Saturday, December 7, 2013

Preaching About the Wrong Man

This was originally going to be a post bemoaning the "ethics downgrade" plaguing American evangelicalism. Since Mark Driscoll and Ergun Caner are back in the news for their various violations of ethics rules accepted even among the most virulently secular, I was planning to compare the response of secular organizations in similar situations, and axe why the American district of the City on a Hill has lower standards than those in the valley.

And that would be an easy post to write, would it not? Recount some stories of people fired or expelled from hostilely secular schools and companies for relatively minor cases of plagiarism, then ask why Mark Driscoll can brazenly steal the work of others, and the response of the Christian elite (as if that term doesn't explain the problem) is to attempt to destroy the person who dared to expose his self-exalting theft.

Then I could recall the story of George O'Leary, the college football coach who in 2001 was hired for one of the most prestigious positions in his field, head coach at Notre Dame. But when the school went to prepare his biography for their media machine, some discrepancies were found. He had padded his resume three or four decades earlier to help him break into the field, and never got around to removing the padding from his bio. He had a great track record as a coach over multiple decades, so no big deal, right? Wrong. Notre Dame, a Catholic school, exposed the decades-old lies, and fired him immediately.

It would be easy enough to compare that to the case of Ergun Caner, who built a career through lying about, well, pretty much everything. In numerous sermons at churches all over America, he told a life story that simply isn't true. He lied to the Marines, presenting himself as an expert on Islam because of his background in order to train them in Muslim relations (shudder to think of soldiers dying because they followed his advice). Time after time, he told the same story of his life - and when someone finally looked into it, it was a mountain of lies. Did his employer, Liberty University, act as boldly as Notre Dame, especially considering how much more serious Caner's lies are than O'Leary's were? No. They 'cleared' him of lying, saying only that he had made "factual statements that are self-contradictory", and letting him remain on the faculty. Egads.  Now several years and several gigs later, he was hired as president of Brewton-Parker College. Was he hired in spite of his lies? Worse - according to their official statement, he was hired because of them. Specifically, because he remained unrepentant and defiant, and is fighting in anti-Christian ways to destroy those who exposed him. The liar is a hero and paragon of virtue, while the truth-tellers are pagan attackers.

That's not an ethics downgrade. That's hitting bottom and keeping on digging. The folks at Brewton-Parker hit rock bottom, and brought in the dynamite.

OK, so I guess I wound up writing that post anyway. So be it. Anyway, while I was thinking that through, something else occurred to me. I'm going to set Driscoll aside for a moment here - which, come to think of it, is good advice all the time; let the widdle boy-man pee in his own sandbox all he wants, don't worry about him, but be willing to hose him off if he ever realizes how much his diaper stinks and asks for a change.

For now, let's just focus on Caner, with one question - why does it matter so much that he's such a dirty rotten filthy stinking liar? What difference does it make that his life story has him sitting on a throne of lies? Aside from listing the bare-minimum qualifications for an elder, let's do a little thought experiment.

Think about your pastor, and maybe a famous pastor you respect (MacArthur, for instance). Imagine they had lied about some significant biographical details. How many sermons would they have to preach before the lies had an impact on the message? I suspect for many pastors, it would be several months before those stories were in sermons, if ever.

Now do the same with Caner. Find any sermon he preached from about late 2001 to 2010. How much would it change the message if you replace the biographical lies with the truth? Could you find even a 10-minute stretch which wouldn't be any different without the lies? Change Caner's lies about himself to the truth about himself, and his sermons would be completely unrecognizable!

For any faithful pastor, from the MacArthurs and Pipers and Sprouls to the myriad small-church pastors you'll never hear of until heaven - really, anyone who fits the minimum qualifications of an elder - the star of every message is Jesus Christ.

For Ergun Caner, the star of every message is Ergun Caner.

The trail of lies (and the inexcusable actions of his enablers) is disqualifying. But it wouldn't be so noticeable, and he maybe wouldn't have been so tempted to do it, if he didn't preach about the wrong man.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Gut-Wrenching Tale of a Partial Savior

When I started to think about writing a Thanksgiving post, I never imagined this article would be the inspiration. Before I link, here's fair warning: it's an ugly and agonizing read, about subject matter that some have dubbed "not safe for homeschool". And now, here is the article in question.

The article talks about the truth behind the carefully-fabricated façade of the homosexuality movement, and it's a tough read, downright ugly. The narcissistic idolatry that is homosexuality is shocking when you get a glimpse behind the curtain (though hardly surprising, for anyone who has read Romans 1 and believes God knows better than we do) and see the real turmoil instead of the utopian bill of goods we've been sold.

As you read this tale, if your heart is anything like mine, you will feel agony - disgust at the wretched sinfulness of such manifest pride, compassion for those who destroy their lives pursuing 'love' via sin (the very opposite of love), indignation at those who should know better but are persistently encouraging people to devote themselves to the sinful path, an aching for Christ to return and set all this right. It's shocking to see sin so enthusiastically embraced and the terrifying results of doing so, and pride-destroying to realize that aside from the restraining grace of God, my heart is capable of all that and much worse.

Let me put it this way: if nothing else open the article, hit control-f, and look for 'bug chaser'. See the vile depths unchecked sin can reach, feel compassion for those pitiable souls who are so blinded that they think this is a good idea, and renew outrage at those who (in the name of Jesus!) encourage people to follow those depraved passions in a search for 'love'.

But none of that is the most gut-wrenching part of this article. For that, I nominate the following paragraph:

"I am not proud of the life I have lived. In fact, I am profoundly ashamed of it. But if reading this prevents one naïve, gullible man from making the same mistakes, then perhaps with the assistance of Our Lady of Guadalupe; of St. Joseph, her chaste spouse; of my patron saint, Edmund Campion; of St. Josemaría Escrivá; of the blessed Carmelite martyrs of Compiégne; and, last but not least, of my special supernatural guide and mentor, the Venerable John Henry Newman, I can at least hope for a reprieve from some of the many centuries in Purgatory I have coming to me."

Ugh. After all the nastiness of the main article, this paragraph, meant to fill the reader with hope, is possibly the saddest of all. It's hard not to feel anguish over someone who finds his hope in a savior whom he believes cannot save! The best his 'savior' can muster is to allow him to save himself through centuries of suffering, as long as numerous other sinners help him out.

So how is this a Thanksgiving post again? More than anything, I'm thankful that this pathetic image of the unsaving savior is completely different from the true Jesus Christ we find in scripture. I'm thankful that, as opposed to this wretched Roman doctrine which denigrates Jesus, the Bible presents him as the Savior who actually saves! Compare how this deceived man describes his 'salvation' from homosexuality to how scripture describes it:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11)

The Christ-demeaning doctrine of Rome says, maybe in a few millennia of your suffering and saints interceding, God may consider you clean. God says, if you are in Jesus, you are clean! You have been washed, sanctified, justified - solely by the work of Jesus. The blood of Christ is sufficient to save completely from any and all sin!

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14)

Jesus does not make it possible for you to maybe redeem yourself via centuries of mini-hell if you get enough people to pray/donate for you. No, the blood of Jesus is fully sufficient to save even the vilest sinner - he has secured an eternal redemption!

Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:25-28)

Jesus has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself! It does not need to be dealt with again; his work leaves nothing to be completed by someone else. If it's a sin Jesus has put away, it's done forever, period.

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:10-14)

One sacrifice, effective for sin for all time. The sacrifice of Christ does not earn us the chance to self-atone through our suffering for countless centuries to come. His single offering perfects his people forever - in Christ our sin is completely forgiven!

So how is it a Thanksgiving article? It prompts me to thank God that Jesus Christ is a Savior who truly saves! If we believe scripture rather than the pope, we can read an article like that, revealing the greatest depths of depravity, and be able to say confidently without hesitation that the salvation Christ provides is more than sufficient to instantly, completely, eternally forgive even that sin. Those who are in Christ are forgiven - sinners like them, and sinners like you and me.

Let us give thanks, for Christ is overwhelmingly sufficient. "Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."