The Real Source of Evil Hiding in Local Churches

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…

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The Blindness of Seeing Only What we Want to See

Jer 6:14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.

The Jews knew full well what the Law of God said. They also knew the promised blessings for obeying that Law and the certain curses for disobeying it. In addition, they knew that they had been doing anything but living in obedience to the Lord. Jeremiah’s preaching exposed their sin and announced coming judgment.

But they did not want judgment. They didn’t want to see it. So they didn’t. They embraced the message of “peace, peace.” Until the hammer fell.

So it was in France and England in May of 1940. The allies were “at war” and yet they did not believe there would be a Nazi invasion. Here is an example of this willful blindness taken from William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill (Volume 2, The Last Lion) –

One French pilot did see the [Nazi] buildup on the evening of the eighth of May. He was over the Ruhr, returning from a propaganda mission, dropping leaflets urging the German people to overthrow Hitler and thus bring peace. Above Dusseldorf he looked down and saw a 60 mile line of tanks and trucks headed for the Ardennes [where the Germans were going to pull off a surprise attack]. They were driving with their lights on. He reported his discovery. It was dismissed as not credible.

And again:

Five months earlier, as Europe slept away the winter, a German airplane carrying two staff officers was blown off course and forced to land in Belgium. The officers tried and failed to burn the papers they carried, which happened to contain the OKW’s [German High Command] revised operation orders for the invasion of the Low Countries (Belgium, Holland, etc) including a thrust through the Ardennes. British intelligence perused the captured papers. The high arts of deception and double cross being well practiced by both the Germans and the British, it was concluded that the papers were a plant, a ruse, and therefore, unbelievable.

But they weren’t. The Ardennes was precisely the point the Nazis would invade through, and the very point that the French military leaders insisted was an impenetrable maze that no army could ever come through.

The French and the British, in these cases, had hard facts and proof thrown right into their faces. Yet they disregarded those facts. Why? Because they did not want to believe what the facts proved. There would be no war. Or if it came, it would come at points that were well fortified and defended. The allies would soon pay a high, high price for their refusal to see what they did not want to see.

And so it is when the facts tell us that evil has come in among us. A mother and wife goes to her pastor and tells him about the horrific treatment she has been suffering at the hands of her upstanding, well-respected, “christian” husband. Church leaders and members see a man, a member of their church, energetically pursuing “ministry” with troubled young people or maintaining age-inappropriate relationships. They receive reports that this man is taking a few young people “camping.” But he is such a fine “servant of the Lord.” The most likable fellow you could ever meet. The facts point to the need for great caution and the establishment of firm boundaries. But no action is taken. Why? Because the church leaders and members do not want to see what the facts are pointing to. They do not want to consider that evil is sitting right there in the pew with them Sunday after Sunday, year after year.

Willful blindness is a sin. It enables evil. It oppresses the victims. It ignores the warnings and instructions of the Word of God. It is selfish. Rather than face up to the truth that the Nazis are coming, willful blindness chooses to embrace the fantasy even though millions are going to die as a result.

We Cannot be Careless About Who we Allow Our Children to be With

Mat 19:14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

When I was a youngster I was put in many situations that could easily have resulted in me being victimized by a pedophile or some other abuser. I remember once when there was a record-breaking flood in Southern Oregon. We lived along the river and the water got into our house, so we had to stay with the neighbors. The mother was a very kind woman – she may even have been a Christian. Her husband was a foul-mouthed man and so were her two sons who were in their early 20’s.

One evening when the flood waters were receding a bit, just enough to permit driving on the highway into town, my parents let me accompany one of the sons to the grocery store with a list of things to pick up. He had a car and off we went. On the way, right out of the blue, he asks (I was only 12), “so Jeff, are you masturbating yet?” Needless to say I was taken aback because we didn’t talk about such subjects in our family. But he kept pressing for an answer. I don’t know what I said, I must have mumbled something. But then he proceeded to tell me how his first ______ was one of his high school teachers.

Now, here is my point. Even though nothing else happened, the fact is that my parents, in their naivete, allowed me to be placed in a dangerous and harmful situation. They did not know this young man really. Yet they carelessly assumed. And then they sent me off with him.

I could tell you many similar stories. I had an older relative who kept pornography in his room and my parents often left me there while they were on vacation. Oh, and this was a “Christian” family you know. His parents were very active in their church. He went on in life to embrace homosexuality. Then there was the female relative, a few years older than me, who as I look back on it now was certainly being sexually molested by her much older brother. Yet, again, my parents very often just turned me loose with these people, unsupervised.

Almost all of you, I suspect, could tell very similar stories of your childhood. Some if not many of you probably never told your parents about some molestation episode because, well, you never talked about such things in your family. Besides, would they believe you? Would they think it was really all that serious? Maybe they would be angry with you and tell you it was your fault. And, in your childhood thinking, maybe it was your fault?

Moms, dads, you cannot assume. You must not allow your children to be turned loosed to run unsupervised with the neighbor kids, with some classmate who wants them to spend the night, with those children of your  own siblings (ie, your children’s cousins), with coaches or teammates, school teachers – ANYONE! If you think that I am exaggerating the case, then I would tell you that you are naive and careless.

Evil lurks. Evil dwells in the heart of man. It is all around us.

And woe, woe, woe to the evil ones who cause the little ones to stumble.