Tweets). You might even be accused of participating in a coverup.

These forums existed and had been weaponized several years before the #MeToo movement demonstrated to the whole world the dangerous potential of the kind of "victim advocacy" where a mere accusation is regarded as sufficient proof.

Also like the #MeToo movement, the survivor blogs serve as vehicles through which feminist ideologies and egalitarian passions are brought in and dropped off in endless succession. The idea is to overwhelm and silence (by sheer intimidation, not by rational arguments) what Scripture teaches with regard to the role of women in the church.

So let's review: It's true that there is indeed an all-too-obvious scourge of spiritual abuse in conservative churches. I do not for one minute wish to minimize the actuality or the atrocity of that fact. But it is likewise true that the practice of publishing accusations without sufficient evidence is just a different form of bullying behavior; it is positively sinful; and it is no solution to the abuse epidemic. It's an utterly abominable practice whose dangers must not be downplayed.

In case you didn't get that, I'm saying that #MeToo-style mob "justice" is every bit as unjust as covering for an abuser. One evil is simply the mirror image of the other.

In fact, let me say it once more, as clearly as possible: to support and participate in unsubstantiated accusations is to sanction a kind of serial abuse.



Especially in a culture like ours where victimhood is deemed a desirable status, and a significant percentage—maybe even a majority—of the most heavily publicized "hate crimes" turn out to be manufactured by the "victims" themselves, it is foolish to think we can actually help victims or deter abuse by credulously accepting every claim of victimhood as if it were gospel.

That's the short version of what I'd add to what Hohn said yesterday—without taking anything away from the point he made. There's a vital biblical balance to be struck in this complex issue, and keeping your equilibrium is like walking a fine tightrope. The key to it is impartiality—a virtue that's hard to maintain consistently whether you're an advocate for victims' rights or a church leader tasked by our Lord with staying on guard against wolves, phony apostles, devils in angelic dress, self-appointed apostles, all-purpose critics, divisive people, false accusers, and all others who would abuse the flock of God.

There's still more that could be said. For example, every qualified church leader needs to serve the flock, not lord it over them (1 Peter 5:1-3). Being a leader in the church necessarily entails being a slave and an advocate for spiritually oppressed and suffering people (Matthew 20:25-28). These are not different—much less adversarial—roles. It is to the wretched shame of the whole church that even within the fellowship of faith people have begun to think of victim advocacy and church leadership as disparate duties. Both are heroic and perfectly compatible roles as long as we maintain a high regard for truth and a willingness to go wherever the evidence leads.

But woe to the church leader—or the lay Christian who advocates for victims—if he or she judges with partiality. We're told repeatedly that God is no respecter of persons, and He strictly forbids us to be. Those who spurn objectivity in judgment have therefore abandoned a crucial aspect of Christlikeness and holiness. They are scoundrels, not spiritual heroes.

And there are lots of scoundrels hanging around both poles of this particular axis.

Phil's signature

Missing the Point on Sexual Abuse

by Hohn Cho



t has been an eventful week on the topic of sexual abuse and the church, as the Houston Chronicle published a series of articles on the scope of the problem within the Southern Baptist Convention, a problem which has been exacerbated by the relative lack of oversight, information sharing, and accountability within the highly decentralized organization. Highly-ranking SBC leaders have already spoken out, acknowledged the magnitude of the problem, and promised reforms, including and most importantly for the purposes of this piece, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

The statement is a good model for taking ownership and responsibility for one's own past words and actions, and although a few critics have persisted in demanding Mohler's resignation or questioning his sincerity, and others are (perhaps more understandably) adopting a "wait and see" attitude, the general response from interested Christians has been appreciation, and gratitude to God, and this latter group includes internationally-recognized sexual abuse expert and survivor advocate, Rachael Denhollander.

I was honestly somewhat surprised to see criticism of Mohler from the other direction, however, with one commenter Monday calling it a "gratuitous and unnecessary apology" in the midst of an article that missed the point so badly that I can only assume it originates from a massive blind spot. The author, Doug Wilson, is certainly no stranger to either controversy or verbal pugilism (ha!), and yet despite that fact I cannot recall even a single time over the past decade-plus that he's ever actually issued a material apology or owned up to a significant mistake in thinking, so perhaps the blind spot lies somewhere therein. Perhaps more likely, however, is the reality that Wilson's perspective on sexual abuse is so astonishingly wrong-headed that it has led to tragic results in at least two cases which have been documented thoroughly in the public record. If the records are a bit too dry for you, Rod Dreher went into the Sitler case in some detail a few years ago.

Given Scripture's clear admonition to us in Matthew 7:3-5, one might think that perhaps Wilson is not the most appropriate or helpful messenger on the topic of either apologies or sexual abuse, even as Mohler heeds his own conscience in extending his own apology and seeking forgiveness for his own overt statements and actions in support of C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Churches (formerly known as Sovereign Grace Ministries). And that is precisely where Wilson misses the point. He spills much ink on the concept of the presumption of innocence, despite the fact that aside from some secular Title IX administrators and other radical left wingers, most people are not really contesting that point, certainly not that I've seen within the church.

The point here relates to integrity of speech. Mohler is not apologizing for his presumption of innocence. He is apologizing for going far beyond that in his own past, overt statements of support for Mahaney and Sovereign Grace, which he made without sufficiently investigating the other side of the story per Proverbs 18:13 & 17, and with partiality in judgment per Proverbs 24:23 & 28:21. Obviously, Mohler is personally convicted over these matters, and when one has erred publicly, one ought to make amends publicly as well. As someone in a position of spiritual authority myself, I would be loath to get in the way of a man moved by the Spirit to correct himself, lest he risk grieving the Holy Spirit per Ephesians 4:30 or searing his conscience per 1 Timothy 4:2. And for any Christian minister, we know from 1 Timothy 1:4-5 that maintaining a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith are fundamental to efforts toward loving instruction and advancing the Kingdom of God.

There's another important point to consider here, however, and that is the fact that an elder must be above reproach and have a good reputation with those outside of the church, as clearly stated in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. One need not discard either the presumption of innocence or the requirement in 1 Timothy 5:19 for a charge against an elder to have two or three witnesses in order to note that there exist differing levels of proof, and that the Bible nowhere requires conviction of a crime—which requires "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" under our criminal justice system—in order to establish that an elder is not qualified for the office, as Wilson seems to imply. Indeed, for many matters relating to moral failure, there will never be a criminal conviction, because adultery, to use one example, is simply not enforced as a crime in any US jurisdiction.

Instead, in even the T4G statement itself (since deleted) that Mohler, Mark Dever, and Ligon Duncan released to defend Mahaney and Sovereign Grace, they indicated in an apparent nod to being above reproach and having a good reputation with those outside of the church that "A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry."

What Mohler now seems to acknowledge is that the charges against Mahaney and Sovereign Grace were more serious than he'd initially believed. As a trained attorney, Denhollander has done an admirable job of highlighting precisely why this is, and her devastatingly detailed March 1, 2018 summary not only provides a credible charge with witnesses that has existed for years, for those who took the time to investigate,[*] in my view it basically establishes a prima facie case that demands a substantive response. It is simply light years more substantial than mere gossip, or biased axe grinding, or anonymous complaints.

Sadly, from my perspective, the response from Sovereign Grace has been to attack straw men, disingenuously deflect, point to procedural maneuvers as a vindication, and steadfastly refuse to address the issue in an (increasingly vain) effort to move along in the apparent hope that people will just forget about it.[**] They're also eager to tout their relationship with "Ministry Safe" as an apparent talisman against criticism, but given the fact that Ministry Safe has become the go-to organization for many major insular entities when accused of sexual abuse (including Doug Wilson's own denomination, and others such as the United States Olympic Committee, Bob Jones University, and Nazarene Global Ministries), at the risk of seeming jaded, I've become rather skeptical of how strong the safeguards implemented by the husband-and-wife legal team at Ministry Safe truly are.

Regardless, in light of this background, I literally laughed out loud when Wilson scolded, "[Denhollander] has gotten out of her lane." It's a backhanded insult that attempts to define and confine her only in relation to her direct testimony as a survivor, when in fact she has become the best advocate for and expert on sexual abuse reform that I have ever known. She's really a textbook example of what earnest and well-intentioned Christian "social justice" advocates might be able accomplish, were they laser-focused on a real and present issue with tangible and measurable injustices, and proposing specific and effective reforms consistent with biblical principles. Her "lane" is precisely sexual abuse and the law, and despite Wilson's patronizing comment about not being trained to identify ambulance chasers, the legal code of ethics which Denhollander presents and teaches on actually requires lawyers to identify and avoid ambulance chasers.

The comment was so ludicrous, so lacking in self-awareness and situational understanding, that I have to wonder whether any of it stems from discomfort that Denhollander has righteously barged into the lanes of coddlers and enablers of abusers who would vastly prefer that she simply shut up and allow them to remain under cover of darkness, rather than expose them pursuant to Ephesians 5:11.

On that note, as someone who deeply appreciates statistics as a basis of measurement and comparison, especially in relation to demographics, I wanted to challenge Wilson's attempt to dismiss the Houston Chronicle articles. First, the reporters were only able to catalog cases where reporting could be found, so the count necessarily excludes many rural areas that have very limited reporting, and cases that were not considered newsworthy. Second, obviously, the cases fail to include situations where direct or indirect or cultural pressure resulted in no report being made, this number is currently unknown due to a lack of studies on the topic, but investigations into various organizations such as the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Bob Jones University, Ethnos 360 (formerly known as New Tribes Mission), the Independent Fundamental Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention as mentioned previously, and Protestants generally all sadly seem to indicate a major problem. Third, it has been known from insurance reports since at least 2007 that the scale of the sexual abuse problem in Protestant churches is arguably at least as large as the one in the Roman Catholic Church, which nearly all observers (including Wilson) agree is a genuine scandal.

Finally, I wanted to say a word about Wilson's concerns regarding the trajectory of "woke" justice and capitulation on biblical principles to the worldly spirit of the age. Candidly, I share a number of his concerns, and have said as much on this blog, many times. I'm well aware that numerous egalitarians are using legitimate concerns over sexual abuse to attack the notion of biblical complementarianism itself, just as certain other social justicians are using a legitimate hatred of the sin of racism to attack a biblical understanding of what it means to regard no one according to the flesh, in true unity, which refuses to elevate the importance of trivial surface distinctions between Jew and Greek.

But whether from the left or the right, pragmatic concerns over trajectory and potential results should never trump basic biblical ethics. Mohler obviously believes that in his prior full-throated defenses of Mahaney and Sovereign Grace, he spoke too soon, with partiality, and without sufficient investigation. It is right and proper that he make equally public amends for that, just as it is right and proper that Mahaney and Sovereign Grace provide a substantive response for their actions in light of Denhollander's prima facie case. The alternative is a cloud of scandal persisting over their ministry as they remain subject to legitimate reproach, and establish and confirm an increasingly poor reputation with those outside (and inside) the church.

An independent investigation, which Denhollander, Mohler, and even all Wilson appear to support, despite the latter's skepticism about the existence of an appropriate organization—and by the way, my understanding is that although Denhollander has spoken well of Boz Tchvidjian's GRACE organization, she has not at all insisted it is the only legitimate organization—would be one way of commencing to clear that cloud. With every passing day of intransigence, however, Mahaney and Sovereign Grace make the dispersal of that cloud more and more difficult, and at this point I do wonder whether they will ever recover any credibility whatsoever. Like Wilson, they've badly missed the point, whether it's their responses to sexual abuse cases, their attitudes and actions toward survivors, or their doubling down on a continuing strategy of stonewalling and diversion after being called on it.

Learning from Mohler's apology, rather than Wilson's defense, would perhaps be the bare beginnings of a start.

Hohn's signature


[*] I was one who failed to do so, instead simply accepting the assurances of people like Dever, Duncan, and Mohler, until a bit under two years ago when a blogpost commenter pointed me to Mahaney's May 22, 2014 statement in which he claimed, "I look forward to the day when I can speak freely. For now, the simple and extraordinarily unsatisfying reality—for myself and others—is that in the face of an ongoing civil lawsuit, I simply cannot speak publicly to the specifics of these events." And yet even after the dismissal of that lawsuit, Mahaney has refused to address any of it substantively, an omission that seems so out of step with his May 22 statement that it again implicates the issue of integrity of speech.

[**] A point-by-point establishment of these patterns I've perceived is beyond the scope of this blogpost, but pick just about any public response by Sovereign Grace over the years, and I'd be happy to break it down and fill out my opinion more specifically.