Monday, November 06, 2006

Excellent article re Ted Haggard

Tim Challies at Challies.com has written an excellent article regarding the tragic news of Pastor Ted Haggard. Please read it, because what he writes is applicable to all of us. You can access the article here.

3 comments:

James said...

Wyeth, I don't think you know me, but I sort of know you (if I just confused you, ask Suzanne).

The Challies article was good, but this one by Rick Phillips hits some distinctions that Tim missed and is (I think) more succint in presenting most of the key ideas for us to think about:
http://www.reformation21.com/Reformation_21_Blog/Reformation_21_Blog/58/vobId__4583/

A couple of things not brought up by Rick that have weighed heavily on me:

(A) Shouldn't our first reaction as those who consider Christ even before self be grief? Before I mourned for the evangelical church, for Ted and his family, and even for my own sinful soul, my first reaction was to mourn over how this has sullied the name of my Savior and to long for the day when His bride would be made perfect and those who falsely claimed to be His exposed, so that in every case the name of Christ will be vindicated. Perhaps I am wrong, but seeing as the Confession (WCF) places the purity of the church ahead of even the restoration of the sinner in the reasons for church discipline, I do not think that I am the only believer that feels this way about my Master.

(B) I hear much about compassion for the man, but Eph 5:5, along with a host of NT texts makes something clear that no one (that I have read) seems to be willing to say: the man's profession of faith is no longer credible. I feel awful for his family and for his church. I am glad for all of them that the Lord uses even unbelievers to do marvelous things.

And my heart aches for Ted. Not because he is a believer like I am, and I know that could be me. In fact, precisely because by God's grace I am certain that that could NOT be me! Every Christian with assurance should be able to say the same thing. The potential for that in my soul is there, but God's grace on which I daily depend and a host of promises that the Scriptures make to believers about the ministry of the HOLY Spirit in us tell me that the old man can no longer win the day in such a way.

The fact of the matter is that Matt 7.22-23 is real--that there are MANY who have professions of faith that aren't credible, and that the evidence of that lack of credibility is their practicing of lawlessness.

I am NOT saying that Ted Haggard is not a believer. Only God knows that. But what I am saying is that the Scriptures do not allow us to go on presuming that he is and speaking of him as one or treating him as one. Any of us who fall into such sin must lose assurance for ourselves, and come running back to the cross to hide us from wrath, repenting of the sin as if we had never been converted before. We may or may not have been--but at that point we don't know.

To sum it all up, based on what we have learned in the last week or so, it is altogether likely that the man is(was?) not converted. It is therefore extremely UNloving that we take his having been a believer for granted and set him up for a terrible judgment day surprise. And it is Scripturally DIShonest to point to what he did as an example of what can happen to a believer.

I know that, even though it is scattered all over the pages of the New Testament, assessing the credibilities of professions of faith based upon conduct is an extremely unpopular thing to do, and I hesitated to make it my first comment on your blog, but in the end, I thought it better to hide it here than in any of our church's blogs, where I might really get into trouble.

After all, since I can't seem to find what I just wrote among the responses of people who are godlier and wiser than I am, I could be wrong. But with the weight of Scripture behind me, I seriously doubt it. Maybe I'm just young and foolish enough to say what wiser minds have known but pens(keyboards) that are even wiser yet have left untyped.

wwdunc said...

Hello James, and welcome to my blog! Suzanne has mentioned you before, so it's good to hear from you.

It's funny you'd mention the article by Rick Phillips: I'd just read that article a bit earlier in the day. I thought Phillips' added some crucial and biblical points to the ongoing discussion. Thank you for referencing Phillips' article.

I agree with your first point: we should mourn first and primarily over the reproach that this scandal brings to the name of Christ. That is absolutely true. I admit, however, (and this is probably a reflection of my own selfish focus) my first thought was my own life and what there is of sin in me that needs to go.

As far as your second point, after looking again at Ephesians 5:1-17 and 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:14, I think you are right about that also. Any professing believer who finds himself in this kind of sin, such as engulfed Haggard, should question their salvation.

My only reservation concerns this one paragraph in your statement:

"And my heart aches for Ted. Not because he is a believer like I am, and I know that could be me. In fact, precisely because by God's grace I am certain that that could NOT be me! Every Christian with assurance should be able to say the same thing. The potential for that in my soul is there, but God's grace on which I daily depend and a host of promises that the Scriptures make to believers about the ministry of the HOLY Spirit in us tell me that the old man can no longer win the day in such a way."

I would temper my views, based on 1 Cor 9:27 & 10:12. It seems the possibility exists for true believers to fall terribly, if they are not careful and watchful with their souls. Granted, scandalous behavior rightly calls into question a profession of faith. My only point is, I'd be hesitant to say, "that could NOT be me". "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed..." (1 Cor 10:12).

I was reading this today, from John Owen, and I think it speaks relevantly to this point:

"The rage and predominancy of a particular lust is commonly the fruit and issue of a careless, negligent course in general... Lust...lies in the heart of everyone, even the best, while he lives; and think not that the Scripture speaks in vain, that it is subtle, cunnning, crafty--that it seduces, entices, fights, rebels. While a man keeps a diligent watch over his heart, its root and fountain--while above all keepings he keeps his heart, whence are the issues of life and death--lust withers and dies in it. But if, through negligence, it makes an eruption any particular way, gets a passage to the thoughts by the affections, and from them and by them perhaps breaks out into open sin in the conversation, the strength of it bears that way it has found out, and that way mainly it urges, until, having got a passage, it then vexes and disquiets and is not easily to be restrained: thus, perhaps, a man may be put to wrestle all his days in sorrow with that which, by a strict and universal watch, might easily have been prevented" [from Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen, ed. by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), p.88.].

But, your points are well-taken. Modern-day evangelicals have seemingly lost sight of the awesome holiness of God and the deadliness of sin. I, for one, needed this reminder. Thank you!

James said...

Thank you, Wyeth, for tempering my words for me. Indeed, I did not mean that the assured believer is in a position not to be vigilant--in fact, I don't believe that anyone who is not being vigilant can have a genuine assurance.

The confidence of which I meant to write was not a confidence in self, but a confidence in sanctifying grace. In Phlp 2:12-13, Paul talks about the effect of such a confidence that the work depends upon God: since we know that it is He who is at work both(!) for the willing and the working, therefore we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

This puts the confidence of which I spoke and the vigilance of which you spoke in a juxtaposition that, I think, exposes that the way I worded that one paragraph was rather foolish--even engendering an attitude that does not include the requisite fear and trembling.

Let us be vigilant, with fear and trembling, but let us also be confident in grace, not fighting the fight of sanctification with a timid veneration for sin, as if the battle is constantly in danger of going to the enemy.

Thank you also for giving me a little Owen with my breakfast. How truly he speaks about the possibly devastating consequences of momentary negligence of vigilance! Oh that we who fill the pulpits of Christ today would be such physicians. Is this kind of close application not what the Master Himself did in His own preaching while on earth?

We need to have our hearts exposed, and I am grateful for your help in exposing a bent toward overconfidence in mine. Still praying for your preaching this week, brother.