"This has done incalculable damage to ordinary Christians, not only those who've been abused but those who quite frankly get sick of the cover-ups and sick of the self-serving rhetoric at the top. I can understand why people drift away from the reformed faith on this score, and that's why I think the leaders need to take more responsibility… We're trying to make the point that our faith is being damaged by the need to preserve certain organizations and certain ministries. That's a problem."
In the wake of all the hoopla surrounding last week's Together for the Gospel conference, we are overjoyed that a few brave souls have dared to take on 'the Calvinista establishment' in a very public way. More on that in a moment…
It was exactly 85 months ago yesterday that Dee called me and exclaimed:
"If we don't start this blog RIGHT NOW, I fear we're gonna be swallowed up by a BIG FISH."
It startled both of us into action. Although neither of us had a clue about blogging, we acted on faith and launched The Wartburg Watch. We've come a long way since then, but our earliest posts demonstrate that we at least had a basic understanding of what was occurring in the conservative corners of Christendom. Here are our first few posts should you care check them out. They are so short that it will take mere minutes to read them.
We have poured our lives into this endeavor and consider TWW to be our ministry to the disillusioned and downtrodden. In recent days, we have been accused of unjustly focusing our attention on the Young, Restless, and Reformed, whom we call "Calvinistas". Hey, if the YRR crowd can make up words like 'complementarian', so can we. 🙂
While our posts have covered quite an array of topics (just check out our categories section), we readily admit that we have devoted a considerable amount of time to the Calvinistas (Neo-Reformed). And why is that? Because the Calvinistas have been shouting from the rooftops, pulpits, and websites LOOK AT US, LOOK AT US! It took a while for them to get our attention (2009), but now are taking notice and weighing in on what we are seeing. As it turns out, the BIG FISH Dee was worried about is the Neo-Cal movement, although she didn't realize it at the time she made that statement.
It's been ten years since the first Together for the Gospel gathering in Louisville, and even though the Fab Four were able to attract 10,000 participants, there are some serious problems in the movement. The elephants in the room have been ignored for way too long, and we are grateful that at least a few Reformed individuals have these behemoths in clear view.
In case you aren't aware, three brave souls — Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and Aimee Byrd — have dared to take on 'the establishment' by addressing problems they perceive with those whom we call Calvinistas. They share their concerns on their Mortification of Spin broadcast, which can be heard on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals website. Their latest Bully Pulpit installment addresses Abusive Pulpits. Here are the highlights: link
1. Carl Trueman explained that he recently visited the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) website, and he thought it had been hacked. He soon realized that a post entitled Soap Bubbles Submission by Martha Peace was in fact legit. Who is Martha Peace? Although CBMW doesn't provide a bio to accompany the post, it appears she is a colleague of Jay Adams and serves on the faculty of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies. She and her husband have been married since 1966, and we find it highly disturbing that this older woman would be providing such ridiculous instruction to younger women. Recently, Dee weighed in on CBMW's Soap Bubbles post. Dee wrote:
"If I were her friend, I would be concerned about her well being."
And yet this woman appears to be teaching others Nouthetic/Biblical Counseling? What a scary thought!!! Here is Carl Trueman's candid reaction to Soap Bubbles Submission:
"I think in my own home if I did that with my wife I hope that you would all come and visit me in [the] hospital while I was recovering."
Carl challenged husbands to try this at home and when they get out of the hospital send them an email and let them know how long it took for them to recover.
I loved how this segment was followed up with a rendition of Desperado.
2. Todd Pruitt addressed child sexual abuse within the church. He said it's not just a Catholic problem — it's a Protestant problem. He then mentioned the Academy Award winning movie Spotlight. Todd asked: How do we deal with the public scandal upon our churches in a faithful way?
Carl Trueman responded as follows:
The first thing that one's gotta draw out of this is when we're dealing with pastors and elders, we're not dealing with legal burden of proof. You don't have to be found not guilty in a court of law to be totally compromised as a church leader on this. 1 Timothy 3:7 gives that qualification, moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders so that he may not fall into disgrace and to a snare of the devil. Well thought of by outsiders. Somebody of good reputation. And somebody of good reputation – that's above and beyond legal definitions of proof such that I think if there is a reasonable suspicion that something bad has gone down and somebody may be connected to it, that's enough to disqualify you.
There are always gossips out there; there are malicious people who spread vicious rumors, but some of the recent cases of allegations of child abuse in the Protestant evangelical church are not just malicious rumors, and when lawsuits get dismissed on technicalities, that's a problem. When allegations are made that could be easy to refute such as the acceptance of vacations or money or whatever, that could be easy to refute if they're not true and they are not refuted, then I think reputations are publicly tarnished in a way that puts you in the crosshairs of 1 Timothy 3:7.
Todd Pruitt said that he doesn't want to give credibility to slanderers, we know they're out there. If you've been in ministry long enough we know that sometimes there's smoke where there isn't fire, but we also have common sense. Todd further stated:
If a man's reputation is so tarnished by reasonable accusations, he needs to really consider whether or not he's able to fulfill the requirements in 2 Timothy and in Titus. And I know that that can be a bit murky, I know that, and I know that there are slanderers. But goodness, when somebody's ministry in life is haunted with lawsuits and years worth of scandals and accusations…
Aimee Byrd said that when this isn't dealt with openly and isn't communicated well, there is mystery and wondering whether other children have been sexually abused.
Here is how this matter is addressed in the Mortification of Spin post (see screen shot below).
Todd Pruitt said that one of the things that every overseer has to take into account is as his reputation goes, so goes the reputation of Christ, and he doesn't want to tarnish the name of Christ or the reputation of His church. He explained that there came a time in Jesus' ministry and the Apostles' ministry where they lost the favor of outsiders, but it was because of the Gospel, not because they were continually hounded by charges of child sexual abuse, and that's a BIG difference.
3. Carl Trueman then addressed the MONEY issue that we keep hammering here at TWW. He rightly said:
And I hate to bang the same old drum that I always bang at this point, but lay people need to realize there's big money involved, and some of the high profile cases of guys who survive long after they should not have survived because they are no longer of good reputation, some of those cases connect to money. It's as simple as that. Every time I say that I get emails from people saying well give me an example. Well, it's hard but just open your eyes, just open your eyes and look at the level at which some of these guys are living at. We're not talking of huge millions and millions of dollars, but we're talking of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In our world we're talking of significant sums of money that are attached to particular names that have become brands, and again I assume that I'll be totally ignored on this one.
I would remind listeners that pretty much everything I've said about the celebrity culture and evangelicalism and pretty much everybody I've called out in the last decade I've been proved to be right even though you've all ignored me; that's fine. But I just want to say the whole big money uber conference circuit depends upon big names. And the pressure on the one hand to write blog posts about child abuse and then to Tweet stuff protecting people who have been pulled into those kind of scandals, that's HUGE, it's HUGE because it plays to the gallery on the one hand that you look care and concerning, but when it comes down to brass tacks, you're really not doing the evangelical movement any favors at all.
The concluding part of the broadcast was also spot on. Todd, Carl, and Aimee made some excellent points such as:
– An event or project may have been wonderful for a time, but when people's livelihood is connected to it and you have to protect it, that's when it's a problem.
– The money has gotten so big from a lot of these peripheral organization that names become indispensable to the economy of evangelicalism, and that's a real problem.
– For a Gospel that is all about repentance, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, it shows you how strong sin is.
– The message we hear is so different from the actions we are seeing. Christianity is a life of repentance.
Near the conclusion Todd Pruitt implored ministry leaders and well known evangelicals to sit and talk with some of the victims of child sexual abuse and with some of the parents and to empathize with the horrors they have experienced.
Carl Trueman expressed his frustration in reading statements where you get 2 or 3 lines of throat clearing about child sexual abuse and what they should have done and then 36 pages of how the devil is using this to destroy some good man's ministry. Finally, Carl made this important statement toward the end of the discussion:
This has done incalculable damage to ordinary Christians, not only those who've been abused but those who quite frankly get sick of the cover-ups and sick of the self-serving rhetoric at the top. I can understand why people drift away from the reformed faith on this score, and that's why I think the leaders need to take more responsibility… We're trying to make the point that our faith is being damaged by the need to preserve certain organizations and certain ministries. That's a problem.
Please be sure to listen to the 20-minute broadcast. You will definitely be encouraged! And please pray for those who have been hurt in abusive ministries. May they find peace, comfort, and healing in the days ahead.