Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 5 OF 5: CONCLUSION

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

 

As we have looked into Scripture to consider if being forgiven means “it never happened,” the point of critical failure occurs when you insert the backsliding problem.  If (1) sinners must give an account of all of their sins, and (2) if a Christian is capable of backsliding, then God cannot truly forget our sins until we are no longer capable of backsliding.  The only way to maintain that forgiveness means that it never happened is to disprove either of the two premises just mentioned.  I’m not aware of any person that has tried to disprove point (1): we all agree that sinners must account for each and every sin.  The only way to overcome premise (2) is to invoke Calvinism, which I do not think Calvary Temple is interested in doing.  At least not after they so artfully argued that Calvinists are heretics, after several ex-congregants chose to go to a Reformed church.  Actually, it was a chance to hear Jon Miller at his best.  I believe his argument was “Calvinism is stupid.  You would have to be an idiot to believe it.”  No, the irony was not lost on me.

 

Excluding Calvinism, we must conclude that God choosing not to remember our sin is much different from the human notion of forgetting.  There is a sense in which God forgets our sin.  But it must be pointed out that, if we really believe that God lives outside of time in such a manner that He sees past, present, and future simultaneously, and if we further believe that our God is all-knowing, it doesn’t make sense to then assert that He has forgotten our sins in the same way that we might forget things.  He cannot lay aside His omniscience in the sense that He can forget our sin.  Furthermore, Scripture indicates that we must give an account of everything that we have done.  How can we give an account for something that God forgot?  Since we aren’t Calvinist from the perspective of “once saved always saved,” the “forgetful God” argument forces us to hold to the notion that if one were to turn their back on Christ, the sins that God had forgotten would somehow be “unforgotten.”  Of course that is nonsensical.  As we have shown, the Bible indicates that God’s not remembering our sin has to do with a position of finality and right standing before His throne.  He knows where our sin is: it has been vicariously placed on Christ’s account and Christ’s righteousness placed on our account.  This effectively cancels the debt of our sin, but it does not mean that it did not originally occur in the first place.  Such an extrapolation is dangerous because it would be used as a waiver for felonious crimes, and men who deserve to be in jail could justify dodging the law because it’s all “under the blood.”

 

The difference that must be understood is that God’s forgiveness is meant to absolve us of divine guilt, but it does not preclude us from earthly guilt.  It couldn’t.  That would be inconsistent with Romans 13 and 1 Peter 4, as stated previously.  How should we then respond to different levels of sin, especially those that are also felonious crimes?  God does not view all sin equally, and frankly neither should we.  It is folly to suggest that the person who comes to Christ and continues to struggle with mental lust and the person who “comes to Christ” and continues to engage in child molestation are somehow both just learning how to walk out their sanctification.  As Christians we may be called to meekness, but we are not called to be fools.  It is our responsibility before God to use some measure of common sense as we apply the tests for conversion that have been given to us.  We need to understand that the regeneration of a human heart necessarily must cause them to not spend the subsequent years molesting children.

 

Returning to Scott’s claims, it appears that his interpretation of God’s forgetfulness is different than David’s.  Scott has made the jump from (1) “God does not remember my sins” to (2) “It is as though my sin never happened” to (3) “my sin really never happened.”  Basically, he is playing a game of connect the dots and trying to convince you that the three dots on the page make a square.  My point is that there is something missing in his logical sequence to get from step (2) to step (3).  This is a classic case of “extrapolating from an extrapolation” as opposed to “extrapolating from the Bible,” which has occurred due to his prima facie reading of Psalm 103 and Micah 7 that didn’t consider the original context of those passages.  Had he studied it out a little further, he would have noticed that at step (1), “God does not remember my sins in the sense that I have been freed from the divine penalty of my sins,” such that step (2) becomes “It is as though my sin never happened in the sight of God as it relates to the eternal consequence of my sin,” and then step (3) wouldn’t exist because he would note that steps (1) and (2) do not preclude him from earthly consequences.

 

Let us return to our thought experiment, only let us replace Jerry Sandusky with someone else.  If we were to look at a young man who claimed to become a Christian in 1969 and chose to attend Bible school and spent the entirety of the years that he was at that school repeatedly and relentlessly abusing young girls, we would have to come to the conclusion that such a young man was never truly a Christian: much less called to ministry.  I know people get catty about how only God knows if someone is truly a Christian, but if they fail the tests from 2 Corinthians 5 and 1 John, I think we have a responsibility to question their salvation.  That’s before you get into the lists of what an elder should be.  Certainly, any person would have the right to say “you know, I don’t feel comfortable with this man being my pastor because I don’t think he qualifies for eldership and I’m not sure he qualifies to be a pastor.  I need to go to church somewhere else.”

 

If we are all supposed to forget the sins of every person who claimed to be a Christian, then there is no such thing as being beyond reproach.  1 Timothy 3 indicates that being “beyond reproach” is different than being “under the blood.”  It further indicates that there are situations in which we are not expected to treat sin as though it never happened, or else the notion of being beyond reproach would be a nonsensical qualification.  I maintain that Star Scott was not and is not beyond reproach.  His reputation among the world is nauseating, and the behavior for which he alone is responsible makes a mockery of the holiness that we as Christians ought to walk in.  If you are a current CT member and you are still reading, please pause and consider this: if his victims were ever able to draw up the courage to testify in court, there are police standing by that would arrest your pastor today and put him in jail for the rest of his life.  I mean, if we decided that the most basic litmus test for being beyond reproach was that you shouldn’t be able to be arrested for child molestation and thrown in prison for the rest of your life, would that be taking too much upon ourselves?  No, rather the man who begun in such hideous sin and continued in such grave error fits every characterization of a wolf that the Bible gives us.  This isn’t about being empathetic.  It’s about being wise, and applying the tests that the Bible and our God-given common sense compel us to apply.

 

A CT congregant might point out that the Apostle Paul had a dark past, and apparently he was beyond reproach.  There are several issues that must be addressed with the Star Scott/Apostle Paul analogy.  First off, Saul was not saved when he was doing these things, whereas Star Scott insists that he was. It is important to really understand how this affects his candidacy to be a pastor, which I will outline below:

 

  1. If someone says that they have become a Christian, and they spend the next three years repeatedly and relentless molesting children, their conversion was not genuine.

 

It’s time that as Christians we stopped beating around the bush when it comes to basic Bible tests.  If Scott spent the first few years after he supposedly became a Christian continuing to live a habitual life of sin, he was not born of God.  If he had truly been born of God, he could not go on sinning.  This is the plain as day meaning of 1 John 3:9, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin…they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”  There simply is no way around it.  Furthermore, as we have already established, not all sin is equal.  Certainly there exist cases where new Christians have to learn to walk in sanctification.  But in extreme cases like serial murder, lifestyles of rape, and continual child molestation, we cannot broaden God’s path to include these categories when 1 John 3:9 makes it clear that they do not qualify.  That being said, there is an out for Star Scott.  He could claim that his original conversion was not genuine but he eventually repented and truly became a Christian some time after this was all sorted out.  As we continue on, we will see the difficulty of such a stance.

 

  1. If someone is not a Christian, they cannot hear from God.

 

This is one that has flown under the radar for too long.  Too many TV preachers claim that God endorsed their ministry before they ever came to Christ, as though that somehow adds validity to what otherwise appears to be a failed ministry.  In our hyper-Charismatic culture, we’re almost terrified to point out that someone might not have heard from God, lest we risk “speaking against the Spirit.”  The problem is that we fall into that very error by attributing to the Spirit things He did not say.  I don’t care which flaky televangelist says otherwise, non-Christians can hear nothing from God except His call to repentance.  To believe otherwise flies directly in the face of 1 Corinthians 2:14, which says “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”  This further applies to the knowledge gained while at Bible College.  Without the Spirit’s nurturing, any heathen in Bible College would be unable to grasp the actual meaning of the Word and would be practically destined to become a slipshod, uninformed, biased, and deceitful preacher.

 

  1. Just because you pay tuition at a Bible College does not mean you meet the basic qualifications for ministry.

 

In this case, you have a man who dare I say was not a Christian, could not have heard any call from God  besides the call to repentance, and failed almost every prerequisite laid out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.  He was not (1) blameless, (2) of good behavior, (3) able to teach, (4) not violent, (5) not a novice, or (6) of good testimony among those who are outside (beyond reproach).    Star Scott was the polar opposite of every one of these qualities.  As we have already stated, being “under the blood” does not mean that you are de facto “beyond reproach,” which indicates that God expects more of church leaders than even the basic qualifications for being a Christian, which Scott also miserably failed to meet.

 

With all these things in mind, it is interesting to note that Scott maintains that he was saved before attending Bible College.  He has to insist that he was saved, or else he has to explain how he was qualified for ministry before being a Christian, which is a hard argument even for him to attempt. If he tries to use the Apostle Paul analogy, there are two other reasons it doesn’t fit.  Secondly, Saul wasn’t actually breaking any governmental laws, whereas Star Scott would be charged with dozens if not hundreds of felonies.  As mentioned previously, being “under the blood” does not mean being “beyond reproach.”  In the case of Paul, there was no legitimate reproach such as those mentioned in 1 Peter 4:15-16 that the world could accuse him of.  Thirdly, Paul actually reminded his audience in several of his epistles of exactly what his sin was, whereas Star Scott has actually lied to his congregation with his smoke and mirror statements designed for the congregants to infer that it was some kind of a one night stand with a grown woman.

 

Often ex-CT members try to talk to their friends and families that are still in CT and bring these alarming facts to their attention.  Congregants respond to our heartfelt efforts with “he’s been forgiven” as though that somehow means the same thing as “he’s qualified to be a pastor.”  A second response is “it was dealt with in California,” to which I respond “No it absolutely wasn’t.”  I don’t know what happened in Scott’s old church with his old pastor, but it was not “dealt with.”  The only way to deal with it would be to send the man to jail.  A third response from CT members is “but it was a long time ago” to which I respond “that does not preclude him from the earthly consequences of his sin.”

 

Furthermore, any notion that perhaps he “started out bad” but God “turned it for good” is simply inconsistent with his track record.  He makes up miracles that he supposedly performed and acts as though Jesus Himself endorsed his ministry, and has spent his time destroying families in the name of Matthew 10:34 as though the “sword” that Jesus was speaking of is indicative that the “man’s enemies will be those of his own household” is referring to the people who leave his church!  Ironically, what he seems to be completely oblivious to is the fact that Jesus was quoting Micah 7 which in exegetical context is speaking of a time when heathens will remove the righteous from the land, indicating that Scott has put himself and his church in the place of heathens who are removing the righteous!  And it ought to terrify them that, if my exegesis of Micah 7:6 and resulting interpretation of Matthew 10:34 is correct—and I will mention that it has been the accepted interpretation of Micah 7:6 and Matthew 10:34 from virtually every major Christian writer in Church history—then that places Calvary Temple directly in line with John 16:2 “They shall put you out of the synagogues (churches): yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”  And when people approach him to inform him that his church looks nothing like the body of Christ, he deceives his people to the point that they would find themselves on the wrong side of the Bible by shunning believers, yet think that they are doing God’s work by doing so.

 

Another objection that Scott’s supporters will mention is that Ron Walrobe “saw a vision of Jesus” and was told that Scott was to be the pastor at Calvary Temple.  Aside from the fact that this story has grown from the 1980’s version where Ron Walrobe “heard a voice” to the 2000’s version with Ron Walrobe “seeing Jesus,” which seems to break a few Scriptural principles, I will address this issue.  I did not know Mr. Walrobe, so I am speaking solely with the privilege of retrospection that frankly, the 70’s was a time in Charismatic circles where pretty much “anything flew” as far as hearing from God.  I have a strong feeling that, had Mr. Walrobe seen a vision of Star Scott molesting young girls for the three years immediately before coming to Virginia, he probably wouldn’t have heard any voices telling him that Star Scott was supposed to be the pastor of Herndon Assemblies of God, later to become Calvary Temple.  I doubt that, had he known of this scandal, he would have encouraged Scott to remain in ministry.

 

Lastly, I want to briefly address the notion that Scott purports concerning the “gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”  There are several things to mention about this, but let’s look at the passage in Romans first to determine if it was meant to apply to pastors:

 

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

 

“The deliverer will come from Zion;

he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

And this is my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

 

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. “

                                                                                                                                Romans 11:25-29

 

The first question we have to ask is “who was Paul talking about?”  What he talking about pastors?  Is this a passage about being in the ministry?  No.  This is a passage about Israel.  Paul specifically mentions who he is talking about, and clarifies for us that the gifts and callings are because of Israel’s patriarchs.  Really what Paul is talking about is the promise that God made to Abraham and how He will always honor His covenant: when God made His covenant with Abraham, it was irrevocableThis has nothing to do with pastors.  The original audience would not have thought of it applying to pastors, so we cannot either.  There is zero evidence in Scripture or Church history that pastors were “called” for life.  Certainly, we understand that if Paul could have been disqualified from the race he speaks of in 1 Corinthians 9:27, that must include being disqualified from ministry as well.  Even the Calvinists believe a pastor can be disqualified!  If there are qualifications to get into the ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-7), and there are qualifications for staying in the ministry (by logical deduction from 1 Corinthians 9:27), then the possibility must exist that you can lose your ministry.

 

The Bible does not directly say “pastors can lose their pastorate” just as it does not say “pastors cannot lose their pastorate.”  That doesn’t mean that we can’t derive the proper meaning from Biblical examples and principles.  As stated above, 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Corinthians 9 provide excellent support to the stance that a pastor’s call is not irrevocable.  Concerning examples of similar situations in the Bible, there are many stories of men losing their positions or God stripping them of their roles, including

 

  1. Saul being stripped on his kingship in 1 Samuel 15:23 “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
  2. Eli’s house being removed from the priesthood in 1 Samuel 2:30 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”
  3. Demas losing his place on Paul’s ministry team in 2 Timothy 4:10 “for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me”
  4. The churches in Revelation 2 and 3 having their lampstands (candlesticks) removed. Revelation 2:5 “…if you do not repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place.”

 

This notion of an “irrevocable call” being applied to pastors is nonsense and purely heterodox, being found nowhere in Church history until the 1970’s Charismatic renewal.

 

Ultimately, this really all seems to circle back to Scott’s desire to be let off the hook for his sins and crimes, while at the same time keeping a black book of all of your sins in case you choose to leave.  On the one hand he desperately wants his crimes to be forgotten and for him to be viewed as something other than a child molester.  On the other hand, he can only do that by creating an ultra perfectionist environment in which he is somehow this gifted zealot who deserves to be taken seriously.  If anyone wants to take their family and leave Calvary Temple, he will keep them there through intimidation and by dredging up their sins to remind them of how much they need him, because ultimately his greatest fear is to find himself preaching to empty pews.  The key indicator that his doctrine is false should be his inconsistency in applying it.  What he really wants is the Bible to say that once he was forgiven, it really never happened.  Jerry Sandusky also wishes God’s forgiveness meant it never really happened.  But it did.  And just like Jerry Sandusky, Star Scott needs to be behind bars.  And certainly not behind a pulpit.

 

 

 

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Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 4 OF 5: CONSEQUENCES

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

 

Having examined the question “Is there a difference between God’s forgiveness making it as though we never sinned and God’s forgiveness making it that we never sinned,” let us move on to the differentiating between forgiveness and consequences.  We can rely on previous work for a foundation: certainly David’s consequences did not dissolve.  Was he forgiven? Yes.  Were there still consequences?  Of course.  Could God bring consequences to David’s life for something both God and David were supposed to forget had occurred?  That’s absurd.  Does God’s forgiveness cause the sin to have never originally occurred?  Also absurd.  Otherwise, God truly could not have caused Absalom to sleep with David’s wives (consequence) as He prophesied He would do.

 

There are ultimately three types of sins.

  1. Sins against God
  2. Sins against man
  3. Sins (or crimes) against government

 

Some sins are mixtures of all of the three.  For example, you can lie to your brother and be guilty of the first two categories, but lying is not a crime.  That being said, there have been times in history and even today in other countries where it is illegal to read a Bible, which would be a crime against a government but not a crime against God.  Of course, if you murder someone, you just sinned against all three.  For your restitution to be satisfied before God, you need to repent and ask for forgiveness.  In the case of murder, you also need to go to jail because your forgiveness from God does not take away your guilt as a criminal.  While James makes it clear that all sin separates from God in a “guilty of one, guilty of all” way, you cannot argue that absolution in God’s eyes precludes our responsibility to pay restitution, either to man or the government.

 

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”                         Romans 13:1-4

 

Peter reinforces this concept in 1 Peter 4:15-16:

 

“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

 

Even in the Old Testament Law, restitution had to be made, and there were various levels of restitution based on the severity of the sin, forgiveness aside.  For example, Exodus 22 talks about various levels of restitution for stealing.  If a man stole an ox, he had to pay back five oxen.  If a man could not afford the restitution, he sold himself as a slave.  However, according to Leviticus 20, the penalty for adultery was execution: asking for “forgiveness” did not preclude the natural consequences.  This also shows that while all sin separates, not all sin is equalAnd certainly the consequences of all sin are not equal.  Moreover, God makes it clear through His Word that lawbreakers are to be punished by the authority that He established through government leaders.  Returning again to previous work, casting sin as far as the east is from the west does not mean it never happened.  It means that it did happen, and God separated the divine penalty of our sins from us in a manner that is absolute and final through the cross.  In no way should it be construed that it separates us from earthly penalties.

 

Sin has been loosely defined as “missing the mark.”  I suppose that definition works, except that the English connotation is that it doesn’t matter what the action is: if it misses the mark, it’s all the same. After all, James 2 tells us that if we are guilty of one sin, we are guilty of all.  This passage is severely misunderstood, just like Matthew 4:21 was not intended to communicate that lust in the mind is as bad as acting on adultery.  All sin separates us from God.  Certainly.  But not all sin is created equal.  It takes a little more time in the gutter before someone is willing to move from hating their boss to actually getting up and murdering them.  Or the man who entertains a prohibited fantasy about a coworker: that man needs God’s forgiveness just as much as the adulterer, but the time it takes to get from one to the other is the difference between learning to control your thoughts and losing your pastorate.  The difference between hating someone and murdering them is you go to jail if you murder someone.

 

The next issue that must be dissected is whether being forgiven of the divine penalty of sin precludes us from consequences in ministry.  Our text will be the 1 Timothy 3 qualifications for eldership.

 

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.                                                                                                                1 Timothy 3:1-7

 

If God’s forgiveness meant the sin never originally occurred, then this list of qualifications is essentially nullified, especially the notion of being beyond reproach.  Throughout our history, the pulpit has been understood to be a place that is to be revered.  There has always been an understanding that the sanctity of preaching needed to be preserved, and Paul’s qualification that a man be “beyond reproach” was indicative of that need.  To be beyond reproach means that the world cannot look in and tear apart the credibility of the man behind the pulpit because of his past life.  If the world could look in and say “that man has always been a thief among us: how foolish that he is now behind a pulpit” is to fall into reproach by not having a good report of them which are without.  Certainly, Paul’s stipulation that such a man be above this sort of reputation is proof that our sin being “under the blood” is not the same thing as being “beyond reproach.” 

 

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Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 3 OF 5: NEW Testament

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1 and Part 2.

  

Let us move on to the New Testament to determine if God’s forgiveness changed in any way to mean “it never happened” after the cross.  As an example to stimulate our brains, how could God have inspired the recording of Peter’s denial of Christ in the Gospels thirty years after the fact if He had forgotten that it happened?  Food for thought.  The Old Testament and the New Testament act in harmony, and New Testament writers frequently quote from the Old Testament.  For example, Paul quotes David when he writes “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:8, Psalm 32:2).  In such a case, the same exegetical principle applies: unless specifically stated by the New Testament author, the meaning of Romans 4:8 must mean what it meant in Psalm 32:2.  Paul understood David’s context, and quoted it within that context.  As a point of clarification, I understand that God wrote Romans 4 and Psalm 32 through Paul and David: the hermeneutical principle is that the Word is divinely inspired, but the authors could not lay aside their faculties while writing.  God did not set aside Paul’s deliberate thoughts when he penned Romans 4 just as He did not overtake David’s hand when he penned Psalm 32.  This means that David had a specific meaning in mind and Paul wanted to convey that meaning to his audience.  I don’t want to belabor the point, but what I am trying to say is that the doctrine of justification via imputation must be informed by understanding what David meant when he wrote “impute.”

 

To impute is to attribute something to a person vicariously, meaning that your standing before God is derived from a source other than yourself.  This is very different from “to impart” which is not a vicarious action, but rather a direct action that gives something to you that you can then call your own.  Imputation in Scripture has often been described as an accounting ledger, such that each line item (sin) has to be put somewhere because all sin demands a penalty. In fact, several translations interpret Romans 4:8 and Psalm 32:2 as “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”  In David’s time under the Law, a type existed such that if any person sinned, a specific sin offering had to be made (Leviticus 4).  That animal was exchanged for that person’s sin, and the penalty of that sin (death) was laid on the animal instead of the person.  In this way, the guilt of the person was placed vicariously on the animal, and the animal vicariously paid the penalty for that person’s sin in place of the person.  This is the world in which David understood imputation, and he knew from the Law that each sin must be accounted for.  As it stands, a non-believer’s sin is on his own account. However, according to 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  What this means is that our sin was imputed to Christ on the cross, and Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us when we became new creatures.  When David wrote “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin,” he meant “Blessed is the man who has no sin on God’s ledger account of his life.”

 

This is a critical concept, because as Protestants we believe that we are justified through imputation, whereas Catholics believe that we are justified through impartation, or the notion that the righteousness of Christ was imparted directly to us such that we literally are righteous as Christ is righteous.  The obvious problem with impartation is that Christians still sin, whereas the righteousness of Christ was sinless.  Protestants interpret justification as being through imputation: our sins were put on Christ’s account.  He paid the penalty for our sins.  In like fashion, His righteousness was vicariously placed on our account, in such a manner that we can approach God with Christ’s righteousness.  This provides an interesting distinction between “as though I never sinned” and “I really never sinned.”  By definition, “as though” refers to a vicarious position, which is consistent with imputation; whereas “I really never sinned” is a direct position that is consistent with impartation.  We will have to keep that distinction in mind as we press on.

 

Having developed the concept of imputation, the question must be asked, “When God forgave me, where did my sin go?”  It went to the cross of Christ.  While it might seem like a semantics game, the key point is that your sin did not vanish.  God knows exactly where it is.  It was placed on Christ’s account.  If you were to reject God and backslide, your sin would be back on your account and Christ’s righteousness would be taken off of your account.  This is the difference between God accepting us as though we never sinned and God accepting us because we never sinned.  You did sin.  That’s the point.  God certainly hasn’t forgotten your sin, rather He has removed it from you and sent it to a place where it will not be held against you; and He will not remember your sin during the Judgment, so long as you continue to rely on the finished work of Christ which bought your justification in God’s sight by the imputing of your sins on Christ’s account and Christ’s righteousness to your account.

 

This development of justification through imputation preserves the harmony of other Scriptures because it addresses the backsliding problem, whereas the notion that God can truly forget our sins in such a manner that in His sight our sin never originally occurred does not.  God tells us of the final judgment throughout Scriptures such as Ecclesiastes 12:14, Matthew 12:35, Romans 14, and 2 Corinthians 5:10.  All men must give an account for their deeds.  The notion that forgiveness indicates that the sin never originally occurred, such that it dissolved in Christmas past, would allow no venue for backsliders to give an account of the evil deeds that they committed before their salvation.  Certainly we understand that those deeds must be accounted for as well, which indicates that it is not possible for our sins to “have never originally occurred” in such a manner as to absolve us of them entirely.  That can’t truly happen until we are no longer capable of backsliding.

 

The backsliding problem faces no difficulty when considering that God’s forgiveness is demonstrated in justification through imputation. Our sins are currently on Christ’s account and not our own account.  As such, God does not hold them against us.  As long as we remain in faith, God chooses to not remember our sins in the sense that He can look at His ledger for your life and the column recording heavenly debts is empty, whereas the column recording heavenly credits has one entry: the righteousness of Christ.  But where did our sin go?  God can’t forget, and God must punish sin.  Because we did in fact sin, and that sin demands a penalty, God has imputed—attributed—our sins to Christ’s account.  But if we backslide, God reverses the exchange such that we lose the righteousness of Christ and our sins are re-added to our account.  Through this line of reasoning, we must affirm that God’s forgiveness makes it as though we did not sin, and we must deny that God’s forgiveness means the sin never happened.

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Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 2 OF 5: OLD Testament

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1.

 

We are interested in what the Bible says to us today. Our theology is informed by our hermeneutics, and our hermeneutics must be informed by our exegesis. To state it another way, “the Bible cannot mean to us what it did not mean to the original audience.” As a foundational principle, each passage of Scripture can only have one meaning. The intended message to the original audience must be that one meaning. If we take a passage to mean something different to us than what it meant to the original audience, then we have created a second meaning for that passage, which is a violation of the hermeneutic principle. With that in mind, we need to determine what “separating sin as far as the east is from the west” meant to the author (David) and his audience (Israel), and what it therefore should mean to us (extrapolation). We ought to consider what Israel thought of the Sea of Forgetfulness, or if that term has any place in church history. For now let us return to Psalm 103.

 

It is generally accepted that David wrote Psalm 103 sometime after his sin with Bathsheba and Nathan’s resulting confrontation.  Keep in mind that the phrase used in verse 12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” is often used in conjunction with Micah 7:19.  It seems to be used today with the connotation that it has to do with God forgetting our sins as far as the east is from the west, as opposed to Him removing them as far as the east is from the west.  There is a real problem with the logical leap that “forgiven = forgotten.”  Perhaps we should consider Nathan’s confronting of David in 2 Samuel 12:11-14:

 

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” 13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”                              2 Samuel 12:11-14

 

There is really no theological debate among Christians on the following point: God’s forgiveness occurs the moment we sincerely ask him.  So the previous passage begs the question: if “forgiven = forgotten,” how can God punish David in verse 14 for what He just forgave him of in verse 13?  Yet David wrote later in Psalm 103:12 that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  The same man who wrote that seemed to understand that sin being removed from our account is not the same thing as sin having never happened.  A noteworthy connection might be made between the 2 Samuel 12 passage and Psalm 103:10, in that David was aware that the penalty for adultery under the law was death, yet God “does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities.”  Certainly David recognized that God was merciful to him by not extending the full penalty of his sin to him.  However, we must recognize that David could not have meant “God lets us off scot free when He forgives us” because he spent the rest of his life going through God’s judgment for that sin.  Furthermore, Scott’s comment “How many sins are you holding on to, that you say happened, that God said never happened because it’s forgotten?” contradicts the glaring point that God vividly reminded David of his sin when Absalom fulfilled verses 11 and 12 and slept with David’s wives in public.

 

Based on the very words of God in 2 Samuel 12:11 (I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you), He is the one who caused Absalom to sleep with David’s wives.  How could He have done that if He had forgotten?  Lastly, we may conjecture: did God intend to bring this consequence about in such a manner that David did not know why he was being punished?  Or does it make more sense that David knew exactly what was going on, and this fulfillment of God’s prophecy poignantly reminded him of his sin because it was supposed toThis is critical information to keep in mind when we consider what Psalm 103 meant to David when he wrote it.

 

To cast as far as the east is from the west does not mean it never happened.  It means that it did happen, and God separated us from the divine penalty of our sins through the cross.  In no way should it be construed that forgiveness separates us from earthly penalties.  Through our exegesis, there is no indication that David thought that God forgot about his sin in the sense that we think of someone completely forgetting something.  David was aware that God was bringing consequences on him throughout his life, which serves as an indication that David did not think that God completely forgot his sin. David could never claim that in God’s eyes his sin never happened.  That would simply be taking God’s forgiveness too far.  Rather, the divine, ultimate penalty of David’s sin would never be laid to his account.  That David praises God for not laying his sin to his account in Psalm 32:2 (Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity), demonstrates that he recognized that “imputation” vis a vis “justification” is more related to canceling David’s heavenly debt than that “God has completely forgotten that such sin ever occurred.”  In a manner of speaking, David’s debt in heaven was satisfied by God’s forgiveness but his debt on earth (consequences) was not.

 

Therefore, the Old Testament concept of God removing our sins and remembering them no more seems to be from a position of finality, such that God will not remember them at the final judgment.  Also, while it might be “as though it never happened” in relation to our position before God, that does not negate our position before men or government.  That God condones earthly consequences precludes the possibility that He “forgets” our sins.  If He truly forgot, He couldn’t possibly send consequences or chastisement, which would violate Galatians 5:7-8 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

 

Now would be a good time to mention that the term “sea of forgetfulness” is not mentioned in the Bible.  Perhaps even more shocking, it doesn’t even occur in Christian history: you cannot find any early Jewish scholar, middle-ages writer, or post-reformation leader ever using the term, from the earliest church father clear through John Wesley.  It seems to be entirely a phrase coined during the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s and 70’s.  As such, it is imperative to recognize that we have turned this “sea” into something that didn’t occur to the first 2,000 years of Christian writers.  There is no physical or spiritual “sea” that has the qualities of being able to cause God to completely forget that the sin ever occurred in the first place, or that His omniscience is incapable of piercing through to cause Him to remember.  The passage of Scripture that we seem to have taken this notion from is Micah 7:18-19:

 

“Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

 

As fundamentalist Christians we strive to take the Bible literally wherever we can; however, in our attempts to do so we are susceptible to missing the figurative language God chooses to employ through His authors.  An example would be Jesus telling His disciples to forgive seventy times seven times.  We understand He was not being literal: His point is that we ought to forgive as often as we are sinned against.  Since there is no indication of an actual sea—physical or spiritual—existing where God casts sin into, it makes a lot more sense to look for the ultimate point of the figurative language.  As such, we interpret Micah 7:19 as God separating the divine penalty of sin from our account while maintaining His omniscience.  As a group who believes that salvation can be lost, this resolves the difficulty that the sea-of-forgetfulness argument faces when one considers the case of a man who lost his salvation and at the judgment must give an account for all his sins—even the ones that God purportedly forgot.  The only alternative is to create this never-spoken-of-trait of God that He has a fishing pole for backsliders that allows Him to double back on His promises and reel into memory something that was supposedly blotted out, cast into oblivion, and forgotten forever.  Furthermore, it must be noted that the logic that assumes that God truly forgets our sin when He forgives us, yet He is capable of “re-remembering” if we backslide, reduces to the ad absurdum conclusion that God could remember something He has truly, completely forgotten.  Such a position creates a circus out of God’s omnipotence and omniscience, as though they are somehow trumping each other instead of operating in harmony.  If God could forget, it would be for good.  If He could remember something that He forgot, then by definition He didn’t really forget it.  This demonstrates the subtle but important difference between God forgiving us as though we had never sinned, which requires imputation, as opposed to the notion that God’s forgiveness causes the sin to have never occurred in the first place.

 

For the sake of completeness, the only alternative explanation that could be offered would be that God knows who will be saved and who will backslide, and He doesn’t throw the eventual backsliders’ sins into the supposed sea of forgetfulness.  This ultimately reduces to Calvinism, and creates a partial-forgiving God that will hold out on you today if He knows you will reject Him tomorrow.  Such is not the God we serve: His promises are to all who believe and are in full effect for as long as we believe.  If one is a child of God, they are a child of God.  As such, they enjoy full rank and privilege as all other children of God.  This is what makes backsliding so severe, such that one would “having tasted the heavenly gift, and become the partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come…” (Heb.6:4-5a) then choose to reject God’s full forgiveness.  Based on the passage just mentioned, such a partial-forgiving, halfway-house God does not exist.

 

Notice that God’s casting our sins into the depths of the sea would correlate very strongly to removing our sin as far as the east is from the west.  However, removing our guilt is not the same thing as removing our consequences.  The very fact that God does not forget our sins is what makes His forgiveness that much more powerful.  Our sins haven’t slipped God’s mind: He knows where they are.  He chooses to relate to us not as though they didn’t originally occur, but as though they did occur and have been placed on another’s account. As such, He promises that He will not recount (remember) our sins as relates to our eternal standing.  God’s mercy is not His ability to forget that which He has forgiven but rather His ability to forgive that which He cannot forget.

 

As we are about to see, the nature of God to not forget drives the salvation story forward.  Since He cannot truly forget our sins, His just nature demands that a penalty must be paid.  Salvation is the exchange of Christ’s righteousness being added to our account and our sins being added to Christ’s account, satisfying God’s omniscience, justice, and mercy.

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Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 1 OF 5: INTRODUCTION

It seems that the more a Christian learns about the mercy of God, the more poignant their own sin is to them.  The more we understand the evil of sin, the more we must pause in awe of the forgiveness that God has extended to us. However, it is important that we do not overextend the use of God’s forgiveness: it is not a “get out of jail free” card.  We do not see that record in Scripture, and we truthfully do not expect it in real life.  Recent statements by Star Scott—in particular equating being forgiven by God to your sin having never originally occurred—are far from orthodox and do more to undermine justification by imputation than to add any value to our understanding of God’s forgiveness.

 

“I was talking to somebody just the other day. I don’t remember all of the details. But the person came to me and said there was some confusion based upon a sin. “Some people just found out about this sin, and they were really shaken by it and couldn’t believe that something like that could happen in the life of a Christian.” They had come to this person in our fellowship here and was really distraught. The person came to me and said, “This is a big thing to them. What should I tell them?” This person knew what they were talking about. He was getting ready to go, now, meet this person. He said, “What should I do?” I said, “I would do something like this. I would go up and as they begin to speak toward this situation, I would just look them right straight in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.'” “Well this and that, this was done, and that was done!” “I don’t remember any of that.” “What do you mean you don’t remember it?” “No, in fact I’m positive that never happened.” “What do you mean it never happened?” “It was cast into the sea of God’s forgetfulness,” amen? There’s nothing to talk about. It never happened. It never happened! How many of us keep letting it happen? How many sins are you holding on to, that you say happened, that God said never happened because it’s forgotten? Amen? Wouldn’t it be great to really believe the Bible? Wouldn’t it be great to really forgive and be able to receive forgiveness; amen? “Is it that absolute?” Absolutely! “

Star Scott, Power in Humility, July 31, 2013

 

“So we realize, then that, as we’re walking in this spirit, it never-love never remains suspicious. Have any of you ever been sinned against? Are you at a place right now where those that have hurt you approach you and there’s no suspicion? Are you at that place (you need to get there) that you are so vulnerable, that you’re able to lay your life before them again? Just like it never happened. You have to, because here’s the reality: It never happened. Amen? If you forgive them, it never happened. If they confess that sin, it never happened. So why, then, are you suspicious? Why, then, are you continuing to think evil of this person that God has cleansed by His blood?

Star Scott,  The Greatest Witness, September 1, 2013

 

Forgiveness means it never happened–and if it never happened, then there can be no requisite that has to be met as to why we can now relate to one another. It never happened! It never happened. It never happened. “I want to believe that, but inside of me my emotions, the pain!” “…even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” So are you going to believe your emotions, or are you going to believe what God has told you to do?”                                                     Star Scott, No Greater Love pt. 5, August 15, 2012

 

Interestingly enough, Calvary Temple surely doesn’t treat your sins as forgotten when you’re ready to leave.  Exit interviews are spent recounting your sins to you, and if you leave then your sins are slyly recounted before the congregation under the guise of “minimizing confusion.”  For example, just recently there was a church-wide prayer meeting in which congregants would “nominate” someone who had left and Star Scott would let everyone know what sin they were supposedly involved in so that everyone could pray for it.  This continual rehashing is often of things that were disclosed in confidence years beforehand by somebody who genuinely wanted to get help—certainly they didn’t expect their trust to be used against them to undermine their credibility with their friends and family.

 

Incidentally, both extremes are wrong.  The idea that God can truly forget anything, in the sense that we as humans can forget anything, is patently false.  While their treatment of those who leave is certainly inconsistent with their previous stance, it is moreover inconsistent with true Biblical forgiveness.  While our sins are not absolved to the point as to have never originally occurred, they have been imputed to Christ’s account.  Therefore, the only way for them to be back on our own account is to reject Christ altogether.  Therefore, while CT members insist that they don’t believe that leaving their church is tantamount to leaving Christ, their actions indicate otherwise.

 

Thought Experiment

 

Perhaps our study would be aided by a quick thought experiment.  I will say that I suspect Star Scott’s doctrine is heavily influenced by trying to rationalize his past sins, and this thought experiment is designed to poke at his claims in an uncomfortable way.  So here it goes.  We all know about the Jerry Sandusky scandal: in 2012, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys, most of which occurred over a decade beforehand.  Suppose that at his sentencing, he stood up and told the judge, “Your Honor, I understand that I was found guilty of 45 counts of child molestation, but yesterday I became a Christian.  I asked God to forgive me of those sins and He has.  God’s forgiveness means that He forgets that it ever happened: in fact, it is as though none of those sins ever did happen.  In fact Your Honor, it ought to be considered that these crimes happened decades ago and I have not done such things in a very long time.  Regardless, Your Honor, because God forgave me, it never happened.  Since it never happened, I should not have any punishment or consequence to bear.”  Now, in our thought experiment, if Jerry Sandusky truly did repent of his sins and God forgave him, then before the throne of heaven he would have his sins removed as far as the east is from the west, like Psalm 103 says.  God would truly relate to Jerry as though his sins never happened as in regards to his divine position in relation to his soul’s final destination.  However, is that the same thing as those sins truly having never originally occurred?  Ought our judge to release Jerry Sandusky from the earthly penalties due him?  Furthermore, imagine that every one of his victims stood before the judge and said “I have done a lot of thinking, and I just want Jerry to know that I have forgiven him for his sins against me.  I do not hold those sins to his account in any regard.”  At that point, ought the judge to let Jerry off the hook?  Suppose further that the judge were a devout Christian, and that he recognized that Jerry had been forgiven by God and man: does that absolve Jerry of his responsibility to be punished for his numerous, insidious crimes?  Does the forgiveness of God and man absolve our consequences before government leaders?

 

Suppose just a little further that instead of Jerry being caught and standing before a judge, that you became aware of this entire back story at the same moment that Jerry Sandusky was your pastor.  Suppose that he had hidden this terrible back story from the authorities and had managed to keep all of his victims quiet for 40 years, but perhaps through Providence you have been made aware that this grievous claim is true in every respect.  Furthermore, suppose that these criminal acts were occurring immediately after Jerry Sandusky supposedly became a Christian and was happening during the entire time that Jerry Sandusky was attending Bible College.  Do you think that in light of the tests provided in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (all things have passed away such that all things become new) and 1 John 3:9 (“No one who is born of God will continue to sin…they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God), you could possibly conclude that such a conversion was genuine?

 

Could someone who fails the tests in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 1 John 3:9 possibly claim that they are called to ministry? Can a non-Christian hear a call to ministry? In light of Jerry’s gross sins that are not even mentionable among the Gentiles (to borrow from Paul), could he pass the qualifications for eldership?  Could he somehow argue that even though he is by no means (1) blameless, (2) of good behavior, (3) able to teach, (4) not violent, (5) not a novice, or (6) of good testimony among those who are outside (beyond reproach) according to 1 Timothy 3:1-7, that his self proclaimed “calling to ministry” precludes him from needing to meet the base qualifications?  I mentioned “able to teach.”  I mean, if he spent the entirety of his time in Bible college molesting minors, what Bible knowledge could he possibly have retained, especially in light of 1 Corinthians 2:14 (The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit)?  Could he claim to have the Spirit while at the same time failing the most basic tests of Christianity i.e. by repeatedly and relentless molesting minors in such a way as to demonstrate that there could be no genuine repentance during those years?  Can this man (Jerry Sandusky…not Star Scott) claim that you have no Biblical support in seeking someone else to be your pastor, because by his own proclamation, God called him to be your pastor?

 

Ok, that was a very involved thought experiment.  Rarely is the purpose of a thought experiment to address the obvious answers.  It is meant to provide means to explore the various nuances and predicaments that arise from the description.  Since it was long and full of rhetorical questions, I will summarize below:

 

  1. If Jerry Sandusky (or anyone) was forgiven by God and man for his sins, does that preclude him from having to pay the consequences of his crimes?
    1. Is there a difference between God’s forgiveness making it as though we never sinned and God’s forgiveness making it that we never sinned in the first place?
    2. Does God truly forget our sins such that His consequences for us are nullified by His forgiveness?
  2. Could Jerry Sandusky be a Christian during the same 15 year time period that he was molesting minors?
    1. Could Jerry Sandusky hear from God, be called and qualified for ministry during the same 15 year time period that he was molesting minors?
    2. If Jerry Sandusky told you that God wanted him to be your pastor, do you have the God-given responsibility to vet him to ensure that this really is God’s desire for your life and you family’s life, and that this man isn’t really a wolf?

 

As we explore these issues through the Word and our God-given common sense, we should begin to see a Biblical pattern emerge that addresses the underlying theme of how sin continues to affect our civil and sacred lives after we’ve been forgiven.  I guess now would be a good time to mention what might be obvious to some and less obvious to others: there truly is no difference between Jerry Sandusky and Star Scott as far as crimes are concerned.  From a criminal justice perspective, they would both be found guilty of breaking the same sections in the law code and be sentenced in similar fashion for crimes that they committed decades before.  The difference is that current CT congregants are able to despise a Jerry Sandusky and revere a Star Scott because of decades spent presenting steadily deteriorating doctrine that is self-serving to Scott’s goals, which ultimately come down to pretending that he is somehow different from Jerry Sandusky.  If you are a current CT member and you are reading this, pause and consider if the early church would have ever allowed Jerry Sandusky to be a pastor over a local flock.  That stated, let’s begin.

 

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please check back tomorrow for Part 2!

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Resources for Survivors

by Naomi

It has been quite awhile since we have had the opportunity to post on Against Calvary Temple. Our personal responsibilities of jobs, college, business and family are increasingly demanding, and unfortunately keep us from putting the time and energy into voicing our objections to Calvary Temple’s cultic practices.

Make no mistake, friends, we still firmly believe in the mission of AgainstCalvaryTemple.com.

We still fervently pray for freedom for current Calvary Temple members.
We still rejoice every time someone leaves Calvary Temple.
We still shudder at every story of brokenness that we hear, every tale of suffering and destruction and despicable conduct at the hands of so-called “spiritual leadership.”
We still support ex-members of Calvary Temple with our prayers, our hearts, our lives.We hope to be publishing a few articles in the coming months. If you have been checking back often for new content, you may want to check out our new facebook page:

Be sure to LIKE the page, and then follow the page. This will allow you to see links to new articles as they are posted.

 

Also, I would like to share a few resources for those who have survived Calvary Temple.

Please keep in mind the following disclaimers:

a) We are not formally affiliated with any of these websites. As such, we do not claim to have read every word or necessarily agree with everything that is written. In some cases, we do not even know the identity of the authors — but we heartily applaud the courage of those willing to give up time and energy to stand against the spiritually abusive, contraBiblical practices of Calvary Temple. We support their endeavors and pray that God continues to use these words to bring freedom to the captives.
b) We gain nothing by bringing these resources to your attention. In the case of recommended books, we do not use affiliate links. We do not make money from this website. Its costs come out of our own pockets, and we do not attempt to recoup those costs by recommending resources. All resources have simply been a blessing to us, and we want to bring them to your attention for this reason.

Helpful Books: 

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church by David Johnson & Jeff VanVondoren

Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing from Painful Spiritual Abuse by Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton

Related Websites:
Leaving Calvary Temple  – http://leavingcalvarytemple.blogspot.com/
Tactics of Calvary Temple – http://tacticsofcalvarytemple.wordpress.com/
Dear Calvary Temple / Letters to My Children – http://dearcalvarytemple.blogspot.com/
Just Our Stories of Calvary Temple – http://justourstoriesofcalvarytemple.blogspot.com/

 

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Panel Discussions: Clarity or Control?

by Naomi

After any cataclysmic event, Calvary Temple has something they refer to as “panel discussions.” It’s the cult version of a Q&A session. Congregants/church members submit questions, either written down if the topic is particularly sensitive or verbally if they’re feeling courageous. The panel of pastoral staff answer the questions. These panel discussions often follow the exodus of a prominent church member or a particularly inflammatory teaching series (usually regarding how you should never leave Calvary Temple. Listen to the sermons yourself. Every sermon circles back to the same thing).

One of the specific marks of a cultic environment is that they control information. The members of a cult believe only what their leaders tell them and are immediately suspicious of outsiders/outsider’s information.

Panel discussions are Calvary Temple’s chosen method of controlling information believed by their members. The leaderships (I do so dislike calling CT pastors & deacons “leadership” since they are such a bad example of what God has called leaders to be) has this down to a science. They have weekly pastors’ and deacons’ meetings to discuss ‘issues’ and ‘situations’ that arise. The pastors tell the deacons what to think and then the deacons tell the people what to think. If their initial form of information-twisting doesn’t work or the situation is serious enough to warrant whole-congregation information feeding, they must resort to a panel discussion. Or several.

Characteristics of Panel Discussions:

Mud-Slinging, or more Biblical term: Slander

Defined as: Defamation or Evil-Speaking. 1 Peter 2:1-3

Pastors say, “if you only knew what we knew” about the departing member. They cast as much doubt as humanly possible onto the character, integrity and motives of the departing member. They bring up past sins and disciplinary issues. They may even tell stories, most often exaggerated and even some outright lies to bolster their message that there is absolutely no way on earth this person was right in leaving! They’re rebellious! They’re proud! They hate authority! Their ‘much learning hath made them mad!’ You know it’s getting serious when they bring out the King James English. And again, I feel like I’m repeating myself, that’s not what that verse means!

Every single Calvary Temple member is conditioned to accept this information as truth. These members can hardly imagine the possibility that their leaders are often lying. Yes, lying. Speaking falsehood, deception and untruths. The members think, surely not! I trust them! Run away, these leaders are not worthy of your trust. If/when you leave the church, they will slaughter your reputation from the pulpit, too. Once lauded and applauded, you will be maligned and maliciously destroyed. They will try to eat you for lunch (a word to those who left/leaving, just walk away. Don’t live in bondage to the opinions of Calvary Temple members & leadership. You only need the good opinion of God. He is the One who judges you and that is enough.).

When people leave normal churches, normal Christians don’t usually treat them like lepers. They shake hands, have them over for dinner one last time and wish them well on their journey. If they moved on to a different church in the same area, they’ll see them around town and greet each other with genuine warmth and care. Normal Christians don’t burn bridges and sling mud at other believers.

 

Placing Blame 

Blame is placed on members that are doubting, by inferring that to doubt, question or search the Scriptures themselves is sin. This particular aspect screams of spiritual abuse. It also reminds me of the corruption in the early Catholic church. The Bible was in Latin and the common man was forbidden to read it, because supposedly, he couldn’t interpret it right. Panel discussions often include encouraging members to listen to more teachings and discover the hidden sin within themselves that would cause them to doubt the validity of CT teaching. Because obviously, you *must* be in sin if you’re questioning (sarcasm).

You know who questioned the apostles’ doctrine?? The Bereans. You know who applauded them for doing so? The Apostle Paul. And yet the self-professed Pastor-Teacher-Apostle-Prophet Star Scott thinks that you should read the Bible less, because  you can’t interpret the inspired Word of God responsibly for yourself and you need him to do it for you. (definitely sarcasm).

Re-Establishing Authority

Star Scott loves to bring out obscure Old Testament passages to liken himself to Moses. That’s unBiblical: see Pastoral Authority is Not Mosaic. He also likes to ridicule the scholarship of anyone who would interpret Scripture differently than him, which is hilarious, considering he has very little training in how to interpret Scripture. Bible training also doesn’t validate interpretation. If we’re comparing dollars-to-donuts here, I probably have more Bible training than Star Scott. That alone doesn’t make me right. It is honesty and integrity with the Word that makes me right. I welcome any discussion, questions, criticism and comments about how I interpret the Word of God. I welcome polite, respectful, cordial discussion about the points that I bring up. I absolutely welcome face-to-face conversation about Calvary Temple’s doctrine — but so far, none of the CT members I know have cared enough to do that. They’d rather believe the gossip that comes from the deacon’s meeting than ask me themselves.

Star Scott also enlists others to re-establish pastoral (and mostly HIS) authority. He has surrounded himself with “yes men” and puppets-on-a-string that more than willingly flatter him before the congregation. They say, “We are so blessed to have a man of God like this, who preaches sound doctrine even when it’s unpopular. It is such a privilege to sit under this man who has laid down everything for us.” Syrupy-sweet flattery that sounds spiritual and is used to further convince members of their ultimate fear — that to leave CT is the equivalent of leaving God.  Oh, and consider this: he says that his accountability is in the “plurality of elders,” but in just the past 5 years both of his chief pastors (who were designated by him to take over the ministry in his place should the need arise), 4 or 5 deacons, and 3 or 4 young adult captains have left the church over Scott’s anti-Biblical doctrines.  Does he change?  No, he just replaces them with lesser men and preaches on Korah and Dathan and Aaron and Miriam one more time.  So when we call his pastoral staff a rubber stamp club of yes men, that’s what we are referring to.

 

Reminding Members of Their Absolute Dependence on the Community

“If you leave, you are serving your flesh.”
“If you leave, you are going to be spiritually shipwrecked.”
“If you leave, you will fall into sin.”
“There’s nothing wrong with leaving… but if you want to leave, there’s something wrong with you.”

 This characteristic of Calvary Temple particularly infuriates me (don’t go crazy and call me bitter and angry, because (a) I’m not bitter and (b) there is a holy anger). I am angry by the arrogance that Calvary Temple leadership and members constantly show in assuming not only that they are the best church, but that they are the only church that is really teaching truth. Is God so limited that He can only speak through one church in the entire world? Is the power of God so weak that He cannot empower a believer to live holy without the support of the almighty Calvary Temple?

 

Fearmongering

This is the use of fear to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end. Panel discussions are the perfect venue for inspiring fear in Calvary Temple members because they are particularly vulnerable to drastic decisions (like leaving the church) after a trusted member has left. The pastors know this so they use every opportunity to say their favorite line: “if so-and-so left (because they were considered spiritual), then you could be next.” They imply that because so-and-so left, and obviously they had to be deceived to leave the only church in the world that preaches truth (extreme sarcasm), then you could be deceived, too!… and leave… and go to hell!

Outsiders are reading this and thinking, “this is insane! Pastors actually do this?!” Oh yes. You have no idea.

 

Re-Directing 

“Don’t spend a lot of time studying the Bible on authority.  You should spend more time studying what the Bible says about self, then you’ll realize who you are, and all of these other things will be easier to accept.” Star Scott, January 13th, 2013 Panel Discussion

When honest questions are asked at Calvary Temple, often they are not answered — they are redirected. When inconsistencies are noted by the members, pastors turn attention to the person asking the question. That their motives must be wrong, their heart must be impure, they must be somehow in sin.  I don’t know about you, but when I ask an honest question, I expect an honest answer. Honesty, integrity, truth. Not deception by avoiding the question.  In a healthy church, there is a way to ask tough questions without fear of retaliation through labeling and discipline for “deception.”

 

Manipulation

Panel discussions are framed for the purpose of producing a specific action. The leadership would say that they just want their people to obey the Word, but really, they want the people to take very specific actions… to obey leadership. We are not talking about specific commands of Scripture. We are talking about ideas that they have, non-Scriptural commands that they give and expect unquestioning obedience, weddings that they want to take place, more money to be given to the church, correct information to be spread across a three hundred member congregation so they can all lie and sound like they’re telling the truth (i.e. “it’s not a school!” even though everybody calls it a school, it’s not a school).

CT leadership manipulates people into doing what they want. If you’re a member there, I pity you. I am sorry that you cannot make your own decisions (except for stupid things like what you are eating that day), but that they are made for you. I am sorry that you are held to the standards of others, instead of walking with Christ and finding the standards that the Holy Spirit presses on your heart. I’m sorry that you will probably stay because you are afraid of losing your family/marriage/friends/etc. I’m sorry that your spiritual life will be dictated to you and that you will lose the joy of being led by the Spirit, because you are only being led by a man. I’m sorry that you now believe this manipulation is actually spiritual leadership.

 

Conclusion 

To sum up, panel discussions are not preaching. Not teaching. Not edifying. Not enriching. Not enlightening the believer. Not giving aid. They do not expound on Scripture, except to use it in error. They do not point CT members to Christ, but to a man and a religious system.

Panel discussion are slander-centric. They are comprised of pastors oiling the hinges of their controlling machine with spiritual sounding words that go against the very essence of Scripture. Panel discussions aid in destroying relationships and reputations. Panel discussions are venues for publicizing bad reports, guiding willfully ignorant souls into more ignorance and engaging much spiritual dialogue with nothing but a sprinkle of real sound doctrine. Like honey added to poison, members swallow these lies because they “taste” good. Lies always go down easily. Then you are murdered while you remain unaware.

One last reminder: Panel discussions are often edited before being posted Calvary Temple’s website to remove information that pastors say “confuse people.” In rare circumstances, panel discussions will never be available to the public. When churches hide information that is spoken from the pulpit, it is yet another sign of a cultic and controlling environment. For a place that lauds personal transparency (Calvary Temple-ism alert: “walking in the light”), there is much darkness and cover-ups happening in the backrooms and offices of Calvary Temple in Sterling, VA.

Panel discussions are another way for the pastors to use the Bible as a battering ram on the hearts of CT’s members. It forces loyalty to Star Scott, rather than loyalty to Christ. I pray that one day, those panel discussions will not be enough to stop the exodus.

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 4

by Naomi

This is a four part series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

We have talked about the attitude of Calvary Temple leadership on personal Bible study. We understand our personal and spiritual deficiencies when we exist without personal Bible study. The question remains; what shall we do now? Study the Bible! How do we study the Bible? Keep reading for a few recommendations on this vast subject.

Recommendations for Personal Bible Study:

* Get a new version of the Bible. At Calvary Temple, the King James Version is the preferred translation. Unfortunately, this version only serves to confuse most modern readers. There are a few peculiarities to the KJV that make it even more difficult for CT members to understand the meaning.

a) The King James Version is printed in verse form, with each verse being its own paragraph. This format causes readers to mistakenly believe that each verse is separate from the others, and instead of reading the author’s whole train of thought–they get “revelation” from one single verse and often, their application is skewed violently from the author’s original intent. This is in violation of basic laws of Bible interpretation. This concept is useful to Star Scott because he often quotes only one verse or one phrase from a verse and then indicates that the hearer should fill in the blanks. Because the hearers are conditioned by Star Scott’s ignorant Bible interpretation, they assume that the volume of Bible verses he quotes means he is teaching solid Bible truth.

b) The KJV’s antiquated language is a great barrier in understanding (and therefore, properly applying) Scripture. English words are used much differently now than they were in the 1600s or even the 1800s. It’s easy to assume you know the meaning of the text, and you might be entirely wrong. It is also easy for a not-very-educated pastor like Star Scott to proclaim the KJV says one thing (because of a particular word or turn of phrase) and for every Calvary Temple member to accept it as truth. Star Scott has very little knowledge in the original languages. By “very little,” I mean even less than I do. Add his propensity for dishonest Bible interpretation to his ignorance and you have a recipe for disaster.

c) The King James Version is translated word for word. The literal accuracy is great; but any language translator knows that there will be discrepancies because of differing syntax and idioms.

I’m not saying that the King James Version is bad. I keep several KJV Bibles for my own personal study. I am simply stating that you should be aware of the KJV’s weaknesses, complexities and variances. Then, you can more easily understand how Calvary Temple and Star Scott can use the Bible for their own gain.

There are many great translations that may be more helpful to you in your personal study of the Bible. I prefer the New American Standard. My husband reads the New International Version. We often borrow each other’s Bibles for cross-references and use additional versions of the Bible for clarity (a great way to avoid taking things out of context). Be informed.

Find a Bible that you can understand. It makes reading and applying God’s Word so much easier.

* Get understanding in basic Bible interpretation.

I highly, highly recommend “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart. It’s a short, relatively easy read. This book is incredibly helpful on learning how to interpret the Bible yourself. When you have spent most of your life listening to a pastor make the Bible say whatever he thinks it should, you need a complete brain overhaul on how to interpret the Bible. You need a good dose of real common sense and real hermeneutics. Star Scott uses the word “hermeneutics” and then completely does the opposite of proper hermeneutics. This would be funny, if it wasn’t so alarming.

Here’s a few simple rules for understanding the Bible:

1. Context is key. Don’t just read one verse and then, build a doctrine out of it. Read a few verses before and after, read the whole chapter, read the whole book. For real understanding and a good overview, read the whole Bible. You will have a much better understanding of what God is saying through His Word when you have seen what He says in the whole thing. As a vociferous reader of many kinds of literature, I rarely read a book that I don’t finish. It amazes me that so many people (who claim Christianity as their reason for existence) have not read the entire Bible cover to cover. To truly understand the meaning of Scripture, you must read ALL of the Bible for yourself.

2. It cannot mean to you what it did not mean to them (the original audience). You need to understand the author’s original intent to be able to understand its meaning. A text cannot mean what it never meant. You will never be able to have a proper application of a verse if you do not comprehend its original meaning.

* Get honest.

Many people get uncomfortable when they come across a Scripture verse that contradicts or challenges their previously-held beliefs. It is dishonest to twist God’s Word to fit your own ideas. We must be able to submit our preferences to what God is or is not saying in Scripture. Commit yourself to personal honesty, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Be diligent-absolutely bulldog stubborn–in your pursuit of truth.

*Get serious about personal Bible study.

Many people have a mental block about reading the Bible in its entirety. Book, chapter and verse dividers have made it easy for us to pick up a few verses here and there and consider ourselves great scholars of the Word, or at least good Christians. If you have not read the Bible completely, cover-to-cover, beginning to end, that you should make it a top priority to do that. Right now.

Here’s some food for thought:

The Bible contains about 789,000 words, give or take depending on your translation. The Harry Potter series contains approx. 1,084,000 words. The Twilight Series contains approx. 520,000 words. In the time it takes to read these two series of garbage, someone could read the Bible through cover to cover twice. If the overwhelming majority of pre-teen girls can devour those series over and over again, why do we shudder at the thought of devouring the Word of God once? Much less three to four times a year? If you truly believe that the Bible is inspired by God and is beneficial to your spiritual life, then treat it as such. READ. Jump over that mental block. Read so that you become spiritually mature, strengthened and able to handle anything that comes your way.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Conclusion

My intent is not to condemn or guilt you into reading the Bible more. My desire is to challenge you to be studious in your personal pursuit of Christ, to plow into the depths of Him, to find truth for yourself instead of being that little helpless child that believes everyone and everything. I want you to know the tremendous value of Scripture. We have been given the most precious gift in having the ability to study God’s words for ourselves. Don’t surrender that gift to anybody else.

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 3

by Naomi

This is four part series. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

My challenge to you: Study the Bible for yourself.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

Turn off Star Scott’s teachings and find out what God really says in His Word. Once you dig in, you will be surprised by the ignorance that is propagated under the guise of “being so well-taught.” For people who claim to be uncompromising in the Word, they have very little respect for it and very little knowledge of it, besides Star Scott’s multiple Bible phrases thrown into his sermon-type rambling. The sad truth is that for a great apostle who “sets doctrine,” he handles the Scriptures like a first-grader. Topical studies pulled straight from the concordance (the concordance is a tool, not a crutch), spiritual jargon, rambling, contextual messes, convenient theology that changes based on who left the church at that particular time, nonsensical strings of phrases that sound like Scripture, but do not originate from Scripture.

It will take work to study the Bible and not be influenced by the things you have been taught since your youth. The continual stream of ‘teaching’ should be called, “brainwashing.” To brainwash is to make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure. Calvary Temple utilizes this method by mocking anyone who disagrees, reinforcing Star Scott’s teaching by having other pastors teach and quote him more than they quote the Bible as if he were the final authority, by threatening dissenters with painful penalties and employing manipulation and church discipline as weapons under the guise of being “for your own good.” Calvary Temple breeds Scriptural ignorance under the guise of “being so well-taught.” This is heart-breaking and maddening and disgusting all at the same time. Ignorance is not bliss. Whether you are a current member or a former member or simple someone who has had contact with Calvary Temple, I urge you to study the Word of God for yourself.

As believers in Christ, it is our sober responsibility and our greatest privilege to be able to study the Word of God personally. Christians throughout the ages have laid down their lives, often burned at the stake, to give us the Bible in our language. Christ Himself laid down His life, suffered the most awful agony on the cross–for the purpose of ripping the veil in the temple–a symbol of His making a way for personal access with God. To willingly give up that access to God and His Word is to denigrate His sacrifice and devalue one of the basic tenets of the faith–the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture.

Calvary Temple thinks you don’t need the Bible… personally. Or they think you don’t need “too much of it.” They like to twist Scriptures like “much learning hath made you mad!” (Acts 26:24) and “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1) to discourage personal Bible study. Those two verses have nothing to do with personally studying the Word of God to know and understand Him better. Calvary Temple implies that you need to be spoon-fed Bible teaching from Star Scott. They’re dead wrong.

You need God. You need His Word. You don’t need Star Scott.

Stay tuned for Part 4!

 

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 2

by Naomi

This is a four part series. Read Part 1 here.

Without personal study of the Word, we are unable to discern between good and evil.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

Over and over again, our ignorance mocks us. We hear the words of so-called church leadership who tell us to do things absolutely contrary to the Word of God. We believe them. We submit to them. Lives are destroyed because we could not/would not/did not assimilate the Bible into ourselves. You might be wondering what this lack of discernment looks like. Let me elaborate.

One disturbing example is the tendency of Calvary Temple leadership to insert their unBiblical “counsel” into the marriages of their members. They suggest (in reality, demand) that members separate from their dissenting spouse, which is opposite what Scripture teaches. They declare that “spiritual adultery” is grounds for divorce, when in fact, that phrase is never, ever, EVER used in the Bible to talk about the literal marriage covenant between a man and wife. They counsel separation if a spouse is ‘speaking against leadership’ or ‘questioning’ or any attitude that is rebellious towards church leadership. They usurp the authority of the husband by suggesting that the wife confide in some other man about spiritual matters (hello! inappropriate!), especially to tattle on their husband for real or imagined sin. Calvary Temple leadership violates the sanctity of the marriage covenant, by making it about the Husband, the Wife and the Church, rather than a precious covenant between Husband & Wife, at the exclusion of all others. If a spouse expresses the desire to leave Calvary Temple (I will not elaborate on this concept in this article, but let me state: yes, you can leave a church. No, you don’t need the leadership’s permission), the leadership suggests manipulative tactics, running back to one’s parents (completely contrary to Scripture’s teachings on this subject), ignoring one’s spouse while they’re on church discipline, breaking them down and using children as pawns in a life-altering game. Their strategies are absolutely despicable and only more so because they are done under the guise of obeying the Bible.

The Bible is clear on the subjects of marriage and divorce. When a man and wife are married, no one gets in between. They leave their parents (Genesis 2:24) and cling to each other. If a believer and unbeliever are married, they are to stay married unless the unbeliever decides to leave (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). Just because someone leaves the church doesn’t give their spouse any room to divorce them. Even if they leave Calvary Temple and leave the faith completely, there is still no room for a professing believer to divorce them. God hates divorce. He hates it! He detests it! God created marriage as a covenant not to be broken, and most definitely NOT for the stupidest reason ever of leaving Calvary Temple.

In this example, Calvary Temple has taken something that God despises — divorce — and actually called it necessary and held it up as some badge of honor. They have encouraged what God strongly discourages. This flip-flopping of truth is not limited to the idea of marriage and divorce, but rather is a prevalent practice throughout Calvary Temple. Star Scott calls something good evil, and something evil good, and nobody reads the Bible enough to recognize it.

Without personal study of the Word, we are perpetual babies.

Just like our bodies are designed to grow and mature from babyhood to adulthood, God intends for us to grow up spiritually (Ephesians 4:15). No growth = abnormal. Calvary Temple likes to keep people in perpetual babyhood, because babies don’t question. Babies don’t talk. Babies don’t leave. Babies just eat what’s shoved in their mouths and smile.

“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” 1 Peter 2:2

It is a mark of a true believer that they are hungry for the Word of God. I seriously wonder how any pastor could discourage a new believer from studying the Word for themselves. The Word of God is the catalyst for our spiritual growth. Without the Word, we will starve. Without the Word, we will degrade and waste away. The Word is what leads us to victory.

“I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 1 John 2:14

It is an interesting process. Because you are a newborn baby in Christ, you are hungry. You desire spiritual food. You want the milk of the Word. You eat that Word. It is life and spiritual strength and victory to you. Subsequently, you grow up in God. You are no longer a baby. You are a man or woman of God. You are mature. That is exactly what God designed you to be.

Read Part 3 now!

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