The Theological Loose Screw(s)



Nate Morales, a former staff member at Covenant Life Churches, was found guilty recently  on five counts of sexual assault. 

According to Brent Detwiler, who attended the trial, a pastor that was called to testify, Grant Layman, KNEW about the abuse, and didn’t report it to the police.

The fact that the sexual abuse occurred at all was horrific. The fact that a pastor (who is a mandated reported in most states) covered it up–which allowed Morales to continue to secure ministry jobs, and have access to children–is nauseating.

However, the fact that we as a church are continuing to allow these systems to stay in place–systems that allows pastors to have this kind of life-or-death control over people–is mind-blowing.

“What systems?” you may ask.  “This has nothing to do with any system–this is one sick, twisted individual who infiltrated a church.”

A year ago, I would have thought the same thing.  Then,  ATI, Vision Forum, JPUSA, Voice of The Martyrs, Pensacola Christian College, Bob Jones University, and of course CLC church (of Joshua Harris’ “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” fame) all were involved in searing sexual abuse scandals.

Few of these organizations are directly related to one another, yet most of the victims said the same thing: “I (or my child) was sexually abused.  I went to the leadership of the church/organization.  The leadership assured me that the abuser had repented, and told me not to go to the authorities.  The leadership also asked me (or my child) to examine my/his/her own heart to see what role I/we had played in the abuse.  And repent.  And forgive the abuser.”

(Please, if you need a moment to vomit, by all means take that moment right here.)

Then, today I found out Christianity Today had the gall to publish an article by a convicted sexual abuser, and refer to his crime as “slipping into sin.”

What is happening in the church?

I believe that these horrific sexual abuse scandals (and the cover-up that followed) are the direct result, and the final, rotten fruit, of several theological screws that came loose in the church.  We as believers honestly didn’t address each isolated issue when it came up.  Individually, while they may be weird, they each seem fairly harmless, like they’re “no big deal,” and we don’t want to cause division by making a stink about them.  But when all the loose screws came rattling down, the very foundation of the Christian life was undermined.  And we didn’t even notice.

Loose Screw #1: Abuse of Authority

Loose Screw #2: Presuppositionalism

Loose Screw #3: Predestination of….Everything?

Loose Screw #4: Sin-Leveling

Loose Screw #5: Mountains out of Molehills

Loose Screw #6: The Sociopathic Concept of God

Today, I’m going to focus on Loose Screw #1, and I will hopefully add a new post every week, if Baby Agape keeps sleeping well. I’ll come back and add links to each Loose Screw when each post is live.

I want to add that I’m simply a layperson in the church–I’m a worship leader and skit writer–and I’ve not been to seminary.  However, that should make pastors and theologians sit up straighter and ask themselves, “How did this type of screwball thinking make its way into the church?  What are we communicating? How are we communicating?  And how can we be more faithful to God’s word?”

Loose Screw #1: Abuse of Authority

Many churches have embraced an unbiblical model of “authority” for so long that they’ve  forgotten it’s not in the Bible:


It’s called “The Umbrella Model.”  Apparently, if you or I stay under these cutesy little umbrellas of authority–in other words, if we as wives obey our husbands, or if we as church members obey our pastors–then we’re SAFE from the Devil’s evil schemes.

Kids are being taught this at an early age now:


Because GOD GAVE THIS AUTHORITY, going against this authority is going against GOD HIMSELF.  Going along WITH this authority is following God’s true will, God’s best plan for you, etc.  And this will KEEP YOU SAFE.

This is ludicrous for several reasons.  For starters, nowhere in the Bible are believers promised protection from any of Satan’s attacks if they just blindly do what the guy in charge says. In fact, Paul directly confronts Peter when he’s theologically messed up in the head.

Wait, an APOSTLE can be wrong? Someone who walked with Jesus while He was physically on this earth could need correction from a fellow believer? Say it ain’t so!

It is so. We’re not only supposed to question apostles, we’re supposed to question prophecy.  We’re supposed to study, to grow, to ask God for wisdom, AND submit ourselves to authority.  We’re to love God with our heart, MIND, soul, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.

Oddly enough, we’re not even promised protection if we do what GOD HIMSELF says.  Jesus promises us that “in this world, we will have trouble.”  Hebrews 11 states pretty clearly that some of God’s people will be great overcomers, and some will…not.


The Rotten Fruit

Dang, if people are following this authority, then how did all these kids get abused?

No one would willingly embrace a theology that says, “If your child is molested, you have to forgive the offender, not go to the cops, and let the molester walk free, as long as he cries and says he’s sorry.  You also have to consider what YOU did to seduce the crackpot who crept in on you during the lock-in.”  No.

However, did we as the Body stand up and say, “That’s not Biblical,” when our churches required women to wear skirts ?  Or when a leader proclaimed that all families should home school?  Or that getting married is our highest calling? Or that God didn’t have vocal chords?

Probably not.

We’d say, “We don’t want to cause division over something minor.  Is this a ‘sprinkling or immersion’ type of debate? That is so not an issue.  Who cares? We want to have unity!! We love these people! Heck, every church has its quirks, right?”

In my experience, few people want to challenge a pastor, teacher, or person in “authority” over whether or not a teaching is Biblical.  We either go along with it, or if it’s an egregious error, slide out the back door, and look for another church.  Either way, the teaching is allowed to stay, grow, and affect people’s lives.

“Hey, is it getting warm in here?” says the frog, sweating…

The Fallout

We see the cover-up of sexual abuse, because some brave people brought it into the light–but what do we not see?

How many people made other decisions under this authoritarian system? 

How many people chose/didn’t choose a specific college, because a “spiritual authority” counseled them to?

How many people stayed/didn’t stay in a certain relationship?

How many people chose/avoided a specific career field, or a specific mission field?

How many people handled conflicts, money, property, child-raising issues, under this type of authoritarian system, all believing it was the Biblical way to do so?

But we didn’t challenge this system, until we caught someone with their pants down.

We must start speaking up.

The authoritarian structure  gives the church member no other options.

There’s no appeals process.  There’s no one else to turn to.  In this false theology, “outside of the umbrella” is the land where Satan can attack you. And heck, those unregenerate people don’t know as much as your pastor or husband or teacher does anyway–so why would you even try going to secular authorities?

Which leads us to Loose Screw #2…..




19 thoughts on “The Theological Loose Screw(s)

  1. Taylor Joy

    Seems the frog is-a-gittin-a-little warm – BUT – You’re-a-gittin HOT… 🙂

    You ask…
    “What is happening in the church?”

    Well – Depends on which church we’re talking about – Yes? 😉

    The Church of God…
    Where Jesus is the head of the Body, (the ekklesia, the Called Out Ones), the Church.
    And those born of the Spirit come and go like the wind. John 3:8.
    And those led by the Spirit are the sons of God. Rom 8:14.

    the church of man…
    The 501 (c) 3, Non-Profit, Tax Deductible, Religious Corporation, the IRS calls church.
    And those led by Fallible Humans called pastor are taught to, Pay, Pray, Stay, and Obey.

    Should one of His Disciples call an IRS Corporation – The Church???
    In the Bible, Did any of His Disciples call them self pastor? Or leader?

    Could that be the beginning of “Loose Screw #1: Abuse of Authority?”
    Man, Taking “Titles/Positions,” pastor/leader/reverend, NOT found in the Bible?
    And, “Exercising Authority” like the Gentiles in opposition to Jesus?

    Seems Jesus taught “His Disciples” NOT to “Exercise Authority.”

    But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them,
    Ye know that they which are accounted
    to rule over the Gentiles “Exercise Lordship” over them;
    and their great ones “Exercise Authority” upon them.
    **But so shall it not be among you:**
    but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: (Servant)
    And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
    Mark 10:42-44 KJV

    If someone “ “Exercises Authority?” After Jesus said NOT to…

    Wouldn’t that be “Loose Screw #1: Abuse of Authority?”

    And – Are they one of His Disciples?
    Or, Just a dis-obedient Disciple?

    • Amos, spot-on!! Yes, I think that is certainly a part of it–fallen people taking a role & title for themselves that, Biblically, they have no basis for having to begin with. That’s one reason I LOVE my pastor. He also came from a spiritually abusive group, & he has always chosen to err on the side of “That’s none of my business,” instead of, “Do it as I say, or else!”

      • Taylor Joy

        I’m happy for you that you found a safe place to fellowship…
        And safe people to fellowship with… And maybe even trust… 😉
        And recover…

  2. Taylor Joy

    Yes – This has been my experience also…
    “In my experience, few people want to challenge a pastor, teacher, or person in “authority” over whether or not a teaching is Biblical. We either go along with it, or if it’s an egregious error, slide out the back door, and look for another church. Either way, the teaching is allowed to stay, grow, and affect people’s lives.”

    Often, WE, His Sheep, His edelweiss, do NOT question, or challenge, because…
    That’s what WE, His Kids, have been taught – For years, over and over again…
    WE, have been programed, bamboozled, hoodwinked, duped, fleeced… 🙂
    WE, have been taught, threatened – To go along with “Today’s Religious System”
    WE, have been taught, threatened – To follow The Leader.

    And WE, His sons, His Disciples, have seen what happens
    To those who do question, “God Ordained Authority.”

    And, it ain’t pretty… 😦
    Name calling, loyalty questioned, salvation questioned…

    And, sliding out the back door is NOT much better… 😦
    Abraham went out NOT knowing where he was going.
    It will likely cost you a lot – Loss of many things…
    Especially the friends, the relationships…

    But the benefit for me was – I had NO place else to go – But – To Go To

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • So so relatable! My husband and I were among the very few to challenge our pastor. He has no accountability. The elders and his wife serve him, not anyone else, though they can’t even see that about themselves. There’s so much deception and unchallenged sexism and power there and it has been very hard to leave and cut those ties, but I’m hopeful that there is healing ahead.

      • Ashley

        Yes – Pastors, Power, Deception, is all to common. 😦

        But, Did any of His Disciples call themselves pastor?
        Or shepherd? Or leader? Or reverend? Hmmm?

        Yes – Leaving and Cutting those ties are hard.

        Those were some of the darkest days, ever. 😦
        But, eventually The Light of the World breaks though.

        Yes – There is healing ahead for you and your husband.

        Because you get to know, and hang out with
        Your Shepherd – The Good Shepherd – The ONE Shepherd

        {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

        And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
        them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
        and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
        John 10:16

        One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader

        {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  3. Pingback: Loose Screw #2: Presuppositionalism | Taylor Joy Recovers


  4. Pingback: Loose Screw #3: Predestination of…Everything? | Taylor Joy Recovers

  5. Pingback: The Advice My Church Gave to an Abused Woman, Part 2 | Explorations in Egalitarianism

  6. I was a member of a sovereign grace church up here in Canada and it fell apart in my third year of attending leaving many broken hearted….but also forced many of us to a place of healthy questioning. When the whole sexual abuse scandal came to light, I felt sick about it and angry that even our leadership knew and nobody acted. Which, btw something similar apparently happened in our church and was all very hush hush. The biggest thing about this type of church is the fact that these men are paid (well) and do what they can to protect their jobs and even though they preach transparency they rarely model it. Leaving was the best thing that could have happened to us.

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