Jul 13 2011

CJ Mahaney’s Metaphysical Magic Mayhem

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.)

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    1. 16

      Reposted by John
      So nice to be back here, John, and read some intelligent comments for a change. Some people who comment in other blogs about these topics…well…let me just say it gets me so annoyed sometimes. Nuff said.

      Gracie, hope you come back and add more of your comments…enjoyed your last one immensely :)

      Lin, re-read your comments and caught this line: “CJ and Brent created this system, maintained and grew it. It was only a matter of time before it was practiced on each other.”

      All of a sudden, I got this image of Robespierre who went crazy with the guillotine, chopping off everyone’s head who even so much as whispered a hint of criticism against the growing French Revolution movement. In the end, his own friends accused him of being against the movement he helped start and it was “off with his head”! How many heads are going to get chopped off at the SGM block, I wonder, when this is all said and done…now that the mighty Alpha Big Dog has already stuck out his own neck?

    2. 17
      John Immel

      Reposted by John

      “SGM errors back to the Shepherding Movement. Interesting to read your take on its roots going much further back.”

      the Shepharding movement… LOL.. yea Derrick Prince and company were a bunch of pikers compared to Augustine, Calvin and the Puritans. I know that the Puritans are everyone’s Thanksgiving hero, and their story warms our soul, but there was a reason they were persecuted. The Massachusetts Bay colony would make SGM central look positively libertine. They were the most virulent form of Reformation theology. Yea…these ideas are very very old, and are at the roots of the most destructive periods in human history. What I marvel at more than anything else, is the collective reluctance to render the cause and effect outcomes successfully. The “fruit” is out there, laying all over the ground, up and down the history books (at least the ones that are not sanitized by the Puritan Groupies residing in pulpits today). I know where this caution comes from, but I still marvel at how effective the underlying doctrines intimidate and bully.

      Even you, who have put your finger dead square on the underlying consistency:

      “Gracie said: So God somehow dispenses this magical. special anointing on a few chosen. This anointing gives the chosen extra, specific grace to know what’s best for the local church and oftentimes the individuals within the local church and (here’s the important part) actually TRUMPS their own sin natures. THAT’S how they can line themselves up with all of the rest of us “worst sinners” but at the same time take several steps (or giant leaps) in front of us. And who gets to decide who the next anointed one is, rising up from the ranks? Only those who already bear the anointing.”

      Notice that after this very effective summation of the underlying logical inconsistency close with this:

      “Gracie said: I don’t mean to overstate my point, and I know it is probably a bit simplistic (sorry!), but hey, got to start somewhere! My first pass at assimilating what you have said here, John. ”

      Actually you have NOT over stated your point at all. This is the point! And yet you got shy and unsure, and started to hedge around the edge.

      Gracie your entire observation is exactly what should be shouted from the housetops. The fact that you have simplified it is precisely because it is that glaringly uncomplicated. The roots of how this all works IS complex, but the evidence for the underlying error really is sitting in front of everyone’s face. And men who use these doctrines MUST prevent people from relying on their own rational judgment to evade the inconsistencies.

      You have done a great job of assimilating what I’ve said. You should be confident in the conclusions of your own rational judgment.

      Yea YOU!

    3. 18

      Reposted by John


      John, I found this frolicking comment revenant and of interest this morning:

      (A comment Don made on Thu, Jul 14 2011 at 05:37 pm on the “thewartburgwatch.com”)

      “Yesterday ex-CLC member John Immel posted a (typically) long, philosophically slanted article about CJ on his blog:

      Though it’s long, I really suggest people read it.

      John wrote a long harangue about CLC years ago, called “Blight in the Vineyard,” in which he deconstructed their Calvinism and many other things. As he writes in this post, however, the CLC pastors blew him off after reading it. They did it because John runs rings around them intellectually, they know it, and therefore they don’t want him anywhere near their corporation and customer-employees.

      They treated John the same way they’ve been treating Brent Detwiler: “Don’t dare ask us to take your objections seriously and demand we give you the information you ask of us.” As John writes, “when we want your opinion, we’ll tell you what it is.” (Brilliant!)

      I agree with John’s analysis of CJ’s ridiculous attempts to gloss over not repenting for 5 years. However, I can’t see into CJ’s spirit, so I have no way of knowing just how much the devil has blinded him by playing to his fear of man. Maybe God’s grace couldn’t get through due to the depth of deception CJ tolerates.

      But if a leader of a major Christian organization has that much demonic deception in him, he’s unfit for leadership and needs serious deliverance ministry, followed by accountability similar to that of a new believer. (Heb 6:11-14, esp. 13-14)

      I also agree with John’s conclusions, regarding C.J.’s eventual total vindication. Unless God does some major things in CJ — and I’m praying he does — CJ will announce himself repented-out and will return with many tears and an unassailable reputation for humility. He will take a victory-lap of SGM churches and his friends’ ministries. He will likely write a book about it, which will earn a lot of dough. He will command even higher speaking fees. He will contribute even more money to SBTS and other very-favorite ministries.

      At that point, you will never be able to call him to repentance again. Or, he will fake instant repentance without anything at all happening inside. Either way, he will be beyond actual reproach.

      If he does this, I believe it will indicate he’s truly rejected salvation, and is one of the people the Hebrews writer warned against becoming. (Heb 6:4-7)

      He will be the Ubermensch of Nietzsche: beyond good and evil, following only by “the will to power.” (Bill Clinton is a good example of an Ubermensch.)

      I do pray this won’t happen, but that he will have true repentance, and will actually change — by humbling himself under the mighty hand of God and acknowledging Jesus as his master.

      How will this happen, though, if he doesn’t break out of his current surroundings to find a clean atmosphere of God’s presence? Among his friends, only Terry Virgo of Newfrontiers has the boldness to speak plainly to him, as well as the spiritual discernment and power in his ministry to help God break through all the lies and deception.

      However, as a commenter on another blog said recently, if he does repent how will we tell? He’s been weeping and faking humility for so long, while telling us he’s not humble, that no one will be able to tell if the fruit of repentance is real or wax.

      He would have to do something totally out of character, like STEP DOWN FROM AUTHORITY, or CHANGE SGM’S FOCUS ON SIN-SNIFFING, or START CARING ABOUT SOMEONE OTHER THAN LEADERS, or START CARING ABOUT THE LOST, to make anyone say, “wow, I think God may be working in him enough for me to trust him again.”

      God asks, “Can a nation change in a day?” You know, Lord. But as John Immel asks, if it’s taken 5 years for CJ to gain only limited spiritual clarity, how do we know that — under CJ’s theology — God will ever grant him sufficient grace for full repentance? And how can we trust that CJ’s full repentance — if it every comes — is authentic, given his past statements that no person is qualified to judge his own spiritual condition?

      If he truly believes his own theology — which, John argues, he does not — then CJ is in spiritual checkmate, perhaps forever. Much to consider in John’s article.”


    4. 19

      Reposted by John

      ‘I know that the Puritans are everyone’s Thanksgiving hero, and their story warms our soul, but there was a reason they were persecuted. The Massachusetts Bay colony would make SGM central look positively libertine. They were the most virulent form of Reformation theology. ‘

      Thank you! I wish more people could see this. Instead, history is rewritten to make them out to be the persecuted fleeing to freedom. They came here and persecuted their own. And they were brilliant at rewriting their own history.

      Do people know what Anne Hutchinson actually did to be imprisoned and bannished? She held bible studies in her home. And she had the nerve to question the leaders on doctrine!

      In any event, it is downright depressing to read over at sgmsurvivors. For 2 weeks, it was everyone looking to Josh as the new messiah of sgm. Then it was this whole focus on reconcilation with these guys and praying they would change. What? So, they can all of a sudden be new improved leaders they should have been before? What am I missing? They do not get it.

      All I can say is that the cult tactics are deeper than they might realize. They all need exit counseling from cult thinking. They need to realize these “leaders” are mere men who need to go away and get saved.

      As Bill at Kinnontv said: I know not what this be, but it be not Christianity

    5. 20
      John Immel

      Reposted by John

      Lin said: In any event, it is downright depressing to read over at sgmsurvivors. For 2 weeks, it was everyone looking to Josh as the new messiah of sgm. Then it was this whole focus on reconcilation with these guys and praying they would change. What? So, they can all of a sudden be new improved leaders they should have been before? What am I missing? They do not get it.

      Actually Lin I feel your pain on this one… I have compassion on many levels… but I marvel at the sense of proportion. People coming to the defense of Brent Detwiler as if he is a victim: As if he is one of US? People openly, on the blogs, taking their rational acceptance of blog content because Brent is defending himself on the blogs. Continuing to look for the SGM affirmation … oblivious to the institutional contempt that they have been approached with for the better part of 20 years. It is breath taking in its dysfunction.

      If the people’s whose lives have be torn apart by the SGM “deficiencies” and sinful pride, and hypocrisy do not hold out any higher standard for some SGM remedial work, how in the world can CJ take his belly button narcissism seriously?

      This is why I insist that the reason for CJ’s existence is because people WANT to be slaved to someone else’s judgments and affirmation. They do not want the rigor of their own life.

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