Several folks have asked me what I think of this article about the place of sex offenders in the church, so I thought I would say a few words about it.
Let me say first what I appreciate about Jimmy Hinton’s article. First, I admire his courage. When he found out about his father’s offenses, he did the right thing. Second, I admire his insistence that the practical price of the dislocations in the church be borne by those who caused the dislocations in the first place — the offenders. When there have been grievous offenses, the church must not help the culprit gang up on the one who was wronged, in order to heal the wound lightly. Demands for superficial reconciliation would fall into that category. And third, I agree with him that molestation of children is common in the church, and that putting another coat of whitewash on the sepulcher doesn’t deal with the stench.
That said, I do think he has arbitrarily limited the boundaries of this kind of offense, and consequently, the hard line taken can’t really serve as a hard line, and won’t provide the kind of practical help that pastors and boards of elders need in this kind of mess. For example, he limits his discussion to pedophiles, and draws very precise lines for it:
Today is Resurrection Sunday, our annual commemoration of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead. We mark this annually, but it is important for us to remember that we also mark it weekly—every Lord’s Day is a celebration of the resurrection. But what exactly are we celebrating when we do this?
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:3–11).
Summary of the Text:
When we were baptized, we were baptized into the death of Jesus (v. 3). Note that—our baptism, His death. When we were baptized, this was not just into His crucifixion, but also into His burial (v. 4). The reason God identified us with His death and burial was so that He could also identify us with His resurrection, enabling us to walk in newness of life (v. 4). For if we are identified with (symphytos, the word rendered as planted) His death, we must also be identified with His resurrection (v. 5). Our old man was crucified with Him (v. 6), and death liberates us from the death of sin (v. 7). And death with Christ goes together with life in Christ (v. 8). Christ rose from the dead forever, and it is that everlasting life that we have been identified with (v. 9). Death is once for all, but life is forever (v. 10). Therefore, reckon yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God through Christ Jesus our Lord (v. 11). What does this newness of life taste like? It tastes like the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, and all the rest.This is the true liberation of Easter.
The Structure of the Exhortation: Continue reading
In Scripture we find two kinds of idols. The first is an alternative to the living God from the get-go. When the children of Israel turned aside to Baal or Molech, they were sinning overtly and rebelliously. They were turning from the living God to false gods.
The other kind of idol starts out innocently. God gave His people something to remember Him by, and at first they remember Him rightly. An example of this would be the bronze serpent that Moses fashioned in the wilderness, so that anyone who had been bitten by a serpent could look on it in faith and live (Num. 21:8). Jesus said that this serpent was given as an Old Testament type, representing His crucifixion (John 3:14). It was a gift of God—and yet, Hezekiah was right to destroy it (2 Kings 18:4).
As we come to this Table, we are coming to the Table of the only true Victim. Only Jesus was entirely innocent, only Jesus had an absolute right to complain—which is why He didn’t.
We can certainly harm one another. We can certainly bite and devour, and betray one another. There are many tragic tales in this world, and there have been many tears. But whenever we are wronged by others, remember that we are sinners too, and we will always be tempted to “work it.” There are those of us who play at being the victim. There are those of us who were truly wronged, but who then inflate the wrong for the sake of our own pride. All responses that don’t involve turning to Jesus with it are responses that seek to turn the wrongs of others against us into “our precious.”
But the way out is not simply to “stop it.” The Eagles told us to “get over it,” but however good that counsel might be, it is not something we are capable of doing. The only way out of nursing our own victimhood is to turn to Jesus, the only true Victim, who will put it all right. He will do this by forgiving our sins, and by giving us forgiveness for those who have wronged us.
I can see from the comments on this thread that more needs to be said on the Vision Forum fiasco. In the nature of the case, I will have to address various subjects, and so it may look like I am meandering. Bear with me.
First, by way of background, let me refer you to this piece on “not being a victim” that my daughter Bekah wrote yesterday. In the aftermath of this kind of thing, one of the first thoughts that every parent should have is how to equip and prepare their own daughters to deal with this kind of man. The equipping has to occur beforehand.
Second, having now mentioned the word victim, I need to spend some time on why it is not appropriate to use that word in this circumstance. To speak of Doug Phillips and his “victim” is prejudging the case. We are not prejudging the case if we take what both parties in the dispute acknowledge, and reason from that. If she maintained that he started this when she was fifteen, and he denied it, then we would have to wait and see what the facts were. But if she says it started when she was a adult, and he says that too, then it is not prejudging the case to assume that they were both adults — and to expect them both to have acted accordingly.
Given that, either his sexual attentions were entirely unwelcome, or they were not. If they were not unwelcome, then the affair appears to have been one of complicated and unconsummated adultery, with two participants. She was an adult, and so if his attentions were not entirely unwelcome, she was a player in the vice, not a victim. The victim in this would have been Beall, with two people victimizing her.
But if his attentions were entirely unwelcome to her, and she was freaked out by the creepster, then we have to ask why she wasn’t down the road at the first opportunity — that night or the next morning — with Doug Phillips receiving notification of her opinion of what transpired via the sound of sirens. That’s not what happened, on anyone’s account, and so I don’t think we should identify her as a victim.
We can’t have it both ways. We cannot accuse Vision Forum of treating all women like little girls, and then turn around and treat all women as little girls who can’t be expected to say no to a cad at Vision Forum. Everyone who automatically assumes that Torres-Manteufel was necessarily the victim is ironically buying into a view of the world that assumes that grown women are not responsible for what they say or do.
“If we lived in a truly confessional age, with great preaching, theological geniuses writing their tomes, and so on, then we would have to worry about the naked Quakers running through Safeway again, and legalistic Anglican bishops cutting off people’s thumbs for having broken some stupid rule. But as it is, we are too anemic to get into serious trouble with legalism or antinomianism. We are the bland leading the bland, which provides us with some small measure of imagined safety, at least for a time” (Against the Church, p. 83).
In the providence of God, this memorial service is occurring the day before Good Friday. And this, of course, is just a handful of days before our celebration of Easter, the day when our Lord Jesus conquered death on behalf of all His people.
He did not do this as an act of raw power, although the Bible does teach that the resurrection was a powerful act (Rom. 1:4). The Bible teaches that death is more than simply an unfortunate event—it is a scorpion that has a sting in its tail, and that sting is defined by the holy law of a holy God. “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56).
So the resurrection of Jesus was not simply a display of power; it was a display of grace and forgiveness. The resurrection was more than a powerful event—it was a cleansing event. The resurrection shows that God has successfully drawn the sting.
“The fire of evangelical conviction, when scripturally governed, cries out for a fireplace to burn in. A well-designed fireplace, put together by biblically-minded craftsmen, cries out for a fire to go in it. A fireplace without a fire is cold and dead. A fire without a fireplace is fierce and destructive. Shouldn’t we be able to work something out? . . . The Bible brings the fire, and the Bible contains drawing for the fireplace” (Against the Church, p. 77).