Gene Veith: Are Adults Responsible For Things They Did As Minors?

ICYMI:  Brett Kavanaugh is up for appointment to the Supreme Court.  That is potentially in jeopardy after revelations that he had sexually assaulted an underage woman.

Gene Veith has written a piece at his Patheos blog questioning whether Kavanaugh can or should be held responsible for this incident.  The rub for him is that Kavanaugh was 17 at the time, and therefore himself a minor.  Holding adults accountable for things they did as minors would, in his view, set a dangerous precedent, one which could potentially open the door to, for example, holding someone liable for assault and battery or violence against women because as a 5-year-old child he hit his 4-year-old younger sister.

Here’s the thing:  There is a difference in those examples.  When a 17-year-old rapes or sexually assaults a younger woman it is a much bigger deal–even though the 17-year-old is still technically a minor–than when a 5-year-old hits his younger sister.  Because a 17-year-old is not a 5-year-old and should not be considered on the same level as a 5-year-old, even though both are minors.  And sexual assault is a much bigger deal than hitting a younger sibling.

This manner of argument is what you would expect from a hardcore secular Republican partisan, not a respected Christian theologian.

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John MacArthur Is Doubling Down

ICYMI:  John MacArthur, everybody’s favorite charismatic–and all-around–hater, published a blog post a few weeks back about how social justice is a threat to the Gospel.  He went on to expand that into a whole series of blog posts.

Not content by any means to quit while he was ahead, MacArthur got together several other like-minded Christian leaders and produced the Statement On Social Justice and The Gospel.  This is yet another of those point-by-point “We Affirm xxx…We Deny xxx…” deals that evangelicals are so excruciatingly adept at producing, which codifies many of the points made by MacArthur in his blog series.

Once more, with feeling:  The Gospel has inexplicable implications for how you treat other people.  The Bible makes it quite clear that God is intimately concerned with how you treat other people, and therefore you cannot be right with God if you are not right with other people.

This ain’t rocket science, people.

Social justice is not merely the province of those godless liberal mainlines.  It is not merely a passing fancy that evangelicals have only lately begun to catch.  Instead it is something which has been embedded into the very DNA of evangelicalism ever since the days of abolitionism, women’s rights movements, and many of the other great social movements of the prior century.  These movements all arose because the evangelicals of that era were dialed in to the reality that the Gospel message has implications for how you treat other people.

Jesus came to reconcile all the world to Himself and put all things under His rule, not just to assuage the guilt of individual consciences.  Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

Pat Robertson Is Back

I’ve said it before:  If I could set up some kind of Google news feed on Pat Robertson this blog would practically write itself.

Just when you think Pat Robertson can’t get any crazier, he always manages to one-up himself.  With a major hurricane out in the Atlantic this past week threatening to make landfall over the Carolinas, this is what he did:

Well, at least Robertson kept the hurricane out of Atlanta, Georgia.

James F. McGrath: Reading Revelation from the Margins

Today I direct your attention to a post from the blog of James F. McGrath entitled “Reading Revelation from the Margins and from a Position of Power“.

McGrath’s big idea is that there is a significant difference between the way privileged white evangelicals who perceive every minor loss of privilege as persecution read Revelation and the way people who are on the margins of society and experiencing actual persecution read Revelation.  You see, Revelation came out of a people who were experiencing the full, crushing weight of oppression and marginalization from imperial Rome, the superpower of the day.  It was a message of hope that God would hear the cries of His people and judge the superpowers that oppress them.  Viewed from that perspective, Revelation looks and sounds a lot different than it does when handled by Mike Pence and others of his ilk, those who represent the imperial power structures of the day and pray–from their positions of power–that God would judge those whom they are already oppressing and marginalizing.

Read:  Reading Revelation from the Margins and from a Position of Power by James F. McGrath

Go Away Pastor Tullian And Give Us A Chance to Miss You

Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham with the funny name, was pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Miami, Florida until 2015 when he resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair.

Tchividjian is back.  He has written a blog post along with Chad Bird, a former pastor who likewise committed adultery, in which he calls upon Christians to extend forgiveness to disgraced leaders.

Here are some choice quotes:

The grace of God is not reserved for the “well-behaved.” Yet that is the message we send every time the word “fall” is used in reference to someone who is by nature already fallen. These people are sinners, just like everybody they ever led. That doesn’t justify destructive behavior, diminish the sting of consequences, or minimize the harming effects of destructive choices. But if we’re only okay with preaching grace in theory, but not when someone—even an esteemed leader—is actually in need of it, then perhaps we should all take a sabbatical. As someone once said, “People love it when preachers say they are broken just like the rest of us, until that preacher does something that the rest of us broken people do.”

…It is anti-Christian to remember people primarily by the scandalous things they’ve done. We love to whittle an entire life-story down to a single season. Then, with the authority invested in us by the state of self-righteousness, we proclaim, “This, and nothing else, is who you are.” But the truth is, all of us (including disgraced Christian leaders) are more complicated than the singular narrative by which most people identity us. We have done very bad things, very good things, and plenty of cocktails of them both. Sadly, most people remember only the bad. Thankfully, we have a God who remembers only the good. And the only good he remembers is the good that Christ has done for us, in us, and through us. So, if we want to reduce our life story down to one adjective, if we want to whittle our biography down to a single word, then let it be this: Beloved.

…If the church truly wants to stand apart from the world, it will stand alongside those who have been disgraced. It will risk being falsely attacked as “soft on sin” because it knows how hard life is when guilt and shame are one’s only companions. Rather than shooting its wounded, it will pick them up and carry them to safety, to rehab, to repentance, to whatever it takes to make them whole again. While the world drinks itself drunk on outrage of every kind, the church will exercise outrageous grace and scandalous mercy that doggedly refuses to give up on those ensnared by evil. In other words, the church will be exactly the kind of church Jesus established. Not a gym for spiritual muscle flexing but a triage for the wounded, where moral insurance isn’t checked at the door, but all are welcome and treated, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.

Okay.  I am with you on that.  As the Church, we talk a great game on grace but are largely AWOL when it comes to showing actual grace.  As Michael Spencer would say:

“Amazing Grace” may be the church’s favorite hymn, but I’m not the first person to notice that the subject of God’s actual grace seems to give many Christians a case of hives. Singing about it is way cool. After that we need a team of lawyers to interpret all the codicils and footnotes we’ve written for the new covenant.

That should not be.  The Church should be a place where people are scandalized not by sin but by the forgiveness shown to sinners.  If you are truly dealing in grace then there will be no shortage of voices saying that you are soft on sin.  And you never said, and you made it clear you were not saying, that grace and forgiveness involved restoring fallen pastors to their former positions.

BUT…

You don’t get to go around waving forgiveness in the faces of family, fellow pastors, former congregants, and others impacted by your poor decisions, while continuing to build your brand and profit from your story/ministry.  That’s not how this works.

At this point your calling is to quietly and humbly receive the scandalous grace God has extended to you, and to–quietly and humbly–walk the path God has laid before you, working quietly and humbly for restoration of the relationships damaged by your poor decisions, to whatever extent that is now possible.

I now live with ghosts because a beautiful young woman whom I liked a lot and wished to go out with could no longer feel safe or comfortable in my presence after I expressed that to her.  That is the path God has given me to walk at this time.  That is hard enough.  I can’t imagine what it must be like for you–you had a wife and a family and now you have lost all of that.

But that is your path to walk, and walk it you must.  Quietly and humbly, before God and the community of faith where he has placed you.  You don’t get to put this part of your journey on blast for all the blogosphere to see, building your brand and driving sales of your book (I have a copy.  I got it back in happier times before all this broke).

Just go away and let this part of your journey be between you and God and your faith community.  Go away, and give us a chance to miss you.

Michael W. Smith Thinks He’s Going to Spark The Next Great Awakening

I am not making this up.

Christian singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith apparently thinks he is going to spark the next Great Awakening.

I have learned over the years to cultivate a healthy skepticism towards anyone who claims that whatever event they are putting on is going to spark the next big move of God.

For starters, Michael W. Smith hasn’t graced the CCM top 40 in a decade and a half.  And he thinks his deal is going to launch the next big move of God?  Or is this just a way for him to get himself out there?

But here is the larger issue, and I’ve touched on this in prior posts.  We live in an age in which 81 percent of American evangelicals are completely and totally infatuated with a president whose message is the exact opposite of anything even remotely connected to Jesus Christ.  The black evangelical world has been rocked over the past few years by scandals involving prominent leaders in that world.  The Catholic Church has a grease fire on its hands because of a basic failure to protect its youngest and most vulnerable members.  Willow Creek, one of the most prominent churches in all of American evangelicalism, also has a grease fire on its hands because its leaders have taken a deny-everything-blame-the-victims-they’re-all-liars approach to handling allegations of sexual misconduct by its pastor Bill Hybels.  The SBC just escorted Paige Patterson, one of its longest-tenured and most influential leaders, out of the building because a pattern of wrongheaded counsel to women in abusive marriages and failure to report domestic violence made him too toxic to keep around.

What we have here is a basic failure of justice, a basic failure of love, a basic failure of Christlikeness that is pervasive throughout the American church, and especially evangelicalism.

To his credit, Smith seems to realize this.  Sort of.

“It all started with the Surrounded record, the worship record that I did. I just felt like, it has a lot to do with unity, honestly. It has a lot to do with justice,” Smith told The Christian Post earlier this month.

He referenced the Amos 5 in the Bible where God corrects His children despite their worship to Him.

“He (God) says ‘I’m tired of your sacrifices and I’m tired of your music.’ That really got my attention. He said, ‘Turn it off. I can’t stand it.’ He said, ‘You know what I’m looking for? I’m looking for justice to roll like a waterfall.’ And it rocked my world,” Smith revealed.

And yet what is he doing?  Planning a concert that is going to draw a lot of people and be broadcast on TBN this fall.

And that is supposed to launch the next big move of God that will right all the injustices in the American church and in our world.

Let me know how that goes.

Jonathan Aigner on Willow Creek

Since we touched on the Willow Creek grease fire in the last post, I thought it would be worthwhile to give Jonathan Aigner’s take.  Aigner is not a fan of Willow Creek or any other part of the megachurch enterprise, and he writes an excruciatingly visceral rant.  Basically:  Good riddance.

The takeaway from this and from the last post is this:  It is one thing to get people to come to church.  The megachurches are doing a hella good job of this.  But when they come, will they find Jesus there?  That is another question entirely.

Aigner blogs at Ponder Anew.