John Piper-Help Your Baby to Understand God’s Wrath and TWW Responds With a New Service

“Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.”  Herbert Ward

 

 

 

I was sent the following audio clip from an alert reader. In this seven-minute discussion, Piper clarifies his thinking on spanking Although I agree with some of his points, I found a few things he said troubling. In particular, he focuses on the issue of God as a God of wrath. Here is the link to the relevant audio at Desiring God. A summary follows.
 

Piper states the following:

 

"God does “not” stick us in the corner facing the wall! He “spanks” us and He does it often with great pain. Another way to say it is, I doubt that it’s easy for a child to come to terms with the Biblical God of wrath if he has never tasted “severe” wrath from his father or mother in growing up. A wrath that is controlled.”

 

The reader who called this to my attention made the following comments. She wishes to remain anonymous but I am grateful for her communication.
 

“Piper goes where no preacher has gone before, that I have heard of, to say that spanking a child, the threat of it happening, the knowledge that a parent is going to hurt them physically, teaches the child “to  come to terms with the Biblical God of wrath”.

 

Spank your child to teach him about God’s wrath? How many times would you need to do this to communicate the lesson? God is the provider. Does Piper believe in letting his children starve for a day or two so that they know the real pain of hunger and the satisfaction of eating?”
 

I find this link between simple discipline and the God of wrath to be most troubling. The God of wrath, as expressed in the Old Testament, often ordered the destruction of people groups, sometimes ordering the slaughter all of the adults, children, infants and animals. He caused the ground to open up and swallow people. How does a parent provided, to quote Piper, enough “severe wrath” to convey the depths of wrath of such a God? And why would one want to do such a thing?
 

Later on in the clip, Piper says that it is OK to inflict pain on a 6-month-old infant so that the child will not bite his mother’s breast while feeding. He calls it a flick on the foot but does not define it. Let’s try to figure out the reasoning here. We flick a baby’s foot so that he/she feels pain. Therefore, said baby now understands that God is wrathful and that he/she best mind his manners or it is into the lake of fire. Have I got this right?

 

Once again, I am confused. When my child bit me at 6 months of age, I simply said, “Ow” and removed my baby from her feeding. After doing this three or four times, no further bites occurred. Infliction of pain on her was unnecessary for rectification. I have to ask the obvious question. Do these parents actually think that the baby is intentionally inflicting pain on the mother? Frankly, this appears paranoid.
 

How in the world do I provide enough pain so that my baby or toddler will “understand the wrath of God?!” Most Christian have trouble understanding this issue. How can a baby link a flick on the foot with God’s retribution? Is Piper saying that I must provide severe punishment in order for my child to understand God’s wrath? Such a belief could lead to untold amounts of abuse for children by stupid parents who will carry this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion.

 

TWW has become increasingly alarmed at the number of churches and Christians who seem to be advocating inappropriate corporal punishment. We are also concerned about the apparent lack of comprehension on the pain of domestic abuse as exhibited by Piper and others. Here are several examples of some things that raise serious concerns.
 

  • Whopping, during a diaper change, a wiggling 3-month-old infant with a glue stick.
  • A poster on this blog recounted a pastor’s wife who admitted to spanking a child 30-40 times in one day.
  • We have heard that there are pastors who cajole and order women to return to physically abusive situations.
  • We have heard of pastors who stock “spanking implements” that are given to church members.
  • Some parents are using plumbing lines and other methods in order to conceal evidence of bruising by their corporal punishment.
  • Some parents are starving their infants because of a misguided belief that infants can be “spoiled and become obese” because of feedings on demand.

 

Piper seems to have added a new spin on punishment. Is he saying that it is now the parent’s role to provided physical demonstrations of the God of wrath to their children? This is potentially dangerous advice. Once again, we reiterate that there are parents out there who will take him up on his offer, and in so doing, go over the edge in their punishment.
 

In the interest of protecting the most vulnerable amongst us, TWW has decided to intervene. We don’t call ourselves The Wartburg WATCH for nothing!
 

When we read of the pastor’s wife who allegedly spanked her kid 30-40 times a day, we realized that Child Protective Services would be very, very interested in such activity. We also recognized that the national media would find a church that advocates spanking infants worthy of investigation.
 

So, here is what we propose. Please email TWW at our contact email with your concerns and stories. Your identity will be held in strictest confidence. It is important to state I was a public health nurse. I did child abuse and neglect follow up for several years. Needless to say I also had experience with domestic violence since domestic violence and child abuse often go hand in hand.
 

Here are a few things that we could do.

 

  • Collect anecdotal reports to see if there is a pattern with particular churches or theologies.
  • Contact a church and tell them we are following up on a report by anonymous individuals that the church is advocating physical punishment of infants, severe physical punishment of children, or encouraging women staying in abusive situations. We can inform churches of their obligation to report abuse of infants, children, and women. We can, but do not have to, blog that we have contacted the church. However, we will keep accurate notes of our actions.
  • If we are deeply concerned about the well-being of infants and children (as I was when I read about the abusive pastor’s wife) we can, and will, report it to Child Protective Services in the area of that church’s location. Reports to CPS can be done on an anonymous basis. We will also assist any individual who wishes to make such a report.
  • We might also contact certain members of the media who are interested in child abuse and domestic violence and give them information to aid in their investigation.
  • We will assist any individual in finding resources such as domestic violence counseling, battered women shelters, family counseling, and Christian resources in this area to the best of our ability.

 

Here is our theory. If a church or group is questioned by outside organizations, they may be a bit more reticent in advocating abusive measures. Maybe a little embarrassment might help curtail this nonsense.
 

I want to end this with an anecdote. A few years back, when I was involved with some kids who had been sexually abused, a lady in the involved church said that I should leave well enough alone since God will provide His judgment in the hereafter. In other words, shut up and stop upsetting the apple cart. I said that, sometimes, in this life, God can intervene and provide punishment to individuals who have done wrong. That is why we have criminal courts and jails.
 

Well, a seminarian involved with the situation, wrote that he didn’t “agree with my trajectory” when I said that there sometimes can be judgment in this life as well. I wrote an article about this interesting statement and explained that trajectory is the measurement of the route of a missile. I said, “You want trajectory, I’ll give you trajectory. INCOMING…………..” I then proceeded to chastise this individual who wanted us to shut up about the sorry goings on at a particular church.
 

Since that time, the term “trajectory” has become the newest “cool” term used by the Calvinista crowd. It’s a replacement for the overused word “winsome” and is following on the heels of the term “unpack.” So, using a word that Calvinista groupies will find comforting, here is my trajectory. We will no longer put up with people disguising obvious child abuse and domestic violence in theological doublespeak. If churches are so sure of their approach, they will not mind being “watched.” You know, “let your light shine before men.” Well, get ready, because “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

 

Lydia's Corner: Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20 Luke 9:7-27 Psalm 72:1-20 Proverbs 12:8-9

 

 

Comments

John Piper-Help Your Baby to Understand God’s Wrath and TWW Responds With a New Service — 68 Comments

  1. Dee,

    What is going on in Christendom? This is craziness!

    I want to encourage our readers to watch the movie Luther in order to see God rightly. I bought it and have seen it so many times that I have it memorized. At the beginning of the movie, Martin Luther is absolutely terrified of God’s wrath and judgement. Then he gradually comes to see Almighty God as a God of love. Yes, God is love.

    If you have already seen the movie Luther or decide to watch it soon, would you please share your insights with all of us? Thanks.

  2. Deb

    Poor Luther. He wasn’t whopped enough as a child since he didn’t hold onto the God of wrath.

    “Mama, thank you for spanking me. Now i really understand why God wanted to destroy the Canaanites.”

  3. Dee,

    Great post! I think the following excerpt from a Calvin College publication sums up what happened in Martin Luther’s life and ministry. I know Luther had his own theological “issues”, but we owe him a tremendous debt!

    http://clubs.calvin.edu/chimes/article.php?id=9001

    “He (Martin Luther) lived in fear of God’s wrath and judgment until he realized that Christians are unable to earn God’s love and forgiveness. Martin Luther declared that the only way Christians become righteous is through faith in God, and God alone therefore bestows salvation to Christians.

    This belief, among others held by Martin Luther and his contemporaries, fueled the Protestant Reformation and still has vast implications for Christians in the 21st century.

    Reformation Day is a time for Protestants to remember their roots and the events that changed the church forever. It is also a time to be thankful to God for allowing his children to live in faith, instead of in the constant fear brought about by the knowledge that meeting God’s standard is impossible.”

  4. Deb,

    Nothing that hasn’t gone on for the last 2000 years…better media, better coverage!

    Quotes from Martin Luther on how to handle the problem of the Jews…


    ” First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly_and I myself was unaware of it_will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

    Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them the fact that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

    Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

    Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17:10) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: “what they teach you in accord with the law of the Lord.” Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people’s obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16:18, “You are Peter,” etc., inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.

    Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home. I have heard it said that a rich Jew is now traveling across the country with twelve horses his ambition is to become a Kokhba devouring princes, lords, lands, and people with his usury, so that the great lords view it with jealous eyes. If you great lords and princes will not forbid such usurers the highway legally, some day a troop may gather against them, having learned from this booklet the true nature of the Jews and how one should deal with them and not protect their activities. For you, too, must not and cannot protect them unless you wish to become participants in an their abominations in the sight of God. Consider carefully what good could come from this, and prevent it.

    Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us an they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God’s blessing in a good and worthy cause.

    Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen. 3 [:19]). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting., and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.

    But if we are afraid that they might harm us or our wives, children, servants, cattle, etc., if they had to serve and work for us — for it is reasonable to assume that such noble lords of the world and venomous, bitter worms are not accustomed to working and would be very reluctant to humble themselves so deeply before the accursed Goyim — then let us emulate the common sense of other nations such as France, Spain, Bohemia, etc., compute with them how much their usury has extorted from us, divide, divide this amicably, but then eject them forever from the country. For, as we have heard, God’s anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!

    Now let me commend these Jews sincerely to whoever feels the desire to shelter and feed them, to honor them, to be fleeced, robbed, plundered, defamed, vilified, and cursed by them, and to suffer every evil at their hands — these venomous serpents and devil’s children, who are the most vehement enemies of Christ our Lord and of us all. And if that is not enough, let him stuff them into his mouth, or crawl into their behind and worship this holy object. Then let him boast of his mercy, then let him boast that he has strengthened the devil and his brood for further blaspheming our dear Lord and the precious blood with which we Christians are redeemed. Then he will be a perfect Christian, filled with works of mercy for which Christ will reward him on the day of judgment, together with the Jews in the eternal fire of hell!

    If I had to baptise a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone around his neck and push him over with the words ‘I baptise thee in the name of Abraham

    Well, so much for the Jews, moving on now to Luther’s opinion of women…

    Women are created for no other purpose than to serve men and be their helpers. If women grow weary or even die while bearing children, that doesn’t harm anything. Let them bear children to death; they are created for that…

    It is commonly the nature of women to be timid and to be afraid of everything. This is why they busy themselves so much about witchcraft and superstition. One teaches the other, so that it is impossible to tell what kind of hocus-pocus they practice….

    Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children…

    God created Adam master and lord of living creatures, but Eve spoilt all, when she persuaded him to set himself above God’s will. ‘Tis you women, with your tricks and artifices, that lead men into error.

    The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes…

    A pillar of misogyny, now on to a topic dear to my heart

    Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God….

    To be a Christian, you must pluck out the eye of reason.

    Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets

    In closing, one more quote from Martin Luther, which might actually explain a lot of what we see in the church today

    What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church … a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.

  5. Put pressure on the SGM church in Apex. There was a blogger who wrote a post about disciplining her children and after many comments and threats to call CPS (I’ll go ahead and assume this was the reason) she removed the post.

  6. “Since that time, the term “trajectory” has become the newest “cool” term used by the Calvinista crowd. It’s a replacement for the overused word “winsome” and is following on the heels of the term “unpack.” ”

    LOL! They are all copying Grudem with the “trajectory” accusation.

    Another newer accusation if you do not agree with the Calvinistas is you are an “Open Theist”.

  7. Help your “baby” understand God’s Wrath? I cannot get past this bizarre thought.

    It is simply slapping a plastic fish on authoritarianism. That is their religion: human authoritarianism. It comes shining through in just about everything they teach.

    Remember, they are talking about “babies”.

  8. Deb,

    That isn’t a theological issue. A theological issue would be more like are you a “pre” or “post” tribulation rapture person, or maybe you lean toward grace combined with works instead of grace alone.

    Those, along with many other quotes reveal a hateful bigot, a racist and a hater of women….saying he has theological issues is the understatement of the year!

    But, I’m not going to let it worry me today…I am going out with my lovely wife today to enjoy breakfast (it’s my birthday today!)…

  9. Karlton

    Happy, happy, happy happy, happy, happy birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You are a good friend to this blog and we send you our love and best wishes!!!!!!

  10. I have a bit different take on Luther from his writings about his conversion. Remember, this is the same guy that wanted to take the book of James out of the canon. He was trying to earn God’s favor through works as he was taught in the Catholic church. As with most priests back then, most did not know scripture. Luther studied scripture and came to the conclusion indulgences and other works of salvation were sinful. Yet, he still practiced the sacraments after the Reformation.

    Read his 95 Theses. Pay attention to #7

    http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/95_theses.html

    When you read them keep in mind Luther wanted to “Reform” the Catholic church. He still believed many wrong things.

  11. LIse

    I need you help. Can you please give me any information on the type of abuse she advocated inflicting on babies? When was the blog posted? You can send us the info via email if you feel more comfortable.

    Anyone who reads this comment needs to know that you may call CPS with an anonymous tip. You cannot get into trouble, your name will be be kept confidential, and you will do an abused child a big favor.

    WARNING TO CHURCHES:

    We are dead serious about this.

  12. Dee & Deb, et al.

    Thank you very very much! I enjoy this blog and even more, the fine people who can be found here!

    Gifts you might consider…:)

    1. A buyer for my 1978 Fiat 124 Spider
    2. Paid restoration of my 1978 Fiat 124 Spider
    2. A new client for my business (Software by Karl)
    3. Pay off my son’s tuition at USM (physics major 3.8 GPA)
    4. A paid vacation for my wife and I to either Spain, Egypt or Japan.
    5. Sign up as a follower of my blog (http://mainreason.blogspot.com)
    5. A cool B’day card!

  13. Karlton, I hope the birthday breakfast is not at Denny’s but somewhere a bit more upscale. But then if you have a kid at USM, maybe a cheap breakfast is wise. :o)

    .

  14. All the information I have is in the forum:

    http://freejinger.yuku.com/topic/4781/She-beat-her-kids-all-day-and-she-is-proud-of-it?page=1

    I did get the chance to read the original post via google reader but didn’t save it.

    A lot of bloggers will gladly blog about how they are disciplining their children at such a young age. It’s horrible. They are mainly followers of Doug Phillips and the ATI group. She was the first SGM blogger I found through that site.

  15. Karlton’s comments about Luther raise an important point. All of us can (and do) have wrong motives, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. This blog points out many troubling things in today’s church leadership, but we ought not be too surprised at the imperfections and errors of these men. Being a preacher or pastor doesn’t make a person immune to the frailties that inflict us all.

    But nor do those errors invalidate everything that comes out of their mouths. Luther taught many things that were true and right, along side his anti-Semitic and misogynistic statements. Likewise, Piper et al can and do teach many truths.

    Knowing this makes the need for discernment great. We must study and think and pray to know for ourselves what is true. And we must maintain the humility to realize it’s always possible (indeed, likely) that we too hold to and practice a mixture of truth and error.

    The preachers and teachers who have my greatest respect are those who acknowledge their own potential for error and encourage their listeners to examine closely what they say to see how well it measures up to the teachings and principles of Scripture. Unfortunately far too many of the “rock star” preachers of our day are enamored with themselves and have fallen into the trap of assuming that they know more or are closer to God or have a better understanding of His Word than the people in their congregations. Along with that comes the belief that God has given them some sort of elevated position of authority over other people.

    This arrogance and authoritarianism are worse problems than any actual errors they might teach, for as long as they view themselves as above others, they are unlikely to receive correction or rebuke.

  16. In reading the post, what struck me is the habit of spiritualizing everything (or so it seems). In this case, spiritualizing spankings.

    (another reason why I refuse to go to church on Mother’s Day — not yet another attempt at a new slant on spiritualizing moms and motherhood. Why not a sermon on spiritualizing lady bugs? I’m sure it can be done.)

    It just seems to me that this overspiritualizing of one thing after another is the product of examining the trees to miniscule oblivion and in so doing entirely missing the meaning and the point of the forest.

    Such an ever-accumulating weight of religious pressure to keep loading people with.

    I much prefer keeping the spotlight on “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36…

  17. Junkster,

    I would add though, that what a person says (and does), is a mirror so to speak into their soul, the kind of person that they truly are. While Luther might have said terrible things concerning Jews or women, you are correct in saying that they don’t affect the truth of what he said concerning grace over works for example. But why or why does the church keep picking men of terrible character and setting them up as role models?

    Why model a denomination after a racist? Would we still respect and look up to Dr. Martin Luther King as a leader in the civil rights movement if he had also been a convicted child molester or is the church so short on good examples that it will take whatever it can find?

  18. Karlton, Happy birthday! Hope it’s a good one!

    Since it’s your birthday I won’t even ask you to look at the date of when he said the mysoginist stuff. I am curious if it is before he married his wife or after. From what I have read, she did a pretty decent job of putting him in his place at least in regard to the more beautiful…. errr…. weaker sex. Now when it comes to how he dealt with Jewish people and many other things, the guy was a complete creatin. (Hmm, how does one spell creatin.) I don’t think there was any “before and after” in those areas. But I do think it’s important that people look at his statements in the context of whether he repented of them or not. After all, I am sure that once you are dead many people could claim that you were a born again Christian based on some of the claims you made earlier on in your life though that certainly wouldn’t represent who you are now.

    But since it’s your birthday I won’t ask you to look into it. Hope you have lots of fun with your wife!

    Stunned

  19. I googled USM. It could be one of the following and now I am curious.

    USM =
    University of Southern Mississippi?
    southern Maine?
    Maryland

  20. Lydia, local diners and alive and THRIVE in Philadelphia. We are lousing with them and we LOVE ‘em! Always amazing, often cutting edge brunch food. Oh, and the BYOBs we got… mmmmmm.

    Travel and Leisure Magazine just named us at one of the world’s 25 most underrated cities, in part due to our eateries. So. Good. So. Hard. Not to get fat here!

  21. Opps, I meant to say, “as one of the world’s….”

    Come visit us! :) Little did you know you had a city “pusher” in your midst, did you?

  22. Elastigirl, hurrah and hurray!!!!!! Agreed. I still cringe remembering an older relative of mine who only went to church on Christmas. She came home and went on and on about the sermon.

    And how it was all about the Christmas tree and its history.

    If there was anything in the message about God loving her and coming to live, die and raise again for her, she never heard it. (Though, knowing where she was, I think the sermon was all about spiritualizing the Christmas tree. :-( )

  23. Our local diners are gone but in their place upscale breakfast eateries which are quite overpriced and too gourmet. 15 bucks for breakfast?

    And I am not into Cracker Barrell. (sigh)

  24. @ Stunned: big fan of Philly here! (I live in PA, too…)

    @ karlton: Yes, that shameful tract, “On the Jews and Their Lies.”

    Which goes to show that even the best people can be horribly wrong, with horrific consequences (like having their book picked up by the Nazi Party as propaganda). Luther wrote some of the most bloodcurdling passages ever written re. Jews and Judaism – and all so wrong.

    About the film “Luther”: the entire section that shows him seeing the slaughter of common people during the Peasant’s Revolt is historically inaccurate. Luther actually supported the nobility against the peasants.

    @ Lydia: yes, Luther *did* want to reform the Roman Catholic church… remember, it was the only church in Western Europe at that time. Not sure what you mean about the reformers believing in “wrong things,” but…

    @ Karlton again: happy b-day!!!

  25. How sad about John Piper. First his response on abuse, now this? What does he have against women and children? What is it within his own heart that causes him to have such a violence oriented view of God?

  26. Karlton,
    Yes, ones actions are a mirror of their soul. Jesus taught essentially the same thing.

    You asked, “why does the church keep picking men of terrible character and setting them up as role models?”

    The answer is pretty simple — because, when it comes down to it, that’s the only kind of men there are. Some are better at hiding what’s in their hearts than others, and some restrain themselves from acting on their character flaws, but the capacity for great evil, along with the capacity for great good, lies in us all. History is basically the record of this truth.

    Religious history is no different. Noah got drunk, both Abraham and Isaac lied and turned their wives over to powerful men to save their own necks, Jacob cheated and manipulated his family, David committed adultery and murder, Solomon kept 700 wives and cohabited with 300 other women, Jonah ran rather than take God’s message the Ninevites because he would rather they were destroyed than saved, Peter publicly denied Christ, etc. etc.

    The “role model” aspect of these men, and others throughout history, is not in the goodness of their actions, nor even the righteousness of their character. It is in their trust in their God, on whom the focus belongs.

    Unfortunately, we humans tend to elevate men to a position above what God intended. If He wants us to learn anything from the examples of others, it is in their humility, their brokenness before God, and their reliance on His mercy and grace, and not on their own righteousness.

    I believe it is right to shed light on the abuses and problems of Christian leadership, as this blog does. But I sometimes wonder if many times, in doing so, we are ourselves falling into the trap of elevating men. If we truly believe, as has often been expressed in this blogs articles and comments, that preachers are as much sinners as the rest of us, with the same feet of clay as all men, why are we so surprised and disappointed when their imperfections surface? Why are we expecting so much of them?

    I believe there are two reasons: one is that we have every reason to assume that those who seek or are placed into positions of influence have the right motives for doing so, and it is our responsibility to examine what they teach and do against the highest and best standards. But in doing so we should also, with all humility, examine ourselves (and “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall”). In this case, our expectations are proper.

    The second reason is that we have been conditioned by culture and history to think of Christian leaders as something more than they are. From the standpoint of New Testament teaching, being a pastor is just one function in the body among many, with no more special or anointed or authoritative role than any other gifting God has given the other members of the body. But this truth has been neglected for most of the history of Christianity. As a result, we too often buy into the hype that elevates preachers above the rest of us. And once we do, we begin to expect them to be more perfect than the rest of us. When that happens, we can easily become disillusioned or angry as we see that they are not, when they teach wrong things or do wrong things. In this case, our expectations are misplaced.

    So, again I say, attitudes of arrogance and authoritarianism are worse problems than errors in their teaching (or actions). For those attitudes preclude humble trust in God, which is ultimately the only thing that ought to make someone a role model.

  27. Many scholars think that when Luther said some of his terrible sayings he was suffering from illness and/or dementia. Almost everyone agrees that he was a hothead with a temper and often said and did things that he later regretted. Look at all the people that say bad things about Christ and Christians, who often get a platform on CNN and MSNBC. There is plenty of dirt being slung from all sides. This just shows that humans, even Christians, are deeply flawed and in need of a savior.

  28. Stan
    You are correct. One of the problems that Christians have brought upon themselves is being perceived as the haughty judgers of everyone else. We have condemned, rightly, all sorts of things in society and have wrongly held ourselves up as paradigms of virtue. “Just come to Jesus and be like us.” is a dangerous thing to say.

    We need to point to ourselves as a community of sinners, trying to follow Jesus, and needing Jesus’ grace because we all fail miserably every day. If we could be good, Jesus would not have had to die. He could have told us to be good and we would have done it.

  29. Stan,

    Thanks for your comment on Luther. I found a timeline that explains what happened in his later years. Here’s what I found particularly interesting.

    “November 1, 1539 – Katharina Luther suffered a miscarriage. Luther spent as much time as possible beside her bed. People all over the Lutheran world prayed for her.

    1541 (age 57) – Luther wrote the hymn Lord Keep us Steadfast in Thy Word. Luther’s health was particularly bad. The ulcer on his leg reopened. He had throat and ear infections, as well as continuing problems with kidney stones, arthritis, heart problems and digestive disorders. Luther’s writing grew increasingly coarse, sometimes vulgar.

    September 20, 1542 (age 58) – Magdelena Luther (age 13) died. A grieving Luther said,

    Beloved Lena, you will rise and shine like a star, yea, like the sun.

    Winter 1542 – Luther suffered severe depression. He mourned his daughter’s death, saw the plague sweeping through Wittenberg, believed the faithlessness of his fellow Germans was a sign of the End Tines. He wrote his will and thought of his own death.

    January 4, 1543 (age 59) – Luther wrote Against the Jews, also known as Of the Jews and their Lies. He repeatedly quoted the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:34, where Jesus called the Jewish religious leaders “a brood of vipers and children of the devil.” 20 years earlier, Luther advised kindness toward the Jews in That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, but with the aim of converting them to Christianity. When his efforts at conversion failed, he grew increasingly bitter. His attitudes reflected a tradition which saw Jews as a rejected people guilty of murdering Christ. He considered Jews blasphemers and liars because they rejected Jesus as the Messiah.”

    http://www.welcometohosanna.com/MARTIN_LUTHER/4LATER_YEARS.html

  30. Stan, I think one of the most important things we do is admit that so much of what has been said and done by Christian leaders has been incorrect or horrible or unjust. We must also continue to hold current Christian leaders accountable for what they teach, say and do. They claim to represent our Lord and have sought a public life in doing so and analyzing what they teach, say and do is fair game.

    This is what is so great about the internet. More and more, people are seeing that Christendom is not the monolithic political, dominionist voting block many want them to think it is.

    Instead of blanket defending Luther, we can discuss the problems with much of his writings and remind one another not to follow man but Christ.

  31. There is a tendency in humans to authoritarianism, with wide variation among people; it is related to and correlated with fundamentalism. Both are a tendency to see things in stark contrast (with us 100% or against us), good vs. evil, etc. The extension of creedal requirement to every aspect of life results. Whatever cultural mode or policy is adopted by the leader becomes a mandatory issue of fealty for the followers.

    The tendency also runs toward elevating a leader above the followers. In churches, it has been called “pastorolatry”. It explains, btw, the adoration of the pastor’s spouse!

    Thus is made much heresy or irrelevancy into a requirement of good standing in a church.

  32. Another reason to love Michigan:

    There are diners everywhere. Now, there are a few local chains of diners, but there are still very many “Mom and Pop” shops around, serving up eggs and hash browns all day long.

    God is good in so many ways!

  33. I have really enjoyed my visits to Philadelphia. Especially liked eating at the Art Museum while listening to a string quartet. Also all of the small eateries. Rodin museum. Historic sites well preserved. Now our son will be there for a couple of years on a post-doc at Penn.

  34. Pingback: Taking a Stand Against Child Abuse | Why Not Train A Child? UNITED STATES

  35. Penn and the Art Museum? He’s right in my ‘hood! Hope he enjoys his time in the City of Brotherly Love.

  36. jack allen

    You ask an interesting question that I need to ponder. I have some anecdotal observations.The first time I was confronted with extreme Calvinism is when a man told me that all babies and young children will go to hell when they die because they did not accept Jesus. When my mouth dropped open, he then went on to say i should be grateful that God chose to save any of us at all.

    Calvinists out there. Chime in. Does Calvinism tend to be more focused on judgment than mercy?

  37. Calvinist here, chiming in.

    I think that there are all sorts of Calvinists, mature Believers who understand God and their salvation best through a Calvinistic perspective, who do understand its principles. For them, it has little to do with pouring out God’s wrath and more to do with an unspeakable awe which comes from an understanding of God’s holiness. R.C. Sproul’s book, “The Holiness of God,” is one such example. (And in his defense because of problems in his ministry in recent years, I don’t think that as he is also aging that he has been the same since a literal “train wreck” that he was in a number of years ago, maybe now approaching 20 years ago. I don’t think he’s been the same after that, and his kids don’t “have it together.”)

    The five points of Calvinism, though it certainly encapsulates the message of the Gospel, was a response to an Arminian statement, the Five Articles of Remonstrance. In theory and principle, I don’t think that it sets a good principle to define your theology based upon a response statement in protest to something someone else has written! Calvin had a well-formed theology when he framed out the five articles of grace in response, and it was reflective of his full understanding of the matter at hand in light of his theology and faith.

    I believe that those who are not always that mature in their faith and those who are enamored with the idea of being intellectual (a great temptation in a world where people do not think for themselves like they should) take the five articles and put them ahead of the central and core message of the Gospel and the Cross. This is my impression and opinion about what I see. They take a well written defense of God’s sovereignty (which is always a point of tension against our human sense of agency because we are created in God’s image) which is something of a real life application of academic principles, and they make it purely academic. It is a formula wherein the logical math works out and gives a logical answer, but without the life changing message of the Cross and the love of God, it turns into the devil’s arithmetic.

    The articles of grace (TULIP or the five points of Calvinism) are secondary to our salvation and our understanding of the atonement through the Blood of Jesus. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross, and sinners and the Redeemed alike either kneel there to find forgiveness or they don’t. We all fall short of the glory of God, the first point in the TULIP pneumonic, that of total depravity.

    But those who see it as a formula and forget the love which pulls them out of the flame of fire and the mire of sin turn those five points into either something that is more like karma or survival of the fittest in the spiritual sense. They compare themselves with others (something Paul warned against), and they find power in being elect as opposed to power in the grace that made them elect. They forget their first love, if indeed the every really met Him in their hearts (having their experience of salvation as something that is only an exercise in logic and an intellectual experience).

    Rather than loving the lost, doing good, praying for and blessing those who do the opposite to them, they use others as stepping stones to advance themselves, one upping themselves as the elect and knocking down those who they think are non-elect in the process. Some even go so far as to build doctrines that say that God hates the non-elect so much that we should follow after God and hate the non-elect, too. (How it is they think that they know who is elect and who is not escapes me. They play God when they do.)

    I think that God gives us many ways to understand Him, and Calvinism is one tool in the box that helps people relate to God in a way that makes him more understandable. But other people come to God from where they are at in their perceptions and positions (remember that all of us are sinners). Some people understand God in a different way. That is also the great blessing of having four different Gospel accounts. Some appeal more to the Jew and some appeal more to the Greek. God does not immediately require perfection from us, giving us that good, perfect and acceptable range as we learn of and grow in Him as we become more holy. We are all on a different time line and on a different place on that learning curve. That accounts for the perspectives as well, I think.

    Calvinism that is a perspective and a means of understanding God’s holiness that is secondary to the first priority of the Gospel (the core of the faith) does not focus on wrath (though it doesn’t put up with monkey business either). But as with anyone who looses sight of Christ and Him crucified, it can become something ugly and little different than pagan systems of karma or social engineering. And that must break God’s heart, making Him weep. I know that I do weep over it.

  38. Arce,

    Tell him to enjoy a Cheesesteak for me! They don’t really make them right anyplace else. There are several great little places down on South Street, though you usually don’t have to venture too far out of your neighborhood to find them.

  39. RE: @ Dee says:
    Mon, Mar 21 2011 at 03:31 pm:

    You wrote: “…The first time I was confronted with extreme Calvinism is when a man told me that all babies and young children will go to hell when they die because they did not accept Jesus. When my mouth dropped open, he then went on to say i should be grateful that God chose to save any of us at all…”

    This was one of the things that got me on the road to recovery from the TULIP belief system. Just the horrific injustice of it alone got me to thinking about the whole concept of a purportedly holy and just god (small ‘g’ intended) who would do such a thing.

    What makes this god any different from chemosh or molech of the Canaanites?
    Power? A gigantic ego bent on its own sovereign decrees?

    Just last week I had a conversation with a lady who is comitted to Reformed theology. It wasn’t long before she told me that I am an apostate, heretic, and that we don’t worship the same God, to which I calmly replied:
    “You’re right, we don’t.”

  40. It is because I am utterly convinced of God’s sovereignty and grace that I cannot subscribe to Calvinism.

  41. As I have said before, a 5-point Calvinist(a) believes that God is Sovereign over everything, EXCEPT His own sovereignty. As any good parent knows, you progressively yield sovereignty over a child as he/she grows to enable them to learn how to make good decisions, including the decision to obey Mom and Dad, act morally, etc. God is surely the best possible at parenting.

    God is LOVE, and that is primary over His sovereignty. It led Him to become incarnate and to suffer and die for us, thus providing the means of salvation. That btw is the predestined means of salvation for all who choose to believe, as told to us in the third chapter of John’s gospel.

  42. Yes, God is LOVE, just ask Abraham who was told to sacrifice his son as a test of his faith, yes, in the end, after his son was tied up and watching his father about to plunge a knife into his chest, God provides a substitute offering.

    We get all worked up over a 1 year old getting a spanking (and rightfully so), but let God off the hook for the unimaginable trauma this must have caused to Isaac..oh yes I’m sure God just “fixed” the problem, like the man behind the curtain.

  43. Has anyone else wondered if God wanted Abraham to refuse to do something he knew was wrong out of blind obedience?

  44. If you enjoy pondering issues of free will and predestination, be sure to watch “The Adjustment Bureau.”

  45. Cindy K, your post on Mar 21 at 4:34pm shows that you are a woman of great discernment and wisdom. I applaud you.

  46. Junkster

    You are the second person to mention that movie in the same context of free will vs predestination. I will try to see it soon.

    I think the problem lies in our human wish to have an easy answer- a simple choice. Maybe one day, we will see that it wasn’t so clear and that it involves so many elements, including some things we could never dream up on our own with our limited human mind.

    I think the wisest Christians are the ones who can admit to the fact that they simply “don’t know”in some of these areas. We may spend eternity learning about this. Also, even in heaven, we are the created and may never fully grasp these issues. But, we will see Jesus and know it is good.

  47. Dee,
    The Adjustment Bureau is an enjoyable movie, but I wouldn’t recommend it for it’s theological implications. Just a fun movie that provides some food for thought.

    Humans have difficulty reconciling the concepts of predestination and freedom of choice, and I don’t know if we, as finite beings, will ever comprehend that which arises out of God’s intinite mind and will.

    We are limited by space-time, but, since He pre-dated and created space-time, He is not. It seems reasonable (even if not fully comprehensible) that concepts that seem to us who are within space-time paradoxical or antinomical can be in perfect harmony when viewed from outside of space-time.

  48. Junkster

    You sound just like my friend, Zeta. Also, Hugh Ross imagines a 12th (or is it 13) in which heaven now exists. It is all rather curious and exciting. I kind of like a God who is mysterious. He tells us some things but not all. He is wild and untamed yet infinitely good and just. Too many people want a tame God who is easily understood. I like a God who surprises me.

    I do need to see a fun movie.

  49. Dee,

    In that case, I think you are in for one heck of a surprise. (shhhh….he isn’t there, don’t tell anyone, it’ll be our little secret) :)

  50. Mara,

    you’re right, cause after we all die…the show’s all over. No one get’s to say “Told you so!”

    :)

  51. Karlton,

    You know we love you unconditionally here at TWW. In all seriousness, what if you are wrong and we are right about Jesus Christ?

  52. I followed reason, logic and my heart…. I have not compromised my intellectual integrity or my intuition.

    I’ve treated this life as the precious jewel that it is, I have lived it fully and tried, as Kipling said, “to fill each unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run”.

    I haven’t squandered it or acted contrary to my instincts in the hope of winning some future prize. I am content that I have done the best with what I was given and with what I am able to discern.

    and I say this last piece with absolutely no malice or sarcasm, just a statement of fact. I was a Christian for 25 years I KNOW there was no there, No magic, no voices, no spirits…and I also understand how easy it is to convince yourself of what you want to be true. Everyone I have met here seems to be an honorable, honest and intelligent person, but that doesn’t change what I know to be true for myself and what I believe is true for others, even if they disagree.

    A person can play mental gymnastics all day to create a plausible existence for God, whether it involves quantum mechanics, a warm feeling of love from above, or just a simple reach for a remote “what if…”, but in the end, there is no hard evidence and until then I maintain that the position of non-belief is the most tenable and in the end, the most likely to be true.

    Let the cards fall where they may, I will not be swayed by the fear of possibly being wrong.

  53. Karl

    In the end, it is all based on faith in the evidence that we have seen, both for you and for us. For me, Christianity offers the best, all round explanation for the world and universe that I have seen. It explains the foibles of human nature, the pain and suffering, and the reason that all men have searched for something beyond themselves. It even explains to why there are some people who do not believe. That is a choice and I defend your right to choose that way.

    However, the more I learn and the more I see, the more deeply I grow in the faith. And you know I have read, quite extensively, on those who think differently.And for me, hope springs eternal. While you are still kicking, dear friend, there is always the possibility….But, no matter, friend you are!

  54. Dee,

    Just a question … Why do we need an explanation for the world and universe…is it not enough that it’s there?

  55. Dee,

    Naw .. maybe more the frightened caveman wish to control and explain his environment… let it go.

    night-night

  56. Leila
    Here is my perspective. I know some wonderful Calvinists-Wade Burleson and my good friend who I can’t name and he knows why.Then, there are the Mark Driscolls, Mahaneys, etc. I call the second group Calvinistas to distinguish them. They are rude, authoritarian etc. I am utterly opposed to the Calvinistas, not the Calvinists or, as most of them prefer, Reformed.