Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Fault Lines of Dominionism, Theonomy, Christian Reconstructionism and NAR [UPDATED]

Posted by Christine Pack

Have you encountered Christians in your walk who have used confusing language and concepts about "taking dominion" of the earth? Who have talked about having a mandate from God to capture certain designated realms of the culture in order to "reclaim" them for God? Who have talked about the hope of one day on this earth living under a "Theocracy?" If so, you may have been dealing with Christians who hold to Dominionist theology, which often has overlapping views with Theonomy, Christian Reconstructionism (CR for short, going forward) and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). 

Or, have you ever had an encounter with another Christian in which he walked you through a carefully worded Question and Answer script, at the end of which, if you played along, he announced to you that you have been a Theonomist all along, and never knew it?
Do you love God? Answer yes or no.
Do you think His laws are just? Answer yes or no.
Do you think sin should be punished? Answer yes or no.........
Or, have you attempted to have a discussion with a self-proclaimed Theonomist, only to be told that you don't "understand" Theonomy enough in order to comment on it, and that in order to do so, you must first read the 50 volume set of the collected works of Gary North, 25 scholarly articles by Gary DeMar, and four thousand articles by Greg Bahnsen before you are allowed to interact with them? (The reality is that the Christian walk is not Jesus + The Collected Canon of Theonomist Works. All Bible-believing Christians have the right and privilege to interact on any subject, including Theonomy.)

If you have ever had an encounter with another Christian that played out like one of the encounters described above, you will find this article helpful. And hopefully, this article will briefly demonstrate how Dominionism often outworks itself in ways never prescribed by Scripture.

Please note going forward that there are often very varied beliefs among Christians who hold Dominionist views. In this article, I will mention and/or link to Christian Reconstructionism, Patriarchal, Quiverfull, and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), even while I understand that these streams and ideologies often vary in many ways. For instance, not all Theonomists will be Christian Reconstructionists, not all Christian Reconstructionists will be Patriarchal, not all Patriarchals will be Quiverfull, not all Quiverfulls will be NARs, etc. However, what undergirds all of these movements or ideologies is their Dominionist worldview, and because of this, there is often a natural dovetailing of ideas between these groups and ideologies.


Theocracy is defined as a system of government in which priests (or rulers) rule in the name of God. So a Christian Theonomist would be someone who wants to impose the Old Testament form of civil government upon the world.

Theonomists are Christians who have a misunderstanding of Bible verses which talk about mankind taking physical dominion of the earth. They misunderstand these verses to mean that Christians are meant to take spiritual dominion of the earth, and not just physical dominion. The verses typically used by Theonomist dominionists as proof-texts are Genesis 1:28 and Psalm 8:
"God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'" (Genesis 1:28) 
"What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made themd a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas." (Psalm 8:4-8)
I have had my own experiences with Christians who hold to Dominionist views. Some years back, I began to realize that some friends of mine held some views that I found to be unorthodox, to say the least. They were (are) members of a Presbyterian-PCA church, which is typically closely aligned to the Reformed Baptist view (which my husband and I hold). Some of our friends' views came to light during a conversation, and once I began to understand where they were coming from, I remember saying to the husband, So are you saying, we're already in the Millennial Kingdom? and if so, well, have you watched the news lately? His response was, Oh yeah, we're in the Kingdom, and the world will only get better and better through God-given blessings, those being primarily the gospel and the spread of the gospel message, but also through science, medicine and technology. I was processing this statement, when he said the kicker that really got my antennae up: "This is the standard Presbyterian-PCA view." Well, I knew that wasn't true, because my father, who has mentored me for years, has been a Presbyterian-PCA elder for almost 30 years. And I knew for a fact that he did not hold these views, nor did any of the other church officers in his church.

 Taking Dominion: Physically or Culturally? 

That conversation with my friend sent me on a researching quest over the next decade to find out where these errant views were coming from. And yes, my Dominionist friend also used the scriptures quoted above to "prove" his Dominionist views. It is a big leap, however, to take God's commands for us to subdue the earth to mean that our dominion should include the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm. It is only the physical realm that is explicitly mandated by God for us to control. The fact is that we live in a peculiar time in history in that we don't really even have to think much about taking physical dominion of this earth, due to the fact that those who lived in the past have already done it so successfully for us in previous generations. But taking physical dominion is no small thing. Remember the Laura Ingalls books? Those were hard, perilous times, and those books were written just a little over a hundred years ago. From our perspective today, however, we often struggle to understand the difficulties endured by those in the past in what it meant for them to take dominion. For the most part, we don't ourselves have to personally fend off bears or survive droughts or fight pestilence or battle floods in order to eek out enough food to keep our families alive; we nip out to the grocery store and get all that we need, often with nary a thought to what a luxury such conditions are, and the fact that such luxuries were virtually unknown to the vast majority of humans who have ever lived on this earth throughout history, and are even now only enjoyed by the relatively few numbers of humans today who have the blessing of living in highly industrialized nations.

So what does Dominionism look like today? In the Christian realm, Dominionists typically align themselves with one of two prominent Dominionist movements: (1) the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) or (2) Christian Reconstruction/Theonomy. As noted, the NARs misinterpret the Bible verses above as meaning that they a mandate from God to take spiritual dominion of the earth.  Out of this mistaken belief, the NARs have developed a teaching known as "Joel's Army," an elitist, end-times movement that exhorts families to raise up youth and children to be a "New Breed", who will be the "Manifested Sons of God." The movement has a decidedly militant edge to it, and those in it believe they will raise up a generation who will take back this world for God.

Some of the teaching materials and imagery associated with "Joel's Army"

The NARs have also developed a theology known as the "7 Mountain Mandate" which is also about taking spiritual dominion of this world (rather than simply having physical dominion, which is the biblical mandate) and which names specific areas of the culture they have targeted to reclaim. The realms they have designated are:
1 - Business
2 - Government
3 - Family
4 - Religion
5 - Media
6 - Education
7 - Entertainment 

But flip the Dominionism coin, and you will find Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction (CR), much more theologically buttoned up forms of Dominionism (and the flavor of Dominionism held by my fellow Christians). Theonomic/Christian Reconstruction leaders exert tremendous influence through the Christian homeschooling movement, and through the Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements. Some leaders in the Theonomy/Christian Reconstruction movement include R.J. Rushdoony, Doug Phillips, Joel McDurmon, Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, Greg Bahnsen, Gary North and Doug Wilson. Ministries associated with Theonomy/Christian Reconstruction are Canon Press, CrossPolitic, fight-Laugh-Feast American Vision, Crown Rights Media and the now defunct Vision Forum (Vision Forum's president, Doug Phillips, resigned in 2013 due to a moral failure).

Theonomic/Christian Reconstruction dominionists work very hard to distinguish themselves from Dominionists of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) variety, the latter with their wild worship services where adherents sometimes shake, quiver, bark like dogs, and deceive themselves into believing angel feathers, gold dust and "glory clouds" are manifesting. Theonomists/CRs eschew all this nonsense, and rightly so. They are also, as previously noted, much more theologically buttoned up and biblically grounded, with some of them being highly regarded, and for good reason, in the Presuppositional Apologetics department (Greg Bahnsen and Sye Ten Bruggencate come to mind here). But like their NAR counterparts, Theonomists/CRs also believe they have a mandate from God to reclaim the culture, and the world.

Understanding the Theonomy views on reclaiming the culture and world helps make sense of why the Reconstructionist views dovetail so well with Patriarchy and Quiverfull views.... got to have lots of babies, you see, through embracing the "quiverfull" teachings (which are based on a misinterpretation of Psalm 127:3-5), if you're going to have any shot at taking Dominion of the world, right? There are of course, as I noted in the opening paragraph, varying views within the Dominionist camp. But they all believe that Christians are supposed to take dominion of the world, with there obviously being varied views about how to get there. Theonomists as noted believe and teach that Christians are meant to re-instate the Old Testament civil laws into all the world's governmental structures. These Old Testament laws include the stoning of Sabbath breakers, disobedient children, and unrepentant homosexuals (and yes, you did read that right).

However, the reason we are not under the Old Testament civil laws, and should not seek to place ourselves back under them, is simple: Jesus fulfilled the laws perfectly, all of them, on our behalf. And thus, we're no longer bound by the Old Testament civil and ceremonial laws, but only the moral Law, which is a picture of God's character and nature, and thus stands eternally, and which serves for us as believers as a curb and guide in our Christian walks.
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17) 
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4)
In fact, in the book of Romans, Paul teaches that those who live by the Law, will die (and be judged) by the Law.
"All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law." (Romans 2:12)

 Closing Thoughts 

Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction appear to me to be largely (but not entirely) a young person's movement (perhaps a bit of "zeal without knowledge" [Prov 19:2] there?). These young Christian Reconstructionist/Theonomy folks are smart, and passionate, and full of vim and vigor. And while I do appreciate their passion and energy, they come across as seeming to think the Christian life is all gleaming swords and prancing horses as they march with flags flying to the sound of trumpets into Christian battle. They are so wrong on this point. Yes, the Christian cause is the most noble of all causes. There's truth there. But the Christian life is hard and bloody and brutal, and they will never emerge from their battles victorious in the way that they think, having taken back this world completely.

And lest we forget, Jesus plainly taught"My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). If these men, many of whom are young now, get to the end of their lives with their families intact, and their children solid in the faith, with just a few faithful friends who have stayed the course with them, they should consider themselves blessed beyond measure. They will suffer painful persecution in long, drawn out ways they cannot even imagine, persecution that might sometimes make them wish for death (and thus heaven). Let's check back in with those guys in a few years, after the joy of riding into battle has worn off a little, and they have been in the bloody, muddy trenches for many months, even years, and have lost comrades right and left. Perhaps they will feel differently then, after the bloom is off the rose.

There's a reason "Onward Christian Soldiers," a hymn penned during the late 1800s that invoked American triumphalism, was quickly adopted by Theonomists. Christian Reconstructionist Kenneth Gentry, who writes for American Vision, also specifically mentions "Onward Christian Soldier" as being representative of the Post-Millennial view in his book He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology. There is a majestic, triumphant fervor that comes through loud and clear in that hymn. But Theonomists/CRs are kidding themselves if they don't realize where their theology ends up. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, it would mean that men (albeit Christian men) would ultimately take over, and rule, this world with Christian virtues. But can we not see the fault line in this thinking? How are Christians, who all must struggle and fight against the remnant of indwelling sin that remains even after conversion, going to rule this world? Who among us has not witnessed ugly church splits even amongst true believers? And what about the silly church splits, over things as mundane as carpet color and music? No, this world will be made right only when Christ returns to make all things new, and that does not include a world rampant with church splits, spiritual abuse, wars, sex trafficking, corrupt politicians, pornography, domestic violence, broken families, drug and alcohol abuse, disease, death and sorrow.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

 Additional Resources 

Dominionism? What Is Dominionism? (Dr Warren Throckmorton)

Judicial Warfare: The Christian Reconstruction Movement and its Blueprints for Dominion (critique by former Christian Reconstructionist Greg Loren Durand)

Theonomy: A Reformed Baptist Assessment (Sam Waldron)

What Is Dominionism? (Derek Gilbert interviews Sarah Leslie of Herescope, beginning at 1:08:00 mark)

A Biblical Examination of the Dominion Mandate and the Christian Reconstruction Movement (Bob DeWaay)

Moses' Law for Modern Government: The Intellectual and Sociological Origins of the Christian Reconstructionist Movement (Ligon Duncan)

Christian Reconstructionist Leader Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Resigns, Cites Moral Failure [UPDATED]

Doug Phillips, Repentance and Justice (Sola Sisters)

Hall of Shame: Doug Phillips and Vision Forum (Mennoknight)

Rethinking Vision Forum

 Secular Articles About Patriarchy/Quiverfull 

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)

 Miscellaneous Resources 

What Is The New Apostolic Reformation? (And Why Should We Be Concerned About It?)

Pastor Carl Trueman: Concerns With Quiverfull/Patriarchy (Sola Sisters)

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)

What Are The Quiverfull and Patriarchy Movements? (Got Questions?)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thoughts On Driscoll and The Biblical Qualifications For A Pastor

Posted by Christine Pack and Cathy Mathews

I hope that anyone reading our articles or seeing our online commentary about Mark Driscoll, the Mars Hill megachurch pastor who recently resigned under fire for documented instances of plagiarism, public lies and spiritual abuse, understands that we take absolutely no pleasure in Driscoll's meltdown, and the implosion of Mars Hill. I (Christine) remember liking Driscoll's sermons back in the first few years of my Christian walk. Piper had recently keynoted him at Desiring God and Todd Friel at Wretched occasionally featured his sermons. He taught a lot of good things there for a season. But Driscoll reminds me of one of those great Shakespearean characters, a character who, though powerful and compelling, has a tragic flaw. Shakespeare was masterful at creating these larger-than-life characters; the character was often a hero or sympathetic character, but he had this flaw, one which everyone else around him was aware of, including you as the audience. And you would find yourself while reading it or watching a play almost wanting to shout at the character, Stop, please just STOP!! Don't you see how your (fill-in-the-flaw) is about to destroy your world? But that's the thing about our blindspots, we can't see our own. That's why I have a few people in my life that I tell on a semi-regular basis, hey, tell me what I can't see about myself. Don't let me fall into some profound sin because of something I'm too blind or dumb to see. And I'm not saying that I'm so great in doing that, I'm saying that because I'm so stupid and sinful and blind. We all need accountability. I wish that Driscoll had taken heed of those around him who had tried to help him. He showed so much promise.

Unfortunately, although Driscoll has stepped down (at least for now, though he is said to be considering a return to ministry), there is no question but that his reach and influence have extended far and wide, and still do. Like the spores of a dandelion being blown into the wind, young Christian men all over America picked up on his style of "doing" church and sought to do likewise. Thus, Driscoll's domineering and aggressive pastoring style (if you can even call it "pastoring" since he doesn't seem to have the ability to gently shepherd souls entrusted into his care, as a proper shepherd should) is widely admired and more than that, emulated. A close friend of mine is dealing with a situation at her church where the youth leader, who has been heavily influenced by Mark Driscoll, has such starry-eyed visions of planting churches ( à la Driscoll's aggressive church planting mechanism Acts 29), that he can't even be bothered to look after the souls of the young people who are in his care right now, several of whom are my friend's children, and who are being negatively impacted. He casually told my friend, "Well, I'm not really interested in kids, this is sort of a stepping stone to the next thing for me." Newsflash, Mark Driscoll wannabes: the Mark Driscoll model for doing church is not the biblical way to do things. Casually disregarding people entrusted into your care while you seek a bigger and better platform is not the model.

photo credit: wolf4max via photopin cc
Pastoring 101 - Here's what should happen when seminary students show up for their first day of class: they are handed two live sheep. And the professor then tells them this: Your assignment is to look after these sheep for the next semester. You are to feed them, care for them, tend them, comb their fur, and protect them from wolves. If at the end of the semester you return both of these sheep to me, alive and in good condition (i.e, they not frightened, malnourished or missing any limbs), then next semester you will have earned the right to graduate to the next step: learning how to minister to actual people.
1 Timothy 3:1-13 - Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons 
Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.  
In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.  
In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.  
A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Titus 1:5-10 - Qualifications for Elders 
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.

 Additional Resources 

Mark Driscoll: A Timeline of His Downfall
 (Sola Sisters)

Documenting the Problems with Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll [UPDATED]

Former Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll Considering New Ministry, Still Has Not Repented, Sought Reconciliation Say Former Mars Hill Members/Elders

What John Piper Said When He Finally Addressed the Issue of Mark Driscoll......What We Wish He Had Said Instead

Mark Driscoll's Failed Publicity Stunt That Ended With Him Lying About What Really Happened

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

John Piper and Mark Driscoll: Lessons Not Learned? (Pyromaniacs)

Friday, November 14, 2014

What John Piper Said When He Finally Addressed the Issue of Mark Driscoll......What We Wish He Had Said Instead

Posted by Christine Pack

Dr John Piper (L) and Mark Driscoll (R)
Mark Driscoll, former pastor of the Seattle-based megachurch Mars Hill Church, recently resigned amid charges of spiritual abuse, bullying and plagiarism in what was once pointed to as an oasis of biblical truth in the largely unchurched Pacific Northwest. (A comprehensive detailing of the problems with Mark Driscoll's leadership and his resignation can be found here.Driscoll, who was still a relatively unknown pastor up until 2006, was introduced to the world by widely respected pastor and theologian John Piper at Piper's annual Desiring God conference at which Dr. Piper highlighted Driscoll as one of his keynote speakers. From there, Driscoll rapidly grew in influence; he authored several books, keynoted at countless Christian conferences nationwide, pioneered the multi-site church model, and set up the Acts 29 network which serves as a worldwide church-planting mechanism and which eager young church planters taken with Driscoll's edgy, brash way of doing church have used to set up their own churches.

Since his resignation, Driscoll has reportedly fled the biblical process of church discipline at Mars Hill, perhaps in favor of setting up another church elsewhere with those willing to turn a blind eye to his sins and unresolved conflicts at his former church. (For documentation of Driscoll's having fled the discipline process, follow this link to hear audio of Mars Hill pastor A.J. Hamilton speaking at the 10-19-14 Mars Hill church service, beginning at the 37 min mark.) Understandably, many eyes have now turned to Dr. Piper, who has said that he considers Driscoll to be like a son to him. In a recent interview, Dr. Piper was asked if, given the magnitude of the scandals now associated with Driscoll, he had any regrets in partnering with Driscoll over the years. In essence, Dr. Piper stated in the interview published 11-13-14 that despite "mistakes that Mark may have made" or instances in which "he might have walked out of step with the truth," that he had "no regrets" over partnering with Driscoll, and that despite some misgivings he had, he felt that Driscoll was on the whole a solid teacher. (The entire interview can be read here, and listened to here.)

After this interview with Dr. Piper was released, Janet Mefferd of The Janet Mefferd Show wrote a brief statement detailing what she wished Dr. Piper had said, in lieu of what he actually said, about his association with Mark Driscoll. (Lest we forget, it was Mefferd who held the now infamous interview with Mark Driscoll in the fall of 2013, during which she asked him about plagiarism in his newly released book. Mefferd, in preparation for her interview with Driscoll, who was making the rounds on talk shows promoting the book, had read Driscoll's book A Call to Resurgence in preparation for her interview with him, and had discovered several instances of plagiarism.) Mefferd's statement of what she wishes Dr. Piper had said instead of what he actually said:
What John Piper Should Have Said 
I recognize that a lot of people have heard me promote Mark Driscoll, and today, I am here to apologize. I deliberately overlooked obvious evidence of Driscoll's lack of godliness and lack of ministry qualifications early on, simply because I liked his doctrinal statement and wanted to be supportive of a Christian outreach effort to pagan Seattle. Unfortunately, I made a huge mistake in doing that. I knew about Driscoll's ungodly character a long time ago, and I chose to overlook it. Given the further evidence that has now come out about his lying, his serial plagiarism, his deception with ResultSource, spiritual/verbal abuse of so many people and continuing lack of true godly sorrow about all that he did, it is clear that Driscoll was never pastor material, and as an older and more mature Christian, I should have recognized that a lot earlier than I did. I should have refused to help him increase his platform, but instead, I made choices that helped him increase that platform. And by doing so, I unwittingly enabled him to hurt a lot of people and ultimately destroy a church, all while dragging Jesus' name through the mud. I am thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed at my role in propping up Mark Driscoll. I knew better. I also should have spoken up a lot sooner than I did as the revelations about his duplicity came to light. And so, I am here to apologize. I am deeply sorry for my sin, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I hope you will forgive me for my lack of discernment and judgment. And especially to the victims of Mark Driscoll, please forgive me. A shepherd has the biblical responsibility to love and care for Jesus' sheep, and I have failed in that. You matter to Jesus, and those who could have protected you - like me - fell down on the job. I am so sorry. Most of all, I ask the Lord to forgive me and to help me to exercise more biblical faithfulness in the future. (online source)

 Additional Resources 

Mark Driscoll: A Timeline of His Downfall

Thoughts On Driscoll and The Biblical Qualifications For A Pastor

Former Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll Considering New Ministry, Still Has Not Repented, Sought Reconciliation Say Former Mars Hill Members/Elders

Documenting the Problems with Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll [UPDATED]

Janet Mefferd's Interview with Mark Driscoll - 11-21-13

Mark Driscoll's Failed Publicity Stunt That Ended With Him Lying About What Really Happened

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

John Piper and Mark Driscoll: Lessons Not Learned? (Pyromaniacs)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mark Driscoll Considering New Ministry, Still Has Not Repented, Sought Reconciliation Say Former Members & Elders of Mars Hill

Posted by Christine Pack

Warren Throckmorton of Patheos, who has been doing a bang-up job of keeping us current on the very fluid situation of Mark Driscoll, is reporting today that Mark Driscoll is considering re-establishing himself as a pastor, under the auspices of Word of Faith false teacher Robert Morris. This should not be surprising, given that it was just three short weeks ago that Robert Morris gave the recently resigned Mark Driscoll a very warm and sympathetic welcome to his stage at the Gateway Conference. (For a thorough analysis of Robert Morris's unbiblical teaching, go here and here.) One wouldn't even have to be a PR expert to guess that that appearance by Driscoll was in all likelihood his way of gauging whether or not he can still captivate a crowd without being asked too many pesky questions. And the crowd, indeed, did warmly receive Driscoll, who has been under fire in the last few years for plagiarism, a potty mouth, spiritual abuse, threatening to throw church members "under the bus," partnering with heretics, and most recently, fleeing church discipline.

The cumulative weight of what Driscoll has done in his time as a pastor (read this article for documentation) should at least give a person pause, I would think. A pastor linking to a sex toys website? A pastor chuckling about breaking the noses of his elders? A pastor joking about throwing people under the bus if they don't catch his vision with him? A pastor lying about how security personnel at the Strange Fire conference handled his gate-crashing stunt? These are not the marks of a 1 Timothy 3/Titus 1 pastor.

Driscoll's supporters, however, and they are legion, rush in to say, But wait! He has repented! And here, they claim, is proof of that:

But this video is not in fact evidence of Driscoll's repentance, given that fleeing the discipline process of one's own church in order to find a more sympathetic, more removed pastor who is willing to take you on should not be missed here (as Driscoll appears to be doing with Robert Morris). Below is the video of Robert Morris's sympathetic introduction of Driscoll, and what appears to be Step One of Image Rehabilitation for Mark Driscoll.

There is a real absurdity to Driscoll positioning himself as a victim (as he did in this video), in light of the fact that he is one who is documented to have spiritually abused so many at his former church, and yet he has completely disdained the repentance/reconciliation process with those he abused, and is apparently seeking corporate forgiveness as if he had handled this the biblical way. So nobody needs to rush in with hugs and cuddles and forgiveness for him just yet, when he has not even repented and sought forgiveness from those he specifically and personally wronged.

So my response to this video is that a vague public pronouncement of "mistakes" that were made is not the same thing as genuine, godly, personal, specific repentance, in keeping with the Matthew 18 model.

 A Timeline of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill  

Below is a brief timeline of Mars Hill history. This timeline is by no means comprehensive, but merely gives a brief overview of some of what has taken place in the former megachurch Mars Hill under Mark Driscoll. I consider three of the events below to be pivotal moments, and which taken together were the events that caused Christians outside of Mars Hill to sit up and start asking questions about Driscoll. I have highlighted the date of those events in red. This timeline will serve as the backdrop for the rest of this article:

April 1996 - Mark Driscoll founds Mars Hill church in the Seattle, WA area with Leif Moi and Mike Gunn

September 29-30, 2006 - Mark Driscoll, still a relatively unknown pastor, is introduced to the world by respected pastor John Piper at Piper's 2006 Desiring God conference at which Dr. Piper highlights Driscoll as one of his keynote speakers (as of November 2014, Dr. Piper insists he has no regrets in befriending Mark Driscoll, characterizes Driscoll as a good teacher despite "mistakes that Mark may have made" or instances in which "he might have walked out of step with the truth" - transcript of that interview here)

October 2007 - Mark Driscoll moves to change the by-laws of Mars Hill church; the change would consolidate power with Driscoll and a smaller group of elders handpicked by Driscoll.  Two highly respected elders (Paul Petry and Bent Meyer) at Mars Hill resist this change, and are fired when they try to hold Driscoll accountable.

2006 - 2012 - Mark Driscoll, who earned a degree in Communications at Washington State University and is an effective speaker with an aggressive, edgy style, skyrockets in popularity. During this time:
▪ Under Driscoll's leadership, Mars Hill is one of the first churches to go "multi-site," in which a pastor's sermons are piped in via video screen. 
▪ Driscoll writes several books and is a highly sought after speaker at Christian conferences 
▪ Driscoll founds The Resurgence (a Christian resources organization), co-founds The Gospel Coalition (a Christian parachurch organization of prominent Christian leaders), and co-founds Acts 29 (a church planting organization)
January 25, 2012 - Driscoll hosts an event entitled Elephant Room 2 (the first one having been the year prior) in which he features Oneness Pentecostal teacher TD Jakes, who holds to an unbiblical, non-Trinitarian view of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jakes is also a prosperity/Word of Faith teacher who is known for his lively ability to $hakedown the flock for ca$h. Pastor Chris Rosebrough, an outspoken critic of syncretism and ecumenical alliances, attempts to attend the ER2 event, having paid and registered for it online, but is charged with arrest at the door if he enters the building where the event was taking place. Several Christian writers begin asking questions about why Driscoll, an evangelical Christian, would affirm heretic TD Jakes as a Christian brother at this event (herehere, herehere, here, here, and here). This event proves to be a pivotal point, after which concerns about Driscoll begin to grow as more and more eyes are on him.

March 29, 2012 - Driscoll resigns from The Gospel Coalition (TGC)

October 18, 2013 Mark Driscoll stages a bizarre publicity stunt at the Strange Fire conference that backfires on him after security personnel treat Driscoll far more graciously than he apparently anticipated. He leaves the event and begins broadcasting on social media the lie that security personnel had confiscated his materials. In reality, he had handed them over as "a gift" (his words). Video surfaces later that documents the encounter, and shows that Driscoll lied.

November 21, 2013 - Christian talk show host Janet Mefferd interviews Driscoll, and asks him about plagiarism in his newly released book A Call To Resurgence. Mefferd, in preparation for her interview with Driscoll (who is making the rounds on talk shows promoting his new book), had read Driscoll's book prior to her interview with him, and had discovered several instances of plagiarism. Janet came under heavy fire for asking Driscoll these questions, and her show producer ended up resigning in the midst of it.

November 23, 2103 - Dr. Paul David Tripp, a well regarded biblical counselor, joins the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability (BoAA), a board set up ostensibly to bring accountability to the Mars Hill governance

March 6, 2014 - Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For the Faith radio reports that Mark Driscoll bought his way onto the New York Times Bestseller List "through anonymous third parties"Warren Throckmorton of Patheos publishes the contract that was in place for artificially inflating book sales for Driscoll's book Real Marriage.

July 30, 2014 - Dr. Paul David Tripp resigns from the Mars Hill BoAAlater calls Mars Hill "the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with"

August 1, 2014 -  More allegations of plagiarism by Driscoll emerge. Warren Throckmorton of Patheos publishes a chart that documents plagiarism in seven books authored by Driscoll.

August 8, 2014 - As Driscoll comes increasingly under scrutiny, with some of his actions being called into question by former Acts 29 pastors, the board of Acts 29 removes Mark Driscoll, the man who co-founded the Acts 29 organization, from membership, (video here). Former Acts 29 co-founder Ron Wheeler goes public with concerns about Mark Driscoll (Wheeler's entire open letter to Driscoll here)

August 13, 2014 NPR (National Public Radio), a secular media outlet, reports that Lifeway Christian Stores have halted sales of Driscoll's newest book (A Call To Resurgence) due to Driscoll's having been "accused of plagiarizing sections of the book and artificially inflating his book sales by bulk-buying copies."

August 21, 2014 - Twenty one former Mars Hill pastors bring formal charges against Mark Driscoll, alleging bullying, abuse of power

August 24, 2014 - Mark Driscoll steps down for 6 week timeout while Mars Hill Board of Accountability (BoA) reviews charges against him

August 28, 2014 - Nine elders at Mars Hill call for a change in Mars Hill by-laws that had been illegally changed by Driscoll in 2007, call for Driscoll to submit to plan for discipline/restoration

October 6, 2014 - All nine elders calling for by-laws change/discipline are gone, having either resigned or been fired

March 2014 - Present - Former Mars Hill pastors, one after the other, begin publicly confessing their sins of bullying, spiritual abuse and/or standing by while such behaviors were taking place during their tenures at Mars Hill (Repentant Pastor website)

October 15, 2014 - Mark Driscoll resigns from Mars Hill church, defiantly claiming however that he is not "disqualified from future ministry"

October 19, 2014 - It is revealed that Mars Hill elders were going to discipline Mark Driscoll, who then resigned rather than be disciplined (listen beginning at the 37 min mark) (Patheos article by Warren Throckmorton here)

October 20, 2014 - Gateway Word of Faith pastor Robert Morris welcomes Mark Driscoll onto the stage one week after Driscoll's resignation even though Driscoll has fled the discipline process at Mars Hill, and still has not repented and sought forgiveness of those he has abused  (video of Mark Driscoll's appearance with Robert Morris can be seen here)

October 31, 2014 - It is announced that Mars Hill will officially dissolve

November 9, 2014 - Driscoll is reported to be considering a return to public ministry, with the help of Word of Faith pastor Robert Morris; former members and elders say he still has not sought to be reconciled to them through the Matthew 18 process

 Matthew 18 - What does it look like? 
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)
So let's examine in detail the biblical model for repentance and reconciliation, which God graciously lays out for us very succinctly and elegantly in Matthew 18:15-17. I think this discussion about the Matthew 18 process might be helpful, since there seems to be some ongoing confusion among Driscoll's supporters about what that process should look like. Here are a few comments that have been made to me about Mark Driscoll, with respect to the Matthew 18 process:
"How do you know that Mark Driscoll hasn't repented?" 
"The world is watching. Why does the American Church have a hard time showing grace and compassion? It baffles me." 
 "Let it play out between Mark and God....he doesn't need a 'watch dog' bully group going after him." 
"How do you know that Mark is not broken-hearted. Don't just go along with all the hype..always verify." 
"Calling for Mark Driscoll to go specifically to those he has sinned against is legalism."
"Does Mark reach hundreds of thousands? Absolutely. Did he offend hundred of thousands? No. Did he sin against you? No."
I will address the above comments in the rest of this article, but it was this last comment that bothered me the most. What that commenter doesn't seem to understand is that Mark Driscoll has set into motion within the body of Christ hundreds if not thousands of young men wanting to emulate their idol. Here's how it worked: along with being doctrinally solid, he (Driscoll) is angry, aggressive, abusive, edgy and combative. Along with being doctrinally solid, they (his followers) are angry, aggressive, abusive, edgy and combative. Get it? It's like a dandelion being blown into the wind. The spores have gone everywhere and taken root. I live in Atlanta, far away from Seattle, and yet I am in contact in my area with those who have been impacted in an incredibly negative way by leaders who have taken on Driscoll's model for pastoring and doing church. Leaders who are young and immature, and too impatient to actually tend to their flocks due to their desire to mega-size their ministries. The entire body of Christ has been affected.

The Matthew 18 process has been going on with Mark Driscoll since at least 2007. The fall of 2007 was when, according to former elders Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, Driscoll made a move to unilaterally change the by-laws of Mars Hill church in order to consolidate power for himself, and then fired the elders (Petry and Meyer) who resisted and sought to hold him accountable.

This sign at the 8-3-14 demonstration documents
that former members attempted to work things out
with Driscoll via the Matthew 18 process, but
he would not listen to their concerns or repent.
He wouldn't listen when one and then a few
went to him (Matt 18:15-16)....
so it went to the church body (Matt 18:17a)....
and now it's in the process
of going out to the world (Matt 18:17b).
Thus, we're no longer in the beginning stages of the Matthew 18 discipline process ("If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses." Matthew 18:15-16). Those private attempts by Petry and Meyer to hold Driscoll accountable did not have the desired outcome of bringing about repentance in Driscoll. That step of the process was done as it should have been done: quietly, and at the local church body level, with only a few aware of what was going on. Is it not merciful of God to have set up the discipline process in this way, as a kindness to sinners so that their sins are not trumpeted to the world? After all, who wants sins to be broadcast for all to see, either for themselves or for others? I know I don't. I appreciate that God keeps the circle in the restoration process small in the beginning. In fact, the circle is ONLY widened if the sinner refuses to repent and do what is right, but the sinner can stop that train at any point by repenting and reconciling with those he has sinned against, and the circle of those who know about it would still stay relatively small. By all accounts, however, Driscoll did not do this, which means, sadly, that we are somewhere in the mark-him-out-as-an-unbeliever-and-put-him-out-of-fellowship territory ("If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:17).

As I am part of the larger body of Christ, I am thankful for my fellow Christians in other congregations who are willing to do their part in the discipline process, and warn others in the body of those who would claim the name of Christ, but who have demonstrated that they are not willing to be corrected or disciplined over ongoing sin patterns. We're to treat those as lost people. However, I do not want that for Driscoll, even as I go about the sad business of documenting, for clarity's sake, the massive amounts of damage that Driscoll has done to the body of Christ. My genuine desire is that he will come around, that he will repent and be restored, not to ministry, from which he is forever disqualified, but to fellowship within a local church body. But those in his fanbase who are defending him in a way that makes it come across as if he is somehow above this Matthew 18 procedure (evidenced in the quotes I isolated above) are not doing him any favors.

 Driscoll Can't Reconcile With His Accusers Because He Doesn't Know Who They Are? 
Mark Driscoll (July 21, 2104): “A lot of the people we were dealing with in this season remain anonymous, and so we don’t know how to reconcile or how to work things out with people because we’re not entirely sure who they are.”
When Mark Driscoll addressed the Mars Hill congregation on July 21, 2014, and stated that he was giving himself a six week timeout, he said at the time that he wished he could repent to those he needed to at Mars Hill, but that it was difficult to do so because so many of them were "anonymous." In response to Driscoll's statement, a number of former Mars Hill members and elders set up a Facebook group in order to help Mark Driscoll out in finding those he needs to repent to. (Some of them also called for Driscoll's resignation and protested their denigration to "anonymous" status in the eyes of their former pastor in a peaceful demonstration outside the main Mars Hill campus on Sunday, August 3, 2014.)

The Facebook group that was set up is named Dear Pastor Mark and Mars Hill: We Are Not Anonymous. Catchy title, huh? This was and is a very active Facebook group (linked to above), which exists for the purpose of making it clear that those who have been disdained by their former pastor as insignificant, anonymous voices are not, in fact, insignificant. (I am also a member of this group, being sympathetic to their cause in particular, and to spiritual abuse in general.) Driscoll's fanbase insist that poor Driscoll has suffered enough, it's time to just move on, there's nothing to see here, people! Well, those whom Driscoll bullied and spiritually abused have also suffered. And unlike Driscoll, they don't have a fanbase of hundreds of people rushing to their defense and pleading their cases for them. After all, they are (for the most part) nameless, faceless nobodies. But just because they're not a big celebrity pastor who can draw a crowd doesn't mean that they're not every bit as important in God's eyes as Driscoll, whom so many are rushing to defend and give a pass to. Sadly, the fact that biblical reconciliation has not taken place between these former Mars Hill members and their former pastor doesn't seem to slow down Driscoll's fans.

Dear Pastor Mark & Mars Hill: We Are Not Anonymous facebook group

 No repentance from Mark Driscoll 

The people in the Dear Pastor Mark and Mars Hill Facebook group have given heartbreakingly candid testimonies, one after the other, of being abused and cast aside by Driscoll as he leveraged himself up over their dead bodies. This group is an open group, which means that anyone can feel free to post in there, and and ask the members for themselves if Driscoll has repented to any of them. Trust me, they are very candid, some of them almost painfully so. And no, they say, Driscoll has not come to them and repented.

 Closing Thoughts 

While I recognize that commentary about Driscoll will be perceived by some as piling on, my concern is that because Driscoll is so adept at manipulation and spin, he will spin his way out of this box he's in by convincing onlookers that he has repented and apologized and that we all just need to move on now, nothing to see here, folks. The reality is that this hasn't occurred. Documentation of this is important almost in an historical sense, because what Driscoll seems to be banking on (as many other false teachers before him have done) is that Christians will hasten to move on, thinking this is all dealt with, when the reality is that, biblically speaking, it hasn't been.

In some respects, I see my role almost as a documentarian: I document and log facts, and of course, I am hoping for the best. But if at some point down the road Driscoll tries to say look, the board dealt with this, it's done, it's time to move on, I just want to get on with my life, I (and others) can and should hold up the documentation that testifies to the fact that, no, he has not dealt specifically and personally with those he has wronged, bullied and spiritually abused. We don't do this in order to be unkind or malicious, but because when our fellow Christians* are ensnared in sin, we're not being biblical with them if we just look the other way. Sin needs to be called sin. Driscoll needs accountability, I need accountability, we all need accountability. We don't need to be enabled in our sin, because unrepentant sin that goes on and on and on has the effect of hardening the heart and turning the unrepentant sinner further and further away from God. I don't want that for Mark Driscoll.

By now, it should be clear to the body of Christ that Driscoll, by his unrepentant abusiveness, has completely disqualified himself from ever pastoring again. But worse than that, his soul appears to be in jeopardy. To loosely quote Taylor Swift, it is never, ever, ever a good thing for someone to continue in unrepentant sin, unchecked by either outward accountability or by conscience. Driscoll does need prayer, but so do the many sheep who were entrusted into his care and who were spiritually abused by him. Spiritual abuse can take years to recover from, and I have the deepest sympathy and sorrow for those who were abused by Driscoll. But at the same time, we should also hold out hope that God will work genuine repentance in Driscoll's heart, and that he will bear fruit in keeping with Godly sorrow. What a miraculous testament to God's grace and restorative power if Driscoll were to publicly repent and confess his sins! Repentance first starts in the heart, so perhaps Godly sorrow is beginning to work in Driscoll's heart. But in cases in which one's sin has been public and impacted others, true repentance will also manifest in the one who sinned going personally to those he sinned against, and specifically and personally repenting and asking their forgiveness. I hope for Mark Driscoll's sake that this takes place. Not only that, I will be more than happy to rejoice with him over that and report about it, should that occur.

* Of course, it's debatable at this point whether or not Driscoll is a believer, but as he is still a professing believer who holds to an orthodox gospel proclamation, I am still going to deal with him in that way.

 Additional Resources 

Mark Driscoll: A Timeline of His Downfall
 (Sola Sisters)

Thoughts On Driscoll and The Biblical Qualifications For A Pastor

John Piper and Mark Driscoll: Lessons Not Learned? (Pyromaniacs)

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

Documenting the Problems with Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll [UPDATED]

Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll Resigns, Claims He Is Not "Disqualified From Future Ministry"

What John Piper Said When He Finally Addressed the Issue of Mark Driscoll......What We Wish He Had Said Instead

Pastor Chris Rosebrough Deconstructs Robert Morris's "Blessed Life" Teaching, Part 1 and Part 2

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rick Warren's Signature on Ecumenical Document "A Response to 'A Common Word'"

Posted by Christine Pack

An interfaith document authored by the Muslim community entitled "A Common Word," meant to unite Muslims and Christians together in peace and in common causes, was released in 2007.

The Christian community reacted by drafting their own document as a response to "A Common Word."  This document, drafted by the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, became known as "A Christian Response to 'A Common Word'." This document contains some concerning ecumenical language, and seems to affirm that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. "A Christian Response to 'A Common Word'" was published in November 2007, and was signed by a number of professing Christian leaders, including Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, who has denied in the past that he believes that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. You can read some of the language of the Yale Response (below) and see for yourself what you think.

The entire Common Word document can be downloaded as a PDF file here. Please note that:

- The Yale Response is also contained in the "Common Word" document, beginning on page 143
- Saddleback pastor Rick Warren's signature can be seen on page 162

"A Common Word" (authored by the Muslim community)

"A Response to 'Common Word'" (authored by the Christian community)

 Additional Resources 

Why Is A Saddleback Preacher Teaching "Kingdom Circles"? (Stand Up For The Truth)

The Islamic Center of Southern California, Saddleback Church, and Our Friendship (by Jihad Turk of The Islamic Center of Southern California)

Rick Warren: Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Controversy Over An Article About Rick Warren's Efforts to Bring Muslims, Christians Together

Rick Warren Addresses Chrislam Controversy

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Legacy of a Christian Father

Posted by Christine Pack

When I was a new believer, my father spent a lot of time discipling me and helping me grow in the faith. He used to tease me that every time his phone rang and he saw it was me, he would grab his Bible because he knew I would have a list of questions for him  My father also was (and is) a Civil War* buff. Thus, he tends to pass things through the filters of (1) his interest in the Civil War, and (2) his love for God. So Daddy being Daddy, he taught me about God's sovereignty using (1) the book of Isaiah and (2) the life of Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate general in the Civil War. He told me an account of Stonewall Jackson being pressed during the war not to go to the front lines with his men, to which he replied, I will be with my men, to lead them and because they need me, and I will rest in knowing that any bullet that strikes me must first past through the hand of the Lord Almighty.

I love my father and am thankful for him, and for his good teaching over the years which has made me steadier and steadier in my Christian walk. I am also resting in God's sovereignty for today's trials, the fruit of learning such wonderful, steadying truths about God. Thank you, Daddy, I appreciate you.

A few Stonewall Jackson quotes:
[On being asked ‘General how is it that you can keep so cool, and appear so utterly insensible to danger in such a storm of shells and bullets as rained about you when your hand was hit?’] "Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me." 
"It has been a precious experience to me that I was brought face to face with death and found that all was well." 
"You see me severely wounded, but not depressed—not unhappy. I believe it has been done according to God’s holy will, and I acquiesce entirely in it. You may think it strange; but you never saw me more perfectly contented that I am today; for I am sure that my Heavenly Father designs this affliction for my good. I am perfectly satisfied that either in this life, or in that which is to come, I shall discover that what is now regarded as a calamity is a blessing." 
[His last words before dying.] "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."
*Yes, the Civil War was brutal and bloody and awful, and there were complicated and Godly men on both sides. God used that war for his own sovereign purposes to end the vile practice of slavery, and to create the unified nation we have today.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Some Thoughts On Halloween

Posted by Christine Pack

 Halloween and Death 

I grew up in a non-Christian home, and Halloween used to really be no big deal. The day or so before Halloween, we would get our pumpkin and carve it into a scary (or silly) face after cleaning out its slimy, stringy innards. On Halloween, we would throw on some homemade costume and stay up late trick-or-treating. It was a one night deal, boom, done and gone. But nowadays, Halloween has become one of the most popular holidays of the year, in some polls surpassing even Christmas, in terms of length of the season (up to two weeks and more for some), money spent on decorating for the event, and parties thrown in its honor.

When my children were small (and I was a new Christian), we did participate in Halloween for a brief season, because for my kids, it was just innocent fun: dressing up like a hotdog or a giraffe, getting lots of candy and staying up really late. But at one point, it stopped being innocent fun and became creepy, and thankfully, it was very clear to us when that was, so we stopped. We've done different things since then: we've handed out candy and tracts, we've shut the house down and gone to a movie, we've gone out of town, etc. This year, we've opted to stay home and hand out candy and tracts.

While my son and I were recently walking through our neighborhood, we observed that many of our neighbors are celebrating Halloween in macabre, gruesome and over-the-top fashion. We passed yard after yard decorated like haunted houses come to life: cobwebs, spiders, zombies, Frankenstein, vampires, mummies, werewolves, ghosts, goblins, witches, and even makeshift graveyards, complete with corpses and skeletons bursting forth from the ground. My son asked me why it is that people decorate like that, and I told him that it's lost people's way of trying to deal with death. I explained that for the Christian, death has no sting because Christ has conquered death, but that lost people are probably trying to deal with their fear of death by either glorifying it, or pretending it doesn't exist, or making a game out of it, like having Halloween parties with spooky music and eyeball punch and pretzel spiders, or transforming their front lawns into creepy graveyards. We're living in Romans 1 times, a season of spiraling depravity, and what we're seeing in the culture around us is just a reflection of the darkness of the times we're living in. But thankfully, for the Christian, we do know that Christ has conquered death.
"For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'
'Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?'
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

 Ouija Boards 

Since it's close to Halloween, it's probably the right time to again post a warning about the Ouija board. The Ouija board is available at Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc., and is marketed as a game for kids (Manufacturer's Recommended Age: 10-15 years). But the Ouija is NOT a harmless game, and should not be marketed or made available to children. Below are some of the purchaser's reviews from, some of which are truly heartbreaking. Also, note how many of the reviews are from parents or relative purchasing this product for children. (The reviews are taken from this page.)
"With all talking boards you are openly inviting the influence of disembodied entities. Be very careful what you are opening the door to. I wouldn't even consider using it without deep and sincere prayers for protection." 
"To get answers from your board it is important that you relax and concentrate only on your question. Try to clear your mind of everything else. The Ouija Board is my favorite game and I thank my aunt for introducing it to me."
"When I was about to use it I got the creeps and I thought about how this could change my life so I put it away in my garage and left it there for about 8 months without actually using it but playing around with it. I told my neighbor that I had one but I didn't use it at all. She told me if she could use it. I told her just to be careful with it. Since her cousin was there, they both used it. The next morning I called her and I could hear them laughing and saying, "Oh My Gosh."They were playing it and I asked them if it really did work. She said it's so cool. I went over her house in excitement and I sat there, watching them play and just seeing how quickly the message indicator would move across the board. I couldn't believe how accurate it spelled out everything. So we played all day long and time went by fast because we were so into it. The board told us it was a good spirit so we were okay. The next day it said strange things and creepy things so we decided to put it away and not use it for a while. It's really fun though but you just have to be careful with it. It's a must have. " 
"Brought back childhood memories! got it for my teenage daughters sleepover and the girls had a blast." 
"We tried it once at my house at about 8 pm, but there was no activity on the board. This didn't surprise me because I didn't find my house to be haunted. However, since we used the Ouija board at my house, I have been hearing footsteps in the hallway outside my bedroom and in my bedroom, as well as on the main level of the house. I hear activity in the kitchen and my parents' voices when I'm home alone. Nothing bad has happened, it's just a little freaky........Now, I'm not going to say the Ouija board doesn't work because there are entities at my house now." 
"It didn't seem to work very good. I don't think they are made as good as the older one's. My granddaughter was pretty disappointed, plus it didn't glo at nite." 
"Bought this for my 11 year old daughter at Christmas. We have fun asking dumb questions and understand that it has nothing to do with god or spirits... it's a BOARD GAME! If you're NOT ok with it, DON'T purchase the product. If you're open minded and can have fun with it, then this might be for you.....My son's girlfriend gets really freaked out, and we like exacerbating her fears, but she's a good sport. Good times!" 
"I had a Ouija Board when I was 12, so I ordered this one for my son for Christmas. He and his friends have had tons of fun 'communicating with spirits'!" 
"i bought this cause both my inlaws past away and my husband wanted to talk to them well it worked. my husband got his answer to bad it only worked the one time now we are not getting anything" 
"We didn't meet any insane, crazy, or emotional people either time it worked. Just spirits that were informative and told us the basic details of their names, age, location, & death when we asked. I guess they weren't harmful spirits. I have met a few people who have met suspicious or emotional characters, so definitely be careful when messing with these. Just because my experiences were fine doesn't mean it will be the same for you." 
"I bought this Quija board for my daughers birthday party, the girls had a blast scaring the heck out of themselves with this board. To funny, plus it glows in the dark! what more could you ask for?" 
"I got this for my 13-year-old daughter. The product itself is fine, she likes it and uses it with most of her female friends. The problem is, some of the girls are adversely affected by it. I noticed one of them was crying and several of them were attracted to the darker aspects of the "spirit world." It seems like every other 'spirit' with whom they 'communicate" committed suicide or was murdered'." 
"My sister passed away two years ago and many times we had this boad predict our futures, future surgerys, health problems, boyfriends, good things and bad things have happened, we always said a prayer and protected ourselves with crosses,if you belive its a respectful item I dont consider a toy, if you belive its a toy maybe your only asking for trouble...or fun, just have respect for something that may be made by Hasbro now but was once a respected tool for talking with those who had passed, and getting answers!" 
"Fun birthday present for my 14 year old daughter, she loved it. Cute & Fun. Glow in the dark is a great added feature." 
"It's a fairly harmless game if it is respected and not overused. I recommend not asking it the same questions over and over again because the unseen force may not like that. I also recommend praying a prayer of protection before and after using the board as a safety concern for the super religious fanatics; however I doubt that it will possess anyone as I've used it many times and I've never been possessed." 
"I have played this game before and I don't know why everyone is ranting about it being " demonic". It is a toy. It is not inhabitated by evil spirits or bewitched by Satan. It is a toy. I am 10 years old and am never frightend by it. I will admit that creepy things do happen, and that there are spirits, but they are not evil. They can not hurt you. They will not kill you. They can be nice, clever, and friendly. If you are ever bothered by anything the spirit says, tell the spirit to stop. They will listen. Buy this and you will not regret it! Great for sleepovers." 
"i was with my friend kylie and my other friend will. when we asked who the spirit who it was it said the gradmother of william so we made william get off the board, then we asked her questions that only he would know such as what he called her when he was little [nini] and what he called his grandfather [susu] when she died [1994] and other such questions. he was so astonished he's bought one and uses it all the time and has gotten to the point where he can ask questions in his head and do it by himself. it's not fake, i did it this weekend and you can definitely feel the energy pulling it." 
"At first i wasnt really into "spirits" or bringing back the dead, but after using an ouiji board, it changed my mind. When me and my 2 friends used it, we didnt do it correctly and i could tell that one of the friends kept on moving the piece. So while she was away, me and my other friend did the ouiji board correctly by sitting "indian style" with our knees touching and we balanced the board on our laps. We placed our fingers on the piece slighty and asked questions waiting for the piece to move. After about 10 minutes, it didnt move, so me and my friend were ready to just give it up. Then I could feel the piece moving on its own, and me and my friends fingers were barely touching it. We continued to have a conversion with a spirit by the nickname of "fuz" and he answered questions that i never dared to tell my friends. I was certain she wasnt moving the piece because she didnt know the answers and i didnt want to move it because i wanted to believe it was real, and it was. We talked with this spirit for a while, and he told us he was right beside us. After we were done, i felt very cold and chills going up and down my arms. I felt like i was going to pass out and i almost felt like crying, so i went to bed. The ouiji board is very real, and if your not afraid of contacting the dead, i suggest buying this because it is a........lot of fun."
Marcia Montenegro, former New Ager and professional astrologer, has written several articles having to do with Halloween, the Ouija Board and spirit contact (what the Bible calls "necromancy"). You can read her articles here:
The Ouija Board - Just A Game? 
Spirit Contact: Who Is On The Other Side?
Halloween Statement For Christians

 Closing Thoughts 

Whether as a Christian you choose to participate in Halloween or not, or use it as an outreach opportunity, I'll leave you with some scriptures that address some of the darker aspects of the occultic realm:
"When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this." (Deuteronomy 18:9-14) 
"Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:31)
"I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people." (Leviticus 19:31)

"Do not practice divination or seek omens." (Leviticus 19:26b)
As I noted, I'm aware that Christians choose to handle Halloween differently: some participate, some do not, some use it as an outreach opportunity. This Halloween, our family elected to hand out gospel CD messages and candy. The CD we handed out included this audio message:
Are You Afraid Of The Dark? 
Have you ever wondered why the dark is so scary? Well, have you ever been in total pitch black darkness, the kind where you can't even see your own hand in front of your face? What do you think you would do in that kind of darkness? You would probably stick your arms straight out in front of you and try to feel your way around, so that you won't trip over something or walk into a wall. And you would probably take little baby steps for the same reason. It's kind of disorienting and hard to do anything in  that kind of darkness, isn't it? Even if you're just in bed sometimes, if it's that dark, that kind of total darkness we’re talking about, your mind can start imagining all kinds of things. Maybe you put the covers up over your head. But even that can be scary. But why? It's scary because you can't see. You can't see what is really around you, what's really there. You can't tell if you're about to walk into a wall, fall down a flight of stairs, or trip over something. You can't see if you are by yourself or if someone is with you. What's the only thing that can help in this situation? Light. Any kind of light. Once you have a light- everything changes, you relax because you can see. 
Did you know that the Bible talks a lot about light? As a matter of fact, the very first words the Bible records God saying are "Let there be light." God spoke this at creation. And did you also know that two thousand years ago, God sent Light into the world a second time. Why would God need to give us light again? Well, the first time God sent light, it was physical light, because the world was dark. It was the kind of light that our eyes need so that we can see. But the second time God sent light, it was for a different kind of darkness. A kind of darkness that is not about our eyes…but about our hearts. 
Just like the "eye" kind of darkness keeps you from seeing things around you as they really are, the "heart" kind of darkness keeps you from seeing the truth about God. What is it, then, that makes our hearts dark? All of our hearts are dark because of sin. Sin is disobeying God. God is the One who created you, and the world, and the light, and all things. We sin when we disobey God by our thoughts, our words, and our actions. 
So how do you know if you’ve ever sinned? Well, you can ask yourself some questions: Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever taken something that didn't belong to you? Have you ever disobeyed or dishonored your parents? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you have sinned, because those are some of God's laws. And God is so holy and so perfect, that if we commit just one of these sins, we stand condemned before this holy and perfect God. Sin is bad because it offends God, who is good and perfect and holy in every way. Think of our sinfulness and God's holiness in the way you might think about oil and water: they just don't mix, do they? Sin breaks the relationship between you and God. Sin keeps you from seeing how good God is. This is a terrible reality. Think of it this way: as scary as it is to not be able to see with your eyes what is around you, like when you're in pitch black darkness, it is even scarier to not see God for who He really is. 
But, like I said earlier, God sent Light again. Only this time, it was the kind of Light that our dark hearts need. This Light has a name…and the name of the Light is Jesus. Jesus was not just a good man, as some believe; He was fully man and fully God at the same time. He was born into the world in the same way that you were, as a baby. He was a toddler, a child, a young man, and finally an adult, and in all the years that He lived, Jesus never sinned in thought, word or deed. Jesus lived a life of perfect, holy righteousness. Instead of breaking God’s moral laws, like we have, Jesus kept them all, every single one of them. He did this so that He could then give His own life for ours, and He did this by allowing himself to be tortured and then hung on a cross to die as a payment for our sins. We stood guilty and condemned before God, who is the holy and just Judge of all the universe, and yet Jesus paid our fine so that we could be set free. When we examine ourselves in light of God’s moral law, we should recognize our need for a Savior, and understand how amazing this gift from God is. 
Do you know what happened to Jesus? The last you heard about him, he had been killed by being hung on a cross. But guess what? Because Jesus had never once sinned in his life, He did not stay in the grave. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin are death, and since Jesus had never sinned, death could not hold him. On the third day after his burial, Jesus was raised from the dead, and many people in the town where He lived witnessed that Jesus, whom they had seen killed, was indeed alive again! They saw him, they heard him teach, they talked to him, walked with him and even ate with him. You see, God had raised Jesus from the dead, a fact recorded by many historians, as proof that Jesus’s payment for sins was acceptable in God’s eyes. 
So what does this mean for you? Well, if you have broken God’s moral laws, you need a Savior. But thankfully, God provided that Savior in Jesus, who kept all the moral laws, and then gave his own perfect life as a ransom payment for those who place their faith in him. This is called repentance. If we repent, that is, if we turn away from our sins, and turn toward God by trusting that Jesus’s payment on the Cross has the power to cleanse us from our sins, then God forgives us. Our hearts will have light and with this light, which is spiritual light, and not just a physical light like a lamp or a candle, we will see God as He really is, and we will love Him, and worship Him, and serve Him. God will also cleanse us on the inside, and will give us new hearts and new desires, desires that are pure and holy. 
The Bible calls this being born again, when we have moved from being a prisoner in the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Light. So when you're scared of the dark, it's only to show you that you need light. And when you have a dark heart, it's only to point you to the fact that you need a Savior. This is why the Bible calls Jesus "the Light of the world." 
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 Additional Resources 

What Do We Do With Halloween?

The Ouija Board - Just A Game?

Spirit Contact: Who Is On The Other Side?

Halloween Statement For Christians

What Do You Mean By The Occult?

The Occult and Paranormal: What Does God Say?

Radio Interviews with Former Astrologer/Occultist Marcia Montenegro