Guest Post By Ken Marino: Jesus is Waiting Outside

We are pleased to have a guest writer sharing his heart from God’s Word today. Ken Marino and his family were a part of Calvary Temple for 19 years. The Lord brought them out of Calvary Temple and into freedom in 2007. Ken has authored a devotional on the book of James entitled “The Physician & the Pharmacy,” which we enjoyed. We are grateful for his thoughtful and encouraging words to the former members of CT.


Leaving a church can be an emotionally charged life altering event.  Letting go of the familiarity of long time relationships and church culture increases our angst about the uncertainty of what lies ahead.  When it comes to Calvary Temple, leaving the group is exponentially more stressful and traumatic.  Departure here means burned bridges and  scorched earth behind.  Despite all that, rock-solid hope awaits you in John chapter 9.  Let the blind man at the pool of Siloam encourage your trembling heart in the inexpressible priceless exchange in store for you.

“When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam'” (John 9:6-7 NASB)

Jesus does something very unusual–spitting on the ground to make a clay eye salve.  Why did Jesus do this?  John lets us know that Jesus’ miracles were signs (see John 1:11).  Signs direct us beyond the miracle to the spiritual reality about God behind it.

Clay as it’s used in Scripture has two main ideas.  One is the soft, pliable material for the potter (usually God).  The other is its brittleness and weakness (Dan 2:41-42; Job 13:12).  This clay was composed of spit, an act of contempt to bring shame (Num 12:14, Deut 25:9, Job 17:6).  Our Lord’s prophecy, “They will mock Him and spit on Him,” was fulfilled by the mockery of the Roman soldiers: “They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him” (Mark 10:34, 15:19).

The blind man was about to discover that eyesight comes at a heavy personal cost.  He was going to learn that through weakness, shame and humiliation that the works of God would be displayed in him (John 9:3).  All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.  It’s a persecution that, as the Book of Acts attests to, is more often than not at the hands of religious leaders.

Be encouraged that through weakness (clay) and shame (spit) we gain increasing revelation of Jesus Christ.  Watch how this man’s comprehension of Christ grows as the opposition mounts.  “So they were saying to him, ‘How then were your eyes opened?’  He answered, ‘The man who is called Jesus made clay…'” (verses 10-11).  At the beginning, all this man knows is His name–Jesus.  After the first grilling of the Pharisees, his answer progresses in understanding: “He is a prophet” (verse 17).  By the end, this fellow’s spiritual eyes are wide open: “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him…. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (verses 31-33).  Even though we keenly feel our weakness (clay) amidst the verbal contempt (spit) of the religious leaders, Jesus is sending us on to our pool of Siloam where He opens our eyes to see who He is!

What treatment can you expect from Pharisee type leaders if Jesus has opened your spiritual eyes?   Pharisees are quick to judge you as a sinner for breaking their rules.  They are self-proclaimed champions of Sabbath keeping.  But they blindly accused  the Creator and Lord of the Sabbath  as being a law breaker of it!  “Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, ‘This man [Jesus] is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath…we know that this man is a sinner.'” (verses 16, 24).  As they judged Jesus, so they wrongly judged His disciple:  “You were born entirely in sins” (verse 34).

The Pharisees love to rule by fear.  In addition to their police-like attentiveness to rule breaking, they motivate compliance by severe penalties.  “His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue” (verse 22).  “You’d better obey us or we’ll kick you out!”  Don’t fear excommunication; the best is yet to come!  Watch what the blind man loses compared to what he gains in the end.

“They reviled him” (verse 28).  Pharisaical leaders are trained experts in public vilification.  Be prepared for this heaping abuse on you from Calvary Temple.  And the more influence you have there, the greater the reviling to discredit you to the group.  All this railing is achieved by adorning it with spiritually high-sounding words.  “Give glory to God” (verse 24).  “We are disciples of Moses” (verse 28).

While presenting their biblically based arguments to the congregation, they boldly assert themselves as expert sin identifiers. “You were born entirely in sins.”  Pharisaical leaders will brand you a sinner, even though Jesus says the opposite.  “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (verse 3).

What really rankles a Pharisee, though, is a nobody teaching them.  “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us! (verse 34, NIV)”  Here a blind beggar , a bottom rung untouchable, speaks the truth of God’s word.  Pride in their religious training, degrees, experience, and elevation in the people’s eyes deafened them to listen to anyone they deemed beneath them.

Now for the good news!  Was all that maligning of reputation and being expelled from the community worth it all?

“Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’  Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.’  And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped Him” (verses 35-38).  The religious authorities may expel you, but that’s when Jesus seeks you out and finds you.  How tender.  How comforting.  Christ gives further revelation of Himself to the outcast.  This ex-synagogue member receives greater Christ-centered faith and enters into a new realm of worship.  Don’t fear Pharisaical leadership.  The fear of man brings a snare.  Jesus is waiting outside the “synagogue” to welcome you to Himself.   You may lose your reputation and your community, but you have Him.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8 ESV).

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The Wartburg Watch & The Great Shepherd

In recent weeks, Calvary Temple’s abuse has been spotlighted on a notable Christian blog called, The Wartburg Watch. Brandon wrote a few introductory posts. If you are looking for a history of Calvary Temple and the allegations of spiritual, mental, physical and sexual abuse, you can read his essay, “Calvary Temple: In a Nutshell.” Though it is long, the content makes it well worth the effort of reading. Woven throughout Calvary Temple’s history is the thread of Brandon’s personal story.

 

“I’m sorry, Joe. Dad sent me out here. You have to get out of my car.” My younger brother peered at me through tired eyes from the back seat of my 1998 Toyota Corolla where he had been sleeping. He nodded in resignation like a man who had just heard that he was going to have to sleep under a bridge that night and there was nothing he could do about it. He closed the car door behind him, walked down my parent’s gravel driveway, and disappeared into the lonely darkness. It was almost Christmas and it was snowing gently. He was fourteen. … Read more here.


The Wartburg Watch has also published a few stories of ex-CT members, like Michelle, Patty and Molly. Theirs are the stories of brave souls with lives torn apart by shepherds who devour sheep. Even I, who knew parts of these stories already, find it heartbreaking to read them. And for each of these stories, there are many more just like them. For being just one (or two) church(es), Calvary Temple is prolific in its destruction of families, marriages and lives. Note: To other Calvary Temple survivors, The Wartburg Watch is willing to publish more stories if you are willing to share.

Reading these stories is strong motivation in the fight to expose Calvary Temple, when one realizes that real shepherds don’t act like this. 

In choosing the axe instead of the shepherd’s staff, CT pastors have chosen to become devouring wolves. Instead of caring for their sheep, they beat, manipulate, abuse and destroy. They are shepherds in name only, displaying characteristics of satan and certainly NOT the Great Shepherd who loves His sheep with a great love.

I am meditating often on the pastoral words of Psalm 23, as I rest in the love and care of The Great Shepherd. It is God’s character that is the greatest indictment against Calvary Temple’s actions.

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the L ord forever.

Psalm 23

 

 

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The Search for Justice

 

 

By Naomi01_012

Story after story of broken families, broken marriages, broken lives. That is what I heard on Sunday at the Peaceful Protest. I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with folks that had endured shunning, brokenness, and abuse of all kinds and the worst part? All in the name of obeying the Bible.

When we started this website nearly three years ago, we had no idea of the magnitude of Calvary Temple’s sins. We knew that they preached false doctrine, and perhaps we should have known that false doctrine is the swampy, disgusting mud-hole of a breeding ground for all kinds of abuse. False doctrine creates the perfect circumstances for people to control others, and that’s when horrible things happen. God gave people free will for a reason, and when anyone (including so-called spiritual leadership) exerts their own will over another, they have crossed the line from devoted shepherd to devouring wolf.

So where do we go from here?

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
-Margaret Mead

Because of the recent publicity, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office has reopened their investigation. These allegations of physical and sexual abuse are very serious, but at this point, they are only allegations. We need you to speak out.

If you are a victim, and eye witness or someone with evidence, please call the police at the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office so they can collect enough information to turn these allegations into charges. The number to call for abuse not of a sexual nature is 703-777-1021 and the number for the juvenile sexual crimes unit is 703-777-0475.

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”
Romans 13:1-2 NASB

God Himself gives authority to the government. When so-called Christians commit criminal acts, justice is God’s will. There have been many scandals over the years of churches trying to cover up crime or take care of it “in-house” and that is thoroughly unScriptural. It is the government’s job to execute justice on perpetrators.

However, justice cannot be served when we stay silent. It takes courage and great inner strength to speak out. Dear victims and witnesses, have no fear. You have done no wrong. Those who have done you wrong deserve to be punished.

“…But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”
Romans 13:4 NASB

If you are a local citizen, you can also take action. Contact your elected officials to express your concerns and the importance of justice being served.

  • Loudoun County Sheriff. Contact information here
  • Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Contact information here
  • Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney. Contact information here
  • Governor of Virginia. Contact information here
  • Attorney General of Virginia. Contact information here
  • Your Elected Congressional District Member. Find the right person to contact here

 

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

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Taking Action Through Peaceful Protest

by Brandon

 

The Loudoun Times article has become the tipping point in the Against Calvary Temple movement. It is no longer just about religion, or Star Scott, or your particular interpretation of the Bible. It has become a community issue about sexual and physical abuse: with some covering up, others standing up, and a steadily increasing voice raising up a protest that these things shouldn’t be. The local media has helped, and we are thankful. And now, a peaceful protest is being organized for this Sunday, March 29th, at 9:15 a.m. across the street from the Calvary Temple property. Naomi and I will be attending, and we hope that you will come as well.

Of those who will attend, each has his or her own reasons for making it out. Some protesters will be ex-CT members who finally have a chance to stand against the evil they were dealt. Others will attend because they have friends or family affected by CT. Others see the direness of the situation and have decided that something must be done. None of us can stand by idly while children are repeatedly and systematically abused, maligned, and dealt lifelong damage by a leadership team who has demonstrated time and time again that their interests are preserving their own visions of grandeur, their positions of power, and their terribly ineffective racing ministry.

Why am I taking my wife and four month child four hours south for a protest in another state? There are several reasons. First, I have been directly affected by Calvary Temple. I grew up there and I was eventually kicked out, much to my own surprise. I was given a list of reasons why it was happening, all of which seemed like petty reasons to kick someone out of a church. I found out a year later that the actual reason was that they were afraid that I would influence people away from the church if the IRS investigation turned up criminal charges against Star Scott. I suppose that they were probably on to something there, as I had decided that the IRS investigation could not be persecution according to 1 Peter 4:15, which says that if you suffer because you are a thief, then do not consider it persecution.

I can remember a meeting with Associate Pastor Jeff Heglund and two others in which I made the mistake of saying the word “cult.” To give you context, I was brought into a meeting that I did not call because they wanted me to tell them any concerns I had about the church so that they could “help” me. After much prodding, I reluctantly told them that, while I would never separate over these issues because I knew that God was in control and He would be faithful to His children, if they insisted that I share my concerns, then I was concerned that the IRS investigation was a result of our own wrong-doing, I was concerned over the way that we treated former members, I was concerned that we broke off from the Assemblies of God but we didn’t let people break off from us, and I was concerned that we may have been beginning to develop the characteristics of a cult. The meeting was fine until the c-word came out. I saw the postures of the three men in Jeff Heglund’s office change. My deacon told me that I was full of demons. Sins that I had openly confessed and repented of years beforehand were brought back to the table as proof that I could not be seeing clearly.

And then Jeff Heglund said something that I have never forgotten. He said “Brandon, if you really think that we are a cult, then if you love us, you will do everything in your power to get us out of here. You will plead with us, you will beg with us, you won’t rest until you’ve pulled every last one of us out of here and seen us freed from this place.” And that is my second reason for attending this protest on Sunday: because I love these people and I want to see them freed.

It is interesting to note that if you speak against Calvary Temple, they say that you must be bitter. But in that closed door meeting, Jeff said a Truth—a capital ‘t’ kind of Truth—that I’m not even sure he fully understands. It is love, not hate, that compels us to free our families from that wretched place. And it is love that brings us all to the sidewalk of Tripleseven Road on Sunday.

The final reason that I am attending is because I am a Christian, and I have a responsibility to God for those people and for the purity of His name. The world must see that we are not all like Star Scott. They must see that Calvary Temple is not the way of Christ. To be silent is to offer tacit approval, and that is something I cannot do.

I have a responsibility to God in my response to Star Scott. We must distinguish between a right and a responsibility. Paul had a right to financial support from his churches, but he chose to forgo his right. However, as Christians we have a responsibility to “not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead to expose them (Eph. 5:11).” The Bible doesn’t say “you have the right to test every spirit.” No, it says “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world (1 John 4:1).” Jesus makes it clear how you differentiate between a true prophet and a false prophet: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:15-16).”

It has been pointed out that Star Scott claims four of the five-fold ministry gifts that are written in Ephesians 4. He is an Apostle-Prophet-Pastor-Teacher. Which means he is either the most extraordinary man in the world or he is just another con man. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that, by claiming these titles for himself, he opens himself up to the Christian’s responsibility to test if he is a false apostle (2 Cor. 11:13), false prophet (Matt 7:15), false pastor (Titus 1), and false teacher (2 Peter 2). Ultimately, all of these tests come down to bad fruit, made up stories, fake miracles, and a false gospel. In Star Scott’s case, he fails on all four counts—an exercise which will have to be shown more thoroughly at another time. How is the church supposed to respond to a False Apostle-False Prophet-False Pastor-False Teacher? The Bible makes it clear repeatedly that we are to look out for these men, we are to expose them for what they are, and we are to warn other Christians to stay away. That is our Christian responsibility in dealing with Star Scott.

Lastly, I want to reiterate some truths that must be remembered as we go about this exposing and protesting. It is important to remember that not everybody at Calvary Temple chose to be there. When I was four and my parents decided to join, I didn’t have a choice. There are about 80 children at Calvary Temple—most of whom were born there—that were not given a choice. They aren’t legally able to run away, they can’t support themselves financially, and they certainly can’t be expected to have the mental fortitude to deal with the ostracizing that they would experience if they chose to leave. In the highest meaning of the word, they are the victims of Calvary Temple.

Not only are the children victims, but in many ways a lot of the adults are as well. Yes, there is an inner circle, and there are those that seem to be beyond hope. But all of us ex-CTers used to be CTers, and for a time none of us saw the truth. In many cases, it took extraordinary measures for us to be willing to see it. In my own case, I had to be forced to leave before I was willing to leave. So as we move forward with our plans, let us remember that we were once like them. If this had occurred at an earlier time in history, we would be the ones in the church building while a crowd gathered outside in protest. These people are our family. They are our loved ones. They have been told for years that we hate them and are persecuting them. They must see the opposite on Sunday. There are a small handful of them that need to be arrested and thrown in jail. And there are far more that just need to be set free. If it takes extraordinary measures to free them, then extraordinary measures I will take.

Join us on Sunday. Help us set them free.

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Horrified: About the Loudoun Times-Mirror Article

Written by Naomi

 

Today, the Loudoun Times-Mirror published an article detailing sexual abuse at Calvary Temple in Sterling, Virginia.

An excerpt from the article reads,

“Now 26, the Maryland woman, along with one other victim, have come forward, alleging rampant sexual assault within the church among members of its leadership, teachers and teacher’s aides.

The women paint a disturbing picture of an atmosphere where physical and sexual abuse were not only tolerated and encouraged, but “taken care of” within the church should a victim come forward.

But Thompson and the other woman, whose name is being withheld by the Times-Mirror because she fears for her safety, say they can’t stay silent anymore.”

Horrified. It is the only word that portrays my feelings with accuracy. I am horrified at the stories, horrified at the circumstances detailed in the article, horrified at the extent of Calvary Temple’s inability to act like a real Christian church, horrified that children endured these atrocities, horrified that any human being would respond in the way CT did, horrified that there are still several hundred followers there, horrified that some choose silence over warning, horrified that Calvary Temple exists and cloaks itself in the guise of spirituality.

Horrified. Filled with horror, to shock greatly. To make my blood run cold. To make my hair stand on end. To scare the living daylights out of me.

In 2012, my little hometown was engulfed in one of the greatest sexual abuse scandals in the nation. Penn State University’s former football assistant coach and defensive coordinator was accused of multiple years of sexually abusing young boys from a charity that he founded. I was surrounded by people of all walks of life with same normal human response to this scandal: they were horrified. They were not horrified because of the publicity or because of PSU football or anything like that. Over and over, people expressed their horror for the abuse that those poor boys endured. In my workplace, folks talked of little else. They shook their heads in shock. Grown men were grieving. Women who never met the victims cried tears of empathy. And when Jerry Sandusky was pronounced guilty by a jury of his peers, our tiny town erupted with rejoicing for justice that had been done.

It is normal as a human to empathize with the innocents. To be angry at injustice. To be horrified by evil. To fail at this normal human response is to become a monster.

As I write these words, my four month old son sleeps peacefully on my shoulder. Before he was born, I thought I understood what love was. Now I know without a doubt the intense love of a parent for their child. My actions are driven by the God-given responsibility of parenthood. My child is small, defenseless, innocent. Far be it from me to ever put him in danger or to stand silent while he was harmed.

As a parent, I am horrified at the stories of things happening at CT’s church and school. I am horrified that people would question a sexual abuse victim in front of her abuser. I could not raise my child at Calvary Temple. I could not allow him in a place where multiple accusations of sexual abuse have been raised. I could not entrust him to a church-esque community that has shown themself to be unworthy of trust. As a parent, I would run far, far away.

In a passage of Scripture so important that three of the four gospels repeat it nearly verbatim, it says,

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”
Mark 9:42 NASB
 

The God that we serve hates those who hurt children. In the same way, we Christians (followers of Christ) are compelled to stand against such things. The oddity in this situation is that Calvary Temple routinely hurts children, by turning their parents against them, by counseling (i.e. forcing) them to abandon their children, to shun them, to ignore them for daily church events, to give them to the care of a school that has no oversight with teachers that are not certified and inept and according to the article, willing to overlook abuse.

The straw that breaks the camel’s back? Star R. Scott and his taped confession of sexually abusing minors. Calvary Temple’s revered leader, senior pastor and self-professed Apostle-Prophet-Pastor-Teacher who is accountable to no one, admitted that what he formerly stated was adultery and a one-time-thing, was actually sexual abuse. Of course, he offers spiritual-sounding excuses and justifications to disguise the truth, but they matter little. Star R. Scott ought to be behind bars, not leading a church. Forgiveness is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, and his repentance, if it were real, would have led to justice.

Star Scott’s actions make him unfit for ministry.

“Namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,”
Titus 1:6-8 NASB (underline added)
 

Star Scott deserves reproach by law enforcement, normal people, churches, Christians and the universal Church. He does not deserve respect or a position of church authority. When the email detailing those accusations against him was released in 2008, his response was essentially “it’s not true.” People believed him, but even loyal followers said to themselves, “if it is true, we would leave.” Fast-forward to seven years later and he admits the truth. What will the response be now?

It is possible for those at Calvary Temple to become immediately defensive at the Loudoun Times-Mirror article, but I strongly caution against the reaction to denigrate the victims brave enough to tell their stories (and those additional victims not featured in the article). It is extremely rare for a childhood sexual abuse victim to lie about what they have suffered. It often takes the courage that comes with adulthood for them to tell their stories. You may read more about childhood sexual abuse here to give understanding about the normalcy of their responses and the mountain of issues that they bravely work through to come to a point of sharing their stories publicly. Their stories are not to be taken lightly.

As a human, as a parent and as a Christian, I am horrified at these things, at Calvary Temple. If God had not already rescued my husband from their clutches four and a half years ago, I might be tempted to stage a hostage rescue attempt. Unfortunately, you cannot rescue those who do not wish to be rescued. So today, I make my appeal.

Dear CT congregants, please leave. Please, please leave. Before the horror escapes your heart and you become immune to evil, please leave.

 

 

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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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