Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ted Haggard

You've probably heard several stories by now about Ted Haggard, the recently resigned president of the National Association of Evangelicals and Senior Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I don't really feel like taking the time to write about the details, or speculations, of the story. But I did come across the following thoughts of Jollyblogger that I thought were worth sharing:

1. Does it really surprise anyone that Christians aren't able to live up to the moral standards they profess to believe. King David couldn't, the apostle Peter couldn't, the apostle Paul couldn't (Romans 7 anyone?). So why should we be surprised when someone like Ted Haggard has such a fall?

2. In light of the above, this illustrates the folly of Christians who campaign on a platform of moral authority. Morality is a very "law based" thing, and as Romans 8:3ff illustrate, law (and moral standards?) is uniquely ill-equipped to combat sin.

3. In light of both of the above the thing that distinguishes Christians from others is not our moral superiority or moral authority, it is our identity as recipients of grace.

4. Christians are never perfect, but nor are we merely "just forgiven" as the old bumper sticker says. We are forgiven, but the grace that forgives also enables us to say no to sin, and our lives, including our moral lives, are necessarily improving. Yet, we are always simul justus et peccator as the old theologians used to say, simultaneously justified and sinful. While we are always to be growing in grace, we are always to be reminded of the presence of and battle with indwelling sin.

5. In my own humble opinion, this may partially explain some of these "falls" we see. Moral crusaders tend to see sin as something external to the individual, so their lives get wrapped up in building external restraints against sin. I wonder if they lose sight of the fact that the greatest battle with sin in our day is the battle with the sin in their own hearts?

6. This does not negate civic responsibility. I am not sure, but this may be a place where I diverge a bit with Phil Johnson, but I do think there is a proper place for Christian civic responsibility and Christian involvement in politics. But such involvement is based on love of neighbor and a desire to promote the common civic good, not Christian triumphalism or any misguided notion that law, apart from grace, can really restrain sin in the larger society.

7. Back to #5 - I sometimes wonder if the moral crusaders make proper use of the means of grace. I don't want to overstate my case here because, as I mentioned before with the apostle Paul, use of the means of grace does not guarantee you will never sin. I am quite sure Paul made use of the means of grace yet he still had the Romans 7 struggle with sin. But when I think about people like Ted Haggard, and the Mike Trout's and Gil Moegerle's and John Paulk's of the world, I see people who probably spend lots of time travelling, speaking and engaging in worthwhile ministries. But I wonder how often they were away from a home church on Sundays before their falls. I wonder if they were in a small group or Sunday School class where they were fed the Word of God and could develop deep relationships with fellow believers who could love them and pray for them and hold them accountable. I wonder if, in prep for their speaking engagements and other ministry opportunities, they gave greater attention to the pressing issues of the day than to the Word of God. Maybe they did, but I do wonder.

8. And bringing this all back around, the upshot of everything I have said is simply this - Christian engagement with the world (whether political, social, evangelisitc or otherwise) is not based on a position of moral authority. It is based on grace. Our "common ground" or "bridge" to a non-Christian world is our shared humanity, our shared sin nature, not our moral excellence. Again, I hope we are growing in moral excellence, but we are just too sinful to ever make that our platform or basis for engagement.

(HT: Vitamin Z)

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