2016 was a pretty decent year for me, all things considered. But towards the end of the year, some very difficult circumstances came up that have caused me some distress.
As the year came closer to an end, it started looking like a year for failure among genuine Christian leaders. I don’t mean the usual long list of false teachers that we may see on TBN, etc., but actual gospel-teaching Christian leaders. The former are an annoyance and a frustration because they reflect badly on the rest of us even though they don’t actually represent us. The latter are the ones that we should be deeply concerned about and humbled by when they stumble and fall.
This past year we’ve seen the continuing rebellion and lack of repentance from Tullian Tchividjian, who I wasn’t personally following very closely as he had been creeping into antinomianism over the past several years (I guess we know why, now!). Not only did he get caught in sin, but then defended it, refused to repent of it, and more recently compounded it.
Then, upon hearing the tragic news of Nabeel Qureshi‘s terminal stomach cancer diagnosis, I’ve become more and more concerned for him as he has been taken so completely captive by the NAR/Word of Faith heresy. Of course it’s understandable to see someone in his extremely vulnerable state falling so easily for such lies. But he’s slowly begun defending these false teachers more and more, and a great number of his faithful followers are eating this stuff up. He’s actually allowed himself to become part of the false teaching, for which he will be held accountable. My heart aches for Nabeel. I am praying for his healing, but even more so for his eyes to be opened so that he will come to really lean on Christ alone, not the garbage he’s being fed right now. These false teachings he’s fallen for do tremendous harm to his witness and testimony.
And finally, there was the terrible fall of Dr. RC Sproul jr. recently. He’d already had smaller issues come up periodically, but not enough to disqualify him as a Christian pastor and teacher. Then came the news of his heavily intoxicated DUI with a child in the car. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. I deeply respected Dr. Sproul jr, and have learned much from him. (And I am still learning much from the teaching at Ligonier Ministries). He has been completely removed from his teaching positions and has removed his website and social media accounts, which is a good start. I hope and pray that, unlike so many other fallen teachers, he will not attempt to take back that position of authority in the future. He is now disqualified, and that will not change even with genuine repentance. I can only imagine what it’s like for a fallen pastor to face the new challenge of trying to establish a career so he can continue supporting his family. That’s got to be daunting. But it’s got to be done. And in Dr. Sproul jr.’s case, he’s also likely facing jail time on top of it. Pray for his repentance, reconciliation, reinstatement to his church membership, and for the care of his family.
How does this happen? How does a great, theologically sound and deep teacher fall into such horrible sin? (And how long has he been engaging it before finally getting caught?) I’ve realized lately that I have put a little too much stock in the idea that sound doctrine will protect us from sin. In many ways it certainly can. But as the old saying goes: “head knowledge is not the same as heart knowledge”. OK, yes that’s cheesy and not really a phrase that I have ever cared for. But the truth is that if the Biblical teaching you stand for, know well, defend, and teach is not transforming your own heart and life, something is very, very wrong – and you are in danger. These recent events have also reminded me of the need to continue praying for my own pastors. After all, they are just men, too.
All of that said, the fall of certain public figures was not the primary thing that really caused me so much grief and struggle lately. It was a personal family friend who stole from us and then he and his family repeated lied to us – for months, and even years! And when they were found out and held to account, he showed zero sign of remorse or repentance. In fact the response of his family members actually made me feel unsafe in my own home for a while. It’s a complicated and ugly situation. And because we do not attend the same church or even live in the same city, we cannot simply approach our elders to attempt working this out. Yes, I know well that human beings are depraved and our hearts are desperately wicked. This is far from the first time that we’ve been hurt by individuals both in the church and in the secular realm. You learn to work through it and forgive. You pray and actively reject the temptation to fall into bitterness. But honestly, this time it really threw me for a loop. This is someone who is well studied and loves solid Biblical theology. And he has a passion for witnessing to the lost. I trusted him completely and he took advantage. Even my husband, who rarely trusts anyone, was taken by surprise this time. The whole thing still makes me sick. But I am committed to praying for this family’s repentance and hopefully even reconciliation with us one day. I can’t imagine ever trusting him in the same way again, but forgiveness is available to him (and them) if he ever wants it. Lord, have mercy!
I will finish this post on a high note… Something pretty great did come out of all of this. My husband handled most of the difficult communication with them throughout the entire ordeal. He took complete control of the situation and handled it all in a calm, generous, but firm way – hoping and praying for the best in them and giving them countless opportunities to confess and make things right. In the end, I was able, several times to tell him how much I respect and appreciate him for that. It was good for our marriage to go through this trial. As we endured it, I never would have imagined anything good could have come from it – but it did! I thank the Lord for that opportunity, even while I continue to pray for this man and his family. May God be glorified through all of this. And thank the Lord for my husband and all he does to care for me.