Discernment and Absolution
Obviously, I am renowned for my religious toleration and ecumenical spirit.
I’m also well known for my affinity for Lutheranism and Lutherans, with whom I’ve never had arguments or doctrinal disagreements of any kind.
On top of all this, a certain tatted-up Lutheran and I have been long-time friends and cherished confidants. Sometimes, we like to snuggle (platonically, of course), having long talks about our feelings and emotions.
And if you believe any of those things, I have a bridge that just went on the market in Brooklyn (if you’re interested). Half the posts on this website decry ecumenism. My religious toleration is demonstrated by stopping short of burning heretics, and Lutherans and I get along about as well as stray cats fighting over the empty tuna can. This fellow and I have gone round for round on numerous occasions, and it usually ends with a block in social-media, an angry mutter, and an internal promise to never deal with him ever again. He’s never struck me as a bad guy…just not my kind of guy. And that, if you know our history, is to put it lightly.
The scenario, without adding fuel to a fire, is as follows:
1) Lutheran Pastor X does something sinful, for which he is disqualified from office, and resigns. (2) Church chooses to not let him go forever, gives him a period of rehabilitation, and eventually calls him back. (3) The happy-ever-after ending is ended violently when a website releases some details of his sin to the public, which are true, while making certain other accusations that seem baseless. (4) Everyone with a theological or personal beef with Pastor X comes out of the woodwork to power-bomb him into Dante’s seventh level of hell where he can be tortured in eternal flames and think about what he’s done.
Before I give my thoughts on the eternal reprobation and hopeless lostness of Lutheran Pastor X, let me state the following explicitly and clearly:
- This is not a defense of Lutheran Pastor X’s theology, personality, personal style, or past behavior (public or private). It’s sure as heck not a defense for his skinny jeans, as there is obviously not a defense for that (to be fair, I’m not sure he wears skinny jeans, but he seems to be the type who would wear skinny jeans and I choose to judge him based off of my preconceived bigotries).
- I have thoughts about whether pastors committing certain sins can be restored. This article is not meant to address those thoughts.
That being said, here are my thoughts that are relating to Lutheran Pastor X:
Confession of sin is done in the local church, not on a bat signal to alert the Justice League of anti-church survivor blogs or the scornful and rebellious woman club.
He hasn’t confessed his sin publicly! Confessing it to his church is public. Furthermore, it’s the only “public” that matters. It’s the highest court on Earth (albeit not the only court), and it’s the only court with jurisdiction over sin. The civil magistrate has jurisdiction over crime.
We “discernment” folks will shed light on things intentionally kept in the dark. This includes immorality covered up by churches, not confessed to local churches or the intentional suppression of wickedness. If a sin has already been confessed and handled by the highest court, we have no skin in the game or dog in the fight. For example, if there was a certain habitual liar who manufactured a false life story and whose friends and cohorts called his lies “self-contradictory facts” and no church would deal with his chicanery and megachurch pastors would lend him their pulpit while ignoring the undealt-with sin, then we deal with it. On the other hand, if someone were to sin in the exact same way and just as seriously, but confess it as sin and are sincerely and judiciously dealt with in church discipline, we rejoice that the Gospel has worked and grace has conquered iniquity.
Irrespective of ministry eligibility, treating sinners like they’re unforgivable is anti-Christ.
The lost world has an anti-gospel view of sin, justice, grace and repentance. It’s the strangest thing, really. With someone like Mark Driscoll or the aforementioned life story manufacturer, when we continually shed light on their shenanigans, people will yell at us about forgiveness and restoration. The thing is, repentance and confession are prerequisites of forgiveness and restoration. When someone digs into their sin and stubbornly refuses to repent, apologize or acknowledge it, we can’t restore one to fellowship.
On the other hand, there’s the opposite problem and that’s what I’ve seen this week. There are those who have sinned and confessed it as sin, agreeing with God regarding the sinfulness of their actions and repenting for it. They have owned it and apologized for it. They’ve thrown themselves on the mercy of God’s court and took their medicine. Regardless of one’s view of ministry eligibility, it’s actually a sin not to restore that individual to full fellowship. Likewise, it’s actually a sin to throw their past transgression in their face and label them with a sin that has been judiciously paid for in the blood of our Savior. And I would argue that labeling one with sin that has been atoned for and forgiven is the very spirit of anti-Christ.
You lose your credibility alleging victimization when you’re victimizing Pastor X’s loved ones.
I did a video when the Ashley Madison scandal happened, saying that we would not be releasing the information sent to us regarding who was exposed as a user of the site and gave several reasons. A big one, is that we felt that people would be driven to despair and possibly even self-harm. Sadly, that turned out to be the case. Also, I said that there are real people involved…real wives, real children, real loved ones, real marriages, real relationships. Are you prepared for collateral damage? So, while we reached out to some of those exposed names and made sure it was dealt with properly, we didn’t want to lift up their families as objects of scorn.
Imagine the shame, embarrassment and ridicule that the spouse or loved ones must deal with when sin is exposed. Obviously, the blame is put entirely upon the transgressor. But when forgiveness has been granted and love conquers and grace abounds and the Gospel is applied as the Balm of Gilead, how wicked it is to rip off the scab from that spouse or loved one and take a forgiven sin and use it for harm.
The entire Christian world needs a lesson on what forgiveness is, and how it relates to confession. Absolution is absolution. Unfortunately, I’m afraid many don’t understand what absolution is.
So yeah, I realize that this post might be unpopular among those who think discernment ministries are just out trying to eviscerate people and we’re pulling a punch. But if you think about it, long and hard, you’ll see that our sites are aimed on the unrepentant and unpenitent. For those who’ve confessed and been forgiven, we rejoice with them and praise God that faith is the victory.
[Contributed by JD Hall]