Q/A Friday: Should We Use Reading Materials from Authors or Pastors That Have “Fallen From Grace”?

Tullian Tchividjian. Mark Driscoll. Peter T. O’Brien. Bill Hybels. James MacDonald.

Each of these 5 men of have 2 things in common: (1) I own books written by each of them that sit on my shelves and have been useful, in some way, to me in the past and (2) each of these men have “fallen from grace” as pastors or authors – either because they were rightfully terminated by their church’s or conducted themselves in some unethical way.

Let me explain why I am willing to keep these men’s books on my shelves and make use of them again.

  1. It is impossible to know the true character of every man and woman you ever read. How many hundreds of authors do I have on my bookshelf I know in name only? Probably most. Do I have the time – or should I take the time – to read the biographies of every one of those people to make sure they have no questionable character? Nope. And don’t we all have questionable character? Yup. There is no such thing as a perfect person who has written a perfect book.
  2. Owning a book by someone is not condoning their known behavior. I suppose someone can make the case that a purchase of a book indirectly supports that author’s life when your money is part of a royalty check someday, but buying a book for $19.99 is not a noticeable percentage of that royalty check. Now, if your church wanted to buy 50 books by any of those men listed above, then a conversation about the wisdom of that purchase may need to take place.
  3. We read and memorize words from adulterers, drunks, liars, and the like in the Bible. Sins committed doesn’t always prohibit men and women from communicating truth well in a helpful way. As the slang phrase goes, “You can keep the baby and still throw away the bathwater.”

Now, I would certainly caution authors or bloggers or pastors from using these men in a direct way in their teaching or writing. I have – on occasion – quoted from men like this, but prefer to use language like “someone once said” instead of “(fill in name) once said,” because some Christians cannot handle the use of others who have fallen from grace and will be more distracted by who you quote than what that person actually said that might have been true.

On the other hand, there is always some other author or preacher you can quote from who has no known public “falling” on record. It is always best to choose that individual – who has no “baggage” – in my opinion. This allows your audience to focus more on the truth that is stated than the person who states it.

I would also add that if we choose to use certain books by men like these, we should still be saddened over their past sins and pray for them that their words would align with their heart.

If you are uncertain about how to use, or if you should use a work at all, I would encourage you to consult your elders or pastors in your church for their counsel (Proverbs 11:14).

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please email it to charlesheck@cox.net or post your question in the comments section.

II Samuel 13 and the SBC Crisis

See the source imagePerhaps you have been reading the articles and blogs from evangelicals leaders around the country that came as a result of The Houston Chronicle’s article released on February 10. This article details the problem of sexual abuse that has existed in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for a minimum of 20 years and has involved at least 700 victims.

The study included 29 states looking at instances of abuse from 1997-2018. 380 people (including pastors, teachers, and church volunteers) had trustworthy accusations made against them during that time period. Of that group, over 200 were convicted of sex crimes, 90 of them are still in prison, and 100 of them are registered sex offenders.

The Houston Chronicle’s article included the following examples of sexual abuse: molestation of teens, sexually explicit photos or texts sent and received, porn exposure, photographing people naked, and rape from youth minsters.

Thankfully, many have condemned these awful discoveries, and the President of the SBC – J.D. Greear – has begun issuing statements regarding how the SBC and Christians everywhere need to respond and address this “in house” problem.

I don’t know that I have anything to contribute that hasn’t already been said to the conversation in regard to what our responses should be. Since I have never been part of the SBC, I don’t have specific recommendations for them either. And I am thankful that we have safeguards in place at my home church for this kind of illegal and evil activity.

But, there is a passage of Scripture that has been on my mind as the news of these discoveries were released. And the passage is not a pleasant one, but one we need to read and heed. It is II Samuel 13.

In this narrative, David’s son Amnon lusted after his half-sister Tamar and the text says that he desired her in a violent fashion. In other words, he would take her by force, if necessary.

Amnon wasn’t sure how to fulfill his lustful desires until David’s nephew Jonadab suggested that he pretend to be sick and send for Tamar to come and nurse him. David didn’t see what Amnon as up to; so, he sent Tamar to his son Amnon.

When Tamar came into the room of Amnon and to his bed, Amnon told her to sleep with him. She refused because of the clear violation of God’s law (Leviticus 18:11), because of the shame it would bring upon both of them, and because they were not married to one another.

Amnon chose to rape her anyway.

Then, he sent her away from him to face her shame in a public fashion. He had treated her like an object for his sexual desires and booted her from his bedroom, like the object he viewed her to be.

She immediately wore her shame in a literal way as she tore the robe that had made to symbolize her virginity. She also put ashes upon her head to symbolize her great sorrow.

Absalom came to her and basically said, “You’re overacting. Don’t worry about it.” He minimized the significance of what happened to her.

Perhaps I have chosen an extreme example, but Absalom’s initial response reminds me of what I was reading in that article about sexual abuse in the SBC and what I have been accustomed to reading about the Catholic priesthood for a few decades – people minimizing others sexual sufferings or – even worse – trying to cover it up.

King David heard about this and was angry, but guess what? He was not just. He did NOTHING to Amnon. He let it be.

One of the godliest men we read of in the Bible didn’t protect the sexually abused…even in his own family! And during the rebellion of Absalom, David’s reputation for being unjust would be Absalom’s campaign slogan (II Samuel 15:4).

Brothers and sisters, sexual abuse is no joke. It should not be happening anywhere, and the church should not be a story on the front page of any newspaper about it’s mishandling of sexual abuse cases or condoning that behavior or employing men and women who are sexual predators.

It is time for us to examine our own hearts for impurities. It is time for us to dismiss any hint of immorality in our bones (Ephesians 5:3). It is time for us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). It is time for judgment to come to the house of the Lord (I Peter 4:17).

7 Features of a Good Sermon

In the late 19th century, R.L. Dabney penned the book Lectures of Sacred Rhetoric: Or a Course of Lectures on Preaching. As some have determined, this book quickly because one of the premier books on how to prepare a sermon and deliver it (aka homiletics).

In this book, Dabney gave “The Seven Cardinal Requisites (meaning ”regulations”) of Preaching.” He believed that every sermon must possess these 7 features.

  1. “Textual Fidelity” – Preaching is not about personal agendas or opinions or “soap boxes.” Preaching is about letting the text speak for itself. Preaching is an opportunity for God to speak, not for us to speak.
  2. “Unity” – The whole sermon must communicate a thought or key point. There should never be wandering, disjointed, disorganized thoughts. A listen must know what the text was about when the sermon comes to an end.
  3. “Evangelical Tone” – Preachers are to be committed to the sanctification of their audience. They must be motivated by eternal realities – for those that will perish in hell and those that will flourish in heaven.
  4. “Instructiveness” – A sermon should inform the listener. We must be informed of the Gospel’s power. We must be informed of God’s faithful works. We must be informed of how God’s Word works. We must be informed of the Spirit’s enabling. Our minds must be engaged when the preacher is speaking.
  5. “Movement” – There should be a beginning and an end to every sermon. Or as one of my professors in seminary use to take, “Learn to take off and land the plane.” The listener should be able to determine where the sermon is headed.
  6. “Point” – There should be a lesson or point of interest that is being impressed upon the heart of the listener. It is that point that each listener must determine whether he will disagree with the message, embrace it, or deny it.
  7. “Order” – Sermons should be organized. If you have the previous 6 requisites, you will have this 7th requisite. Order is what makes the sermon memorable.

These 7 requisites are not necessarily everything important feature of a sermon, but they are a good place to start.

You Are Who You Are With

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” (Psalm 1:1)

We are blessed by the company we keep. We are truly happy by the types of people we surround ourselves with.

Did you notice there are 3 groups of people the man of God does not keep company with.

He does not walk “in the counsel of the ungodly.” The walk refers to his way of living and his habits. He does not participate with “the ungodly” or the wicked. Their counsel refers to their plan or manner. The man of God does not participate in the planning or orchestration of wickedness.

He does not stand “in the path of sinners.” This is more deliberate than walking in evil counsel. Standing refers to taking part in their actions and following along the same moral paths.

He does not sit “in the seat of the scornful.” Sitting refers to placing yourself under something or someone as supreme to you. The idea is of taking up residence with those who scorn, or more appropriately “to those who mock goodness.”

Charles Spurgeon has some helpful comments regarding these 3 groups the man of God does not keep company with and the gradation of them. He writes in The Treasury of David, “At first they merely walk in the counsel of the careless and ungodly, who forget God – the evil is rather practical than habitual – but after that, they become habituated to evil, and they stand in the way of open sinners who willfully violate God’s commandments; and if let alone, they go one step further, and become themselves pestilent teachers and tempters of others, and thus they sit in the seat of the scornful. They have taken their degree in vice, and as true Doctors of Damnation they are installed.”

What Spurgeon says is true: each of these 3 groups show digression in character as they progress through the verse. Each verb builds upon one another – a man walks, then stands, then sits. It is a downward spiral and proves to us that a man who falls doesn’t fall very far.

The lesson? People will impact you. You are like the people you associate with.

J.C. Ryle, Giving Advice to Teens About Peer Pressure

See the source image“Young men, be of good courage. Don’t worry what the world says or thinks: you will not always be with the world. Can man save your soul? No. Will man be your judge in the great and dreadful day of judgment? No. Can man give you a good conscience in this life, a good hope in death, a good answer in the morning of resurrection? No! no! no! Man can do nothing of the sort. Then ‘Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool’ (Isaiah 51:7-8). Call to mind the saying of Gardiner: ‘I fear God, and therefore I have no one else to fear.’ Go and be like him.” (Thoughts for Young Men)

Just In Case You Missed It – July 9-16, 2019

Abuse of Faith” by Robert Downer, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco (Houston Chronicle). Sad news released this week about the history of sex abuse in the last 20 years in the Southern Baptist Convention. You can also read responses from Dale Johnson, Trillia Newbell, Gene Veith, Tom Ascol, Joe Carter, Trevin Wax, Al Mohler and Russell Moore. I hope to address it next Wednesday on this blog.

Don’t Put Your Hope in Date Night” by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler (The Gospel Coalition). As a believer in “date night” for spouses, there are good cautions to consider in this article.

John MacArthur Celebrates 50 Years at Grace Church” by Jeff Robinson (The Gospel Coalition). An interview with Johnny-Mac.

Protecting Children in the Church with Rachael Denhollander” (Practical Shepherding). A 2-part interview with the young woman God used to “bring down” Larry Nasser.

A Puritan Primer: The ABC’s of Counseling the Aged” by Donn Northup (Biblical Counseling Coalition). Before psychology was introduced to the world, biblical counseling was the only form of counseling. This article gives a taste of that era of counseling.