proverbs

What can we learn from the Josh Duggar scandal?

By now the entire Christian community is aware of the Duggar debacle. Josh Duggar, son to Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, has not only been found out for his despicable acts of molesting five girls in 2002, but also his name turned up when hackers released stolen customer data from cheating site AshleyMadison.com earlier in the week. So far social media celebrity, Matt Walsh, has apologized for giving Josh a pass after the molestation revelations. Walsh used his gigantic platform to treat Josh as a victim of leftist propaganda. If I could summarize Walsh’s first reaction, it would be like this: “Yes, he sinned, but don’t you see why the left is making such a big deal out of this? This is a selective political sniper kill.” The good news is that Walsh’s most recent statement has been very clear in his criticism. Here is a lengthy quote:

So I was wrong about Josh Duggar being a repentant man. Clearly, he isn’t. Or at least he wasn’t. Maybe now he’ll finally begin the process, but it’s certainly impossible to believe that someone could be truly sorry for past sexual sin while currently in the process of fishing for affairs and “experimental” one night stands.

He’s a traitor to his family. I feel awful for them, and I pray that Josh really does come to Christ. Beyond that, I pray his wife and kids somehow recover from all of the shame Josh has brought upon them. Because, let’s be clear, if you sign up for an adultery website and then your information gets hacked and your family ends up embarrassed and devastated — that is YOUR fault. You are the one who victimized them. The hackers acted illegally, but this all happened because of your choices. Don’t want your information stolen from an adultery website? Don’t sign up for an adultery website. Pretty simple formula.

I must also admit that the more I think about this, I realized I was too easy on the the Duggar parents as well. Jim Bob and Michelle knew that their oldest son was struggling with severe sexual sin, they knew their daughters had been abused, they knew their family was in the midst of moral and spiritual turmoil, yet they STILL decided to put themselves and their children on TV for ten years.

I hope others will take the same path and recognize that no matter what royal family one is born into and no matter the influential position he may have in the culture war, no man should be exempt from the lawful discipline of the Church or state, or both.

I concur. Josh Duggar is guilty. Repentance bears fruit (Lk. 3:8). There is a long continuous pattern of sexual misconduct  by Josh Duggar. At this point we should stop and think why are we so comfortable giving a pass to these Christian celebrities? And then we should consider very carefully how we can begin fighting passionately to protect the many victims in our culture who suffer at the hands of such men, but yet are trivialized into a category of “wrong place and wrong time.” Where is the safest environment for them to be restored and emotionally healed from such torments? Who will care for their trauma? The difference is vast.

I am deeply saddened for Josh’s wife and children who will have to live and re-live these awful events due to hyped media attention. As for Josh, words of contrition only go so far. His next few years will prove whether his repentance is genuine or not. I have learned long ago that not all sin is created equal. Repentance can be easily couched in evangelical lingo. Those who defended Josh Duggar without second thought or who assumed his initial incoherent words of confession made everything just fine or who treated repentance like some nebulous concept divorced from the reality of the pain caused to victims will hopefuly have learned a significant lesson: God is not mocked. Sins are not inconsequential. This is not a left vs. right issue. This is an issue of morality  and God has made clear that his justice will not be in vain. Josh Duggar affirmed that, “He is the biggest hyprocrite ever.” But hypocrisy can only be dealt with by understanding what God hates and what he loves.

Paul spoke of temptations that are stunningly difficult to face. When he says “flee from temptation” he is not simply using a 1st century  bumper sticker. This is more profound. Paul’s context is an ecclesiastical one where confession and collective sorrow manifests themselves continually in a community of grace. But even then sin is subtle. You must flee temptation, but you must first understand what temptation looks like. Yahweh speaks about the seven sins that he hates and provides this list as a step-by-step calculation made by those who embrace evil:

16 There are six things which Jehovah hateth; Yea, seven which are an abomination unto him:

17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood;

18 A heart that deviseth wicked purposes, Feet that are swift in running to mischief,

19 A false witness that uttereth lies, And he that soweth discord among brethren.

Duggar’s long history of sexual perversions was not born after a particularly miserable day. There is a pattern of thought and action. There is an anatomy of evil involved. There is a whole-body determination to follow these sins from the eyes to the feet. There is a calculated narrative that culminated in sexual abuse and adultery. For those who do evil the feast of the wicked is incredibly appetizing. One drink leads to another and only increases the hunger.

Where do we begin then? If situations like this do not cause us (particularly men) to be ever cautious then we will not have learned from it. Every person’s crime is a reason to re-consider our strategies to fighting sin and living righteously. If I had five minutes to counsel Josh I would tell him to look at this list and begin to detail where his narrative went awry. Where and when did his eyes become arrogant and haughty? At what point did he think he was invincible? At what point did he rationalize the presence of God away from his actions in secret? Then, when did he begin to put into words his pride by lying about his reality? I would be sure to point him to Jesus; not the Jesus that dismisses sins, but rather takes them with utmost seriousness and urges him to put on Christ and put off the deeds of darkness.

Josh needs to re-consider this list. He needs to see grace as redeeming the mind and abolishing calculated plans for evil. God has plans of his own. His plans involve demolishing our plans and replacing them with plans that are good, true, and beautiful. The task is great. Josh is only a clear example due to his high profile status. There are many Joshes out there currently afraid that they may be found out; afraid that their secret adventures will come out in Duggar fashion. The good news is God has already found you out. The bad news is that God has already found you out. In the end of the day to be found out by God is the best news. His throne is justice. He makes no mistake. His discipline will hurt, but it will not damn you. Accept it. Receive it. Confess it. Find refuge in Him.

Dear Sister: Response on Forgiveness

Dear sister,a

You have stated that the common view of forgiveness indicates that you are supposed to forgive the man who harmed you physically, psychologically, and perpetually as you go about your day. Though you are no longer under his control–thanks be to God–you still suffer the immense pain and agony by re-living those moments every time–or almost every time–someone uses certain language, when someone jokes about abuse, when someone sounds like an abuser, and when someone trivializes that abuse. So, you are told, suck it up! Live with it! Move on and forgive him.

My responses to these requests are meant to be brief, but to the point. Forgiveness is not a dispensing machine. An abuser cannot simply press a button and demand that you act accordingly. So, principle number one is that if the abuser demands forgiveness from you and acts as if he deserves it, tell him that you are a human being and that you will not be treated like a machine. Forgiveness, if you wish to be theological, is covenantal.

Forgiveness is complex at this level. Not all relationships are created equal. At the very least, this conversation between victim and abuser can only be initiated if said abuser has changed his ways, proven that he has suffered the consequences of his actions, has placed himself in a community where his sins are known, and if the case involves sexual abuse, that he not be working near any children. If those conditions are met, then by all means begin the conversation if you are prepared. But though he may be ready to proceed and though the conditions are met, make sure that you are surrounded by a safe community, with a pastor (s) that understand the severity of the damage done and have agreed to walk with you through this process.

Dismiss any comment from counselors who make you feel guilty for suffering such abuse. Better yet, run away from them.  You may think you have found an advocate, but you really are dealing with someone with little capacity to understand the depths of human pain. I pray you will find a voice of reason in a sea of miserable counsel.

Yours truly,

Uri Brito

  1. These names will remain anonymous  (back)

“He That Winneth Souls is Wise”, An Exegetical Comment on Proverbs 11:30b

Evangelistic rallies, tent revivals, and door-knocking gospel programs appeal to Proverbs 11:30 as justification for their conversion agendas. The old King James translates it as “He that winneth souls is wise.” The great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, used this as proof-text for evangelistic endeavors. While a call to arms to invade neighborhoods with tracts and pamphlets may be a worthwhile endeavor, this passage has been poorly misused by well-intentioned Christians, and should therefore be cautiously used.

Solomon has been building a strong case ever since the beginning of verse one of chapter 11. The matter here is life versus death in the realm of wisdom. Wisdom leads to a fructiferous life whereas foolishness leads to destruction. Verse 11 in the ESV says “…and whoever captures souls is wise.” The Hebrew loqeah mepasot usually implies the “taking of lives” as in “to kill.” Yet this does not make sense out of the context, since the “wise” is the subject of the verb. A direct translational read would be unhelpful at this point, and would seem to minimize Solomon’s argument.

The better approach to this section of verse 30 is to parallel Solomon’s words to the central theme of Proverbs (1:3), which is to “receive instruction” or to “comprehend instruction.” There is then a parallel between 11:30a and 11:30b. The tree of life is a reference to the wise who “gathers/plucks/captures life from death. The wise is like a strong green leaf filled with energy and abundance. As Paul Koptak summarizes: “This is an envcouragement to become wise in order to save not only one’s own life/soul but also the lives of others.”

The wise man, the man who bears good fruit (Ps. 1:3) is a man who is deeply interested in the rescuing of those who abide in wickedness and whose choices are leading them on the crooked paths (Prov. 11:20). One must be wise, in order to provide life for the unwise.

In summary, there are evangelistic implications to this passage, but any form of evangelism needs to be grounded in wisdom, rather than a quick 4-step plan to conversion. If there is an evangelistic implication to this passage it is that placing new Christians at the forefront of these endeavors may be unwise since he lacks maturity and biblical knowledge to communicate the wisdom of Yahweh to the world. Solomonic wisdom offers unbelievers more than simply a quick way to heaven, but the very offer of heaven on earth to those who have despised kingly wisdom.

P.S. As Tim Russel observed in a conversation we had, there is a danger of interpreting this as “only the theologically astute can evangelize.” This is not what I wish to convey, so it is an important reminder. In order to best reflect this skepticism, I changed that sentence to this: “…it may be unwise since he lacks maturity and biblical knowledge to communicate the wisdom of Yahweh to the world.”

As Daniel Hoffman observed on FB, there is some type of interaction between Solomon in Proverbs 11:30 and Genesis 3. I have suggested:

One way to consider this is to assert that finding life or being joined into a wisdom/tree implies dying first. Therefore, rescuing necessitates death…abandoning foolishness and embracing wisdom is a form of death.

{Thanks for the interactions of Tim Russell and Daniel Hoffman}

 

Sermon: A Call to Faithful Presence, Proverbs 11:12-19, Kingly Wisdom, Part IX

People of God,  Proverbs is a book of wisdom. It is applicable to our day, it is worthy of our investment, it is healthy to be memorized, it is powerful in counseling, effective in discerning, faithful in its consistency, paradoxical in its diversity, accurate in presenting the antithesis, strong in its denunciation, and bold in its wisdom. And when you consider the nature of Proverbs, it is simply a manual for parents to train their children. In particular, Solomon is discipling his son to be a king, and by implication we know that ultimately this is Jesus training his children to be Kings and Queens in this world.

Echoing my sermon last week, the city is ours because it belongs to our King, Jesus Christ. So we can’t simply go to the Court House and tell the judge that he needs to step down because we have a Christian replacement for him. We cannot simply go on theorizing hoping that leaders of the community will come to our front door and offer us an important seat. There is work to be done. We need to have a faithful presence. Faithfulness is our daily duties. It is by example that our Lord taught us to live. In other words, we need to first change diapers before we can opine about the woes of the world. We need to first take the trash out before cleaning the world. We need to first do the hard work of establishing a good and faithful testimony before the world can look to us and desire what we have and put us in places of leadership. More