It is not the purpose of this blog to go around beating dead horses or to keep talking about things long after they have slipped off the radar screen of our consciousness. But Kyle Lake’s death is once again coming up as a topic of conversation in the blogosphere, and I can’t let it pass without comment.
Last fall Kyle Lake, pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, was electrocuted while standing in the baptistry at his church during a morning service.
Shortly thereafter, Paul Proctor wrote a piece about this saying that God killed Kyle Lake as an act of judgment against the emerging church. If you never got around to reading it, here it is.
Other bloggers found this piece and expressed their approval. Slice of Laodicea posted a brief comment expressing approval of the Proctor piece. And Challies.com ran a brief post in support of the Proctor piece, saying that Proctor “pulls no punches”. The Challies piece also links another Slice of Laodicea post that compares the last sermons of Kyle Lake and pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne, who died at the age of 30.
I should have said something about the Proctor piece back when it first appeared, but I did not. In that regard I guess I could be considered to be complicit in the perpetuation of that kind of garbage. But now I will waste no time in going on the record saying that I wholeheartedly denounce the Proctor piece and the sentiments expressed by it.
On the one hand, this piece is a riot. It is impossible to read straight through it and keep a straight face. But after you’ve read through it once and had your laughs, read it again and let the sorrow, the disgust, and the outrage wash over you that someone out there would say such rotten things about a fellow Christian, especially in the name of God.
Kyle Lake was deeply committed to preaching the Gospel and creating a community that would welcome college students and other young people who felt that there was no place for them in the traditional Church. On his last day alive, he was to preach a sermon that spoke wonderfully of the world that God has created, and of enjoying all that there is to enjoy in the world that God has created. And for that he is trashed as a false prophet who deceives the elect with flowery words while leading them down the sure road to hell.
Proctor likens Kyle Lake to Ananias and Sapphira, who in Acts 5 were killed by God because they attempted to deceive the church by holding back a portion of the proceeds from a piece of land that they sold and saying that they had given everything they got for it. (See, you really ought to read the Bible. Even if you don’t believe a word it says, it’s worth reading just for stories like this.) But there are serious problems here. Ananias and Sapphira attempted to deceive the people of God by lying about how much they had given to the church. Kyle Lake attempted to “deceive” the people of God by preaching a brand of Christianity that Proctor happens to disagree with. Also, in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, it is perfectly clear from the biblical account that God killed them. In the case of Kyle Lake, we know that he got electrocuted. It is not clear that God killed him, except for Proctor’s argument that “his eye is on the sparrow” and that all things work together for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28). If God really intended to kill Kyle Lake as a sign to strike fear into the hearts of those whom Proctor disagrees with, don’t you think He would have made it quite clear that it was He who was doing the killing, not a microphone in a pool of water?
Finally, what’s wrong with enjoying life in our world? What’s wrong with rolling down the car window and feeling the wind against your skin on a clear fall day? Where is the sin in feeling alive as the cold air hits your lungs if you go running on a brisk fall morning? Where is the sin in feeling satisfaction from completing a project or performing well in a play? Where is the sin in laughing as you eat with friends or family, savoring the smell of the food and enjoying the company of your friends?
It doesn’t matter what you think about the emerging church. You don’t have to like it if you don’t want to. You don’t have to agree with everything they say. In some parts of the emerging church there are things that need to be criticized. But whatever you do, don’t write off the whole movement because some parts of it are too liberal for your liking.
And above all, don’t stand over the grave of one of their pastors, saying that God killed him because his doctrine is false. And don’t stand by and applaud those who do. Don’t tell the world that they “pull no punches” in their critique of the emerging church. The Proctor piece is not a critique. It is a piece of malicious, hate-filled slander, and it deserves to be called exactly that.
Folks, it’s really quite simple. If you are human, if there is even an ounce of human blood inside of you, there’s only one thing to do about a piece like this: Condemn it. Condemn it wholeheartedly. Denounce it with everything that is in you. Let the whole world know that you will not stand idly by and allow a fellow Christian to say this sort of thing about someone whose doctrine is different from his.
And for those of you out there who may be new Christians or not Christian at all: I am sorry to have to draw your attention to this sort of thing. But the sad reality is, it happens. There are Christians running around out there whose view of things is such that only those precious few who agree exactly with everything they believe in all matters of faith and spiritual life are part of the Kingdom of God. Please, pay no attention to these people. And please, whatever you do, don’t write off all of Christianity just because some of us are like this.
UPDATE: Here is a post from Broken Messenger that addresses the Proctor piece on Kyle Lake and the wider issue of guilt-by-association that is prevalent in some parts of the evangelical blogosphere. [Sorry folks, looks like the Broken Messenger piece is gone.]