Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pastor Carl Trueman: Concerns With Quiverfull/Patriarchy

Posted by Christine Pack and Cathy Mathews

For anyone wanting to hear a balanced discussion about a movement within conservative Christianity known as the Quiverfull/Patriarchy movement, and the problems with it, please listen to the program entitled "Bully Pulpit: Sinister Headship" with Carl Trueman. The guest is Rachel Miller of The Aquila Report who recently wrote an article entitled The Soul-numbing Dangers of Patriarchy. (For anyone wanting an even more in-depth discussion of Quiverfull/Patriarchy, I highly recommend this radio series by Christian author and researcher Karen Campbell - Part I - 9 programs, Part II -14 programs.)

During the discussion on the Bully Pulpit program, Trueman and Miller name the popular Duggar family as a "cleaned up" example of the Patriarchy movement. Many would say, but they are so wholesome and always look so happy! Here's one little Patriarchy insider tip: those within the movement MUST always look happy. An "unhappy countenance" is considered a sin against the father, and is an infraction that might cause that person to be disciplined or even shunned from their community. So Patriarchy adherents might look happy because they genuinely are, OR, they might be adhering to the "happy countenance" rule. I don't know about the Duggars, and I also don't think it's possible to gauge where they stand by watching a television show: perhaps they are genuinely happy and wholesome and loving, and perhaps there is truly a balanced and loving relationship between Michelle Duggar and her husband, Jim Bob. I sincerely hope that that is the case. But the Duggars notwithstanding, here are some potential abuses that can occur within Patriarchy, according to Trueman and Miller:
- The husband considering himself, and acting as, his wife's high priest and mediator
- A "sanctified" form of spousal abuse
- Wife spanking (Yes, you read that right, and yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. "Wife spanking" is also known as "Christian Domestic Discipline," and is something that Pastor Trueman said would cause him to institute church discipline immediately if he found it in his church)
- Little to no accountability for the leaders of Patriarchy, who have set up their own cult-like empires
Trueman and Miller also noted that not every Quiverfull/Patriarchy family will look like every other Quiverfull/Patriarchy family, and thus not all adherents to this movement will be abusive, or will hold to each and every tenet. Thus, each family has to be evaluated almost on a case-by-base basis. We agree with this evaluation regarding the potential for abuse within Quiverfull/Patriarchy. We're not saying that abuse always manifests itself among Quiverfull adherents, nor do we believe that it is found within every Quiverfull family. However, we do strongly believe that the system lends itself to abusiveness.

Other Patriarchy leading figures:
- Bill Gothard (and the ATI/IBLP teachings, Gothard has now resigned due to charges of sexual inappropriateness) 
- Doug Phillips (the former president of Vision Forum, Phillips has now resigned due to a sexual abuse lawsuit brought against him by the former nanny to his children)
In posting this program, please understand that we are NOT bashing big families. Nor are we saying that parents shouldn't have rules for their children. We are not saying that having rules in your family is legalism. We all must remember Romans 14 as we have this discussion. Any Christian who passes judgment on their sister for having a lot of children violates the "law" of love that Paul is pointing to. Anyone who passes judgement on a sister for not homeschooling her children violates the same law.

So again, we're not condemning anyone for their choices in non-essential areas, nor are we condemning men and women who perhaps grew up under more liberal teachings, and who became involved in this movement out of a genuine and sincere desire to lead their families (for the men) and biblically submit to their husbands (for the women). We're not condemning, not even a smidge. Cathy and I (Christine) both did a season of homeschooling with our children. Both of us submit to our husbands. It's not about that: it's about the extrabiblical laws that those within the Quiverfull movement add to their Christian walks. Quiverfulls also often refuse to have fellowship with others who choose NOT to add these things to their Christian walks. Now, how is that biblical among Christian brothers and sisters? I'm talking about such extrabiblical laws as these:
Jesus + Homeschooling = Righteousness
Jesus + Courtship Dating = Righteousness
Jesus + As Many Children As You Can Have = Righteousness
Jesus + Long Skirts = Righteousness
Jesus + Daughters Required To Live At Home Till Marriage = Righteousness
I'm sure I'm missing a few of the extrabiblical rules, but that's just off the top of my head. But we need to remember that Jesus condemned such extrabiblical law-making with the Pharisees, which means that we should also be on guard against such things in our own Christian walks. The Pharisees looked at God's Laws, and said, "Oh okay, Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy? That's a great Law. In fact, it's so great, we're gonna help God along here and add even more rules to the Sabbath in order to make sure everyone is honoring the Sabbath in the way WE think is best." These were extrabiblical laws (i.e., instructions not explicitly given from God), which are, by the way, expressly forbidden by God (Deut 4:2). And from there, the Pharisees springboarded into adding rules for the Sabbath about what a person could carry or not carry (heavier than *this* but lighter than *that*), about whether or not a man could shave, could get a bucket of water from a well, write something down, etc., etc. God gave the Sabbath to man to bless man (Mark 2:23-27) but in the hands of the legalistic Pharisees, the blessing became a curse. Well, isn't this exactly what the legalism in Quiverfull is about? You have to homeschool or you are sinning against God. You have to wear skirts *this* length. If your children don't find their spouses through courtship, they are sinning (and you are too, if as their parent you allow them to find spouses a different way). You are sinning if you go to the movie theater. You are sinning if you have a TV in your house. Etc. Etc. Etc.

We're not saying it's wrong or sinful for each Christian family to make personal choices in these areas that bless their families. What we're saying is, where something is not explicitly stated in Scripture, we need to tread very, very carefully, and make sure that we're not turning what is our blessing into another person's Law, which becomes bondage for them. Here's a very specific example. I have a friend who was told by some of her fellow Christians that it was a sin to send children to public school. My friend, however, had been divorced by her husband after he had an affair. She had to work. And neither could she afford private Christian schooling for her children. And thus, her children were in public school. By the time I met her, she had been in profound bondage for several years, thinking that she was sinning against God by having her kids in public school.

There needs to be more charity and grace amongst Christians in non-essential areas. We must not make our blessings into laws for others. And we also need to remember that there is no formula that works all the time, for all Christian families, as in, raise a child in *this* way and you will turn out a perfect Christian product. It doesn't work that way. I've known families who sent their children to Christian or even public schools that ended up with what seem to be Godly Christian children, and some homeschooling families that ended up with very rebellious children. Same thing with courtship. In fact, Joshua Harris, author of Boy Meets Girl, which details the courtship method, has had to edit and re-release his book because two of the featured "courtship dating" couples in the book ended up divorcing. An inconvenient fact like that is certainly apt to take the wind out of the sails of those who think that creating and living in a lifestyle of systematized legalism is a safeguard against sin.  After all, we know from the Apostle Paul that legalism does not have the capacity to restrain the flesh; indeed, it can only serve to it inflame it.
"Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death." (Romans 7:9-11)
In closing: please understand, again, that the purpose of this article is not to attack or mock or denigrate large families or wives submitting in marriage. It is to point out the extrabiblical rules associated with Quiverfull and Patriarchy. I (Christine) have personally counseled women who were involved with these movements who were in profound bondage because of the teachings associated with them, and I don't desire for anyone to become enslaved in a man-made system of works righteousness, and thereby miss the beauty and simplicity that is found in Christ. There truly is freedom and joy in Christ.

 Additional Resources 

In-Depth Discussions of Patriarchy with Author and Christian Researcher Karen Campbell:
⁃ Quiverfull/Patriarchy, Part I (9 radio programs) 
⁃ Quiverfull Patriarchy, Part II (14 radio programs) 
⁃ Militant Fecundity (Aggressively Raising Up A "Christian Army") vs. Seeing Children As A Blessing (4 radio programs) 
What Are The Quiverfull and Patriarchy Movements? (Got Questions?)

Patriarchal Figure R.C. Sproul Jr Says that the Scandal of Josh Duggar Having Had An Ashley Madison Account Is None of Our Business
 - Then Responds When his Own Visit to the Ashley Madison Site is Discovered (RC Sproul Jr website)

Ligonier Suspends R.C. Sproul Jr Over Ashley Madison Adultery Website Visit (Christianity Today)

Wife Spanking Among Conservative Christians (Huffington Post)

Christian Domestic Discipline (a pro wife spanking website that claims biblical support for this practice)

Homeschool Advocate Michael Farris Responds to Sex Scandals of Homeschool Leaders Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips) (Christian Post)

From the IBLP website
Influential Patriarchy Leader Doug Phillips Resigns, Being Sued By Former Nanny For Sexual Misconduct (Sola Sisters)

Bill Gothard Resigns, Duggars Still Slated To Speak at IBLP 2014 Conference (Sola Sisters)

Josh Duggar's Infidelity Outed in Ashley Madison Website Hack (Sola Sisters)

An Open Letter To Bill Gothard's IBLP

Bill Gothard Legalism (Sola Sisters)

Conservative Leader Bill Gothard Resigns Following Abuse Allegations (Religion News Service)

The Duggars, Bill Gothard, Vision Forum, and The Quiverful Movement (I am aware that some of the links in this article are no longer active, but this article still gives a quick thumbnail sketch of Bill Gothard, the Duggars, Vision Forum, Patriarchy and the Quiverfull Movement, and how they are connected)

 Midwest Christian Outreach 

A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life

Josh Duggar, Mike Huckabee and Fodder for Progressives

Is Jesus a Sinner According to Bill Gothard’s Teachings?

If Bill Gothard is Wrong, Then What’s Right?

Bill Gothard: Who Knew What and When? A Question of Accountability


Bill Gothard’s Analogous Teachings

Bill Gothard; Déjà vu All Over Again

Bill Gothard and the Continuing Sex Scandal

Bill Gothard - Truly Repentant?

Leveraging Lunacy: How Bill Gothard Rode a Wave of Evangelical Goofiness

Four part series on Bill Gothard
 - Part 1, Bill Gothard's Evangelical Talmud
 - Part 2, Bill Gothard's Chain of Authority
 - Part 3, Bill Gothard and the Law
 - Part 4, Bill Gothard's Mystical Approach to Medical Issues

An Evening With Bill Gothard

 Websites by Former Gothardites 

Recovering Grace

Abuse Allegations Against Bill Gothard, Founder of Institute In Basic Life Principles
 (Dr. John Cornish and Kari Underwood, co-founders of Recovering Grace)

Under Much Grace

 Facebook Discussions Re: Christian Reconstruction, Theonomy, Patriarchy, Quiverfull, Bill Gothard, the Duggars 

Bill Gothard discussion - 7-2-12

Quiverfull / Duggars discussion - 9-21-14

Quiverfull / Patriarchy discussion - 9-24-14

Christian Reconstruction / Theonomy / Quiverfull / Patriarchy discussion - 10-19-14

 Secular Articles 

When Having Kids Is A Religious Experience
 (ABC News)

Quiverfull: More Children For God's Army (Newsweek writer Kathryn Joyce)

Inside the Duggar Family's Conservative Ideology (Newsweek, Kathryn Joyce)

God Is Good

Posted by Christine Pack

My twin sister Cathy Mathews, who writes here on the Sola Sisters website with me, shared Christ with me for two years. I was a gospel-hardened, full-on New Ager, who was very cold and hostile to the things of God. But in God's great kindness, it was through my sister's witnessing to me, as well as my father's witnessing, that I was saved.

Love you Cathy, Miss Sassy Molassy, my soulmate sista, my everyday call ❤❤❤ (And Happy Birthday to my sweet's her berfday today ☺)

Lake Wedington, Northwest Arkansas

Cathy's about to hit me with an egg

Annual family beach trip

No toys required when you have a twin and a box

Friday, September 19, 2014

Forbes Magazine Writes About Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill

Posted by Christine Pack

When you've got the secular world (in this case, Forbes magazine) looking in and rightly calling out spiritual abuse, there's a real problem. Frankly, it blasphemes God's name when it has to come to the point where even the lost are pointing and talking.

From the article:
In life, blowhards and bullies will inevitably rise up and do their thing. In the field of management, they tend to rise up and do it with extra frequency and impact. And in religious organizations, they can often do it with maximum impact, because the whole enterprise is usually founded on the notion of absolute authority. 
Mark Driscoll, one of the nation’s most prominent and celebrated pastors, may be the newest and best example of this. He is the toxic leader du jour, though he has stepped away from leadership temporarily to navigate massive waves of accusations that have flowed into his Mars Hill multi-campus megachurch based in Seattle. 
(Mars Hill: Cautionary Tales From The Enron Of American Churches)

The entire article can be read here.

 Additional Resources 

Documenting the Problems With Mark Driscoll

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Current Mars Hill Members Write An Excellent Letter To Mark Driscoll, Make Suggestions

Posted by Christine Pack

Warren Throckmorton of Patheos, who has been doing a bang-up job of reporting on the Mark Driscoll crisis, reports that some current Mars Hill members have written a letter to Mark Driscoll, which they shared with him for publication. This is such a kind, compassionate letter to a man (Driscoll) who is obviously very messed up and needs help. There are also some very wise and practical suggestions from these members for getting Mars Hill steadied.

The bottom line in this is that the church - any church - is not the property of any particular pastor. The church is the Bride of Christ, and belongs to God. Mars Hill is not Mark Driscoll's church to do with as he pleases. These members are trying to help him recognize that, and to act accordingly. I hope that he does.

From the letter, here are a few of the steps these members say that they would like to see implemented in order to put Mars Hill back in order:
- Fire the PR firm. Churches need to tell the truth, not spin it. Please tell us that members aren’t paying for the PR firm? 
- Hire an independent CPA firm. They should be experienced with churches/non profits; have them thoroughly audit Mars Hill financial records for the past 5 years. Then publish their findings in plain English so we can all read them. Forget about the ECFA endorsement; that doesn’t seem to provide much real accountability. At this point, we don’t know what to believe about the money; however there’s enough funny sounding stuff to make us feel pretty uncomfortable and not be very excited to give more money. Time to put all speculation to rest and just lay out the facts to us. 
- Scrap the current governance system. Come up with a new governance system; pretty obvious to everyone but you that this one ain’t working. 
- Report All Progress Through The Patheos Blog. You’ve made us all daily readers of the Patheos blog. Why? Because we feel ‘spun’ when we read much of the Mars Hill official stuff. Patheos may not be 100% Mars Hill friendly; however it does seem to give us more of the straight scoop on what’s going on than the official Mars Hill information channels. 
- Report monthly on the progress with the 21 former pastors/elders on Patheos. It appears that you have an independent arbitrator handling the process with the 21 former pastors/elders, which is great. Now have each of the 21 report back directly through Patheos as each case is resolved. We just want to hear it directly in their own words that “things are fixed”. We want to see progress. 
- Give up your current 6 week “stepping down” review process. Most of us average members don’t really think this review process is that independent, even the newly announced BoE (Board of Elders). Both the BOAA and the BoE are hand picked boards judging those that picked them. What happens to those who disagree in this process? Of the nine men who signed the now infamous letter, eight are gone. Eight very good men. It’s tough to trust a process where dissenters seem to just disappear. Time is too precious; stop this process so we can focus on real solutions. 
- Tell us what the Executive Elders earn. We all saw the outside of your house on KOMO TV news recently Pastor Mark. Million dollar house KOMO said, which was new information to many of us. Looking at your million dollar home, it does raise questions in our minds. You are telling us to contribute more since giving is down. That’s fine; however first show us the money trail, including all EE salaries, book deals, everything. No hiding money in special trusts or backdoor channels. Complete transparency. 
- Show us a current up to date Mars Hill balance sheet. We want to know what assets Mars Hill owns and what it owes. People are being let go and campuses closed to live inside budget. Fine. You are asking us to give more, fine. But if we have assets that can be tapped into or sold, we would like to know what they are. Sources on the internet say that Mars Hill owns real estate valued at over $10 million. If you want shared sacrifice, we need to understand the full picture of what we have to work with. Publish this on the Patheos blog for all to see; if we are walking in the light, what do we have to be afraid of? 
- Hire Paul Tripp. Let him set up a process to fix the ministry culture at Mars Hill. When Mars Hill sent us the email recently saying how angry the elders were that the 9 pastors’ letter was leaked, it kind of missed the point that we all saw plain as day: Paul Tripp thinks our church is the sickest he has ever seen and we are hung up on how the letter got leaked? Doesn’t that kind of prove Tripp’s point a bit? Don’t we all just want the truth here? Paul Tripp needs to have a secure role in partnership with a new elder board of some type to do what he and they think needs to be done, and then report back to us about progress independently. 
- Voluntarily Step Down Pastor Mark. For as long as Paul Tripp and whatever new elder board that is created think you need to. You don’t get to decide your fate at Mars Hill, they do............You’ve said you want to be at Mars Hill the rest of your life; now prove it. Have the [courage] to voluntarily step down now and submit to Paul Tripp and a new elder governance system so you have the time to get your own internal house in order. We don’t know what’s wrong with you Pastor Mark, but you and the Executive Elders seem to be the only ones who are not seeing the obvious: you need some help. No more hiding behind the skirt of self appointed internal review boards and governance rules you wrote yourself. No more PR firms. No more videos. No more explanations about how detractors are anonymous or blaming ‘negative media attention’ for our woes. We’ve had enough of that; it sounds like unmanly whining.
***The letter can be read in its entirety here, but there is some language in the letter that might cause offense***

 Additional Resources 

Documenting The Problems With Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll [UPDATED]

Mark Driscoll's Failed Publicity Stunt That Ended With Him Lying About What Really Happened (with video proof)

Mark Driscoll Repents? Not So Fast, Say Phil Johnson and Chris Rosebrough

Will John Piper Publicly Address The Mark Driscoll Virus That He Unleashed Into the Church by Keynoting Mark Driscoll at the 2006 Desiring God Conference?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11: My Wake-Up Call

Posted by Christine Pack

9/11 woke me up. In fact, it awakened both me and my husband from our easygoing lifestyle. You've read articles that mention there was a massive influx in church services right after 9/11 happened? My husband and I were part of that. We began attending a nearby church, with lots of questions in hand: If our lives can be snuffed out in an instant, what does it all mean? Is there a God? If there is a God, is He good? And if He is good, why did He let 9/11 happen? Turns out, we were asking all the wrong questions.

Somewhere along the way, I heard the gospel, the WHOLE gospel, and realized that life wasn't about me living a comfortable and problem-free life, trying to find what made me happy and "fulfilled" me (the most commonplace view of life in our luxurious, naval-gazing American culture). It was about this: where did I stand in relationship to a holy and just God? Where did I stand with this God Who made me, Who had a righteous claim on my life, and to Whom I would one day give an account? I came to understand that I had sinned against a high and holy God by breaking his commandments, and that because of this, I deserved death. I deserved not only death, but eternal judgment. I deserved hell.

Although I grew up in the "Bible Belt" and attended church faithfully with my family, I had never heard the true gospel message. Never. How was this even possible? I still wonder that sometimes, myself. How could I have faithfully attended church, year in and year out, walking every Sunday into a building that had a cross on top, without ever knowing what the gospel was? And yet, that is the reality. I grew up attending a church in which the gospel, the "good news," was never proclaimed. I heard about Jesus as a good person, a man who lived an exemplary life, a life that we ought to try our best to emulate. I heard that Christians should be kind, and seek to help others. These were partial truths, but these things are not the gospel message. Our church was known to have a huge mercy ministry outreach that gathered food and clothes for the poor in the community. Again......not the gospel. Kind and loving to do, but not the gospel.

What I had never heard before was that my good deeds were counted as filthy rags in God's eyes (Isaiah 64:6). I had never heard that all the "little" sins I had committed and rationalized away in my lifetime were actually offenses committed against a holy God. The times I had lied or coveted or dishonored my parents or displayed unrighteous anger, too many to remember or list, all these things were offenses against God. I had never been presented an image of a God of complete perfection and holiness and justice, with Whom no sinful being could dwell. When THIS God, the God of the Bible. was held up to me, I saw my sins in a new light. My eyes were opened, and I realized I needed a Savior. I needed Christ, and HIS perfect righteousness. Even though I had heard the name "Jesus" my whole life, I suddenly saw him in a new light. I had sung hymns about him and to him for years, and yet I had never understood why his death on the Cross was significant, because sin had never been properly explained to me.

You see, prior to hearing the gospel message rightly proclaimed, I thought of sin as something primarily "horizontal," as something I did to other people, but not as something "vertical," as actions I had committed against a perfect and holy and just God. But when I did, it was at this point that the term "good news" (which is what the word "gospel" means) had new meaning to me. The good news, the gospel, was that even though I was wretched and sinful beyond comprehension, the same God who is a Being of perfect, blinding holiness had, out of His great mercy and loving-kindness toward us, made a way for sinful creatures to be reconciled to himself. Two thousand years ago, He sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to live the life that I did not live. Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, never sinning in thought, word or deed, and then He willingly gave his life as an atonement for all those who would believe on his atoning death, and who would accept his imputed righteousness by faith. He lived the life we could never live, and freely offers it to all who will believe. This was an act of great compassion and mercy, and Jesus did this in order to act corporately on the behalf of sinners. What a good and loving God who would make a way for sins to be forgiven, and consciences cleansed! Is this not "good news"? Once I understood my own sinfulness rightly, I now saw this good news for what it was: the greatest news ever proclaimed in the history of the world. Sins could be forgiven! Only repent, and believe.

9/11 was the beginning of my conversion: from worldly wisdom and lies to truth, from death to life, from darkness to light. At some point in the months following 9/11, I was saved. I don't remember the exact day, but that doesn't really matter. What I do remember is my eyes being opened to the horrors of my own sin, and to my need, my desperate need, for a Savior. I didn't know much about the Bible at that point, but I knew enough to know that I was a sinner, but that God had made a way for me to be reconciled to Himself through the atoning death of Christ. What a good God!

In many ways, 9/11 was tragic and horrible, but I thank God for using it to open my eyes about the futility of life without Christ. I hope that those I love and care about who have not been born again might be encouraged today to think more deeply on spiritual things.
"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isa 64:6)
"Then said I, 'Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the middle of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.'" (Isa 6:5)
"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Rom 1:18-20)
"From that time, Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" (Matt 4:17)
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.'" (Matt 5:21)
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks upon another with lustful intent has already committed adultery in the heart." (Matt 5:27)
"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10)
"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30)
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matt 7:13-14)
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)
"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Eze 36:25-27)
"Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor 1:20)
"Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of the world is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness.'" (1 Cor 3:18-19)
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (Eph 2:8-9)
"God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood, to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished." (Rom 3:25)
"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people." (Titus 2:11)
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8)
"Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." (1 Pet 2:24)
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor 15:3)
"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa 53:4-6, prophesied 700 years before Jesus was born)
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, 'If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'" (John 8:31-32)
"So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." (Heb 9:28)
"(The lost) will face a reckoning before Jesus Christ who stands ready to judge the living and the dead." (1 Pet 4:5)
"So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God." (Rom 14:12)
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:14-16)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, behold! all things have been made new." (1 Cor 5:17)
"For God says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor 6:2)
“The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come!' And let the one who hears say, 'Come!' Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life." (Rev 22:17)

 Additional Resources 

Are You Soundly Saved? (Kirk Cameron)

The Good-O-Meter

Are You a Good Person?

6 Messages on the Gospel (Alistair Begg)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A, Has Passed Away

Posted by Christine Pack

Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A (1921-2014)'s the end of an era. The founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, has passed away. He was 93 years old.  A few fun facts about Chick-fil-A:
- The first Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant opened in a mall in south Atlanta in 1967. The first standalone Chick-fil-A opened in 1986. 
- Truett Cathy made the decision early on never to open his Chick-fil-A restaurants on Sundays. Scoffers said that his decision to close on traditionally one of the busiest days of the week for a fast food restaurant meant that his chain would never survive. His restaurant has not only survived, but thrived. Chick-fil-A is currently located in 38 states in the U.S., and is still growing. Cathy's reasons for closing on Sundays were stated thusly in this press release: "Cathy believes that being closed on Sunday says two important things to people: One, that there must be something special about the way Chick-fil-A people view their spiritual life and, two, that there must be something special about how Chick-fil-A feels about its people. Cathy believes that by giving employees Sunday off as a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest, the company attracts quality people."
- Chick-fil-A has a few specialty restaurants that bear the Chick-fil-A name, but which have more menu offerings than the traditional Chick-fil-A's. 
- One of these Chick-fil-A specialty restaurants is called the Dwarf House. There are several Dwarf House Chick-fil-As located in Atlanta, and these offer a frozen lemonade drink (which my sons love), in addition to the normal Chick-fil-A items.
- There is a Hawaiian-themed Chick-fil-A in Fayetteville, GA (called "Truett's Luau," because Cathy was apparently fond of Hawaii.....hey, who isn't?). One of the items served is a fish sandwich, which the menu describes this way: "Mahi Mahi dusted with Luau seasoning, grilled and dressed with a savory Asian slaw and a side of avocado dressing, served atop a multigrain bun." 
- The "Eat Mor Chikin" ad campaign used by Chick-fil-A is one of the most memorable and longest-running ad campaigns in advertising history. The campaign was created in 1995 by The Richards Group, an advertising agency based in Dallas, TX.
- Truett Cathy and Chick-fil-A have been targeted by gay activist groups who do not like Cathy's stand on marriage, which is that marriage was created by God as an institution that should be between one man and one woman. 
- Sherwood Pictures, a Christian company in Albany, GA that produces films with a strong Christian message, has featured Chick-fil-A in several of their films, including this scene below from their film Courageous.

Here's hoping that Cathy's children (who now run the Chick-fil-A business), will continue to uphold the same Biblical principles that their father did, including openly supporting the Biblical definition of marriage.

In the meantime, enjoy one of our favorite skits by Tim Hawkins as an homage to the addictive properties of Chick-fil-A. I think I'll treat myself and the boys to some waffle fries and lemonade today after school.

photo credit: shecodes via photopin cc

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hope For Christians Who Have Been Spiritually Abused

Posted by Sola Sisters

 What Is Spiritual Abuse? 

According to David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen, authors of the book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, spiritual abuse occurs when those in spiritual leadership "twist Scripture to give more authority to the leadership and keep.....members under their control." Johnson and VanVonderen also contend that those experiencing spiritual abuse are often not aware that spiritual abuse is taking place while it is occurring. They explain that such an understanding that can often take many months, even years, to arrive at, and often can be understood only in hindsight, after the Christian has left the abusive environment and is no longer in regular contact with the oppressive leader or leaders. In short, spiritual abuse doesn't occur only among the weak-minded, the undiscerning, or in cults: it can also affect mature, Bible-believing Christians of longstanding. Why is this so? Because for some serious-minded, Bible-believing Christians who desire and are intentionally seeking solid teaching, the warning signs of spiritual abuse might easily be overlooked when everything else (doctrinal statement, consistently solid teaching) seems "right."

Thus, it is important to understand  that spiritual abuse can occur in churches where leaders are consistently teaching doctrinal error from the pulpit, but it can also occur in churches where God's word is, for the most part, being rightly divided. This latter circumstance can be the trickier one to navigate for those who have come out of spiritually abusive churches, as it can be difficult to look back and distinguish teaching that was good and helpful and sanctifying from teaching (from the same leaders) that was at times manipulative, oppressive and controlling.

This issue is in the spotlight these days, of course, because Mark Driscoll, a high-profile pastor in Seattle, WA, has been charged by a number of former elders and members with spiritually abusive behavior. Driscoll, who was an unknown before he was a keynote speaker for John Piper's 2006 Desiring God Conference, has been hailed by his supporters as being perhaps a tad rough around the edges, but otherwise doctrinally solid. But is doctrine the only criteria for someone to bear in mind when evaluating a church?

 Where Does Spiritual Abuse Take Place? 

When you think of spiritual abuse, does your mind conjure up a rigid, stifling environment in which people are expected to dress in an extremely conservative way, and adhere to certain legalistic rules in order to be accepted? While it's true that these are sometimes the marks of a spiritually abusive environment, what about a church whose members are often in true fellowship with each other? Churches where members laugh together, eat meals together, study God's Word together, bowl and bike and hike together, and swap recipes and share coffee while the kids play together? As surprising as it may seem, spiritual abuse can happen in these environments just as much as in the obviously legalistic churches. So it should be noted that a church mustn't be evaluated solely on the basis of whether or not the people are welcoming to newcomers. Many Christians who have been spiritually abused in a church can recall, often with great sadness, how warm and fellowship-filled their early days were at the church where they were abused. Spiritually abusive environments are often described by those who have fled as once having been warm, loving and welcoming to new members. (For more on this, see Jonna Petry's account of her time at Mars Hill as a former elder's wife, and Stephen Martin's online e-book The Heresy of Mind Control.)

By many accounts, Mars Hill was a perfect storm in the making, with its brash young pastor (Mark Driscoll) who preached edgy, but doctrinally solid, sermons in the largely unchurched Pacific Northwest. Within a few years of its first fledging gathering of only a few families, the church had several campuses and many thousands of members. The throngs of young Christians who were there in the early years recount how they felt welcomed and loved and encouraged in this exciting new start-up church. They have shared how thrilling it was for them, having the gospel expounded to them, and having their lives radically transformed by God's saving and sanctifying grace. Yet just 20 years later, Mars Hill went through an explosive and public meltdown. Driscoll resigned in disgrace amid multiple allegations of spiritual abuse, financial mismanagement and plagiarism, and allegedly fled the church discipline process. The church he left behind, once a multi-site church with thousands of members, was now little more than a smoking ruin.

Mark Driscoll, however, is not the only doctrinally solid, but spiritually abusive, pastor out there: he's just the one who's been in the headlines the most recently. Spiritual abuse can mark any church, anywhere. It can be a part of a church from its outset, or it can grow slowly and insidiously, unchecked over the years until it is full-blown. It can occur in obviously rigid, legalistic churches, but it can also occur in churches where there is often a warm, loving atmosphere. Accounts of spiritual abuse can range from the encouraging (a family flees an abusive church and draws closer to God in the process) to the heartbreaking (someone flees the abusive church and ends up walking away from the church, and God, entirely, never to return).

With all this in mind, here is a short checklist you can use when it comes to making an evaluation:
(1) Do you feel comfortable approaching your pastor/elders to ask a question about something? 
(2) Are your pastor/elders truly accountable to others, or have they surrounded themselves with only those who agree with them and rubber-stamp their plans? (i.e., family members, men who shy away from confrontation, etc.) 
(3) Does your pastor have "two faces"? In other words, does he present himself from the pulpit as humble, gentle, kind, loving, approachable, etc., but behind the scenes is domineering, angry, cold, withdrawn, etc.? 
(4) Do your pastor/elders become upset with you if you challenge or question anything they say, no matter how graciously, biblically or kindly you do so? 
(5) Do your pastor/elders label anyone who disagrees with them as "rebellious"? 
(6) Do your pastor/elders characterize those who have legitimate questions as being "gossips" or as being "divisive"?
(7) More seriously, if you are in a church that practices church discipline, do your pastor/elders threaten church discipline to those who disagree with them over non-doctrinal issues?
One or more 'yes' answers to the questions above doesn't automatically mean that you are in an abusive church. But, it could mean that, or it could mean that your church is subtly moving in that direction.

No-one is above being challenged, and certainly not our pastors or elders/leaders. If the gospel writer Luke commended the Bereans for challenging, with scripture in hand, even the Apostle Paul, shouldn't the same model apply to the church today? Now obviously, we ought to have biblical guidelines in mind when challenging our leaders, such as being respectful and kind and gracious, but questions and challenges, in and of themselves, are not sinful, and if the elders at your church regard them as such, I urge you to tread carefully and keep your eyes open for further abuses of spiritual power.

 Warning Flags: Painful Exits and Smear Campaigns 

Spiritually abusive pastors can't just let someone leave.....they have to destroy them. Pastor Mike Fehlauer, author of Exposing Spiritual Abuse, writes:
In a controlling church, it is impossible to leave on good terms. Because the pastor’s sense of worth is usually based on the control he is able to exert over the congregation, when someone leaves, this insecure leader considers it an affront to his leadership. Therefore he often takes it personally. As a result, when people do leave, they are labeled rebellious, or the rest of the congregation is given the explanation that they left because they had become offended. 
In an unhealthy church, there is never a good reason why anyone should leave. Regardless of the situation, the people who leave are always the “problem.” 
This truism present in abusive churches applies not only to members, but to church staff as well. In one particular church, each time a staff member left, the senior person did his best to cast a shadow over that person’s reputation in the hope that it would destroy any chance of that person succeeding without him someplace else. 
(Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse, Part 3)
In an interview with NBC affiliate King 5 Seattle News, former Mars Hill elder Rob Smith discussed Driscoll's anger at him when he challenged Driscoll's re-writing of the church bylaws. From the article:
Driscoll forced (Smith) to resign when he challenged the senior pastor's decision to rewrite the bylaws, change the governing body, and give himself more power nearly seven years ago. 
"He slandered my name. He said, 'I will destroy you,'" Smith remembered. 
(online source)
The spiritually abusive pastor who won't let anyone disagree with him and leave quietly isn't always a celebrity pastor in a big megachurch: he can be anywhere, in any size church, of any denomination. Depending on the church environment, he can commit his slander brazenly and openly, or he can wage his campaign behind the scenes in a more subtle, charming way, or he can fall somewhere on the spectrum between the two extremes.

 A "Can't Talk" Rule Is A Marker for Spiritual Abuse 

While it is clear from the Bible that gossip, talebearing and idle talk about others are sinful acts, there are certainly circumstances in which legitimate questions and challenges can and should be allowed. Spiritual abuse experts Johnson and VanVonderen have noted that one significant marker for spiritual abuse is when there is a "Can't Talk" rule that is enforced within a church. This occurs when someone with questions is labeled as being "gossipy" or "divisive," and oftentimes, church discipline is even threatened to ensure that questions aren't asked. These tactics are used in order to intimidate those with questions into silence. Thus, a system in which church leaders can state whatever they like from their positions of authority, and expect that it should never be challenged or questioned, is a mark of a spiritually unhealthy church climate. But as a church elder stated to us while in the course of researching this article, "If someone comes to you with a bad account of someone else who you both know, and who is not present, you not only have a right, you have a responsibility to the one not present to go to them and hear their side."
"The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him." (Proverbs 18:17)
 Accountability Is the Key 

Whether your church is governed by the Pastor Rule model or the Elder Rule model, the key component for guarding against spiritual abuse, according to most spiritual abuse experts, is accountability. Think about it this way: pride is such a common snare among pastors who govern without accountability because it's far easier for Satan to deceive and confuse and mislead just one person, rather than an entire group of elders or a congregation. Accountability is important for all of us, but it is supremely important for pastors.

It should also be noted that being in a church that is Elder Rule is not a guarantee against abuse. As you can see from some of the questions posted above, it should be obvious that sometimes a pastor can work his way around the Elder Rule model, either through overt means (being domineering, cruel, cold, angry, etc.) or by more subtle means (being "two faced," using charm or manipulation, etc.).

 The Remedy 

So, what is the biblical remedy for those who have been spiritually abused? The Bible is rich with passages describing God and his mercies. Water was often used as a device for portraying God's mercy in the Old Testament. Doesn't sound very exciting? Perhaps not to the 21st century person who can simply turn on a tap and have fresh, filtered water at his or her disposal. But think about how important a fresh, clean source of water has been in centuries past, and throughout all of history, really. This was especially important for a people who lived in a desert culture, as God's chosen people the Israelites did. The Israelites literally lived, and died, by whether or not there was water available to them.
"God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1) 
"For this is what the high and exalted One says-- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" (Isaiah 57:15) 
"Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert." (Isaiah 35:6) 
"The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them." (Isaiah 41:17) 
"The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." (Isaiah 58:11)
In a spiritual context, these rich descriptions of God and his mercies being likened to flowing, fresh, clean water means that for those who hold fast to Him in trials, the Lord promises, promises!, spiritual protection and care. God can and will use our past experiences with spiritual abuse to mature us, to sanctify us, and to equip us for encouraging others who have had the same struggles, IF that is, we hold fast to Him and his faithful promises never to leave us or forsake us. Spiritual abuse can be heartbreaking, but we need to remember that it is not the Lord who is abusing us: it is sinful men ensnared in pride or lust for power.
"Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" (Isaiah 30:18) 
Jesus is also revealed as the Good Shepherd, who loves his sheep and watches over them, who understands their weaknesses and struggles, even to the point of becoming flesh in order to identify with them. How great is the love of the Shepherd for his flock? Let him be your Good Shepherd today.

Exposing Spiritual Abuse author Mike Fehlauer shares an encouraging account of a couple who left a church, and endured a smear campaign at the hands of their former pastor:
One couple went through the process of leaving an abusive church. The pastor did everything he could to discredit them and malign their character. Initially, they both were frightened that they would be blacklisted from every church in their community. At first, they wanted to defend their character. It seemed that this pastor continued to have control over their lives even after they left. They wondered if they would ever be able to escape his influence.
Finally, they realized that God was their defense and protection. Instead of defending themselves, they decided to pray for their former pastor. The more they prayed for him, the less threatening he became in their minds. The anger they first had toward the pastor was replaced with compassion. As time passed, they realized that he didn’t have as much influence as they had initially thought. Because they had kept their hearts pure, they were able to find another church and to continue to grow spiritually.
There is life after spiritual abuse. You may be tempted to feel that you will never escape the controlling grasp of an abusive leader. Satan will cause you to think that the controlling leader’s influence is greater than it really is. Don’t give in to Satan’s intimidation. Trust God to be your strength and your defense. Keep your heart tender. Pray for those who have used you, and bless those who have cursed you. If you will do these things, you will discover a sure path that God has prepared for you as well as His destiny for your life.
God has a healthy church for you. The Good Shepherd is fully able to lead you into a green pasture where you can grow in your relationship with Him (Ps. 23:2). As you allow Him to lead you, He will also anoint your head with oil, healing any wounds you encountered in an abusive environment. (online source)
 A Final Word 

A final word: pray for your pastors. Pray that the LORD will protect them from the common snares of "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). Pray that they will genuinely desire, and set up, accountability for themselves. Even though they are in spiritual authority, your pastors are frail flesh, and fallible (as we all are), so don't expect perfection. But, if need be, lovingly and kindly bring your concerns to them, in the same manner that you would want someone to bring a concern to you. None of us are above the snare of pride, but pastors especially need our prayers because they are held to a higher standard than the flock, and will one day be judged more strictly.
"Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." (James 3:1)
In closing, if you have been spiritually abused, please avail yourself of the resources below, and let me encourage you that you are not alone and that the Lord knows your struggles. I urge you not to turn away from the LORD, but to cling to Him and pour out your heartbreak and your struggles to Him. He is the One who promises never to leave you or forsake you. He turns darkness into light, and makes the deserts into springs. He is the Almighty, the One who sits high and lifted up, and yet who hears the cries of his people. Run to Him, and be comforted.
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'" (Lamentations 3:22-24)

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Teaching Series “Domestic Violence and Abuse” (Pastor Jeff Crippen)

What Is Spiritual Abuse? (Got Questions?)

Mark Driscoll, Spiritual Abuse and Cultish Ministries (Charisma News)

Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse - Part 1 (Pastor Mike Fehlauer)

Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse - Part 2 (Pastor Mike Fehlauer)

Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse - Part 3 (Pastor Mike Fehlauer)

What Do Some Churches and Cults Have In Common? Spiritually Abusive Systems

Confronting Abusive Church Leaders (Apprising Ministries)

Hurt, Betrayal and Spiritual Abuse (Stand Up For The Truth)


Churches That Abuse (Dr. Ronald M. Enroth)

Recovering From Churches That Abuse (Dr. Ronald M. Enroth)

Exposing Spiritual Abuse (Pastor Mike Fehlauer)

The Heresy of Mind Control: Recognizing Con Artists, Tyrants and Spiritual Abusers in Leadership (Stephen Martin)

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church (David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen)