The Theological Loose Screw(s)

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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:

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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:

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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…..

 

 

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KJV-Only Culture Shock (part 3)

In the past two posts on KVJ-Onlyism, I showed how the errant belief that the KJV is the only acceptable, inspired translation of the Bible 1) leads to what I termed “functional Biblical illiteracy,” since most Americans read five grade levels below the proficiency needed to easily understand the KJV, and 2) that illiteracy leads to people relying on a mediator such as a pastor, teacher, book, etc., to explain scripture, and 3) false teachers are able to exploit the Biblical illiteracy of others to introduce heretical teachings.

How do we as believers combat functional Biblical illiteracy?

I can only tell you what we did as a family. Since we’ve only been in this community for three years, I can’t tell you that this will work for every person, every time, but it’s a start.

1. Develop friendships and relationships with KJV-only believers.
We ended up taking our children out of the KJV-Only schools, and finding a Bible-believing church that freely used several translations. However, we maintained our friendships with local KJV-only adherents, and allowed them to see into our lives. I freely used key phrases in our conversations, like, “God led me to do this,” and “God truly used this verse or those movies or that song.” Over time, my KJV-Only friends began to accept me as a “true Christian,” not unlike Bob Jones’ reaction upon meeting C.S. Lewis: “That man smokes a pipe, and that man drinks liquor, but I do believe he is a Christian.” In my case, it was more like, “That woman wears jeans, that woman reads the NLT, and that woman plays music with back-beat, but I do believe that she loves Jesus.”
2. Don’t argue—instead, ask lots of questions.
A friend of mine mentioned that her pastor-husband strongly objected to any drum music, because of “the beat.” I asked her, sincerely, “Why?”
She couldn’t answer me.
She either had no idea, or didn’t want to accuse me of perpetuating music that was infested by demons. Either way, I could tell by her confused face that it was the first time she’d ever actually thought about why she believed this particular doctrine! What was the source of this teaching? What was the outcome? KJV-onlyers need to understand that this type of questioning authority is okay, and completely sanctioned by the Bible.
She thought for a few minutes, then said, “I guess mostly because the beat overshadows the lyrics.” Which brings me to my next technique…
3. Be light-hearted about disagreements.
In my experience, any emotion other than joy is seen by KJV-onlyers as evidence that the devil is behind any argument. So, when my friend mentioned “the beat” interfering with understanding musical lyrics, I chuckled and said, “I know exactly what you mean. Most churches really don’t have good sound equipment. That’s why I’m glad we have such a good sound tech, because he works really hard to make sure any lyrics are completely understood. I love the skill level of the artists at our church.”
“Really?” she said. “I’d love it if you posted a video sometime.”
You see, she would never be allowed to actually visit our church. 😦
4. Let them see the fruit of your life.
When your marriage doesn’t fall apart, when your kids don’t turn into angry Bible-rejecting degenerates, when God does answer your prayers in a personal way, and when you receive hope from God’s word in a different translation, the KJV-only friends in your life will see that something is different. Yes, there is a time and place for face-to-face disagreements. However, these friends have been conditioned for years to believe that you are a heretic. Show them, one interaction at a time, that the truth of God’s word lives in you, and is accessible to them as well.

I love the reactions on my KJV-only friends’ faces when they see God answer my specific prayers: “I only had thirty dollars to spend on maternity clothes. I prayed about where to go, and God led me right to this yard sale that I had no idea was there—and a woman my size was selling all of her maternity clothes for a quarter apiece!”

5. Pray for opportunities to show grace.
Friends who are in authoritative, restrictive churches have very little grace in their lives. Slipping up in homemaking, homeschooling, or any part of parenting, may carry an intense amount of shame—shame that they’re not allowed to show on their faces. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you an opportunity to show them the grace and love of the God who saved you. “Your toddler had a temper tantrum in Wal-Mart? Oh, you handled that so well. Don’t worry, it happens to us all–I remember when my two-year-old peed in the corner of my mother-in-law’s living room when I wouldn’t let her have a pop tart….”
I want to call on the scholars in the Christian community to argue for accessible Bible translations at every opportunity. The fact that the KJV-only heresy can live on in the 21st century is shocking to me. The fact that people in America are deceived into having limited access to God’s word should be frightening to us all. For years I dreamed of being a translator for Wycliffe, taking the Bible to areas that had no access to God’s word—not realizing that some parts of the Midwest were in just as deep of a need.

KJV-Only Culture Shock (part 2)

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Botox? Oh, no, my spiritual leaders just told me that not-smiling is selfish.

Yesterday, I shared how the KJV-only beliefs literally cut many people off from being able to understand the Bible.  I explained how, if the KJV is written at a twelfth-grade reading level, the average American would need someone to interpret the meaning of the text for them–just as most people need footnotes to understand the subtext, slang, and old-English phrasing of Shakespeare’s plays.

This creates a very strange situation for KJV-only believers.  They may not even realize that, in order to understand God’s word, their beliefs actually require them to have a mediator, such as Pastors, Sunday School teachers, easier-to-understand devotional materials, and Christian living books. They need an authority to tell them how to walk with God. And unless they read for fun at a twelfth-grade level,  they have no guaranteed way to double-check the teacher’s words with Scripture, to see if this “authority” is speaking the truth or not.

This ends up having crazy consequences.  Long before I knew about the KJV-only belief system, I prayed about whether or not to join the church that sponsored my daughters’ school, and was surprised when I knew the Holy Spirit was saying, “No.” Why would He do that?

I prayed and asked Him to open my eyes. That’s when I started noticing something strange.

Everyone at the school, and at the supporting church, had exactly the same facial expression.

They smiled. They smiled in the morning before they had coffee. They smiled when they just got out of surgery. They smiled on Mondays before a week of exams, and on Fridays when they were finally all done. They smiled when they asked for prayer for their mother’s sister’s neighbor who had cancer and was going through chemo. They never, ever asked for prayer for themselves, unless it was an “unspoken.”

I wondered, “Does every believer in Indiana have a hard, glossy coating on their face, freezing it in one expression? ”

I visited four different churches in their denomination in a two-county area. After a while, another thing started to bother me: the voice of the pastor.

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It’s important that my body language convey exactly the right impressions, for the glory of God, of course.

Now, I’m a worship leader, songwriter, and guitar player. I’ve also lead drama programs in two churches. This means I’m very sensitive to rhythm and structure in music, and catch little variances in body language and movement.

In each church I visited, every pastor used the same cadence of speech. The same vocal inflections—this syllable goes up in pitch, that one comes down, that one stays level. The same rocking rhythm with their volume—this word is soft, that one is a bit louder, and THAT one is punched for emphasis. Even their walks were similar! Straight up, shoulders back, chin at a certain angle, and a certain firmness to the handshake—I couldn’t have asked for more consistent performances from a church drama team.

Then I started reading some of the “Christian Living” books that were passed around my daughters’ school, and my friends’ churches. I was shocked at what I learned:

  • I  learned that there are certain types of smiles that God approves of—a “ministry smile,” a “joyful smile,” and an “obedient smile.” I learned that your eyes would “shine” if you seek God’s face, but that your eyes would be “dark” if you were in rebellion against God. (I guess a bad night’s sleep, or a case of pinkeye, is naturally indicative of sin.)
  • Worse, not smiling was seen as drawing attention to yourself, and was regarded as selfish. Romans 12:1-2 was used as a proof-text for this: these dear brothers and sisters thought they were just presenting their bodies as a living sacrifice to God!
  • I learned that everyone had to act under an “umbrella of authority.” The first umbrella was the Pastor, then the Husband, then the wife, then the children. Stepping out of that “umbrella” meant that Satan could rain on you—and was the cause of any trouble in your life.
  • I learned that, as a woman, I should not spend my time reading the Bible or engaging in Women’s ministry groups—my primary role was to be a submissive wife to my husband. His job was to “wash me with the water of the Word.” In other words, I was supposed to get all of my spiritual and Biblical information from him. I was also supposed to believe exactly how he believed. God was not honored through my wasting my family’s time, selfishly studying my Bible on my own. God was honored by me serving my family by making sure the house was clean, and the dishes were done.
  • I learned that, if anyone believed that a person in authority over them was actually sinning, then there were certain steps to “make an appeal.” However, if your appeal was rejected, and you were forced to do something you felt was wrong, it was guaranteed that you would be blessed by God for following your authority anyway. I was reminded that “His yoke is easy, and his burden is light,” implying that it was perfectly reasonable for God to ask this of us, considering what Christ did on the Cross.
  • I learned that any music with drums that contained a certain beat had demons attached to them, and that they would infiltrate the minds of impressionable young people. It didn’t matter what the lyrics said—the beat would override that.
  • Most importantly, I learned that any translation of the Bible other than the King James Version was perverted by lesbians and Satanists. There must not have been any other sinners of any sort in the KJV translation committee—no secret adulterers, liars, thieves, drunkards, child molestors, or even gluttons—because they all came later, with other Bible translations.

This crazy, convoluted set of rules meant that, in these KJV-only churches, 1) no one could question anything that the pastor said or did, 2) everyone’s lives were managed down to the expressions on their faces, and 3) there was no outside source—like THE BIBLE—that anyone could turn to for truth, because everyone in the church literally had the Bible interpreted for them.

It was a very creative trap–worthy of the Father of Lies who concocted it.

Let me state very clearly: this level of deception and control is not the fault of the King James Version of the Bible. The KJV is a translation of God’s word that has been used to great good. I’m not here to argue about the legitimacy, validity, or translation philosophy the KJV. However, Shakespearean English it is no longer the dominant language of the English-speaking world.

The level of deception I saw is the direct (and perhaps unintended) result of only allowing the Bible in a language that common, uneducated people (like the first disciples) can never, ever understand. We as believers need to know why such Biblical illiteracy exists, and determine how to fight it.

In my next post, I’ll share a few simple strategies that my family started using to engage KJV-only believers.

 

 

 

KJV-Only Culture Shock (part 1)

 

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King James Bible, London, England, published by Robert Barker, 1611. Gospel of St John 1 BL C.35.l.11, signature 2I31 Copyright © The British Library Board c/o http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/takingliberties/staritems/444kingjamesbible.html

When my kids started reading, I found a handy chart on Bible translations for each student’s reading level on Christianbook.com. I loved it! From the King James Version (a 12th grade reading level) all the way down to the Contemporary English Version (3rd grade and below), I could now give my kids new Bibles in new translations as their reading improved.

I was surprised then, after we moved to Northern Indiana and enrolled our kids in a small Christian school, that the school required King James Version Bibles for all of their students. Even kindergarteners. I’d grown up in small-town churches, and had never heard of that. We used the NIV.

I thought, “Wow, won’t the kids stumble over all of the ‘Thees’ and ‘Thous’? Isn’t that far above their comprehension level?” However, the teachers did a great job of helping all of the kids understand each verse they were reading. Before long, my girls were quoting twenty or more old-time King James verses from memory, and were doing well academically.

I thought, “Hey, a Bible is a Bible. It’s God’s word, no matter how it’s translated. Besides, I don’t want to cause division over something that’s really not a big deal.”

 

Then, as I left my daughters’ school one day, I saw a bumper sticker on a teacher’s car: “If it ain’t King James, it ain’t Bible!”

They really believe that?

I asked around—yes, they really believed that. “Real Christians” only used the KJV. Every other translation was a perversion.

Without even touching the theology of that statement, there are some nasty consequences to believing this: the average American reads at a ninth grade level. The average American also reads for pleasure at two grade-levels below his proficiency level, so most blockbuster novels are published at the seventh grade level. [Source: http://www.impact-information.com/impactinfo/literacy.htm%5D

This means that the Average American reads five grade levels below the required proficiency level for understanding the King James Version.

This means if you’re not reading Shakespeare for fun, with no editor’s notes, you probably need a different version of the Bible than KJV for daily use!

When a person can read words, yet not comprehend them well enough to truly know how to apply them (say, a car’s instruction manual, or a prescription drug label, or directions on how to apply first aid) it’s referred to as “functional illiteracy.” Roughly 20% of the population of America is considered to be functionally illiterate.

This also means that if the general population of America—reading for pleasure at a seventh grade level—only had the KJV available to them, then more than fifty percent of the country could be considered “functionally illiterate” regarding the Bible!

Remember, this has nothing to do with simply liking the King James Version. This has nothing to do with enjoying the language or prefering the translation. Many KJV-onlyers honestly believe they have no other choice regarding which Bible they’re allowed to use.

How then would any KJV-only brother or sister in Christ know anything about Christian doctrine, the Christian life, or the God they desired to serve?

Easy—they learn from the Pastor, from Sunday School teachers, from easier-to-understand devotional materials, and from books. In other words, they need a mediator to understand Scripture. They need an authority to tell them how to walk with God. And thanks to their “functional illiteracy,” they have no guaranteed way to double-check the teacher’s words with Scripture, to see if this “authority” is speaking the truth or not.

This should kindle a fire in the bones of every Believer in Christ who reads this. The Bible, the Word of God, is unavailable to Christ-followers right in our back yards.

Next time, I’ll go over some of the visible results I saw of KJV-only theology in its adherents, and how their “functional Biblical illiteracy” affected their daily lives.