Feb 07 2009

Dispassion to Avoid Distortion

Or maybe this post is to provide facts.

A poster, MC, asked the following on my article Dear Christian Chicken Little. The question is a good one that needs some clarification. (I edited their comments for brevity, but tried to maintain the integrity of the comment.)

I stumbled onto this site, and I have read a fair amount of it. I never heard of Sovereign Grace Ministries or their previous names until maybe two weeks ago.

I would appreciate it if you would do me the favor of responding as directly and as simply as possible. At this point a lot of what you say refers back to what may have been said before, so as an outsider I am not getting it.

Could you please state directly and clearly what your specific points of criticism or disagreement are with SGM? I can see that you are passionate  …  [could you state your objections] …as emotion-free as possible. I don’t mean to be offensive with that statement, but I am trying to understand your point and I have never been good at understanding when facts get colored by emotive language. Thanking you in advance.

No offense was taken.

As I said… I think you are asking an excellent question. For those readers who are not familiar with Sovereign Grace Ministries and its internal workings, I feel your pain.

There are a lot of you out there.

Thank you for being here.

I am sure my comments, and the further editorials by those posters who were part of that group, seem to have little relevance to your own spiritual pursuit and circumstance.  In this post, I will seek to show how that isn’t quite true.  For me to illustrate this, I need to connect some dots.

However, for me to connect the dots requires me to do more than make a list of grievances like:

  • They stole my M&M’s.
  • They threw spit wads at me on the playground.
  • They made fun of my hair because they don’t have any.

To answer the question… short answer I can’t do, but I can shoot for dispassion.

Okay… let me geek out on you by offering my response with a Jerry Bridges imitation: long, slow, droning, academic monotone.



While Sovereign Grace Ministries tends to be on the forefront of my commentary–because I have history with their specific ideas and practice–they are hardly the whole story.

Statist/Collectivism is a historic body of ideas that is rearing its ugly head in contemporary Christianity. That body of thinking and the consequent practice brought real, longstanding destruction to humanity. Modern American Piety, on many fronts, is resurrecting a historic synthesis of Christianity that takes us small strides away from the type of tyranny that were perpetrated under John Calvin, King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, and before them, the Inquisitions and a millennia of carnage at the hands of the Catholic Church and their complicit participation in the Feudal barbarism of the Dark Ages. Those same assumptions are embedded in Islam and most other world religions where human life becomes cheaper than the snail darter or whatever perverse image man will chip out of stone.

It is these assumptions that led James Madison in The Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785 to say this:

Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. …

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people.

Historically, America has been immune from the logical outworking of the Statist/Collectivist mindset because of the power of Aristotelian philosophy that sparked our philosophical foundation at this country’s creation: government function was to defend individuals in the free pursuit of their own life. This is a profound philosophical difference and at the core of the blessing that has washed over this country and all humanity since the 1700s. That assumption was at the heart of the healing movements of the early 19th century, the Pentecostal movement of the mid 1900s and the explosion of church growth in American and abroad for the last 40 years. That assumption has been the source of the greatest missionary outreach the world has ever known. Our prevailing cultural assumptions about individual liberty and freedom have stood between us and the tyrannies that have ravaged Europe and Asia and Africa and South America since time immemorial.

However, those assumptions are being eroded from other fronts every day. Most people don’t realize that the socialist/communist assumptions of Marx are really the Church doctrine of the middle ages with “the PEOPLE” replacing GOD in the “man as sacrificial animal” equation. That subtle difference produced the never to be subtle French Revolution, the rise of Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin to name a very few. I was not being inflammatory when I pointed out that when the Demagogues of Dictated Good join forces with History’s Hitlers, the world is plunged head first into blood. I was being literal.

It produced disaster then, it will produce disaster now. There are only a few barriers left to the logical outworking of the ideas embedded in the historic synthesis of Christianity in modern America. We are treading down that path with ever increasing speed.

As I said it the Gospel according to John Immel Chapter 3: 1-3

1 )  All people act logically from their assumptions. 2 ) It does not matter how inconsistent the ideas or insane the rational, they will act until the logic is fulfilled.  3 ) Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, find the assumptions and you will find the cause.

Unless people are given a new way to think, a new way to synthesize the bible ideas, we will perpetrate the same tyranny the Church has always created using these same philosophical assumptions.

Only one way exists to deal with people in this life time: Force-ideas or violence.  One aims an argument at another’s head OR one aims a weapon at another’s head. Violence can be further broken down to Extortion or Fraud. The first is violence towards something valued; the second is violence to reality for the purpose of compelling an outcome. (These two points will become important in a moment.)

Ideas are the only righteous method because it leaves all men free to choose their outcome. Initiated violence is immoral because it leaves no one free to choose their outcome.

Government is a monopoly on force. Tyranny is the use of governmental force to compel a body of action, or coerce specific thinking regardless of consent or agreement or liberty. Tyranny chains man’s body which is really the chaining of his mind–which is the agent of his work that creates the sum of his property. I contend that FREE men are entitled to the sum of themselves.

Spiritual Tyranny is Church Government forcing/dictating ideas or outcomes by extortion and fraud. Extortion is the imprecation of divine displeasure (eternal standing) because of a failure to adhere to church government edicts. Fraud is perpetrated by deliberately omitting or misrepresenting historical or factual realities to manipulate the ignorant or uninformed to fortify the ecclesiastical power to compel.

Hey…no yawning back there. I see you!

That is better.

Okay… where was I?

Now you have the backdrop. And I can understand that without such explanation, the content of this blog seems to be very narrow. In reality, SGM is anecdotal. I am working to extract the principles of Spiritual Tyranny so that people can then abstract to their own situation. That is a very slow process because I need to lay down a lot of foundation. No short course to that process exists.

The content of this blog is focused on…well, a humorous look at manipulative doctrines, practices, movements, and tyrants.

With the above definition, you have a measure of what constitutes spiritual tyranny and the criteria that I use to measure doctrinal practice and movements and tyrants.

With this in mind, let me move from the abstract to the specific:  Sovereign Grace Ministries.

My objections are:

  • They extort people with divine displeasure with the subtle or overt appeal to “…God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble..” when one is not willing to unquestioningly accept pastoral counsel.
  • They extort people with the use of the Matthew 18 ethic defining all conflict with THEM as a church discipline event.
  • They extort people by refusing to let them use their gifts and callings without full and total pastoral endorsement: pastoral endorsement means absolute adherence to leadership counsel.
  • They extort acceptance in the local body by pitting corporate approval against absolute compliance to all doctrinal or social imperatives.
  • They perpetrate fraud by representing the content of their doctrine as Reformed Theology.
  • They perpetrate fraud by representing Reformed Theology as the only theological game in town.
  • They perpetrate fraud by failing to declare the historic record of their body of “orthodoxy.”
  • They perpetrate fraud by representing apostolic authority based on doctrinal myths.
  • They perpetrate fraud by manipulating the definition of Gossip and Slander to insulate themselves from any criticism or observation.
  • They divide and conquer married couples by fraudulent representations of male and female gender roles marginalizing women in spiritual pursuits and extorting husbands with the affirmation of leadership inclusion–which means controlling their wives absolutely crushing out all expressions of individuality, desirability, or independent thought.

The function of this tyranny is done for the express purpose of insulating their actions, and counsel from critical review. It is important to realize these men are not driven by an intellectual integrity; they are driven by an authoritarian integrity. Their ideas are in service to their authority AND their authority is in service to their ideas. Which is what makes most of their arguments so circular; their ideas validate their authority and their authority dismisses any scrutiny of their ideas.

The above is an overview. The specific content of the outworking of their practice is detailed on www.sgmsurvivors.com and www.sgmrefuge.com. And DB gave a pretty good list on Dear Christian Chicken Little. (comment 22)

Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me what acronym a ministry applies to itself. It doesn’t matter to me the denomination. These same historic doctrines are gaining traction in Word of Faith Churches, Charismatic churches, Unitarian gatherings. (Yes, I visit a lot of churches.) The sectarian designation is irrelevant. Any group of Christian leaders who govern–FORCE–people by the means outlined above will receive the same commentary.

I do apologize for the Inside Baseball flavor of the Sovereign Grace Ministries posts.  I recognize that those names are not familiar and the background events are absent.  I do keep that in mind. But knowing the specifics are not essential to understanding the overarching commentary. Look for the principles I seek to expose in the tyranny. Defining Insanity, From Whence Cometh the Destroyers, Pass the Mint Jelly and others are all (mostly) generic posts designed to illustrate the principles I address above.

I suspect you will soon begin to identify its substance and arguments and outworking in the most interesting places.

Okay…you can wake up now.

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    1. 61

      Thanks, Juli.  I’ll be sure to use the dishwasher.  The lingo is easy to do after hours and hours of reading on these blogs. 

      I was talking about the pastors themselves being told, by someone, not to read the blogs.  Do they tell the people they themselves have been told not to read the blogs?  Pretty effective, I would say, to tell people NOT to read this stuff.

      Take care, Juli,  and be well.

    2. 62

      Pretty effective indeed, MC.

      Numbers are still way up on all the blogs since members were told to avoid them. Seems that ol’ wicked heart of ours they keep reminding us of just can’t resist knowing the truth.

      And yes, pastors were told. How would YOU explain dozens of churches preaching on similar topics and telling members to avoid blogs – all coincidentally within a two week time frame?

      Hmm..come to think of it, maybe it is something in the water that makes all the pastors say the same thing.

      If you remain in SGM, MC, you will see what you’ve been reading about. And you’ll know why, one day. I pray it is soon. Legalism is rather sticky, sort of like uncooked yeasty bread..it takes more than a dishwasher to get it off once you’ve mucked around in it.
      Seek the Lord, MC. Seek the Lord Jesus alone. And I pray you too will be well.

    3. 63


      “So what’s the problem, John?  That narcissism thing, is it?”

      I feel compelled to add something MC.  Normally I just lurk but I felt compelled to add something the discussion.  I’ve known John, what, about 15 years is it now John?

      I was there was when a paster said John had a “deleterious” affect on his care group — and all John had were questions — just like you.

      I remember seeing John weeping because of the pain this church caused  him — and only because John had questions about the change in the Church’s doctrine — just like you.

      I was there when a supposed Care Group leader openly said he refused to talk about John because “he had his own religion.”

      The situations and responses and actions described here and other places are real Sir — and you will experience yourself if you just start asking questions.

    4. 64

      Your too kind John…

      Ya let a stray in and da lit’l cridder pee’ed on da carpet…

      Guess ya’ll have ta get out the litt’l green machine and clean it up!

      Zarooom, sklurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

    5. 65
      John Immel

      I know… but what are ya gonna do?  Take people at their word?  What else is there?  IF they prove themselves untrustworthy… you amend your ways.
      Swatting the puppy on the nose doesn’t do any good, ’cause they don’t know any better.
      I’m a big boy… if you’re gonna play in the big game, then you gotta be able to take the hit. 
      >shrug<  it is what it is.
      On the other hand… if the best argument they got is “john’s just crazy…”  how much vacant can you get?  heheheh… I must REALLY be right dead square on the problem.
      Thanks, Sopwith… your comments matter. 

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