Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What to Make of Ted Haggard

By now, most are aware of the horrible news out of Colorado Springs — the fall of NAE president Ted Haggard over immorality. The secular regressives and the media are having a field day with this, while Christians are rightly deeply grieved and angered over yet another high-profile Christian leader embarrassing himself, his family and the body of Christ.

I will say this for Pastor Haggard. Thus far, he and his church seem to be approaching this correctly. Haggard has been removed from the pulpit and dismissed from his church, and he is being required to undergo church discipline in view of eventual restoration to fellowship. This is good and right.

However, this situation ought to cause all of us to take a step back and evaluate how things get in this pass to begin with. Over at WorldNetDaily, columnist Jim Rutz this week discussed how a “strong pastor” system tends to increase the vulnerability for tragedies like this to happen. I think this is a legitimate criticism, and indeed a biblical one. We hearken back to the Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals, and wonder why the church as a whole hasn’t learned the lesson yet. Some will be quick to label this a Pentecostal/charismatic problem, however there have been enough scandals over the years involving non-charismatics to mute this canard. I think the former generate most of the headlines because they are the ones most out in the public eye through media they own or purchased air time.

I have had much time to reflect on this issue, and I think the problem lies in the fact that we as a church have forgotten what holiness means. We have also lost sight of the fact that we serve a holy God, a consuming fire, who will not tolerate sin in His presence. Mention the term “holy living” now and you’ll get called a slew of names by fellow Christians. You’ll get called a “legalist,” a “Puritan,” “dour,” “out of touch,” “behind the times” and a whole host of pejoratives.

What do we watch on our televisions? What books do we read? What movies do we go see in theatres or (if we don’t dare be caught out in public) what DVDs do we rent to watch in the privacy of our homes? How many times do we tell our children to cover their eyes when nudity pops up on our screens, or say in righteous tones “oooh, bad language!” in an effort to supposedly teach them such things are no-nos? Churl that I was as a child, my first thought when confronted with such adult hypocrisy was, “Oh really? If it’s that bad, then why are YOU watching it, oh godly example of mine?”

There was a time when Christians eschewed worldly entertainment because of the filth contained therein. There are plenty of Bible verses that speak of guarding our hearts and minds against such filth. The Bible says it is . . . disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret (Ephesians 5:12). Why then do we make excuses for the things we allow in our homes to see ourselves, or allow our children to see, listen to, or buy? I do not ask these questions to put unbiblical strictures on to people. If we restrain ourselves from taking part in things like this, our heart attitude ought to be that we are doing so out of love for a God who gave Himself for us, and paid a very costly price over evils such as this. It ought not to be a grudging observance of a "don't do" list so we can appease an angry deity. If we loved God as we ought to love Him, I wonder if we as a whole would do many of the things we think we're free to do under so-called "Christian freedom." I don't think Christian freedom is a license to sin.

For some in Christian apologetics work, there is a bit of reality to the statement that AT TIMES, one must read or see something to be able to comment on it intelligently, especially when taking on an issue in public. However, if we are not careful, that proviso is easily abused to excuse watching or seeing something just because we want to see it. We try to put sanctified clothing on what is in essence our own carnality. When Christians begin making excuses to participate (and fund) evil, we set the stage for not only our own downfall, but also the downfall of those who are not spiritually mature and look up to those who are older in the faith for guidance and discipleship.

So there we have it. I think we all ought to take Ted Haggard’s fall seriously, and to prayerfully allow the Holy Spirit to shine His light into our own lives. If you’re like me, I think there is a lot of junk that could be cleaned out of the attic and replaced with what God’s Word commands . . . Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).

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