Sola Fide and Assault

In the past few weeks there have been two streams of stories that have dominated Christian circles. The first is the debate concerning Sola Fide and the second is the #metoo campaign in light of the fall of serial rapist, Harvey Weinstein. As women around the world told their stories of assault, we saw that sexual assault and rape are not just something happening “out there” but right in the middle of our churches. More often than not, church leadership purposefully and ignorantly looks the other way. You can read a small sampling here, remembering that these are only the tip of the iceberg.

As I read these stories from Christian women, I see a connection. The connection is subtle and hard to glimpse at first, but it is there.

If you are unfamiliar with the debate concerning Sola Fide, you might want to take a few minutes to get up to speed. The historic doctrine of the reformation is summarized simply and beautifully in the Heidelberg Catechism:

60. How art thou righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

61. Why sayest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only?

Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God, and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.

62. But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?

Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment-seat of God, must be perfect throughout and wholly conformable to the divine law;1) but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

63. Do our good works merit nothing, even though it is God’s will to reward them in this life and in that which is to come?

The reward comes not of merit, but of grace.

64. But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?

No, for it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.

I could not say it more succinctly or carefully or beautifully. Perhaps this is why it has been used for over 450 years to explain the Christian faith.

The attack on this doctrine is always subtle. The latest has been the distinction proposed between “justification” and “final salvation”. The idea is that we are declared righteous before God by faith, but our final salvation is dependent upon our holiness. The normal caveat is added, “by grace of course” or “by the power of the Spirit, of course”, but the idea is that somehow we must add our own works to the perfect holiness of Christ in order to finally stand before God.

This, as has been amply shown, is the very idea that began the protests of the reformation to begin with. It is contrary to scripture, to the creeds of the reformation, and to the sound doctrine that brings comfort to the heart of God’s people.

But the purpose of this post is to show that there is a connection between this doctrine and the rise of sexual assault in our churches. But first, a caveat. It is not at all my intention to accuse anyone who disagrees with me of sexual assault. It is merely my contention that the denial of the doctrine that salvation (and not merely justification) is by faith alone provides an ample breeding ground for predators and can never bring safety to the sheep.

It is no coincidence that the Roman church at the time of the reformation was also full of predators. The priests held the sheep in an iron grip of guilt and had their way with them. There were brothels ran by the papacy right in the Vatican and corruption filled every corner. This was not a disconnected anomaly, but directly connected to the doctrine that we must somehow add our works to our faith in order to please God.

If our righteousness and holiness are not complete in Christ, then it follows that we must add something of our own. It might be that we must desire God more, or that we must submit more, or that we must wear different clothing, or watch different movies. The Federal Vision guys prattle about “Covenant faithfulness” and the Vatican says, “Penance and masses and confession.” But it will all come down to the same thing. Christ isn’t enough. You have to add to it. “Yes”, they all say, “We are justified by faith alone. But to really progress in our sanctification we must add to that our good works.”

Since every Christian has a tender conscience, and every Christian wants to please God, they become vulnerable to this kind of thinking. They also make themselves a prey, which is what Paul warns the church of in the book of Galatians.

If Christ is not enough, then where will I go? I know that all of my own works, even now that I am a Christian, are defiled by sin. I know that I can never achieve the purity and holiness that God requires. And if Christ is not enough on the final day, then where will I go?

And when you ask that question, there will always be a Tetzel to offer you a solution – for a price.

Buy my book. Register for my conference. Submit silently to rape and assault. Don’t rock the ministry. Don’t speak up. Don’t rebel against God’s anointed. Go home to your violent and abusive husband. God sanctifies us through torture and evil.

Here’s how to please God more: please God’s servant, and God will be finally happy with you. Here’s who to make the check out to…

And the first step of this bondage is always the same one. “Christ is not enough. We don’t want “easy believism” now, do we?”

But if Christ is not enough, then who is? and what more do I have to do?

And then we start viewing God like an abusive husband: He tolerates you if you get the food on time, don’t give him any grief, do as you are told, and shut up about it.

Perhaps now we can see the connection. If our theology teaches that God is like an abusive husband, then we tolerate all sorts of behavior as “Christlike”.  Abuse, reviling, hatred, envy, strife…

This is why Paul wrote this:

19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Gal 5:19-21 NAS)

In the context of the book of Galatians, the “flesh” is the belief that the works of the law – any law – must be added to the perfect work of Christ in order to be finally saved. In the churches of Galatia, the point at issue was whether Christians should be circumcised. Whether that is your issue, or whether it is covenant faithfulness, desiring God enough, loving God enough, wearing appropriate clothing, submitting to authority, it is all “the flesh” according to Paul, and the flesh always conceives the same babies: immorality, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, etc. It is the spirit of Cain, Esau, Ishmael.

Abraham didn’t receive the promise because he could have a baby. He didn’t receive it because he reached high enough and worked hard enough. It was by faith, and faith alone. Even his faith wasn’t a work that was deemed good enough. No, faith was the hand that grasped Christ from afar. And in Christ, he rested. And he became the heir to the world.

And by that same faith – holding to Christ alone by faith alone – we find that same rest, and become heirs according to the promise. Never by the flesh. Always by faith. In finding rest, we also find freedom from every Tetzel of every stripe in every age.

In the heart-breaking accounts I referenced earlier, notice how many times you see these ideas:

“I knew that I had to please God.”

“I knew that God wanted me to be submissive”

“I knew that this man was helping me learn to please God”

What if those in the pews had been taught that their whole salvation, from beginning to end, has already been accomplished in Christ? What if they hadn’t been told week after week after week that everything they were doing was wrong. What if they hadn’t been told how to work harder, try more, be more motivated, and instead had been taught what it means to rest in Christ’s finished and completed work? From rest in Christ comes joy in the Lord. Joy in the Lord results in love for God and love for neighbor. A Christian does not work because she has to, for how can love come from being ordered to love? But a Christian works because it is not possible for him not to. He brings forth the fruit of the Spirit because he is born again of the Spirit and united to Christ by the Spirit.

Perhaps if we actually drove the wolves from the pulpits and again accepted only the gospel, we would see the church again become light and strength and courage and salt in a world full of Harvey Weinsteins. But as long as those in the pulpits are in basic agreement with Hollywood producers (“You need something that only I can give you”) the churches will continue to be morally and spiritually bankrupt.

It is time to stop putting up with it. It is time that we all refuse to submit and support every Tetzel of every stripe. If you are being taught that Christ’s righteousness is not enough, or that we must somehow offer our own works to God as part of our holiness, then you need to either leave or file charges. If you are not in a denomination that hears charges, then it is time to leave. You are being fleeced.

Advertisements

25 Comments

Filed under Abuse, Faith, sola fide

25 responses to “Sola Fide and Assault

  1. Thank you thank you thank you…

  2. Leanne

    Thank you for this article. I grew up with works righteousness (even tho the CRC was supposed to know better) and put up with so much over the years because I believed I had to keep trying harder. Including for a while at the end of my abusive marriage when he was told to “try” to act more Christlike (no follow thru to see if he obeyed) and I was told I “had to” keep trying harder to please him, including doing whatever he wanted sexually even with the abuse continuing. Some memories still make me want to vomit. Thanks be to God I’m in a truly godly, Reformed church now!

  3. Reblogged this on See, there's this thing called biology… and commented:
    A huge and hearty amen for this post. All of it.

  4. What a fabulous post. Just reading it is like suddenly being able to breath again.

    .

  5. Great post, Sam! Thank you. Sharing it.

  6. Pingback: The connection between #MeToo and the rejection of ‘salvation by faith alone’ (Sola Fide) | A Cry For Justice

  7. Sister

    I now understand the connection you are making although I respectfully disagree. First, I want to start off with the fact that I appreciate much of your writing. For example, the posts you wrote about modesty were awesome as well as a number of your posts advocating for abuse victims, and calling out celebrity pastors. This site and ACFJ are an oasis for victims in the Evangelical Christian desert. Thank you. I should comment more on the awesome posts. Unfortunately, I tend to comment only when I see error that I don’t like hanging out there unchallenged. I want to put the referee whistle on and call a foul. I appreciate both sites letting me have my say when I do blow the whistle, whether you ultimately agree with me or not.

    I know you are not claiming the Heidelberg Catechism is Scripture, but you are reflecting it as an accurate interpretation of Scripture, which it is not. It’s a reflection of Calvinism. We tend to repeat things we were taught/indoctrinated with as Gospel/Biblical when often they are not.

    We are all sinners in need of the Savior, Yes. But are all sinners depraved? No. That doctrine is sin leveling. Only those who “want to be like the most High” who are all about power and control, enjoy manipulating, abusing, destroying others, ravenous wolves who wear sheepskin disguises who, like their father, seek to destroy, those whose conscience is seared, sadists, etc., they are the ones who are depraved. Predators are depraved. Or put another way, “the serpent’s seed” who are at enmity with “Eve’s seed.” They are depraved. Abusers are the poster children for depravity. No, we are not all depraved.

    Look at part of the answer to #60 you cited. “…that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil.” Have I disobeyed some of God’s commandments? Yes. Have I never kept any of them, and am I still prone always to all evil?” No. I have not violated all of them and I am a new creation. Admittedly, I am still prone to some sin, but all evil? No. And I would hazard a guess that the same is true for you, too.

    All sides of the theological debates seem to be a hair off the truth of the Bible. No, we cannot earn our salvation, but we cannot just accept Him as our Savior, but not our Lord. Are we perfect? No, but He is sanctifying us to become more and more like Him and His Perfection. I don’t believe you can lose your salvation per se, but we can reject Him and throw it away. He does not nullify our personal choice with His sacrificial gift. As someone so eloquently put it on Twitter recently, to be a Christ follower you have to follow Christ. People seem to think they can “sin so grace can abound” either through “easy believe-ism,” saying the “sinner’s prayer,” and/or through predestination “election.” The Bible is all about His sacrifice and grace and our choices/action in relation to accepting His sacrifice and grace. (I believe that if I say I accept Him, and then happily choose to live like the devil because I have my ticket punched for heaven, I will find myself sadly mistaken on the other side.). By believing this, I no longer have to “pretzel twist” or “do violence to” many passages to make them fit my doctrine. (Like Matthew 26 31-46; Matthew 27:24-28 1 Timothy 5:8, James 2:14-24 and actually, even a verse you took out of context in your prior post. You’re not the only one, virtually everyone I’ve heard, does. I’m referring to the bullet where you said, “That’s why Jesus said, ‘The Truth Will Set You Free.’” The complete sentence is John 8:31-32: “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ ”

    Having said that, let me say emphatically, as I’m sure you agree, it is not sinful for a victim to stand up for herself and her children (if she has children) to leave her abusive husband. She is the best judge over what is safest for herself and her children whether it is staying or leaving. And the church should be doing whatever it can to protect her and her children and stand by them regardless of the decision. It is okay for her to leave the abuse/abuser because it is okay for her to leave, not because of Calvinism. You do not mean this in your post, but if you take the thought to it’s logical conclusion you are inferring that not submitting/leaving etc.. is sin, but she not need not worry, because God has her sins covered. Granted you did not say that or mean it, but it is the logical conclusion of your premise. We both know it is not sin to stand up/leave.

    Calvinism and sadly most of it’s pastor adherents (you and Pastor Crippen excluded), “sin levels,” tells the victims they are just as depraved as their abusers and God predestined the abuse for good to come out of it for His Glory. Victims are told the abusers’ sins are no worse than their own. They are told to submit more and they bare the burden on them that God will use them to bring their husbands to Him. The victims want to obey God and are taught to do so they must obey church leaders and their husband. It is false doctrine/church leaders that make them prey telling them they are disobedient to leave. They do not make themselves prey! (I take umbrage with this comment: “Since every Christian has a tender conscience, and every Christian wants to please God, they become vulnerable to this kind of thinking. They also make themselves a prey, which is what Paul warns the church of in the book of Galatians.” This is victim blaming/wrong.

    Furthermore, Calvinism is not the only dangerous doctrine for abuse victims. The false doctrine of Headship is. It sets up hierarchy, gives the man power and control, just what the predators lust for. This teaching is the breeding ground that grooms Daughters of the King to be prey. Again, they fall prey, not because they are trying to earn their salvation, but because they want to obey God and they are taught to do so means they must obey church leaders and their husband.

    I so wish you and Pastor Crippen were not so resistant to studying/considering the Biblical arguments against Headship (home and church), presented by Gilbert Bilezikian, Catherine Bushnell, and others. The hierarchy is a man made consequence of the fall. Jesus was restoring things, but church leaders since have put it back in play. Tim Fall pointed out something in one of his posts that I had never been taught/considered. Yes, we know that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene after the resurrection. Usually, this is presented as see how Jesus valued women in a culture that didn’t (true), but then today’s Christian culture that still subordinates women leaves it at that. It had never been pointed out to me or even been considered, that Jesus commissioned a woman as the first evangelist/witnesses of the good news/gospel, very deliberately, even ahead of the disciples and she was to witness to the disciples. And what particularly stands out even more (although never pointed out by pastors/teachers) is not only was that so, but Jesus specifically waited until Peter and John, arguably his closest disciples, left the tomb before He showed Himself to Mary. Jesus was making a statement! That is just one example of where Scripture is rich with details that show women are equal, not subordinate in God’s eyes.

    Anyway, thank you for letting me respond.

    • We come from entirely different presuppositions. I hold and will continue to hold that the Heidelberg Catechism is a faithful summary of the doctrine of scripture, and will continue to do so.
      I am not sure where you got the impression that I am resistant to the biblical arguments against headship. I also believe that the heirarchy of man was a result of the fall, and have written extensively for that position. I do not believe that women should hold office in the church, however, but I respect the arguments of Tim Fall and others. I just don’t agree with them there. His critique of the patriarchal view is on point, however, and I tend to agree.
      I do not hold to your view of salvation, so there we would sharply disagree. I also hold to the Canons of Dort, which are a summary of the council at Dordt in 1617 answering the views that you espouse. The council rejected those views, and rather than regurgitate their arguments, I would simply point you in that direction if you would like to know what I believe. I believe that the council was correct, and the view of Arminius fall short of the doctrines of scripture.

      • Sister

        I see that we will not agree and I understand neither of us will change the mind of the other. But I do want to briefly respond in regard to your perception of my comment.

        I did a quick search on your site of Headship to see if I was off the mark re:Headship. You had a post which looking back I do remember reading: “Headship is not Hierarchy.” It was a decent post, but still indicated that you believe in Headship that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. (Granted you proceeded to explain that kind of headship means serving and you also correctly assert in the post that hierarchy did not exist prior to the fall.) Gilbert Bilezikian’s book in my opinion explains a more accurate interpretation to the Bible passage of which you base your view of headship. My perception is that you are not open to reading about/considering alternate interpretations of the “headship” passages. I could be wrong though.

        And finally, for what it’s worth, I’m not a follower of Arminius any more than I am a follower of Calvin. It’s a common myth that Christians must either be a Calvinist or Arminian. I skimmed through some of the Canons of Dort (not by any means reading all of them), but from the glance I gave it, I did not see anything that answered the arguments I presented from Scripture. It was a reaction to Arminianism.

        We disagree on the value of Catechisms, Councils, historic theologians, etc. Those things remind me of the Jewish leaders of Jesus Day, who loved to parse the law and had their hero rabbis they followed.

        My views are based primarily on having read the Bible from cover to cover multiple times. I also found some books helpful. Specifically, Bilezekian’s book showed me where I had been falsely indoctrinated by making a Biblical case against Headship that made a lot more sense than what I had been taught.

        Again, thank you for letting me have my say.

        I will end it on this positive note: I do believe in Sola Scriptura!

    • Sister has challenged Sam for use victim-blaming language when he said:
      “Since every Christian has a tender conscience, and every Christian wants to please God, they become vulnerable to this kind of thinking. They also make themselves a prey…”
      I tend to agree with Sister on this. To say that victims *make themselves* a prey is to depict victims as being entirely free agents who have been silly in ‘making themselves prey’ to legalists. But the reality is this: most legalists oppress and control their victims by their false teaching and coercion with punishment (e.g. stigmatization by the group) if you don’t comply.
      In his epistle to theGalatians Paul does call them foolish. But in the next breath he talks about the people who bewitched them: so the blame is mostly sheeted home to the false teaching legalists:
      “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth… Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?”
      I think it would have been better if you had said something like this, Sam:
      “Since every Christian has a tender conscience, and every Christian wants to please God, they become vulnerable to this kind of thinking. Oppressors (false christians) in the visible church relish this, because it enables them to more easily control and manipulate the true Christians.”

    • Hi Sister. 🙂 You said:

      “I so wish you and Pastor Crippen were not so resistant to studying/considering the Biblical arguments against Headship (home and church), presented by Gilbert Bilezikian, Catherine Bushnell, and others. … I also found some books helpful. Specifically, Bilezekian’s book showed me where I had been falsely indoctrinated by making a Biblical case against Headship that made a lot more sense than what I had been taught.”

      I have read Bilezikian’s book. I didn’t find it all that persuasive.

      I started to read Catherine Bushnell’s book, but when I got to a certain point I couldn’t keep going. The sticking point for me was when she claimed something about Eve without sufficient warrant from scripture. What she said was eisegesis, not exegesis. I recognise and honour Bushnell for her bravery in exposing the many ways men abuse and exploit women, and for trying to bring changes in christian culture that would make it safer for women. And I recognise that she was doing a pretty good job given the era she lived in and the resources she had and the disdain she received from most men in the church. But her speculations about Eve were so far fetched that I couldn’t keep reading.

    • Dear “sister”,
      I agree with your assessment of “sin-leveling” and that this is frequently done by those who claim to be “calvinists”. I. myself, never use that term, because of the ugly connotations. The confessions that I use also do not teach that. You can look at the whole of what the catechism says.
      The doctrine that we now call “Total depravity” does not mean what you characterized it to mean. it does not mean that everyone is equally bad, or as bad as they could be. I also wish that it had not been reduced to a slogan.
      What this section of the catechism means is that no one, not even a believer, has kept any of the commandments of God in a manner worthy of claiming merit before God’s judgment throne. If you look at what scripture actually requires in the ten commandments, you can see – if you honestly assess yourself according to scripture, that no one – except Jesus – ever kept any of the commandments to the extent of perfection, which God requires.
      Let’s just take the 6th – thou shalt not kill. It is pretty easy to claim that I have never murdered anyone, or even desired their death. But is this all that this commandment requires? It also requires that I love my neighbor as myself, put away all desires of revenge, and have as great of a concern towards the life and prosperity of my neighbor that I do for myself. My building codes will always be perfect, I will not gossip, twist words, tear anyone down.
      And only one time – only once – is enough to separate me from God forever. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
      And that is just one of the commandments. For more information, you could look at questions 91 through 115 of the catechism.
      All of this will continually drive us to Christ for forgiveness each day.
      This is not at all to say that people “deserve what they get”, or that an abused wife is the same as her abuser. David, even though he could never earn merit with God (see psalm 51) and also needed Christ’s imputed righteousness – was still right when it came to Saul, and cried out for God’s vindication. These are two different topics.
      I can be righteous in a cause or dispute, and will still need Christ’s covering on the day of judgment. We can’t get these confused.

    • Sister, Ps Sam Powell’s sermon on Psalm 10 is very helpful because in that sermon he distinguishes between original sin (which is described in the term ‘total depravity’) and the particular sins which church leaders often (falsely) accuse victims of abuse of having committed.

      Many leaders who supposedly believe in Reformed theology confuse the concept of ‘total depravity’ with the particular sins which a person might (or might not) have committed. This confusion does immense harm to victims of abuse and oppression.

  8. adad0

    “A Christian does not work because she has to, for how can love come from being ordered to love?” Sam Powell

    John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus

    So Sam, Jesus commands (orders) us to love. Are you in a denomination that hears truth?

    • You’ve missed the point of the whole of scripture. In the Old Covenant, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Israel was commanded to love God. They did not, because they, as all men are, were prone by nature to hate. The command, though, still remains. Only when the Holy Spirit was poured out could anyone learn to love God. My statement about Christians is true. The command, by itself, cannot ever produce love. But the command of Jesus to love brings about the power to fulfill that command. The command itself produced nothing but slavery and fear (Romans 7). But the life and the heart of love was brought by the Spirit through the gospel of Christ.
      I will not continue this discussion, and will delete any more comments. I hold to the three forms of unity, teach them, promote them, and live them.
      You are picking at gnats and swallowing camels, and I won’t do that on my page. Go somewhere else.

      • Anyone could have stood at the grave of Lazarus and commanded him to come forth. But he was dead. When Jesus commanded him to come forth, his words gave him a new nature that came out of the tomb.
        So also our new birth. The command to love produces nothing but slavery and fear. But when Jesus gives life, the command is obeyed instinctively. If you say that you lov God and hate your brother, you are a liar. What you need to do is repent and believe the gospel – then your love for God and your love for brother will flow naturally through sanctification of the spirit.

  9. Sam, regarding this, “We are all sinners in need of the Savior, Yes. But are all sinners depraved? No.”

    I was really blessed by total depravity, it explained everything and the world began to make sense. But for victims of abuse who have been really beaten down, who have been spiritually abused,who have been falsely labeled guilty sinners with no chance of redemption,it doesn’t sit well. I’ve yet to find a way to bridge that gap. It’s like you get labeled totally depraved and constantly told to repent, and if you’ve got any mental health left after that, you’ll just flee the whole concept emotionally.

    The same is true of headship,what a fabulous design, what a beautiful dance, and yet you see authority abused just once,and you want to scratch the whole concept.

  10. Gany T.

    Thank you so much for this post. To me, THIS is how the theoretical worlds of doctrine and church history are to be examined and applied to current crises, such as the abundance of wolves in evangelicalism. But only a regenerate person illuminated by God’s Spirit will discern it, CARE, and labor to expose and combat this. Thank you for doing that.

  11. Juliet

    Abusers can manipulate any doctrine to their own ends. If they are calvinistic they will say that you cannot complain since you are totally depraved (and everyone else is too) (levelling). If they are arminian they say you are not perfect and must work harder; God will throw you into hell for resisting or refuting them. Both will use the hierarchy verses to submit women and devalue them. The struggle for the victim is always to believe God really loves them and that they are his child, safe and loved by him,. This is very difficult and likely impossible, when living under a tyrant. You are not safe, so it is insanity to try and feel or believe you are safe. That’s where cognitive dissonance begins. You cannot reconcile your supposed Christian happy marriage and home, and your safety in the loving arms of God with the periodic moments of sub-human darkness and depravity. . One minute you are in fellowship, all praying sweetly together, the next running for safety from Mr Hyde. The tyrant brainwashes you with his supposed superior, God ordained, headship and you are deemed a rebel if you question. Yet during the Bible studies he speaks lovingly of women, holding them in high esteem even above men, and how God did indeed reveal his risen body to them first. This is from personal experience from domestic abuse and violence. I still believe that God is lovely but have lost my trust in other Christians at the moment. The narcissist’ dark mistrust of humanity has infected me. His constant ability to present himself as two different people has confused me and made me wonder if all men are the same.

  12. Hi Sam, Sister and Insanitybytes22. T
    Sister said:

    “We are all sinners in need of the Savior, Yes. But are all sinners depraved? No. That doctrine is sin leveling. Only those who ‘want to be like the most High’ who are all about power and control, enjoy manipulating, abusing, destroying others, ravenous wolves who wear sheepskin disguises who, like their father, seek to destroy, those whose conscience is seared, sadists, etc., they are the ones who are depraved. Predators are depraved. Or put another way, ‘the serpent’s seed’ who are at enmity with ‘Eve’s seed.’ They are depraved. Abusers are the poster children for depravity. No, we are not all depraved. …

    Responding to Sister’s comment, Insanitybytes said:

    “I was really blessed by total depravity, it explained everything and the world began to make sense. But for victims of abuse who have been really beaten down, who have been spiritually abused, who have been falsely labeled guilty sinners with no chance of redemption, it doesn’t sit well. I’ve yet to find a way to bridge that gap. It’s like you get labeled totally depraved and constantly told to repent, and if you’ve got any mental health left after that, you’ll just flee the whole concept emotionally.”

    I believe there is a need for someone like Sam Powell (and myself at A Cry For Justice) to write posts explaining what the Reformed theology actually means by the term ‘total depravity’, and how the doctrine of ‘total depravity’ relates to — and is DIFFERENT FROM — the sins which genuine Christians commit when we fall short in our walk with God, which we all do.

    It is important to do this because many victims of abuse have been oppressed by so-called Reformed churches. When the victims have reported what their abusers are doing, the church leaders have told them: “You are a sinner too! Total depravity applies to everyone!” That cruel response by church leaders is indeed sin levelling. It fails to properly employ the doctrine of total depravity. It lays mountains of false blame on victims and minimizes the abuser’s culpability.

    This wooden and cruel application of the term ‘total depravity’ has caused many people to reject Reformed theology altogether. I think that is regrettable. More to the point, it is an injustice that needs to be confronted and resisted with sound teaching.

    • I agree wholeheartedly, Barbara. This is why I get so fired up when the doctrines of scripture are reduced to slogans. The history of the doctrine of Total depravity is long and involved. It began with a dispute in Holland in the Reformed Churches. Arminius started teaching that man could choose to follow Jesus apart from the grace of regeneration and it caused strife. A synod was called in Dort in 1617 to answer his followers. The question was, “Does man have the ability to choose God freely apart from the grace of regeneration?” The synod rightly answered that there are none that seek God, none that do good. If God does not change the heart, the heart remains hardened.
      There were actually five points of dispute at the time, and the synod responded with five “heads of doctrine”, which become known as the Canons of Dordt.
      Later on, some clever bloke somewhere came up with TULIP to help the kids learn what those five heads of doctrine were.
      It was never intended to be the sum total of what Reformed theology stood for, and it had only to do with the answer to the followers of Arminius, known as the Remonstrants. To really understand what was being said, we can’t reduce it to slogans, and we can’t separate it from the historical dispute. This is hard to do when we live in an age of Twitter. “if it can’t be said in under 140 characters, I don’t want to hear it”
      I would recommend to anyone looking to know more about total depravity – what it is and what it isn’t – to look directly at the source, in the canons of Dordt, and judge them for yourself by comparing them to the scriptures.
      It pains me to know that they are being twisted to justify the abuse of the vulnerable. How horrible!
      I need to write a post on that…

    • Lea

      “It is important to do this because many victims of abuse have been oppressed by so-called Reformed churches.”

      Honest Question, have you seen the same happen in non-patriarchal/complementarian churches?

  13. One thing I have learned, abusers will twist anything. Here in secular world we have the doctrine of sustainability and recycling of political correctness and equality, totally absent of faith, and yet even those things can be perverted into a message that says, “you’re bad,you deserve to be abused, it’s all your fault.” So something I’ve tried to do is to look for the heart behind the words. The pharisees,the Sadducees, were probably well versed, better versed then most of us,and yet obviously their heart was all wrong.

    So I can’t really blame complementarians or slogans or tulips, because absent all those things people still get blindsided by abuse. So in my thinking it becomes more of a heart matter,a spiritual issue, and the importance of that heart is a really hard thing to convey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s