Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Perfect Storm - Part 2

Click here to read Part One.

I chose to make this blog post in two parts because to understand the central part of my post, I needed to recap my previous 13 months. That, and it was getting long even for one of my posts.

My attitudes toward my wife have not been very good for the last 8 years of our marriage. I had been able to suppress my frustration, resentment, anger, and bitterness better at times than at others. After HeartChange things got better for a quite a while, the weed having been cut and even burned to the ground, but the root that fed the problems had not been exposed and purged. It regenerated and came back.

An action on my part that resulted in my hurting someone else came to light this past week. I had forgotten all about the incident (as had the person I was very rude to), but I wrote her and asked for forgiveness, which she granted. She took the opportunity to point out some things in my life that she thought were not entirely kosher, and I accepted her words and admonishment. I think best in writing, so in my reply to her I was trying to explore why I had all of these negative feelings towards my wife (which is something my friend brought up), and then it hit me:


I was a misogynist. But oddly enough the scope of my misogyny was limited to and focused on my wife. I have stood up for and helped console and even championed the right of women to be equal with men (in my own limited scope of impact) to the point where I thought I may be a feminist. I did not believe anything was the matter with my treatment of my wife because I never tried to control her, or prevent her from going somewhere if she wanted to go, or buy what she needed, or even get a job if she so chose. That she didn't always avail herself of the opportunities presented wasn't my problem. Or so I thought. The problems all stemmed from the hurt and pain I went through early in our marriage. Or so I thought.

In an instant I had a book's worth of information run through my mind. The attitudes and actions I displayed - they all led back to what I learned in the IFB, the Independent Fundamental Baptist church.

First, let me apologize in advance to some people who will likely not understand or realize the enormity of the problems at hand. I have no desire to hurt you. You know who you are, and I love you regardless of how things turn out after you read this.

I am going to list a number of common thoughts among different groups within in the IFB system. Many I myself never believed. Some I believed until about 3 years ago. Some I held against my wife. But here they are:
  • Women are inherently evil.
  • Women are devious and cannot be trusted. 
  • Women's minds are weak. It was woman who was deceived in the Garden of Eden, and they cannot be trusted to make right decisions.
  • Women are agents of the devil. A woman can corrupt a godly man even if the man is on his guard.
  • A woman must not be allowed to have her own personal identity. Her identity is to be found in her husband and in Christ.
  • A woman must be under the protection of a man. If she has no husband, she should live at home until such time as she marries.
  • A woman must never teach men.
  • A woman may never be in a position of authority over a man.
  • A woman may never hold any ecclesiastical office in a church. 
  • Should a woman find herself in a place where she must speak to men in a church, she should announce that she is there under her husband's authority so as not to overstep her place.
  • Because women are inherently evil with weak minds prone to sin, they can only redeem themselves before God through bearing children.
  • A woman may never refuse the sexual advances of her husband. She belongs to him, and her body belongs to him.
  • A woman must always obey a man regardless of whether that man is her husband, father, pastor, or someone else in the church. God placed man in charge, and the woman's place is to obey without question. If a hierarchy is specified, the husband or pastor may be listed first, then elders in the church, her father, and so on.
  • A woman must defer to her husband's opinion on any given matter.
  • A woman must not question her husband's decisions.
  • A woman is not to challenge any interpretation of Scripture. She is to believe what her husband and her pastor teaches, with all meekness.
  • If a man has an affair, it is his wife's fault because she did not do everything she could to keep him sexually satisfied and happy.
  • If a man goes after another woman, it is the wife's fault because she did not keep her body looking appealing enough for him to desire.
  • If a woman is raped, it is her fault. She was somewhere that she shouldn't have been, or she was wearing clothing that was "provocative" in nature, and as such invited the rape, even daring men to rape her, and the man is excused because he was enticed.
  • If a woman feels any pleasure during a rape, it is no longer rape but consensual sex, and the man is excused.
  • If a woman is raped, she must have somehow subconsciously signaled to the man that she wanted sex, and therefore she is indirectly responsible for her own violation, and the man is excused.
  • If a woman has a "reputation," whether said reputation is true or not, she is responsible for her own rape and the man is excused.
  • If a child is sexually assaulted, such children were impure to begin with, and as such attracted the assault. Children who are pure are immune from sexual assault. 
  • If the sexually assaulted child is an adolescent or even young adolescent woman, she invited the sexual encounter because it is well known that step-daughters, whether they know they are doing it or not, flirt with their step-fathers, and therefore the step-father is excused from raping the child.
I could add more, but I think you get the gist of what's wrong in that system. Not every church teaches this litany of filth. Some teach the more extreme items listed above, some the more mild. Some are pretty decent about it. But all of this evil. And most of these are teachings I have heard first hand from pulpits, Bible professors, chapel speakers, seminar speakers, Christian counseling mini-seminars and Bible college classrooms, and all in a co-ed setting. There are a few points which I have received second hand, but from multiple and credible first hand witnesses.

The IFB claim to elevate women and honor them, placing them on a pedestal of high honor, almost angelic in their reverence for the "pure" woman. But let one feather be perceived to be slightly out of place or her halo not quite bright enough for the most scrupulous observer, and she will be the torn down off that pedestal and forever be tarnished with a "reputation." There is such rampant depression among the women in these churches that it is epidemic. And no wonder! They live everyday of their lives being told they are worthless just for being a woman, let alone the guilt and shame heaped on them by the bully-God these churches preach. But you will never get them to admit to being depressed because to the IFB, any form of depression is a sin, a sign of not fully trusting in and relying on God, a sign that something is wrong with them spiritually.

And it doesn't matter how liberated a man feels in his view towards women. If he is in these churches and institutions and hearing these things, even in much milder form, daily, weekly, regardless of how he believes himself to be a lover of women's rights and equality, he is going to absorb some of this into his psyche. Which is exactly what happened to me. (And you might ask why I didn't leave the system sooner. Well, when you're taught that all other Christian denominations are either corrupt or compromising the Truth, there aren't too many places a guy believes he can go and remain a "good" Christian.)

I had not realized that the mistrust I bore my wife had it's roots in the IFB system. I did not know the extent to which their poison had permeated me. Having had my eyes opened, I am now mortified at what I have done to my wife for the past 8 years. I saw her as controlling, manipulating, deceiving, selfish, devious, untrustworthy, corrupting, and a tether preventing my soul from flying. And can there be any wonder I thought this given the poison seeping into my soul for all those years?

In the end, I will own my wrongful attitudes and hurtful actions towards my wife. They are mine, and mine alone. I cannot say that this one epiphany has cured me completely. Years of attitude will take a long time to heal and undo. But I have a start, a place of enlightenment where I was able to understand something about myself that I would never have known otherwise.

This storm I went through was brutal. But it led me to this epiphany. And perhaps God will show Himself again, let me see that He had always been there, that he guided The Storm so that I would come to the understanding that I did, that He protected me from the worst of it. That is why this storm was

The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm - Part 1

Many of you know that for the past 18 months, I have not done much blogging. In fact, for the past 18 months my life has been characterized by a series of intense struggles in a cyclical pattern with two dominant and alternating themes, sometimes concurrent: struggles in my marriage, and struggles with God.

About month or so out of HeartChange, I had a premonition that dark days were ahead. I had a vision of gathering storm clouds just visible on the horizon, and I knew struggles like I never knew before were imminent. It took 10 more months before the storm hit, and it gathered in intensity the entire time. 

Then The Storm hit in October, 2011. 

The Storm lasted 13 months. I am not proud of what happened during this time. But I can't change the past, so I will own it, learn from it, and move on. And blog about it. 

No one knows how they will respond to real life issues until the moment they come face to face with the problem staring him down. Yeah, everyone says that they'll do this or never do that. Wishful thinking. There is not a person alive who is not capable of the most abominable acts given the right set of circumstances, regardless of previous convictions and bravado. 

Take for example the American practice of eugenics during the 1920's. It began as a means to cull American society of its "lesser desirable" elements, a "noble" aim in the eyes of the intelligentsia of the day. There were many forced sterilizations during this time, based on IQ, physical features, family histories of deformity and disease, social class, and even skin color. In the eyes of those who created the system and implemented it, they had the noble aim of making the human race better. The consequence of these actions was mass suffering, not just within our own shores, but also in Europe. Hitler's primary source for inspiration for his murder of 10 million people were the eugenics programs in the United States. The Land of Free and the Home of Brave, where the words of Emily Lazarus echoed from shore to shore: 
"... Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
for many became the land of shattered dreams, the simple dreams of family and children. And we gave birth to a true monster in our pride and arrogance so that a few people could sleep well at night, deceiving themselves into believing they were acting out of the best interest for American society and the human race at large.

So don't bother arguing with me that you will never do this or that. You can, and you will, when the right set of circumstances leads you to that decision point.

The leading edge of the storm started off calm enough, deceptively so. The light faded so gradually that by the time I realized I couldn't see a thing, the full fury of the storm hit. 
In mid October, 2011, I announced that I wanted to leave my wife. I felt stifled, hampered, held back, hurt, and very, very afraid. God had been silent for a while already. She had no idea this was coming. She had even thought that the year previous was the best we year yet. I blind-sided her. I talked to our pastor first, knowing he would be apposed. We went through some counseling with him and his wife for a while. It seemed to help somewhat, but it didn't change my inner-turmoil very much. God was still silent, and I didn't have much hope or faith that things would turn around.

What I was afraid of I will not touch on here. Suffice it to say I gazed into the abyss within my own soul, and something truly terrifying, sensed but unseen, watching from the lightless shadows, stared back. It blinked.

Lowering Barometric Pressure
The wind screamed like the wail of a banshee, threatening to scour away my sanity while the storm surge tried to drown me. The towering waves that rode the surge had as their singular aim my crushed corpse.
As The Storm intensified, the pain within me grew. I began to feel like the song from Serenity, an Austrian symphonic metal band, entitled Fairytales. Parts of the song resonated, though not all aspects of the song applied. But the hurt expressed in the song - that's what I felt.

There were things that happened early in our marriage that hurt me deeply. These I could not let go of, and over years of our marriage the wounds never healed, and everything that happened, every word spoken, every action taken or not taken, I viewed through the prism of that pain.  I had asked God for help dealing with it over the years, and my pleas were answered with silence.  I had asked him to take it away. No response. I asked for aide in overcoming it. Silence. And yet I knew that if it could not be taken care of, it would destroy my family. 

In the last year God was more absent then ever before. My cries for help bounced off the heavens and back at me, their echoes seeming to make mockery of my faith.

In May, 2012, the crushing weight of the storm and the pain became unbearable. I had to talk to someone. I tried to talk to our pastor again, but he wasn't available. I was reaching critical mass, and if I could not release some pressure, I was going to snap. I would be lying if I said I had not thought of hurting myself. Debating what followed as right or wrong is now no longer an issue. What happened is in the past, and there is nothing I can do to change that.

I had no one else around here I felt I could talk to, so I went to FaceBook, in a private group, and blew off steam. To my friends in the area that may be reading this, I am sorry. My state of mind was such that I truly couldn't think straight. I said things I shouldn't have said. I characterized my wife as a monster. I trashed her. I decimated her. I destroyed her. And most of what I said, I can't even remember saying. It came out, and then it was gone, like poisonous gasses escaping from a volcano, reducing the pressure in the core, but at the cost destroying all living things nearby. 

And then my wife found out about it. I prefer to think of what happened as her getting exposed to the poisonous fumes. To say she was hurt does not do justice to how she felt.

This happened again in July, when I entered a period of intense depression following a nine day hospital stay due to an accident at the dump involving a four inch rusty bolt going into my knee but not through it, rather angling down and damaging the top of my tibia. Six hours after the initial injury, an infection had set into my leg and the pain was so intense I could no longer walk. I had a high fever, alternating severe chills and sweats, and less than 24 hours after the initial injury, I found myself being transported by ambulance to the hospital, where I was admitted immediately. They put me on very heavy antibiotics, four different kinds at one point if I remember correctly. 

The Eye
Sunshine. Dead calm. Too calm. No sign of life anywhere. Not even the tweeting or birds or the buzzing of insects. The sun warmed my skin through the tattered remnants of my clothes, teasing me with hope.
Late July, maybe August, I entered a period where I seemed to do better. I can only guess that I past through the eye wall at some point. But it didn't last. The Storm merely gathered in intensity and proceeded to hit with greater strength. I came close to losing my mind. The inner pressure was so strong that I felt like I was going to be turned inside out or disintegrated. 

Plunging Back Through the Eye Wall
The world went dark once again. As the last ray of daylight faded in the west, The Storm resumed it's onslaught. The counter winds ripped at what the first half of the storm had left. It didn't seem like the storm could get any worse. I was wrong.
September saw my inner turmoil intensify. I thought I hurt before. But not like this. The first half of the storm had stripped away any shelter I had. I was wounded and raw and exposed to the elements. The best thing I could do was try to tie myself to something so I wouldn't get blown away, but I couldn't find any rope. God was still conspicuously absent. My faith was in shambles. My marriage held together only because I hadn't physically left. 

I had one lucid moment in late September where I recognized the signs of impending mental break. My mood swings became increasing erratic and my job performance suffered. The smallest things would get me angry. My short term memory was all but gone. I think I was within weeks, possibly days, of snapping. And I remembered my job's Employee Assistance Program, which provided free of charge a certain amount of counseling and referrals to continued counseling if needed. I called and got plugged into a counselor very quickly. Call it providence if you want to, but guess what the name of my therapist is? Hope. Through Hope's guidance I began learning ways to constructively deal with my issues.

I also made contact with a friend of mine in Texas, and he said come on down so that I could get away for a while. This I did in mid October. I didn't care what happened at this point. I needed to get away from my wife for a while and think. My mind was such a mass of confusion that I could not objectively look at anything. He told me about his church. Miracles happened at there, he said. Literally. They had a program for people who were going through hell. I was able to attend twice. I would have gone three times, but my visit had to get cut short due to circumstances beyond all of our control. Whether a miracle happened there or not, I don't know. But going to Texas helped. A lot.

While there, though, the storm hurled all that remained of its pent up fury. One phone call from my wife resulted in my openly declaring that we were now officially separated. I had no intention of returning home at that point. Going back to the area I worked, yes, but not to my home. By the end of the week she stood down on something she said, but I still had no intention of going home. For all I was concerned, it was over. I didn't know where I was going to live, but I figured I would find some accommodations, even if it was a drafty garage. 

Finally, after some pretty intense discussion and sharing with my friend, I came to the conclusion that I would return home and try again.  I've been back for two weeks now, and the winds are dying down. 

Where God is in all this I still don't know. Maybe He protected me through The Storm. Maybe He just watched from distance to see what I would do. I don't know. When I decided to come back, I told my friend that I still didn't know what to do with God. But I was going to try to recover the marriage, with or without Him.

Sometime during the night I must have passed out. I awoke to the sun rising in the east. The wind had calmed, the waves were gone, the surge had retreated, and birds were singing.

(Click here to read Part Two)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Beyond Resonable Doubt

A friend of mine recently posted on his Facebook page the following quote from Plato:
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."
I am, from what I can gather, now the official "black sheep" of the family.  To some in my family I must be unredeemable.  I have left the IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptist) fold, and I make no attempts to hide my displeasure with my former life and the influences therein.  There are some in my family who will quietly agree with much of why I am opposed to the IFB, but they also believe that I have gone to the extreme and judge the whole based a "few" isolated bad experiences. 

Well, if you read my earlier posts, I must admit to making quite a defense to distinguish between good IFB churches and bad IFB churches.  However, I have come to believe that there are far fewer good ones then there are bad ones.  Yes, the laws of statistics say that there must be some that are good.  I will grant that.  But I believe the whole system is rotten.  I will now attempt to explain why I stand against the entire system.

Rational Numbers

Fundamentalism began as a movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a means to counter Liberal theology, to whit the denial of miracles, the denial of the inerrancy of the Bible, the denial of the virgin birth, attacks on the deity of Christ, and attacks on the blood atonement.  Classical fundamentalism, as I call it, is comprised of the following tenets:

  1. The deity and virgin birth of Jesus Christ
  2. The substitutionary blood atonement for sin on the cross by Jesus Christ
  3. The physical death, physical burial, and physical resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day
  4. The physical and imminent return of Jesus Christ
  5. The inerrancy of the Word of God, the Bible
However,  classical fundamentalism was to be short-lived.  The 1920s saw a rise of a new kind of fundamentalist - the Social Crusader.  Men like Billy Sunday and others used their crusades to preach against things and champion causes rather than proclaim the Grace of God.  They mistakenly believed that targeting perceived societal ills was the best way to further the Kingdom.  Unfortunately, they effectively, and perhaps unwittingly, brought about an overthrow of the core principles on which classical fundamentalism was built, the greatest pillar being purity of doctrine.  Such crusading replaced the pure Word of God with the teachings of men. 

Since the time when such men hijacked fundamentalism, fundamentalism began to deteriorate.  Schools like BJC (Bob Jones College, later to become Bob Jones University) sprang up in the '30s. BJC was not the first, nor would it be the last. The landscape of the USA is dotted with such institutions, both large and small.  Such schools were started as places to teach the Truth because it was believed that there were few schools left to provide an alternative to schools which would attempt to lead young men and women away from the paths of righteousness.  But by the '50s, classical fundamentalism was long dead, and what began as institutions to counter liberalism and train men to proclaim the whole counsel of God had finished morphing into institutions which taught the counsel of man as the counsel of God.  Law replaced Grace, and independent baptist fundamentalism was already long on the road in straying from the heart of God while claiming to do otherwise.

So, for the sake of argument, let me assume that, from 1950 to 2010, 1000 people per year graduated from all of the various fundamentalist colleges and universities and entered the ministry.  That would mean that there are 60,000 men, trained in varying degrees of error, which occupy pulpits domestically and abroad, past and present, teaching the same doctrines of men they themselves learned.  Let us also not forget the hundreds of thousands of non-ministerial graduates during this time who also learned the same, who also attend these churches, as well as multipled hundreds of thousands of souls added to these churches through proselytizing.  These graduates and proselytes married, had children, and raised these children in the same environment and sent them to the same schools where these children learned the same error or a more intensified version of that error. This cycle has continued without breaking, entrapping successive generations into greater error.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics, or the Law of Entropy, states that everything deteriorates over time.  The same is true in theology. Theology will deteriorate in direct proportion to the level at which man has removed his eyes from Truth.  As man begins to interject more and more of his own ideas and flawed interpretations into what he calls truth, the less room there is for God, through the Holy Spirit, to guide men into His Truth.  Their minds are made up, and no one, even God Himself, can tell them differently.  The IFB have truly embraced homo mensura.

Compelling Testimony

Second, since THE 20/20 episode, I am not sure if two weeks haven't gone by without my seeing another story from some local paper or credible news center about an IFB pastor, youth pastor, children's home worker, deacon, or whatever being arrested for sexual assault, sexual exploitation of a minor, physical abuse, or other criminal acts.  The problem is not among just a few churches.  There are countless hundreds who have spoken out about the abuse they suffered, from many, many different churches.  Click the link to see some stats on rape from

I will not call the abused victims.  They are targets.  The connotation of being a victim can imply that what happened to the abused had no way of being prevented, such as the victims of a tornado or earthquake. It can also run the painful risk of attributing unavoidable chance, rather than choice, to the abuser, as often seems the case.  Rather, referring to the abused as targets much more cleanly assigns the blame on to the human refuse who deliberately chose to abuse the innocent. 

I have read many testimonials from women and men who were sexually abused, physically abused, emotionally and psychologically abused, at these churches and church schools and other IFB parachurch organizations by men and leaders in these places, and those that found the courage to speak up were often blamed for causing it, then the matter got covered up and NEVER reported to the police.  And these are not just oddball churches in the backwoods of Kentucky or the backwater swamps of Louisiana.  These are often good-sized, outwardly respectable ministries with decent sized congregations and with preachers well known in their circles. 

There are many churches and church schools that have an internal investigation policy to "test" the veracity of any abuse claims to protect against fraudulent claims and needless damage to the reputation of the accused and/or of the ministry, many times in contraveyance of the law which often requires immediate reporting to the authorities.  My understanding is that this reporting is often required by the person who learned of the abuse.  But some of these polices have an internal reporting structure which may illegally prevent the matter from reaching the police and/or child protective services because the internal "findings" side with the abuser and not the target. The target's testimony is often dismissed. The testimony of an adult is almost always taken over that of child or young person, and the target is then further punished, even abused, for "lying."  There is very seldom any justice for targets while they remain in the system.

Most of the targets who finally came forward to speak about the horrors they suffered at the hands of someone who was considered to be an "upstanding" member of the church have done so out of a desire to help those who are still trapped inside those hellish institutions.  They gain very little in any legal sense because they often keep silent for years, even decades, and finally get the courage to speak out after the statute of limitations has run out.  But they are coming forward to try to encourage those who may still be suffering, that there are those who understand, who walked in their shoes, and that there is help.  For those who are still recent targets, justice may yet still be served.  Those responsible for inflicting such harm on the innocent may yet be brought to justice.  Even if the human debris cannot be brought to justice, the survivors can at least raise awareness and name names, and civil pressure and penalties can yet be exacted even if criminal ones cannot.  

The Sins of Sodom

How does Sodom and Gomorrah come into play when talking about the IFB and reasons that I oppose them? I realize that it is relatively clear that homosexuality is something that is usually NOT attributed to the IFB.  Bear with me, and all will be made clear, or at least as clear as I can make it.

Let me start off by saying that I am not a homophobe.  I've been around a fair number.  I met one that made me sick to my stomach, but that may have been more me than him.  I have met others, and know a few more, that are perfectly lovely people.  I am sure I have met many, many that I never even knew what their sexual orientation was.  And you know what? I really don't care.

There are obvious reasons why people automatically think of homosexuality when discussing Sodom and Gomorrah.  I will attempt to dispel them right now.

The real sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were not homosexuality.  Oh, there were certainly practitioners of it, but they were not destroyed because of it.  There are greater sins than homosexuality.  Ezekiel 16:49-50 states, "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. 50 Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it. (NASB)"

Isaiah 1:17, in the context of God condemning Israel by comparing them to Sodom and Gomorrah, states "Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. (NASB)" This verse seems to implicate that Sodom and Gomorrah perverted justice, reveled in the ruthless, oppressed the orphan, and despised the widow.

Their gross immorality, which did included their homosexuality, was a symptom of far greater sins - pride, and the lack of love and compassion, which translates to the rejection of the sanctity of life.  In Proverbs 6:16-19, the writer says "There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers. (NASB)"  I don't see homosexuality in that list, unless it can be included in the wicked plans and rapid feet.  I do see deceit, the intentional causation of discord, murder, excessive pride, and a ready willingness to plan and execute wickedness and evil.  All of these I see as sins against a fellow bearer of the image of God, as a violation of the sanctity of life.

However, all of this I do see within the greater ranks of the IFB churches and their parachurch organizations.  I see those who should be protected being abused and trodden under foot.  I see those in need of help being rejected.  I see those in leadership protecting evildoers.  I see the innocent lied about.  I see rampant and malicious gossip used as a weapon of retaliation against someone who speaks up about evil in the church.  I see the wicked threats of harm and horrid diatribes against those who would stand and see the church reformed.  I see self-righteousness which rivals that of the Pharisees.  I see the promotion of the worship of human leaders.  I see the promotion of the worship of a book rather than the God who caused the writing of that book.  I see incredible pride. 

It was pride and the utterly self-absorbed nature of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah that drew God's wrath. 

So, for whom will it go better on Judgment Day - Sodom and Gomorrah who did not have the Truth to tell them right from wrong, or for the leadership of the IFB, who have the Truth but refuse to abide by it, choosing rather to serve there own selves over the needs of others, all in the name of Truth?

* * *

I will not go so far as to say that those who are caught in the system are all inherently evil, pastors and parishioners alike.  No, I am not speaking in terms of soteriology and hamartiology.  I know what the Bible says about man's natural state.  I speak in terms of human-human interaction.  Yes, there are many evil persons within the IFB, but are they evil because they are what they are, such as sociopathic, or are they evil because they are products of a corrupt system? 

Perhaps a combination.  The strong independent nature of the IFB, rejecting any notion of any kind of oversight and accountability, is a natural draw and breeding ground for predators.  It is a safe environment for them, and since the IFB often demand absolute loyalty, unquestioned, it is easy to manipulate and coverup predatory behavior.

Even though I believe there to be many sociopaths within the IFB, I believe there are far more that are merely products of a system which has been corrupted for generations. They are only behaving and acting according to the logical conclusions of what they have been taught.  There are a lot of otherwise good people who say and do and believe monstrous things because they have been deceived into believing that those things are right and proper.  They do not question what they have been taught because they have been taught not to question.

I am not angry at people.  I am angry at the system that enslaves them and holds them in spiritual bondage.  I am angry at the system which seems to allow for abuse to go unchecked and unpunished.  I am angry at the system which seems to breed abusers and abuse.  I am angry at the blasphemy of God's wonderful name by those who claim to love and follow Him.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Some Thoughts on Marriage: Colossians 3:18-19

I wrote parts of this on a different venue, but I felt it needed some revision and a little expansion.  No, my wife and I do not have the perfect marriage.  We still have issues.  But our relationship is better now than it ever has been, and we are continuing to work on it.

I am going to present this topic in two addresses, following the progression of the text as cited in the title.  I will make a direct address to the Ladies, and a separate direct address to the Men.  And so, without further ado, I will plunge in and make a total fool of myself over how much I really don't know about this subject.


The Greek word behind "to submit" in Colossians 3:18 means simply to obey.  It does not mean absolute surrender to every whim and fancy.  It does not extend to violating the Word of God.  It does not say that your husband can force you to violate your conscience.  It does not mean obey everyone else PLUS your husband.  You do not conform to the pastor's wishes. You do not conform to the expectations of those around you.  The pastor's wife does not run you.  Your Sunday school teacher does not control you.  The Bible teaches simple obedience to your husband.  That's it.

This protects you in more ways than you may realize. For example, if your husband desires you to do something or dress in a way which does not violate your conscience or your understanding of the Word, and someone in the church or the pastor says something to you, you are absolved of all responsibility in the matter because you can point to your husband and say, "I am under my husband's authority, not yours.  If you don't like it, take it up with him." And you can turn and walk away with a clear conscience and leave them sputtering into the wind.  And you should not feel guilty in doing so.  This is now your husband's concern, not yours.

There is another aspect to the word translated as "to submit" that is absolutely beautiful.  It means to append or attach, and it was used extensively to attach an amendment to a legal document or to make an attachment to a letter.*  We already know from a couple of different parts of Scripture that the husband is to leave his family and cleave (cling, hold fast to) to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24; Mat 19:5; Mark 10:7-8).  Where this word comes into play is that she becomes an extension of the husband.  She becomes a second head and a second mind to advise and caution.  She becomes a second pair of eyes to better see dangers and opportunities.  She becomes another pair of arms and legs to help nurture and further the family unit as a whole.  This is not demeaning in the least, but an awe inspiring picture of mutual respect and cooperation.  It is the culminating view of "the two shall become one flesh."  He clings to her, and she becomes part of him.

Think of it in these terms.  We are engaged not only in a day to day struggle just for survival, but also in a battle that is spiritual in nature.  The husband and wife are a team, a single combat unit who must survive together.  The husband provides for and protects his family, but his perception is limited to the 180 degree field of vision in front of him.  No man is capable of seeing everything, no matter how wise he may be.  His wife has his back, looking the opposite direction, and she can tell him if there is something sneaking up from behind.  She can cover the other 180 degrees that he can't see.

Why do I say it like this?  Because women often have a sixth sense about their surroundings that often we men do not have.  She can smell out something that just isn't right or even bad even though she may not be able to define it, and it is usually something that we as men are oblivious to.  And I'm not talking about the garbage (my sniffer doesn't work very well at all.  Just ask my wife).  Their intuition is illogical to us men, and so we often dismiss it, but later discover that she did indeed have a valid point, a discovery made often to our own detriment, and often to the family's.

Thus, the wife completes the man in a very real way.  Her gentleness smooths his roughness.  Her sensitivity confronts his often innocent carelessness toward her and others.  Her softness tempers his hardness.  However, the husband also completes the woman.  His reason helps balance her emotion.  His strength protects her weakness.  And his love dissolves her insecurity.


In the very next verse, Col. 3:19, Paul commands the husband to love his wife and not to be bitter against her.  The Greek for "be not bitter" also means not to be harsh, not to be exasperated with, not to be irritated at, not to foster bitter thoughts.  Clearly this verse is meant as a counter to the men so that the wife will not be taken advantage of or be oppressed.

Because our thought processes are so radically different, it is easy for us men to get irritated at you women.  For me, I get irritated when my wife doesn't understand something that to me is as simple as 2+2.  But to her I am asking her to find the derivative of a polynomial equation.  The problem is that she has never had calculus.  So her reaction would be exactly like many of you right now – "Huh?"  And that is where I get exasperated and shut down the lines of communication.  So, then I start thinking, "After all, how can she not 'get' something that is so simple?  I gave her all the information she needs to figure it out during our conversation."  The answer is simple – she doesn't think like I do. I have to consciously remember this, and it is something that I often forget.

Because most of us are physically imposing, at least as far as our wives are concerned, it is easy for us men to try to force our wives into what we believe to be submission.  Some even use the threat of force as leverage to force her into doing something.  Fear may be a good motivator, but if fear of us is how we run our home, then we are doing something drastically wrong.  Fear and respect are mutually exclusive.

We can go on an ego trip and demand ridiculous things of her, all in the name of Biblical submission, and this would be wrong.  We are not to demand of her that she violate her conscience (cf. 1 Cor 8, especially vs. 12; Rom 14).  She is not a servant or a slave.  She is your equal before Christ, but has only been placed in a subordinate role. This does not make her inferior. 

I am to love my wife, which means that I am not to demand of her something that would be humiliating, damaging, harsh, retributive, or would even take away from her identity and dignity.  Biblical love is to view the other person as better than myself, and the last I read my Bible, the wife was not excluded from this.  Therefore, why should I ask of her something that I myself would be unwilling to do?  Why should I demand of her that which will diminish her?  How can I ask of her something that will damage her?  That would be treating her as a servant or even a slave, not as an equal before God. 

Also, in this regard, asking or demanding a wife to consistently wear what she does not like I believe to be a degree of harshness.  I am talking of prints and patterns and styles and colors and even pants.  I have witnessed a young lady of the world be more modest in a pair of tight jeans than a Bible college student in a dress made of many yards of cloth.  Don't misunderstand me.  I am not advocating the wearing of clothing that requires the lady to pour herself into them in order to fit. I am merely saying that the way clothes are worn say volumes more than what is worn.  Modesty has far more to do with attitude than with individual articles of clothing.  If a lady desires to be immodest, she can project that through a potato sack which covers her head to toe and obliterates her form.  "Lots, loose, and long" may sound cute and catchy, but it really is irrelevant. 

We men generally live in our heads.  You ladies generally live in your hearts.  We men think and analyze and value function over appearance.  You ladies value beauty and eye appeal, and it seems like function is often an afterthought.  This not meant as condemnatory.  It is only observation.  There is a completely different perspective in how we view the world around us.  As a result, we men can be harsh without realizing that we are by insisting that you ladies conform to our way of thinking.  We would probably have less frustration in our lives if we just tried to herd cats instead.

Final Thoughts

Here's something to chew on.  God does not desire us to live with a mask on.  He desires honest transparency.  He detests a religious culture in which people have to lie about who they are so that they can survive.  That is not God's work. That is the Devil's work.  This goes for both men and women, and it extends to all areas of our lives, even to dress and music.  Which honors God more - my openly admitting to listening to CCM (something I am settled in my conscience as OK) or pretending that I believe CCM is bad but quietly listen to it when no one else is around?  Which is living according to my convictions and which is living a lie?  Another one - is it better for my wife to openly wear a pair of properly fitting jeans (which both of our consciences are clear on) than to adhere to a particular standard but secretly pine for the freedom to wear them?  Which is living honestly, and which is living a lie?  A pretense at spirituality is still pretense.  A lie is still a lie. 

Just for the record, my wife does wear jeans, and we do openly listen to CCM.  However, should we have visitors that such dress/music will indeed be an issue, we will be happy to surrender that freedom during their stay.  Grace is not about my demanding my rights at the expense of others.  Grace is about the freedom to lay down my rights voluntarily for the benefit of my brother so that I do not cause him to sin against his conscience.


*Moulton, J. H., and G. Milligan, Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, Hodder and Stoughton: London, 1930.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Cult - Part 2 of 4

To recap, a cult is defined as follows:
A cult is any group or organization which has:
  1. A centralized form of  leadership that rules with unquestioned authority
  2. A body of convictions, beliefs, and practices set forth boldly as "the truth"
  3. A compelling presentation of the group vision to prospects that is inviting and challenging
  4. A series of manipulative socializing sessions to instill psychological dependence on the group
  5. A definable process of group dynamics used to unethically control and manipulate members
  6. A history of abuses of authority by group leaders freely using deception and fear tactics  
  7. A history of psychological and spiritual abuses of group members that destroy lives
I dealt with Cult Element #1 in Part 1 of 4.  In this post I will deal with Elements 2 and 3.  For an introduction to this thread, please read "The Cult - Part 1 of 4."

Cult Element #2: A body of convictions, beliefs, and practices set forth boldly as "the truth"

To the average odd cult, this "truth" can come from anywhere, even from meditations on a rainbow or an acid trip.  There is some really goofy stuff people adhere to for whatever reason.  To the extreme Independent Fundamental Baptist, and to some extent in non-extreme churches, this "truth" takes the form of Scriptures taken out of context and twisted to mean what they never said.

Since the pastor's words have become equated with truth (see Part 1), the pastor is able to speak ex cathedra to his flock.  This means that all pronouncements by the pastor in the course of exercising the duties of his office are equated with revealed Truth, and are therefore incontrovertible, or unquestionable.  This authority is extended to any authorized ministers/evangelists outside of the church.  Now, no one is going to find any IFB using the term ex cathedra  in reference to themselves.  It is a Roman Catholic doctrine describing the infallibility of the pope when speaking on matters of faith and practice so long as the pronouncement does not violate Scripture or Sacred Tradition.

Also, be aware that all such "truth" has for its foundation Western culture.  The assumption is that Western culture is the only culture in which the Bible can be properly interpreted, and therefore all other cultures are to conform to the West.  Many of the false teachings in these IFBx churches will fall apart outside of the North America and western Europe.  Remember: the Bible is a universal document, applicable to all cultures in all time periods.  Any interpretation which requires one culture/time period to be the standard for Biblical exegesis will result in a flawed interpretation.

Such truth is often subjective, reflecting rather the personal preferences of the preacher more than the Word of God.  If the preacher has a personal dislike for something or a pet belief, this personal preference often ends up becoming "sin" and it is proclaimed as such from the pulpit. 

Consequently, righteousness becomes equated with a conformity to an external standard as set by the leadership, and Law according to man becomes the basis for a righteous standing with God instead of Grace having provided for the declaration of righteousness pronounced by God Himself on every believer.  Teachings on Grace necessarily become vilified because they allow for independent thinking and the questioning of accepted norms and practices.  Such questioners are then destroyed and vilified so as to prevent the Truth from contaminating more members.  More about this in Part 3.

Ex Cathedra Example #1:  It is a sin for a woman to wear pants (others would add that it is a sin for a woman to wear makeup and earrings and pretty things and have fancy hair):
This corrupted doctrine has its roots in Deuteronomy 22:5.  The reasoning is that slacks/breeches/pants are the accepted clothing of men, and therefore women should not wear them.  Other verses on "modesty" are used from the New Testament to support this and even add to it the portion above in parenthesis.
This false doctrine takes one aspect of the Mosaic Law and applies it to the modern church outside of the teachings of the New Testament on Grace.  Doing so substitutes Grace for Law, and righteousness is gauged by an external conformity to a false interpretation of Scripture.  Deut 22:5 is not so much speaking of cross dressing as to condemn role-reversals.  The central thought of that verse is to understand it in terms of God detesting masculinity in women and femininity in men. 
 Ex Cathedra Example #2: The King James Bible is the revealed Word of God for the world today.

There are a number of flavors in this cocktail of error.  Some ascribe a second work of Grace by the Holy Spirit on to the translators so that the 1611 translation of the KJV has become the new Autographs (original text as physically penned by the author, long since perished in the depths of time.  What we have now are copies).  Others state that where the KJV and the original languages differ, the KJV should be used to correct the original languages.  Others preach that it is not possible for God to save a soul through any Bible other than the KJV, and others go a step further and declare that any one who claims to have been lead to Christ through any Bible other than the KJV is now a two-fold child of Hell and has no hope for eternal salvation.
There are those among the adherents to this error who are attempting to translate the KJV into other languages.  In their minds, those languages do not have the proper Word of God.  God will continue to suffer the use of those inferior translations until such time as the faithful are able to bring to them a true translation.
This corrupted doctrine has spawned some other corrupted teachings. One of the more notable and goofy ones involves taking some obscure statements in the KJV and "proving" that the world is flat (Isa 11:12; Rev. 7:1 - "four corners of the earth"). But this is declared as Truth in some circles because it appears that the infallible KJV teaches it.

The archaic language of the KJV has also lead to a number of minor (sometimes major) misunderstandings about what the Bible is actually saying.  One of minor ones that comes to mind is in Mat 7:13-14. The word "strait" in the KJV is a middle English word meaning "difficult." 
If most die hard KJV only-ists actually cared about the meaning of what they were reading, a lot of "good" sermons couldn't be preached anymore.  If the people actually understood the Word for themselves, then hearts would begin to change (and the authority of the pastor would diminish).
In talking about the KJV, I say this carefully, the main reason I can see for the keeping of the KJV, other than a mere preference for it, is that through its archaic language the leadership can exercise more control over their congregations.  The use of the KJV plays right into the hands of Cult Element #1: A centralized form of  leadership that rules with unquestioned authority.  Because of linguistic difficulty, the Leader is in a better place to tell his followers what he wants them to believe the text is saying.

Many who are proponents of the KJV claim that it is, on average, at a 7th grade reading level.  Some say it is as low as 5th grade, while others say up to 10th grade.  These grade levels are derived from computer models which do not take into account archaic vocabulary and sentence structure, but only the number of syllables and overall numbers of letters in the words, as well as the overall number of different words used (about 8000 in the KJV).  They site readability studies by experts, but fail to explain the difference between readability and understandability.*   In contrast, Christian Book Distributors rates the KJV at a 12th grade reading level.** I believe this is a generous move on the part of CBD.  I would personally rate it as collegiate or even post-collegiate, in so far as our modern age is concerned.

Also consider which Bible is most common among religious cults.  Which Bible do the Mormons give out? The KJV.  Which Bible do the Jehovah's Witnesses compare their New World Translation to? The KJV.  Which Bible is the Bible of choice for cults in general?  The KJV.  This is not because the KJV is a bad translation.  It's surprisingly accurate given the level of Greek and Hebrew scholarship of the day.  No, they choose this Bible because the plain sense of the text is now obscured to some degree by archaic English.

In addition, the language is so old that parts of it cannot be properly understood by modern man without the use of a Middle-English dictionary.  I'm sorry - Websters 1828 dictionary, as holy as the KJV itself to the hard core, is inadequate to explain some of the language of the KJV. I've compared it to a Middle-English dictionary, and there are parts that fall short.

The KJV is nothing more than a translation of the Word of God.  The Greek and Hebrew are superior to any translation, since those are the languages in which God gave us His Word.  As such, the KJV is subordinate to the original languages without exception, and it has the same shortcomings as any translation - a limitation in the conveyance of meaning from one language to another.

2 Peter1:20 says, "knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation." (ESV)  This verse states that no teaching of Scripture is subject to the whims of individual men.  God gave to us His Word, intending it to be understood plainly, and whether you have a KJV, an NKJV, an ESV, an NASB, or an NIV, you hold in your hands God's words, translated to the best of their ability by the translators.

Cult Element #3: A compelling presentation of the group vision to prospects that is inviting and challenging

The presentation is not so much external as it is internal, by which I mean they often draw in members from among themselves and other churches, or from those who are new believers in Christ to begin with who do not have a church home or who are not yet anchored in their faith.  There are some that are converted and go directly into the IFBx churches, but I do not believe these to be too many.

The general presentation of the group is to present themselves as loving, Christ honoring, Bible believing, truth protecting, sin hating, fellowship minded believers who are doing the Lord's work and awaiting His return.  They present themselves as standing true to the Word of God. 

To the good Christian looking for a good church home, this is a compelling presentation.  The challenge given is to live a righteous life, but the righteous life so defined becomes a laundry list taboos and accepted behaviors.  Any deviation by the members from this "righteous life" is met with manipulation and guilt tactics to bring them back into line with group thinking.  More on this in Part 3.

The ones traditionally most recruited into the IFBx churches have been the children of members.  These grow up listening to the dogma, attend schools which reinforce the error they've learned, and graduate from Bible colleges and universities which espouse the same.  These are usually not presented with any other view points, or if they are, they are presented with such slanted views that everything else looks absurd or wrong. 

There is hope for these young people, however.  I don't remember where I ran across it, but I recently encountered a statistic which seems to indicate that many of these children are leaving the extreme church in large numbers.  The internet has done wonders for the dissemination of Truth, and with the internet now available almost universally, the young people have access to real Truth and are better equipped to see through the fallacies of extreme fundamentalism.  Whether they are seeking for Truth or fed up with religion, either is preferable to them remaining within the extreme environment.  Either way, once a person leaves the cult environment, God is better able to grab their souls and show them what Truth really is.


* An IFBx site.  A note to consider when perusing this site - Readability is not the same as Understandability.  The KJV may indeed have a higher score on readability.  It is very easy on the eyes and it has a majestic cadence which lends itself to reading with ease.  This should be contrasted with the truth that simply being able to read something does not mean that it is easily understandable.  I can read Spanish, German, Latin, and other languages with ease, but I don't understand most of what I am reading because I do not know them very well, if at all.


Bible Translation By Grade Level

Translation   Grade Level
KJV   12
RSV   12
NASB   11
NRSV   11
ESV   10
NIV   7-8
HCSB   7-8
Translation   Grade Level
CEB   7
NKJV   7
NLT   6
GW   5
Message   4-5
NCV   3
NIRV   3

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Cult - Part 1 of 4

When I began considering this post, I wanted to make certain I understood precisely what a cult is.  I scoured the web looking for definitions.  I looked at legal definitions, dictionaries, and searched through the FBI website.  What I found is that there are a variety of meanings depending on one's outlook.  I found the best comprehensive treatment of the definition of the word "cult" here at  But before I get into what I am going to say, let me first mention the four primary outlooks for defining a cult (from

  1. Journalistic - tends to be sensational [examples could include Waco and Ruby Ridge]
  2. Theological - based on a standard of orthodox truth
  3. Sociological - describes groups that self-consciously oppose the mainstream of culture
  4. Psychological - based on a standard of psychological manipulation and coercion
To some the definition of a cult includes that it is small and/or on societal fringes.  If this is the case, then Mormons would not be considered a cult because of their size and influence.  Neither would the Church of Scientology or the Christian Science people.  But, the Amish could be because they are in small groups, shut themselves out of mainstream culture, and exert little influence on society at large.  Clearly, the Amish are fairly benign.  I have heard them mocked or considered to be strange and goofy, but never accused of being a cult in the way most people consider a cult to be.

We also have the expression "cult following" to describe a group of very loyal fans or devotees of something or someone or some group.  The expression by no means is designed to imply that those in the "cult following" are actually cult members.  For example, among Catholics, various saints and Mary have a cult following.  These devotees are still considered Catholics by the Catholic Church itself.

Cults come in all shapes and sizes.  There are relatively benign cults, and there are very militant cults.  There are truth cults and there are apocalyptic cults.  Thus, a better definition than just the dictionary is needed in figuring out what a cult is, and is it dangerous.

For the purposes of this post, and all follow-up posts, I will default to the definition as outlined in The following list of seven elements of a cult are from an amalgamation of principles set forth by Dr. Paul Martin and Steve Hanson, both well known experts on cults. All the credit goes to for the wording and compilation of this list:
A cult is any group or organization which has:
  1. A centralized form of  leadership that rules with unquestioned authority
  2. A body of convictions, beliefs, and practices set forth boldly as "the truth"
  3. A compelling presentation of the group vision to prospects that is inviting and challenging
  4. A series of manipulative socializing sessions to instill psychological dependence on the group
  5. A definable process of group dynamics used to unethically control and manipulate members
  6. A history of abuses of authority by group leaders freely using deception and fear tactics  
  7. A history of psychological and spiritual abuses of group members that destroy lives
Further, cults are not limited to fringe groups.  They can and are found among those people and assemblies most people would not necessarily consider to be cults. 

So, where am I going with this?  Some of you have already guessed.  If I haven't made enemies up to now with my various postings, I am about to do so.  Based on the criteria set forth, I am going to submit that extreme Independent Fundamental Baptist groups are nothing less than cults.

I am not accusing every IFB church of being a cult.  There are good IFB churches out there.  Though many are guilty of fostering a graceless environment, while unbiblical and sad, that in and of itself is not enough to denounce them for being a cult.  No, the cult aspect comes into play in the extremism many foster.

Cult Element #1: A centralized form of  leadership that rules with unquestioned authority

The Independent Fundamental Baptist church finds itself more prone to this type of problem simply from the standpoint of it being independent.  As such, each church is accountable only to itself, and there is no outside accountability except for the rare and loose church associations of like minded ministers who understand the importance of accountability.  However, the effectiveness of these are limited to the honesty and integrity of the pastors involved.  The effectiveness is further reduced by the nature that these associations are loose and voluntary and hold no real power or authority to forcibly remove a fellow minister from office.

Attempts at internal accountability and checks and balances are made, most commonly through a board of deacons, who often both call the pastor and have authority to dismiss him.  Aside from the numerous problems this arrangement poses, the ambitious pastor can influence the selection of deacons so as to have greater influence over the decisions of the board.  Should this happen, then it is all but impossible to remove a sitting pastor.

Once entrenched, such a pastor, backed by a corrupted deacon board, will systematically begin the elimination of opposition.  The majority of the sheep will most likely blindly follow him, because he will not exert full authoritarian control overnight, giving him time to slowly brainwash the sheep.  Should any members of the church or deacons question him, depending on the type and amount of questioning, various degrees of pressure are placed on the identified "trouble maker."  This can take the form of anything from a private talk to open humiliation and false accusations to public defamation, and in really extreme cases, vandalism, physical assault, and even death threats.  Such individuals, if he/she can be persuaded to "drink the cool aide," are restored to fellowship but carefully watched.  All others are often driven out of the church, and the remainder of the congregation commanded to have no further dealings with them.

When such a pastor senses that the time is right, he will begin to consolidate his power.  This can take the form of evangelists or other respected pastors brought in to preach on the authority of the pastor, or even the pastor himself  conducting a "Bible study" to this effect. However it is done, the result is that the sheep are taught that the pastor is the sole authority on matters of faith and practice, and he alone is the final arbiter on what the Bible really teaches.  His authority and accuracy from the pulpit cannot be questioned.  He will bully the congregation from the pulpit, and the sheep are afraid to stand up for themselves because the pastor makes it sound like God is on his side, and to defy the pastor is to defy God.  He may even come up to individuals and tell them that God told him to tell them to do something.  Because he is seen as a man of God and of the Word, worthy of respect and obedience, he will not be questioned, or at least those so confronted will be afraid to question him.

Because such a pastor has no check to his power, his abuses may grow, which can including moral lapses, some of which may also be against the law, and in many cases he will be able to mount a defense, either from the Bible, or through a sob story on how he is able to excuse his actions.  He will beg for forgiveness with tears for any moral lapses in judgment, and when he is restored to his position as pastor, he will be emboldened all the more in his excesses.

Not all such pastors have an agenda, nor are they all morally lapse.  I know of some once good men who have been influenced over the years by a poor choice in friends or conferences, and slowly became authoritarian.  Others are taught in Bible college of the authoritarian nature of the pastor.   Most authoritarian pastors are merely dictatorial and not morally corrupt. 

However, one of the greatest injunctions from a human standpoint I have against such authoritarianism from pulpit is that it draws to that church other men of like mind, who rule their homes with an iron fist.  It is among such followers where the greater degree of moral degeneracy can be found, whether it be alcoholism, physical - emotional - psychological abuses, or sexual immorality to include pornography and affairs, and even pedophilia.  Such abuses, if discovered in these cult churches, are often swept under the rug or outright defended by others in the church, including the pastor.

Now to consider this matter from the Word of God. I use the ESV, by the way.

Matt 20:25-28 (cf. Mark 10:42-45)
1 Timothy 3
2 Timothy 2
Titus 2, 3

The Word puts considerable constraints on pastoral authority. He is to be a servant leader who rightfully divides the Word to his charges and feeds them what they require, not what they desire. The pastor is not given the authority to compel any sheep, but to lead them willingly. He is not to seek inordinate gain from his position, but accept the position with a proper humility, not forgetting that he himself is under the authority of Christ and His Word. The pastor is not to be a dictator to his congregation, benevolent or otherwise, but he is to lead by example and exhort his charges to godly living and good works. The pastor has been given authority in spiritual matters and a corresponding responsibility, seeing as he will give an account to Christ for the discharge of his duties and for the state of his flock.

I take exception to the thought which appears to be a premise among some that a pastor is always working in accordance with God's will and the congregation is the one who resists the work of the Holy Spirit when a problem arises.  This premise is false.  The pastor is also prone to error, and because of spiritual pride he is the one more likely to resist the Holy Spirit.

I do not believe that the pastor should be a puppet and a "yes man." No church should have the right to dictate to the pastor what is and is not to be proclaimed from the pulpit, save that it be nothing less than the "whole counsel of God," but godly and learned men in the congregation should hold the pastor accountable, confronting him if necessary, and they should be the ones to begin the process of dismissing an errant and unrepentant pastor should such a desperate and heartbreaking need arise.

No person or church should ever build around any person a personality cult. Our loyalty is to Christ alone, not to a mere mortal. Should that mere mortal and the Word of Christ differ, Christ should be followed without exception, regardless of earthly consequences. In order for this to transpire, the people must be in the Word and know what it says and means, hence the importance of a godly pastor/teacher, and an inner drive in the congregation much akin to that of the Bereans. Without a knowledge of the Word, the people will fall for every wind of doctrine, and the church will lose its efficacy and be prone to being taken over by the Enemy of our souls.

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    When the Darkness Bites

    I fell asleep fairly quickly that night.  When I awoke I thought I was in a scene from Robin Cook's medical thriller Coma.  I was laying down on my back, my legs straight, my feet together and pointing up, my arms fully extended and neatly tucked against my side, my head positioned perfectly on a pillow.  Only there was no pillow, and I wasn't laying on anything.  I was suspended in mid-air.  I do not know what was below me or above me or around me.  I don't know how far of a drop I would have had could I have known it.  All I could see was a gray mist.  Only a gray mist.  The mist wasn't cold, and it wasn't wet.  It just was.  And then a gentle breeze blew on me for a moment.  I can only describe it as like a comet made up of a dense mass of air moving through the mist.  I say this because a moment later another one brushed me from a different direction.  I was curious as to what was going on, and then my curiosity slowly turned horror, and horror to dread as more and more of these air-comets flew by me, around me, through me.  I knew what they were.  Spirits.  Unfriendly spirits.  Evil spirits.  In a word, demons.  I was powerless.  I couldn't move.  I couldn't escape.  And I tried to scream, the only time in my life where I was truly in such terror that I needed to scream.  Nothing came out.  My heart was pounding faster than if I had just tried to run a mile.  I knew I couldn't speak, but I knew that God knew my thoughts.  I cried out for Him to help me, to save me from this horror.  No sooner had I thought it than a large pair of hands came down from above and cupped under me.  The air-comets instantly stopped, and all around me was only calm.  The hands lifted me up through the mist and into perfect darkness, and then back up into my own body.  As I opened my eyes, I discovered that I was laying in bed the exact way I was suspended in the mist.  The blanket, sheets, and pillows were all neat, everything with perfect angles and no wrinkles, as if the bed had been made and not slept in.  But here I was in the bed, as if I had been brought up into from below.  I felt only peace and security.  All fear was gone, and moments later I fell back into a peaceful sleep.

    The Bible does not say much about the ways of our Enemy, such as the details in how he works and the ruination he brings on lives.  The Bible is not a book of darkness, but of light.  It was wise for God to not tell us much, but what He did reveal to us is sufficient.  The Bible well warns us to be wise concerning what is good and innocent concerning what is evil (Romans 16:19).  The reason for this is because we become what we gaze at.  If we stare at evil long enough, we will be influenced by it.  But, if we gaze at our Beloved, we will be more like Him, and we will know the workings of the Enemy when we come across them.

    A good example of this is from The Lord of the Rings.  The five wizards in Tolkien's world (Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, and two others who were never named) were not mortal.  They were good spirits sent from Valinor (similar to Heaven) to Middle-Earth as guides of men.  Wise and strong, they voluntarily surrendered their glory and vast powers and agreed to bind themselves in human form.  They retained their immortality, and though they knew many things they were not omniscient.  They could be surprised just like any other mortal, and they had free will like any other mortal.  The greatest, and therefore head, of these wizards was Saruman.   I am a bit hazy on when Saruman began studying the Ring, but I believe it was about the time that Isuldur cut it from Sauron's finger.  The ring was a thing of evil, having within itself the very life essence of Sauron, the Dark Lord.  As Saruman began studying the Ring, he had to focus on a lot of evil in order to understand how it was made.  Such dark learning slowly corrupted Saruman's mind until in the end he became the very thing he set out to destroy.  What once was good in Saruman turned to evil, and his end (different from the movie) is as tragic as it is lonely.

    I said all that to say this:  Do not research the doings of our Enemy.  Study Christ.  Learn Christ.  Gaze on Christ, and when you encounter the counterfeit and villainy of the Enemy, you will know it, and then run to Christ for shelter.  The study of evil is subtle and seductive.  Do not indulge in it.  Flee from it.  Purpose in your heart to know only Christ and His Truth.  I cannot say this enough.  Keep away, far away, from ANYTHING which remotely even smells of the Occult.  It can suck you in and entrap you in ways that you will not even recognize.  It places velvet chains around your heart which feel luxurious to the touch, but harden to adamant in an instant.  The knowledge flatters your pride, then enslaves you.

    I approach this topic with fear and prayer.  I do not wish to make anyone curious and go off and look into the things I looked into, but I must say something to warn you good people not to travel my road.   O God, protect those who read this, and may the sincerity with which I write be evident, and may they take my warnings to heart, and shy away from forbidden knowledge. Amen.

    If this topic fills you with fear, then please stop reading now.  My opening paragraph would have made my skin crawl if I was the one reading this instead of writing it.  I will not be insulted, nor will I look down on you, if you cannot finish this post.  I would rather you look away than bring harm to yourself.  Somethings to follow could cause nightmares to those who are susceptible to such.  I do not wish to overstate what I am saying here, but I also desire to be perfectly clear that I would rate this post as an R.

    My night time experience, as I opened my blog with, happened while I was a junior in high school.  I was researching witchcraft for my junior term paper on the Salem witchcraft trials of the 1690s.  I had been exposed to some Occultic elements prior to this, but now having researched it, I found it to be not as "bad" as I had been led to believe.  Or so I thought in my pride.  The secret is that the Enemy makes evil look "not so bad" or even quite innocent.  The materials I read convinced me that the threat was overrated, and so I was emboldened to dig deeper.  Oddly enough, I didn't do anything else with the Occult until Bible college.  The information just sat there, putting down roots, and continually growing and deceiving me.

    During Bible college, which is IFB, I began going deeper.  I understood from my Biblical background that all supernatural activity associated with the Occult was Satanic in origin.  Men (and women) were empowered by demons to do astounding feats.  I no longer cared.  During the day and evenings I studied for my Bible exams and learned my Bible verses.  But when I could steal a moment I meditated on Occult themes.  I read materials in the school library.  I read accounts about ancient Babylon.  I developed a sense for spirits.  I began to know where some spirits were and what direction they were traveling, or if they were in the room.

    And I began to gain power.  At times raw power coursed through me, and I became addicted to its feeling.  I could walk through the dorms and send guys who could snap me in two scrambling out of my way just by looking into their eyes.  I saw genuine fear in those eyes.  And. I. Loved. It.

    I wanted more power.  I knew spells and potions were nothing but words and gimmicks, crutches for the weak. I had set myself on the path to becoming a warlock of the first degree.  Twice I walked out into the woods to give myself over to the Devil.  In full knowledge of what that would mean to me, including my eternal fate, I sought more power to my own destruction.  I was willing to remove myself voluntarily from the Grace of God forever.

    (long breath. exhale. pause)

    But God was not willing.  On both occasions He stopped my mouth.  I could not utter the words.  They echoed in my mind, but they never made it to my tongue.  On these occasions I look back and see clearly God's intervention.  And may He be praised ever more for preventing me from making such a mistake.  On April 19, 1996, at 17:15 on a Friday, God reached down and saved my soul.

    Some things in my life changed, but not all.  My active ties to the Occult were severed instantly, but the chains which bound me were still there.  I tried to seek help and went for counseling, but I wasn't taken seriously.  In that IFB environment, I had no concept of the Grace of God after salvation.  I was actually told by my counselor that everything bad in my life, or would go bad in my life, I could blame on my Occultic involvement.  What I heard was that there was no hope for someone like me.  He did not offer me hope I so desperately needed.  He offered blame-shifting.  I tried to take ownership of my problems and was told to blame something else.  I never went back to him.  Who was my counselor? Only one of the vice presidents of the college and dean of the Christian counseling department.

    After my salvation, I really became disquieted in my spirit there, and now I understand why.  My spirit was suffocating under a graceless burden of laws.  I flunked the next three semesters for various reasons (the last one I was so ill for 8 weeks that I couldn't study, and I was not allowed to see a doctor), and I was asked not to return (I recently inquired about going back, but was actually discouraged from doing so because the requirements under which I would have been allowed back would have been so draconian that even the head of admissions recommended that I not return.)

    When I left Bible college, I immersed myself in Dungeons & Dragons (I've touched on this in regard to another issue in my post "A Struggle of Life and Death").  It consumed me for a decade.  I played with whomever I could whenever I could, and through work I ended up in a group that smoked pot and drank.  They new I didn't do any of that, and they were a good bunch in the sense that they didn't force anything onto me or even ask me if I wanted any.  They showed me respect and acceptance for who I was as I was, and those unsaved young men showed me more Grace and what it means to Love Biblically than many who name the precious name of Jesus.

    Though my involvement in Dungeons & Dragons may in and of itself not have been Occultic, there is a darkness inherent in that gaming system.  There are supplemental materials which can turn even the strongest stomach, and there are whole volumes focusing solely on evil.  My involvement certainly didn't help my bondage any.  Nothing peculiar happened in any game session I was in, but I've heard of some hair raising happenings.  (And, FYI, Jack Chic is completely wrong in his little comic book portrayal of D&D.  Just thought I'd mention that.)

    Other dark areas of interest to me included medieval torture methods, and vampires.  I researched these for a long time, especially vampires, at least since high school.  Vampires are a dark topic, and I will say no more on it other than it is godless, and please stay away.  You don't want to go down that road.  Trust me.  I've been there.

    I also began hearing voices.  Voices telling me to do horrible things to people.  Voices blaspheming God.  Voices telling me to take my own life.  Voices telling me that I wanted to let go of my sanity and go mad.  Yes, I fought off madness.  Twice.  The spiritual oppression under which I found myself was so strong that I thought it was my own depravity.  I thought all of these evil thoughts and wicked imaginings were coming from my own desperately wicked heart.  I fought depression through this because I had no hope.  I believed I was wicked because that is what the Bible says about me, right?  I mean isn't that what Romans chapter 3:10-12 says? - "As it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (ESV)

    That had been hammered into me since high school.  When all I hear is that I am evil, wicked, vile, and worthless, and nothing about Grace, Love, and Worth after salvation, then what am I supposed to believe?  I hated myself over my depravity and inability to change.  I hated myself because I was stuck and couldn't get out.

    Here is where I am really going to give your theology a run for its money.  I do not believe that any devil can possess a child of God.  I believe that the Bible is clear that a child of God is already a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and that there is no place for any demon or devil physically within a child of God.  So, having said that, I will tell you what has happened to me. 

    On more than one occasion, at least twice that I can recall, I have lost all conscious control of my right arm.  I had images pop into my head of horrible atrocities committed against a person or persons, and my right arm began to move of its own accord to fulfill these images.  On both occasions I made the muscles in my right arm scream from the strain of keeping my arm in check, and I grasped my right wrist with my left hand so tightly that my bones hurt.  I was physically shaking from the effort of fighting my own arm.  I begged God for strength, and God granted strength and victory.

    The demons were toying with me.  I know.  They couldn't possess me, but they could influence me.  They could try to drive me mad.  They could move parts of my body around from outside of me, much like a child plays with a doll.  I lived in fear that one day I would lose control and hurt my family, my wife and kids.  Yes, this happened after I was married for a while.

    I finally found deliverance one day, or night rather.  Dr. Erwin Lutzer was speaking on Seven Snares of the Believer's Life, which was a series of messages from his book Seven Snares of the Enemy.  I was on night shift, shuttling engines and racks back and forth from the Caterpillar plant to the warehouse, and I would listen to Christian radio.  I didn't usually get to listen to him much because I was usually doing something at that time which required me to be out of my truck.  This time he was speaking on the Occult, and I begged God to allow me hear the messages.  I don't know if you have ever heard his broadcast "Running to Win," but it comes on for fifteen minutes, five days per week, with a recap at the beginning from the previous segment.  So for me to be able to hear his messages for three or four days in a row was a minor miracle, and God worked it out.

    I discovered that I was chained by the Occult, and the blood of Jesus set me free on the last night of the messages.  Instantly I knew what I had to do, but I put it off because I was working 80+ hours a week and didn't have time.  And then one night at work, about 4 weeks later at 00:42, I received a phone call from my wife.  The couch just moved, and she was sitting on it quietly when it moved.  I went home immediately.  I knew what had happened.  I walked all around the house to make sure all was secure.  It was.  I went inside and checked every closet, nook, and cranny.  I even opened the fridge and pantry.  Nothing.  So, I went into my office, turned on my computer, and began writing what turned into a three page letter while I processed the information (I will write to think through a deep issue).  We had a demon in the house.  While I was doing this I sensed that presence come in through my office door.  It moved towards me and entered my body.  My skin got icy cold where it made contact, and I had chills, but just in the outline of where the spirit entered me.  I prayed, I plead the blood of Jesus, and I commanded the spirit to leave in Jesus name, and never to return.  I then felt the spirit leave my body the same way it entered, and then it was gone.

    The next day I gathered all of the Dungeons & Dragons stuff I could find, and I burned them all.  A couple of weeks earlier I had found a book, but when I went looking for it to burn it, I couldn't find it.  Thinking I had simply misplaced it I thought no more on the matter until we moved, where I found it in a box which was buried in the back of a stack of boxes five high and three deep, a box which had not been opened since we moved there, a box which was still taped shut and sealed.  Some entity had moved that book and some related material into that other box.

    It was after this that I began listening to many, many sermons on my iPod.  I listened to well over 500 hours of sermons and chapel messages from non-IFB churches and seminaries, and that is when I began to understand Grace.

    Some time after this I decided to test the waters, so to speak.  I still had a really strong desire to play D&D, and so I indulged and thought maybe a D&D video game would be OK.  I purchased a used one and played it, and I had a blast.  It was a fix for an addict, and I was euphoric.  Until I went to sleep that night.  That night I was tormented by numerous demons all night long until my alarm clock went off in the morning (these were red and emaciated and grotesque looking, with long leathery wings and long sharp claws and hideous teeth).  After work that game went back to the store and I exchanged it for another.  I have been torment free ever since.  And my desire to play D&D has seriously waned after this incident.  I still struggle with twinges of desire, but God has given me the grace to fight them.

    And then we moved, and now we are here, in a Grace filled church.  I have been through HeartChange, and I know God in ways that before I could never have imagined.

    The toxins of the enemy are being slowly purged from my system.  I can't get the image out of my mind of receiving an injection of Grace, and then these green, poisonous vapors start oozing from my pores and evaporate into nothingness.  A bit nerdy, I know.

    The Enemy is subtle, and very powerful.  But he is still a created being who will ultimately be forced to bow to his Creator.  Jesus has already conquered him, and now he is throwing a tantrum.  He knows he is doomed, and he seeks to take as many with him as he can.  He is not to be underestimated.  But God is stronger, and His power will see you through.  His power will free you.  For the Word of God says in 1 John 4:4b ". . . for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (ESV)

    Listen, my friends.  There is hope for you as well.  God reached down and gave me a single sliver of hope, and a hint of His love and of greater things, and it was a lifeline to me.  It was a single, small shaft of light which let me see one step, and then another, toward my Beloved.  He broke my chains.  He renewed my heart.  He gave me Grace and Love and Mercy and every good thing.  He can do the same for you.  Dare to trust Him, and see what He can do for you!

    Let the Love of our Beloved rain down upon you.  May His mercy enshroud you.  May His Grace overflow in your heart and soul.  God in God, my friends.  You are loved beyond measure.