CJ Mahaney, El Primo Doctrinal Mover and Shaker of Sovereign Grace Ministries fame, recently released a letter stating that he is stepping away from being the Alpha Big Dog at the top of the “First Among Equals” governing egalitarian hierarchy. It is my current understanding that he wrote this letter to the leaders within his family of churches on July 2nd. He subsequently made a blog post on July 6th for general consumption. There is one difference of consequence between the blog posts and the pastoral letter—blog version: first paragraph, CJ reserves the right to update his blog while he is on self-imposed doghouse vacation.
The gist of the letter/post is easy enough to understand: “People told me I’m a bad, bad sinner. (Whispering: ‘and they said the same thing about other leaders in SGM’) So I am going to put myself in timeout so I can morally navel gaze.”
If one is able to look past the coils of SGM speak slithering around the one-thousand-word document that threatens to squeeze your mind into a spiritual warm fuzzy, if you can remain conscious enough to spot the Harry Houdini level logical sleights of hand, it is rather obvious that CJ doesn’t really think he has done anything wrong. Well, maybe I should say he is willing to concede that he is a sinner but doesn’t think what he has done is terminally disqualifying. He fully expects to return—appropriately chastened—to his rightful place after he has looked at his bellybutton for an undisclosed season.
Yeah, we can all see him working double time to say all the right things. Since he is the creator of the SGM sin, confession, and reconciliation mantra, it would be absurd to think he would say anything else. No matter how much he acknowledges some theoretical wrongdoing, he ultimately disagrees with the judgments brought against him. Notice this specific admission in the last part of the third paragraph:
“Even with the charges I disagree with it has been beneficial to examine my soul and ask for the observation of others. And I am resolved to take responsibility for my sin and every way my leadership has been deficient, and this would include making any appropriate confessions, public or private. Most importantly I want to please God during this season of examination and evaluation.”
And notice this in the 7th paragraph:
“I have resolved that I and the Sovereign Grace team can’t effectively lead us into the future without evaluating the past, addressing these deficiencies, improving our structure, and as much as possible pursuing reconciliation with former pastors.”
This means that no matter how much repenting he ultimately does, CJ by fiat, reserves the right to maintain his judgments about former ministries and ministers.
In the grand world of Indwelling Sin where one’s motives and rational understanding is shot through with disqualifying “sinful cravings,” it is a bit puzzling how he gets to even say “I disagree” with the charge of sin; nor do I understand how he can summarily decide the level of reconciliation. The doctrine says one is guilty never to be proved innocent because one is blind to the corrupting power of sin. This is the metaphysical assumption that SGM leaders use as a hammer when dealing with unruly, deleterious problem children. All those silly ideas, all that rational confidence, all that personal assurance you think you have, no, you don’t. You are a bad, bad sinner and need to shut up and just believe what they tell you is true. When we want your opinion, we will give it to you. We are old enough to be your father after all, so we should be sufficiently patronized for our lofty leadership authority. (BTW, Robin, do you feel patronized yet?)
That is what they would say to a lowly pew-sitter that was called to the carpet by their considered judgment. By definition, CJ’s self-awareness is flawed, and the proof is his self-assertion, which means he is disqualified to self-disagree. Well, that is if SGM were at all consistent with their sound doctrine and denounce the glaring display of doctrinal egoism within the letter. (MUCH more on this in a minute.)