02 November 2006

Thoughts on today's scandal

by Phil Johnson

COLORADO SPRINGS (AP)—The Rev. Ted Haggard resigned as president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals on Thursday after being accused of paying a man for sex in monthly trysts over the past three years.

Haggard—an outspoken opponent of the drive for gay marriage—also stepped down as senior pastor at his 14,000-member New Life Church pending an investigation by a church panel, saying he could "not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations."

"I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity," Haggard said in a written statement. "I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."

—Catherine Tsai

Here is the story according to Christianity Today.

And here are my initial thoughts:

  1. If he really didn't do it, he should not have resigned. If the accusations against him were totally false, there was no reason whatsoever to resign—in fact, that would be a totally wrongheaded and completely counterproductive thing to do.
  2. The scandal will hurt not only "the religious right," but virtually all evangelical ministries. Justifiably or not, Haggard was perceived as a key leader (representing "30 million evangelicals"!) in both political and spiritual venues. Voters will have second thoughts, and donors will be stunned by yet another scandal involving a high-profile Christian leader.
  3. Some might think such a voter/donor backlash is unwarranted and irrational. I don't. The back-story here includes just about everything wrong with 21st-century "evangelicalism." This was the top leader of the largest organization representing America's old-guard evangelical core. The movement (not everyone associated with it, of course, but the drift of the movement as a whole) long ago sold out eternal values for more pragmatic and temporal concerns: political power, contemporary fashions, public opinion, and a lopsided moral agenda.
  4. It's time for evangelicals to rethink their priorities, reexamine the evil fruits of pragmatic and market-driven "spirituality," and retool their own movement. Better yet, Christians with a concern for the glory of God and the authority of Scripture should renounce the latitudinarian-style movement contemporary "evangelicalism" has morphed into. It is a hopelessly mixed and muddled multitude. The fashionable brand of NAE/Christianity Today-style "evangelicalism" actually abandoned historic evangelical principles long ago, and hasn't taken a firm stand for biblical and evangelical doctrine for some time. The current scandal is only a symptom of that much deeper problem.
  5. Which is to say that evangelicalism right now is at least as much in need of Reformation as Medieval Roman Catholicism was before Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church. We need to face that squarely, rather than reflexively defending our "movement" in the wake of a scandal like this.



Phil's signature

82 comments:

Matthew said...

Well spoken, Phil...

babybug said...

Hmmm - what is wrong with him resigning until the allagations are either proved or disproved. If they are disproved he is able to take up his post again nowing that he has been justified and that he has minimised the impact on the church that such allegation might have - IMO.

TheBlueRaja said...

I read somewhere that the bylaws of the church put Haggard in a process that demmanded his stepping aside while the board investigated the accusations. But I don't know if that's the case or not.

Douglas McMasters said...

A quote I've never forgotten:

"A godly man hates sin, and he hates it most within himself"

Thomas Watson, A Godly Man's Picture

centuri0n said...

It's funny, but that last part -- the part about the reasons for reformation -- I e-mail almost those exact words to Phil 10 minutes ago before I came to check out the blog.

One other thing as I scan the early-morning meta:

There are two issues in the accusation: {a} the sex accusation, and {b} the drug accusation. If only the latter proves true, Haggard ought to be out of the ministry -- and the voice-mails the accuser has of Haggard clearly indicate he was in on the drug use. In my mind, that's enough to have him resign in disgrace.

[2]

Highland Host said...

Babybug, I'm afraid that resigning won't have minimised the impact, because Phil isn't the only person out there who'd suspect a resignation to be an implicit acknowledgement of guilt.

Of course it's all a horrible mess. Watching from my side of the pond I feel... pretty upset really. But over here we have an Evangelical Alliance that refuses to discipline heretics.

Highland Host said...

Of course, I join the rest of the commenters here in saying that I hope and pray all these allegations are false, following our worthy legal dictum of 'innocent until proven guilty'.

The press, I fear, will behave as if they were in France, where the law is 'Guilty until proven innocent.'

DJP said...

To semi-tag-team:

Haggard hasn't even been on my radar, previously. The NAE entered once, when I noted that Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs with the NAE, had said this (emph added):

Most evangelicals still regard Mormonism as a cult.”

That statement, this event, and many other recent developments fuel my own feeling that "Evangelical" means less and less.

Carla said...

Odd, but when I read this in the news yesterday my first thought was how I wasn't surprised.

Shouldn't a person be surprised when a professing believer (leader, no doubt) finds themselves in the center of such a scandal?

With that said, I do hope it's untrue, and I hope there are folks keeping his wife and kids in prayer. I can't imagine what they must be going through after such a publicly shameful accusation.

SDG...

Phil Johnson said...

Of course, I too would have hoped he was totally inncocent and that his resignation was merely a really stupid strategy. But, sadly, Haggard himself apparently admits that some of the charges are true.

Which charges are true are left for the press to speculate. That is also a totally wrongheaded strategy in any case—but especially if his only sins were mere "indiscretions."

Kim said...

Which is to say that evangelicalism right now is at least as much in need of Reformation as Medieval Roman Catholicism was before Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church.

Absolutely. And anyone who promotes this analogy will be about as popular as the original reformers were.

marc said...

Nice picture of Ted, Phil. Very CNN editorial like. I for one appreciate how much can be said or not said in the kind of image one uses.

Highland Host said...

It sounds worse every minute. But then I regard modern evangelicalism as much like (TOO much like) the Church at the end of the 19th century, repeating the same errors.

And saying 'some' of the accusations are true without stating which ones sounds ominous.

JSB said...

Wow, Phil. Your words ring out like a clarion call on this sad day. Many thanks.

Phil Johnson said...

Marc: "Nice picture . . . Very CNN editorial like"

Thanks. Now that you mention it, I wouldn't mind making the point that an overwhelming outpouring of visible emotion is no reliable proof that someone is legitimately being moved by the truth. A failure to grasp that simple point is, I think, another of the serious deficiencies of this generation of evangelicals—just another expression of the spiritually-lethal superficiality we need to renounce and repent of.

BReformed said...

It is a hopelessly mixed and muddled multitude.

"...you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing', and you do not even know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked..." (Rev. 3:14-22)

Joel Johns said...

Well Team Pyro,

Assumming he is guilty, I guess we throw out the baby with the bath water and all evangelicals are heritics because of this one man's fault. For that matter all fundamentalists are equally heritics because of the recent downfall of Dr. Bob Gray at Trinity in Jacksonville. When will we all stop this nonsense and understand that this man's sin or the sin of others is not a valid argument for their church or denomilational strategy. I expect better arguments from team pyro against market driven strategies.

SFB said...

We as evangelical Christians have been taking off our fancy gloves to eat at the table of devils for too long. It is now time for us to take off those same gloves in preparation for a fight. Things like this scandal are being credited to YOUR account, Christian man... Christian woman. Will you let the world believe that you are cut from the same cloth as Haggard and Swaggart and Roberts Liardon and all the others who are making a mockery of Christ's sacrifice? Are you willing to be lumped in with them in the world's mind because you see so little that can be done about it? No? Then FIGHT. Put on the God-given armor you were born again to wear and charge the gates of Hell. I guarantee you will be seeing nothing but my back as you run towards the fray. I plan on giving the enemy the business end of the Sword. Where does your plan lead you? Onward, Christian soldier. Quit yourself like a man.

DJP said...

Joel Johns

Interesting thoughts.

Perhaps one day you'll find the time actually to read Phil's post, and his and our further remarks.

When that day comes, perhaps you'll retract yours.

sk said...

Where in the Bible does it say hire a guy to represent 30 million of you? This is just too easy for the devil to exploit. I expect it always. (Assuming he's guilty, which yesterday, in this political season, I assumed was probably not true, but everybody who seems to be following it seems to think something's not right, so...)

Jim Crigler said...

Re: Phil's comment: an overwhelming outpouring of visible emotion is no reliable proof that someone is legitimately being moved by the truth.

That one just made my rotating email signature file.

Connie said...

Like Dan, the NAE and Haggard haven't even been on my radar screen. I once joked to my husband that we should maybe subscribe to "Christianity Today" (or is that "Astray"?) just so we would be aware of what new wind is currently blowing in the church.

I have a favorite phrase--which is probably not unique to me--that serves well in situations/times like these, "I'm often disappointed, but rarely surprised". Sounds cynical, but it's not.

I'm rarely surprised because I KNOW what my own heart and flesh are capable of. I'm often disappointed because I KNOW the price the Lord paid for me and the provisions He has made for me.

I am humbled and grieved by news of the fall of yet another "high profile" leader associated with the name of X.

Connie said...

Phil said, "...an overwhelming outpouring of visible emotion is no reliable proof that someone is legitimately being moved by the truth...another of the serious deficiencies of this generation of evangelicals—just another expression of the spiritually-lethal superficiality we need to renounce and repent of."

THAT is only one of the issues that caused me to rethink my Charismatic position years ago! I'm highly suspicious of excessive emotions--mine and others'.

Pastor Rod said...

Phil,

You said:

It's time for evangelicals to rethink their priorities, reexamine the evil fruits of pragmatic and market-driven "spirituality,"

That's something we can agree on without qualification.

Rod

Douglas McMasters said...

Have a read, very interesting:

http://harpers.org/SoldiersOfChrist.html

Douglas McMasters said...

What we might have thought, but hoped would be different:

From: Pastor Ross Parsley Mailed-By: newlifechurch.org
Date: Nov 2, 2006 10:59 PM
Subject: Update from Pastor Ross

Dear New Lifers and friends of New Life Church,

Many of you have expressed concern about today’s news regarding our pastor. Thank you all for your prayers and support, and for your concern for our church family.

As you’ve likely heard by now, Pastor Ted has voluntarily placed himself on administrative leave as New Life’s senior pastor to allow our external board of overseers to work effectively. Below is the statement that we released to the media on Thursday afternoon.

Since that time, the board of overseers has met with Pastor Ted. It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true. He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

We had a similar scenario with a very high profile mega mega church pastor on the east side about a decade ago. He was also very outspoken about aberrant sexual practices. The problem dragged on and on and on while the local media had a field day with it. The elders of his church seem like a clueless bunch letting the issue go on for years on end before they finally asked him to step down.

Best policy is to fess up and get out and get it over with.

Travis Hilton said...

Phil,

I will say that I agree wholeheartedly with much of what you say here. But I take exception with this:

"Some might think such a voter/donor backlash is unwarranted and irrational. I don't. The back-story here includes just about everything wrong with 21st-century "evangelicalism."

I would hope that one minister's transgression would not be all it took for thoughtful Christians to stay home and not vote at all. It is no surprise that a church leader has had a sinful transgression (as sad as it is). It is no surprise that politicians are also caught engadging in sinful activity. We will always have those with us in this fallen world. There is no doubt in my mind that our primary focus as Christians should be on the Kingdom of God. But let's hope that Christians will do their duty as Christians and be responsible citizens. I think it would be foolish to go to the polls and vote for a candidite who does not share your convictions just to teach the candidite that more likely shares your convictions a lesson. It would be equally foolish to stay home. Both of these options would be irrational and irresponsible.

David said...

Phil said:

The fashionable brand of NAE/Christianity Today-style "evangelicalism" actually abandoned historic evangelical principles long ago, and hasn't taken a firm stand for biblical and evangelical doctrine for some time. The current scandal is only a symptom of that much deeper problem."

My quick guide to wrong way christianity - If the materials, web site or pulpit are dominated by an American Flag as a key componant - that entitiy has likely forsaken biblical christianity.

JSB said...

I saw some video this morning of Ted Haggard's church. He was using his "preacher voice" to admonish his congregation to get out and vote and stand against the evils of society etc. etc., all while his worship band in the background played emotion generating music as people stood and swayed in the aisles.

This manipulation of feelings is not the church of Jesus Christ, or the New Testament. It is a flabby experience based religion that will fail the moment someone comes into real spiritual battle. It failed Ted Haggard, obviously.

Compassion demands we pray for him and his family. Scripture demands we put a stop to this kind of emotion based churchianity.

Church Dog said...

Yeah, we should get rid of all the American Flags in in churches! Cause we all know that you can't love God AND your country. In fact, we should get rid of the pledge of allegiance too. These are just more examples of the "evil fruits" that these "modern evangelical churches" are growing.

I'm sure some time in the near future we'll learn from a reformed blog somewhere that "modern evangelicals" are also planning on taking over the world on behalf of Satan. This will be the crowning achievement of their "evil fruits".

Keyser Soze said...

I may be out of touch or just not up to date with the mainstream - but why are those who are doctrinally sound shocked, disappointed or hurt that any of this garbage goes on? What do they expect?? Anyone who abandons (or never possessed) the whole truth of the Word of God - myself included - is not immune from doing ANYTHING. What suprises and disappoints me is that most professing Christians automatically assume someone is a believer just because they say so or are affiliated with something. What Biblical principle is being followed/applied in doing so? I see blogs all the time that say "I know Rick Warren (or whoever) is a believer, but is just misguided etc. Says who? We cannot know who is and who isn't. Wouldn't it be just as foolish for someone to say any certain leader is a believer when his doctrine and practice brings that into serious question as me saying he's lost and unsaved? I know I am slow, but just don't get the uproar. As for this hurting the cause of Christ - how so? Does anyone contend what is going on out there in the mainstream is really the true work of Christ??

candyinsierras said...

church dog. Just for your info. The Pledge of Allegiance was not penned by Christians. In fact, "Under God" was not added until much later. The Pledge of Allegiance was actually penned by someone with Socialistic sympathies. I forget his name at the moment because I am headed off to work. Look it up. Somehow because it says "Under God" we Christians have adopted it and held it dear, more dear than actual scripture at times. Yeah, it's cool to recite, but it obviously obscures the more important issue. Politics will not bring about salvation, and a flag in the sanctuary does not prove much of anything.

DeathRowBodine said...

david said:
My quick guide to wrong way christianity - If the materials, web site or pulpit are dominated by an American Flag as a key componant - that entitiy has likely forsaken biblical christianity.

Amen. Lot's more to be said about that, but it will have to wait. I have to go put together the voter guide going out in the Sunday bulletin. [not really]

Lee Shelton said...

Let's not forget that God is just as sovereign in situations like these as He is in any other. Has anyone stopped to think that this may be God's way of humbling the so-called "religious right"?

Church Dog said...

Candyinsierras,

So are you arguing for the elimination of the pledge?

Maybe you run with a different crowd but I have never met a believer who held the pledge more dear than the Word.

Craver VII said...

Yes, it is disturbing that he actually resigned; that's so final. It is one thing to step aside until the smoke clears, but this makes me wonder.

Sharon said...

Ref: church dog

Is it time to invoke Rule #4 yet?

Church Dog said...

Sharon,

Are you a grandmother or homeschool mom that I somehow offended? (Not that I have anything against them, in fact, I appreciate both) I didn't mention cigars or beer in my previous posts which is what got a past comment deleted.

I was simply responding to what someelse posted. So...mind your own business.

David said...

CDog, your a goof.

What about my post was not clear?

Typically when you use the words "dominant" and "key componant", it indicates that the person may be indicating the pre-eminance of the subject of the sentence.

If the American flag is pre-eminant in a christian organization, it shows that the flag is more important than Christ

centuri0n said...

Church dog:

Time to re-read the rules.

Adopt even a false civility quickly, or you're going to find yourself on the dog-cathcer's leash.

m'K? :-)

Lindon said...

>>Anyone who abandons (or never possessed) the whole truth of the Word of God - myself included - is not immune from doing ANYTHING.>>>

This statement perplexes me. Having 'sound doctrine' is not an assurance of godly living. One can know the truth, even teach the truth of scripture and not live it fully.

We all abandon the teaching of scripture to different degrees.

With that said, I pray that Haggard will be dismissed (he has admitted some charges) and will come to full repentance. I also pray we will not see a book deal soon.

Benjamin Oetken said...

"Which is to say that evangelicalism right now is at least as much in need of Reformation as Medieval Roman Catholicism was before Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church. We need to face that squarely, rather than reflexively defending our "movement" in the wake of a scandal like this." - I agree with Phil, this event if nothing else should open our eyes to the need for a reformation in today's evangelical circles. If the blatant heresy and the walking away from the truth of the gospel was not enough. Our apparent complacency on sin and our lack of hate of it within ourselves should force us crawling on our faces back to God.
- With that said I would encourage all to lift up the congregation in prayer. I started attending a church a few years after a similar event had taken place when the pastor had been forced to resign because of a sin of this nature and even those few years later you could still see the pain and distrust in the eyes of all those who sat under him for so many years.
- Finally, let us all lift ourselves and each other up in prayer for how easily we could all fall into similar sin if we allowed sin to begin to slip into our own hearts without hating it's very presence and without daily seeking God's mercy and grace for the continual sanctification of our heart and mind.

Lee Shelton said...

Getting back to the original post, I think this spells it out: "The movement (not everyone associated with it, of course, but the drift of the movement as a whole) long ago sold out eternal values for more pragmatic and temporal concerns: political power, contemporary fashions, public opinion, and a lopsided moral agenda."

It seems most of these "evangelical" groups are more like political action committees than preachers of the Word. They seem so preoccupied with politics that they have no time for biblical doctrine. They could stand to read Romans 13 again. If anyone thinks the role of the church is to fight for political and social change, then they're sorely mistaken. Change in those areas can only come about when hearts and minds are changed by the Gospel.

Or am I just whistling Dixie here?

David said...

lee S.

It is a both, not an either/or.

We must bring the gospel. That is first and foremost, and it is what most (all) liberal churchs fell away from.

But we must also bring food and clothing and shelter (and water, insert Franks latest jihad here) to those that need it - as we bring them the gospel.

It is not fighting for social change, it is doing social change. We are called not only to radical belief, but radical lives.

Chris Freeland said...

Wow.

A post that records the sad fall of another pastor (regardless of what you think of him), and it takes less than 50 posts for some of you guys to start bickering with each other about a non-related issue.

Shame on you.

centuri0n said...

Church Dog is now persona non grata here at TeamPyro.

Unfortunately, that's the worst I can do.

Spurgeons Ghost said...

People need to step back, take a deep breath and get back on topic.

Tolle, Blogge said...

Well said Phil. It is past time, I think, to reconsider the definitions of theological labels, perhaps even a Machenesque _Christianity and Evangelicalism_.

Bike Bubba said...

One thought I had here is that this illustrates brilliantly the dangers of the personality-driven megachurch. I hope I'm not stepping on toes (how big is Grace?) here, but I'm learning that as a church crosses about 300 members or so, it can become exponentially more difficult to actually minister to congregants. The situation for accountability is even worse.

Sharon said...

bike bubba:
That's why involvement in fellowship groups, Bible studies, Sunday School classes, etc. is so important when attending a large church. Accountability is much more effective in smaller groups such as these. (Grace Church seats 3,000.)

Centur0n:
If I'm ever out of line in any of my posts, I do hope one of the TeamPyrites will let me know.

DJP said...

...even a Machenesque _Christianity and Evangelicalism_.

OooooOOOOOoooohhhh....

Bike Bubba said...

Quite true, Sharon, and yet...I half wonder if that half misses the point. Although one can certainly overcome the difficulties of fellowship in the manner you describe, I half wonder if it is incumbent upon a capable pastor to amicably split his congregation and put part of it under the leadership of another when it reaches a certain size. Can even a Spurgeon effectively minister to several thousand people, and be held accountable by them?

Suziannr said...

The pastor of the church I attend believes strongly in home visits and knowing his flock. Once the numbers become too large for him to do just that he has committed to turning a portion over to another pastor raised up from the church.

Backwoods Presbyterian said...

Another example of the danger of Pelagian Theology

John said...

We don't even know what Haggard actually did yet. Whatever it was, it seems pretty clear he lied about it to everyone around him.

I'm not saying there aren't issues worth addressing, but you're making a big leap from one man's secret sin to a blanket condemnation of millions of people as equivalent to pre-reformation Catholics.

About that, as a baptist, I appreciate the reformation Luther began as much as anyone. However, he clearly had his own sin problems which can be seen in some of his truly awful statements about Jews. To condemn the movement he initiated because of his personal failings wouldn't be wise.

Reflexively defend "our movement"? I agree it's a bad idea. Reflexively condemn it? Also a bad idea.

Kyrie66 said...

According to CNN, Haggard now is admitting to buying the meth and going to the gay prostitute for a "massage", sort of like a gay Jimmy Swaggart, apparently. I fully expect him to get a verbal reprimand, get counseling and be back in his church's version of a pulpit in a very short time. The family values groups are already circling the wagons and calling it a leftist attack. Is it safe to assume that those in the pulpit should have matured spiritually enough to be able to avoid massages by gay hookers and meth? These two things have already been established by Ted's own admission. What more needs to be investigated, exactly? A church spokesman said that the church remains, "100% behind him". For all the meth using, gay prostitute visiting pastors out there, I guess they can give a sigh of relief.

Kyrie66 said...

Backwoods Presbyterian,
Before you blame "pelagiun theology", the 5-point, hyper-covenantal, Reformed pastor at my old church left his disabled wife for another member's wife, the mother of 6 children. This problem has another theological term. It's called "S-I-N" and Calvinists are hardly immune.

Luke & Rachael said...

'Another example of the danger of Pelagian Theology'

What does this even mean? There's supposed to be some sort of peculiar, super-charged causal connection between Pelagianism and sin? One that doesn't characterize, say, five-point Calvinism? Is that the idea? Good gracious! That would certainly make me think twice before adopting anything that whiffs of Pelagianism; wouldn't want to fall into sin...

Luke & Rachael said...

I hope your kidding backwoods...

candyinsierras said...

This issue seems slightly "Clintonesque" in the way it is trickling into the media outlets. Even if it is proven that there was no real "impropriety", why would someone want to try meth? What a messed up, highly addictive drug!

Other than that, like I stated in another blog, the lines of delineation are being clearly laid down. God will be glorified and true Christianity will be clearly defined from some of these fraudulent "Christian" groups".

Yes, we can all say, "there but for the grace of God go I"...and that is true...but hello, would you really go to a homosexual to get a massage when you rant so much against that particular group, and would you just try meth to satisfy your curiosity? Yep...we have our own temptations, but if we flirt with certain things, and especially if we are high profile, do we really think that no one will notice?

Phil Perkins said...

I'm agreeing with Carla. I was NOT surprised.

What is surprising about this whole episode is that people that call themselves Christians actually took this usurper seriously.

Has he not publicly declared that he will only preach on the "positive" and not emphasize judgment and sin? And has he not said that evangelicalism is as broad as John McArthur to Binny Hinn?

With that sort of lack of principle--that sort of compromising lack of character, why be surprised? Are you surprised when a pig wallows? When a bird flies?

Just didn't know when or how it would manifest itself.

Phil Perkins.

Jay said...

Ted Haggerd is not my homeboy.

centuri0n said...

Jay: exactly.
_________________

Sharon: C-Dog was warned, and executed flagrante delicto after the warning (in the bloggy sense, not the other sense). If you ever get warned, I'm sure it'll sting your conscience and you'll take a deep breath or something.

Be at peace, please.

David C. Kanz said...

Good words, Phil. In January of 2001 I published much the same sentiment and we did a radio program on the issue:

Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism are Dead!

The Call for Restoration: A Return to Historic, Biblical Christian Creed, Faith and Practice

“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. Proverbs 22: 28

“The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable. But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore. Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come? Isaiah 42: 21-23

“…proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof…”

Leviticus 25:10

Introduction

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Church door at Wittenberg Castle. This act is looked back upon as the official beginning of the Reformation.

In his 95 Theses, Luther simply asserted that all doctrine and practice (in particular purgatory and indulgences) which is in conflict with the Scriptures is error and a departure from the historical, biblical Christian creed, faith and practice preserved and handed down by the true church of God in ages past.

Today, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and for His sake, we desire to post our own list of theses, the first of which is the issuance of the obituary of modern evangelicalism and purported fundamentalism:

Evangelicalism and fundamentalism is a corpse-----gutted, stuffed and well preserved----but dead nonetheless. Perfumed, painted and put on display, but dead. It has officially succumbed to the results of the its choices for historical disjunction and autonomy; the disaster of which Francis Schaeffer warned:

“…Here is the great evangelical disaster----the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth.” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, p. 37)

Devoid of historical context, and feeling fully capable of redefining Christ as more of a “seeker friendly” type of god…..(contrary to the Christ of ages past and contrary to the view of Christ by the church of ages past, and/or a god whose words are really not ascertainable or preserved for us), evangelicalism and fundamentalism divorced itself from its Living Head.

The self- decapitation of Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism resulted in immediate death, however, its followers for some years now have refused to believe that living without a Head is a sure sign of the cessation of life. They have sought and found another Head, attached it precariously to the Body, put this lifeless, powerless corpse on display and called it The Church. All the while attempting to disguise, (and that not too well), the familiar and pungent odor of a rotted corpse.

We, therefore, in the interest of truth, and as believers in and partakers of a living and resurrected Christ who is revealed to us in the scriptures, officially declare that evangelicalism is dead; Christ is Eternal! The King Lives forever!

Self-decapitation, the forsaking of historical, biblical Christian creed, faith and practice, (and therefore the forsaking of God Himself), was the cause of death. The body will continue to be shown in state until it is mercifully buried.

The results of this self-decapitation are many:

In our seminaries: men are now taught, and in turn teach, that the Bible is insufficient for the entirety of life and higher criticism of the text is rampant.

In our churches: the authority and sufficiency of Christ in the totality of life is compromised and people no longer attend the church meeting to be trained and hear a message from God Himself, but the new agenda is to simply feel good as a result of the experience, retreat from the world of human existence and Biblical duty and hope for the immediate release of all responsibility by the Second Coming of Christ.

In our lives: autonomy and self-deception are the rule and not the exception. Feelings and emotions determine our every day lives and pursuits instead of truth.

This scenario is not new. Many have faced very similar situations:

There is an answer to this disaster, and many lives and the existence of our country are in the balance. A restoration of historical biblical Christian creed, faith and practice is the only answer and a return to a Living God as known in the scriptures.

I have been searching for tools to help bring about this restoration, to train a people that would EFFECT what our fore fathers effected and affect the world in which we live in the same manner as did they.

The training of old started almost categorically with the purpose of man and then directly lead to who God is and how He can be known.

Based on the measuring stick of the past, current Christian Creed (of which there is little), Faith and Practice is a direct slander and liable on the Person and Character of God.

In defining the purpose of man all other activity in which man is engaged is brought under the jurisdiction and authority of the Creator----the canon, the measuring stick against which everything is measured and the ultimate point of reference is taken for the totality of life.

Are our interests the interests of heaven?

Are our pursuits the pursuits of heaven?

Are our lives demonstrations of the presence of the God of Heaven?

Do we love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates?

The Church lies in ruins; exposed to the world as a harlot and tramp.

The Church is the Pillar and ground of the Truth….without Christ demonstrating and defending and declaring Truth through the Church, the world lies at the mercy of the devil and his deception and lies.

It’s time for a Reformation! Isaiah 58.

Jay said...

Phil, any idea who these commies are, masquerading as "conservatives"?
http://bbsnews.net/article.php/20061103235441247
That page makes my blood boil.

Jay said...

Also, regarding your list of 5 items, in #2 near the end you should put "Christian" in quotes.

Char said...

Another example of the danger of Pelagian Theology

Indeed. When your system insists you are basically good-or can attain perfection if you work hard enough at it, your inherent sinfulness (or that of others) always comes as a shock. It makes it inpossible to acknowledge or even recognize that sinfulness, for then you are not a Successful Christian.

This same fellow claimed that he thought he was becoming less sinful all the time-succeeding in the Christian Life.

The heart is deceitful above all things!

Every time something like this happens I am reminded that we all posess such hearts. Now do we dare admit it, or will we keep playing at Happy Successful Christians until God exposes us as well, to our shame?

God have mercy on me, a sinner.

Pastor Rod said...

Phil,

I'm starting to regret saying that I completely agreed with anything in your article. Someone might jump to the conclusion that I agree with some of the self-serving and unkind comments by your readers.

Some are using this tragedy within the Kingdom of God as an opportunity to promote their own theological views. There is almost a sense of glee, "See, I told you things like this would happen."

This is a real tragedy affecting the lives of real people. This does not vindicate anyone's theological position.

The cult of personality does not only live in market-driven churches.

Anyone who takes delight in the fall of a brother (especially a pastor) needs to take a hard look in the mirror (and maybe a glance at 1 Corinthians 13:6).

And let's just get this out and deal with it: We are all hypocrites. Including me. Especially me.

He who has ears ...

Rod

johnMark said...

If anyone is interested in listening to a couple of interviews/reviews of Haggard there are a couple from Issues, Etc. Just for some further insight about him.

"American Evangelicalism"
(Ted Haggard National Association of Evangelicals)
http://www.kfuo.org/mp3/Issues5/Issues_Etc_Sep_13a.mp3

"An Interview with Ted Haggard"
(End of show)
http://www.kfuo.org/mp3/Issues5/Issues_Etc_Sep_14b.mp3

"An Interview with Ted Haggard"
(con't)
http://www.kfuo.org/mp3/Issues5/Issues_Etc_Sep_14c.mp3

Mark

Rob said...

I for one am very excited to see the religious right being dismantled peice by piece.

Tom Foley, Rev. Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart. No one thinks Evangelicals are credible anymore. It's time for a new reformation.

Rob

Brad said...

A reformation is not what is needed, but regeneration. "Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" Heb 10:28 This is not just an issue to contemplate about modern evangelicalism. This is serious sin and destructive to the church in its purpose to give glory to God. We have to have God's perspective on this. For a person to be representing the testimony the gospel of Jesus Christ and His death in payment for sin and His glorious resurrection and decide to walk in sin because he happens to be curious about it, that's just like you have wiped your feet on the death of His Son. You have insulted the Spirit of grace. It is like you have spit in His face. All that awaits you is the full fury of the vengeance of the living God. If one is not saved from the power of walking in sin, looking for it and deliberately practicing it, then what are they saved from? Is this just a joke, a game, or is salvation real?? Wake up!

Brad said...

Jay,

After reading the link you referenced above, and watching Haggard demonstrate such a sincere and increadibly skilled talent of lieing about all of this at www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMAInacGOEo ,I am overwhelmed with the obvious example of demonic posession and control of this person who many would still claim is saved. Saved from what I ask?

Keyser Soze said...

Pastor Rod - what evidence do you have that Haggard is a brother? There certainly is none based on his behavior and his theology. I could as easily say he is just another phony who got exposed. There is more evidence for that statement than yours. If people spent as much time and vigor defending the Gospel as they do defending guys like this, maybe things would eventually start to really change.

centuri0n said...

Keyser:

What? DEFEND the Gospel?! What are you -- some kind 'a SYNERGIST or somethin'!?!

donsands said...

One's theology is the most important part of ones life in this age.

We are fighting an intense spiritual war. Theology must be strong and deep.

There is quite a lot of shallow and weak theology in the Church.

I agree we need a reformation. And I believe that's what the Lord is doing.
He shakes things up.

"And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me" Ezk. 20:38

"And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Whereby we receive a kingdom which can not be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God with godly fear:
For our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:27-29

I pray the Lord would manifest Himself, not for us, but for His name's sake. Amen.

John said...

Haggard should have stepped down from leadership. And I'm not convinced he's being honest about the drug use. Whatever comes out, he has to be held accountable for the mess he's made. There's more at stake than his reputation.

At the same time, if all of it is true and we have a man caught in sexual sin...well, we have clear Biblical precedent for responding. I think right now Jesus is daring each of us to cast the first stone. It won't be me.

The real Pelagian-spirit in this case is the one that says "I could have done better."

GeneMBridges said...

I'm not saying there aren't issues worth addressing, but you're making a big leap from one man's secret sin to a blanket condemnation of millions of people as equivalent to pre-reformation Catholics.

and

What does this even mean? There's supposed to be some sort of peculiar, super-charged causal connection between Pelagianism and sin? One that doesn't characterize, say, five-point Calvinism? Is that the idea? Good gracious! That would certainly make me think twice before adopting anything that whiffs of Pelagianism; wouldn't want to fall into sin.

Let's step back here and see what's really being stated by the person commenting on this before you run to disagree so quickly. Let's look at the historical legacy of Arminianism. Just for starters, Armininanism is already functionally Unitarian with respect to salvation. It takes prevenient grace to alleviate the utter inability of man to believe and repent, but he is still left to a state of nature to do it. Election is dependent on man. Regeneration depends on man to convert before it occurs. You have put election and regeneration out of a chain of grace. Only the cross is in view, and it's not a cross that saves in and of itself. It's merely a "way" of salvation, it is grace that makes man "savable" not grace that actually saves. So, you have only the Son in view, but a Son that is still dependent on man. That is functional Unitarianism at worst, "Bi-Nitarian" at best. In ages past, they emphasized prevenient grace (to their great credit), but more and more you hear men like Elmer Towns flatly denying that men are unable to believe in Christ apart from a work of grace. Rather, they are given the ability to believe, in their view, not by UPG, but by common grace itself. That is grace by design. That's a flat denial of traditional Arminianism's UPG, which is a benefit of the cross, not design. So, there is a strong Pelagian, semi-Pelagian strain of Arminianism that is strongly functionally Unitarian, and it is quite popular.

Unitarianism leads to Socinianism, and if you don't believe that Arminianism leads to Socinianism, then read the history of the Free Will Baptists. They nearly died out because of Socinianism. In fact, the Socinians flirted with the Arminians in Europe from a very early age. All the liberals are Arminian. The Reformed churches spawned neo-orthodoxy, but in so doing they reverted to a form of Arminianism, not Calvinism. In short, the crossroads to heresy in the post-Reformation age almost always goes through "Pelagian" theology of some sort, and that's the same sort of theology you see in churches where church discipline has been lost, it's also the same sort of theology you see lying behind filling churches with large numbers of baptized persons who don't bother to show up on Sunday morning (the SBC is notorious for this), and, it happens to be the same sort of thing that you see lying behind about 90 percent of internet atheists' deconversion stories. That is a historical fact in the post-Reformation age. You will know them by their fruit. Calvinism is inherently stablizing in a way that Arminianism is not.

That said, Arminianism, while an error and prone to spawn error is not the issue here. Rather, what we have in Ted Haggard is charismatic theology gone wild. I agree that his theology and practice is very like that of pre-Reformation Rome. Why? Well, has anybody bothered to read his books? This is a man that advocates mapping geographical areas to pray against geographical demons. He and his church members have gone around town in the dark Colorado night spraying houses with oil to pray against witchcraft. I'm sorry, but that's just plain old fashioned superstition. It's sympathetic magic; and it amounts to the same sort of thing you'd expect to find in medieval Catholicism. This is charismania gone wild. Add to that the warm, fuzzy subjectivist epistemology that they advocate there, well, I for one am not at all surprised that the spirtual maps and the voices of God they claim to hear didn't see this coming.

If you don't think this sort of thing is influential,then allow me to disclose that there are folks @ my own church in dialogue with leaders of another church in the area who are promoting these teachings. Just two weeks ago, I talked with one of my church members who told me about a local youth pastor with a sick daughter who, believing in this stuff, poured oil around his house, anointed the doorknobs to her bedroom, her, and her pillow for two weeks. When she got better, the credit was given to the oil, not the medicince or two weeks bedrest. So, yes, this mess does penetrate into the average church, and when we talk to these people, where do they tell us they got these ideas, they explicitly tell us it is from Ted Haggard, the president of the NAE.

I have a good friend in FL at present who is fighting this in his own church. They're moving toward these same sorts of hyper-charismatic ideas and practices, and they are coupling it with good old fashioned Keswick spirituality of the perfectionist variety no less. The pastor last year, I gather, decided to preach that justification by faith meant not only that your faith is what justifies you (in a literal sense, your faith is the content of your justification) but that the declaration that you are righteous before God meant that you really don't sin anymore.

Many of these "falls from grace" seem to occur among these types. That is what is being stated. It provides one more reason for American evangelicals to step back and re-evaluate what it is that they think passes for biblical theology and orthopraxy in their churches.

Phil Johnson said...

Gene:

Thank you.

John Murphy said...

So...the explanation to this crisis is wrong theology. Ha, ha, ha, by that logic "Calvinists" never commit sexual sin - or at least Calvinists in leadership. Yeah, right. A lot of comments have been made concerning Phil's post, very few concerning grace. Instead, out come the long knives. However else Christ would have responded to this kind of sin, grace would have been pouring out every nook and cranny. I don't believe the same can be said for most of the comments. And yes, that would apply to Phil too!

Luke & Rachael said...

Gene:

There's an empirical question here, which is whether these sorts of things happen more among Pelagianist or semi-Pelagianist types than full-blooded Calvinists; and a more conceptual question, which is whether Pelagian theology in itself somehow makes it's adherents more prone to this sort of thing.

To substantiate the empirical claim, you'd need to do a lot more than you've actualy done; I for one seriously doubt that, as a matter of empirical fact, Arminian leaders fall into sin more often than Reformed ones. You'd need some serious sociological data to substantiate this.

As for the more conceptual question--whether Arminianism in principle facilitates sin--it seems to me that it does so no more nor less than Calvinism. Both at least claim to leave humans responsible for their actions; neither in principle denies them the means to do so.

Now you seem to be saying that Arminianism can't deliver on this in the same way as Calvinism; it's 'destabilizing' in a way that Calvinism isn't. Well, maybe; but maybe not. One might think that Calvinism is no better--even worse-- given it's proclivity toward fatalism, it's inability to deliver genuine moral responsibility, and the like.

Of course, the Calvinist will retort that any interpretation of Calvinism that implies fatalism is a mis-interpretation--not the genuine article. But of course the Arminian will say the same thing: any interpretation of Arminianism that implies a special proclivity toward sin not present on other theological models is an imposture--a nefarious doppelganger of true Arminian theology.

My point is simply that the question is perhaps rather more complex than some might be inclined to think.

JSB said...

Yes, I too am disinclined to buy into this line of thinking (Calvinism hasn't saved the Presbyterians, after all). Good Arminians and Calvinisits can agree about the problems Phil put in his original post.

I rather think the root cause is a lot simpler: The rejection of inerrancy of Scripture. Oh, the church in question may have paid lip service to the concept, but I rather doubt it. I would bet on a more "nuanced" view.

I think the comment reminding us about Francis Schaeffer and "The Great Evangelical Disaster" is more on point than the darts aimed at poor James Arminius.