Mat 13:37-39 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. (38) The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, (39) and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.
Last week I listened to a podcast by James White, a well-known Reformed Baptist apologist whose program is called The Dividing Line. He was addressing a statement by Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore who was responding to the Houston Chronicle’s series on the hundreds of sexual abuse cases in SBC churches and how they have been covered up by SBC leaders.
White took Moore to task for saying that the Roman Catholic doctrines of the priesthood are not the cause of the hundreds of pedophilia crimes perpetrated by RC priests. After insisting on just the opposite conclusion, ie, that RC clerical pedophilia is indeed caused by the false doctrine of the priest being “another Christ,” White pointed to another cause of sexual abuse by church leaders in the SBC – bad ecclesiology (ie, the doctrine of the church).
White said that among Southern Baptists, just about anyone who claims to be called to the pastoral ministry is assumed to in fact have that calling from the Lord and no one is to question it. I assume then that what White means is that this is a broad path by which the wicked can creep into local churches, even as pastors. White then emphasized the need for a biblical ecclesiology – namely, local churches being led by multiple elders who are biblically qualified and who have been installed in their offices according to biblical procedures. He did not overtly say so, but I hear him saying that the sins of the “sheep” need to be kept in check, and therefore biblically qualified elders must be in place in a local church to ensure that the flock’s sin does not break out among them.
Now, I also believe that the biblical pattern for church leadership is that of multiple elders who are qualified for that office according to Scripture. I believe as well that Rome’s false doctrine of the priesthood absolutely contributes to pedophiles hiding in the churches. And I too agree that many, many people who claim to be called by the Lord to be a pastor have not heard the Lord’s calling at all. However…
As I listened to White, I could not help but conclude that he is missing the real point. Because, after all, we know of myriads of cases of evil perpetrated by church leaders who are in churches with what White would call a “biblical ecclesiology.” Doctrinally I myself align with Reformed Baptists and their historic confession of faith and yet the condition of so many Reformed Baptist churches today is one that very often permits abuse of all sorts to thrive under cover. Take the infamous and present case of “The Reverend” Tom Chantry for instance (which originated in White’s own state of Arizona).
So then, just how does evil creep in among the flock in the local church and even end up filling the office of pastor or elder? What is it that was absent from at least this particular broadcast of James White? I think it is this:
You Must be Born Again
Is it not interesting that the very first thing Jesus zero’d in on when a Pharisee, a leader of the “church,” came to Him one night was this very thing…you must be born again? We too often just brush this off with a “Oh yes, to be saved you have to believe in Jesus so He gives you a new heart and forgives you of your sin. Now let’s move on.” But Jesus’ words are fundamental, foundational, and profound. Listen to His Word again in different terms but with the very same truth:
Joh 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
And again by the Apostle Paul:
1Co 2:12-14 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (13) And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (14) The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
And this is the point at which the visible church in this present world goes wrong so often. Church pews are filled with people who are not regenerate, who are devoid of the Spirit of God. Pulpits are filled with men who do not know the Lord even though they may even have their doctrinal “I’s” dotted and “T’s” crossed. They have been sown among us by the devil himself.
These kind of people always look to law of some kind to regulate the people of God, and that very law is the power of sin. They know nothing of the new birth of the inner man even though they may issue the traditional altar call each Sunday. They are flesh and all that they produce is flesh.
And this is at the heart of what is happening in local churches today. This is the source of the evil. Unconverted leaders, unconverted members who have been assured that they are saved….no matter what. “We are all sinners” they are told and thus their habitual walking in sin and their love for it is excused. Why, even if a member or pastor turns out to be a pedophile who has been horridly abusing children under cover of “saintliness,” he is embraced, his sin is largely excused, his victims are pushed aside, and “the Lord is praised” for His “mercy and kindness and love and forgiveness.” And woe to anyone who questions the reality of any of it.
Why are the churches filled today with abusers – sexual, domestic, and spiritual? Why are the lives of “christians” who fill the pews each Sunday so remarkably like those of the pagan world (or worse)? The answer is obvious – they are not born again. They do not know the Lord and He does not know them. They are the “many” who the Lord spoke of:
Mat 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ (23) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’