Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On Cult-like Evangelical Paternalism

The following is a revised version Kevin sent me after I posted the original. Due to time constraints, I have not edited it for formatting etc. as I did the earlier version.

By Rev. Kevin S. Johnson
Guest Columnist to The Seventh Sola,

My Dad was professor of aviation electronics at Jacksonville Naval Air base
in Florida during World War II. His brother-in-law, my mother's brother Claire,
was decorated with a Bronze Star medallion and three purple hearts for
fighting the Nazis in France in World War II. Consequently, I grew up with a love
for the country that he almost died serving. The hard-fought liberties we enjoy
are graciously bestowed by God Who creates men like my Dad and Uncle Claire
who risk life and limb fighting for them. This understanding of liberty should
be like our mother's milk if we are born in America. 2 Corinthians 3:17 tells
us “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is

Freedom and liberty involve the ability to make choices and not be in bondage
to the will of others. This is why it was left to the democracies of World
War II, led by America, to fight against the tyranny of dictatorship. The very
history of leaving European religious tyranny and then conquering a continent
developed cultural patterns in the United States that produced free God-reliant
men who didn’t live “by the leave” of others. Sadly, in this age of
convenience and self indulgence that ethos is being lost in the "land of the free"
because many are NOT being "brave".

Europe was once known as the “Holy Roman Empire” and, starting with the
Caesars, always had a history of strong armed father figure leaders and the lesser
others who were to “know their place.” Many accepted their lot and developed
a servile attitude. This is different from a “servant’s heart” which is
unselfish even to the point of laying down your life for a friend, —sometimes in
fighting dictators. The selfish self-centered people intent on climbing the
social ladder believe the lie of the dictator who tells them they have a
“servants heart” and are praised for their “service” to the cause of the dictator
and are rewarded. Hitler gave out iron crosses to those thugs who served him
well by killing the weak and innocent. Petty and servile men do not choose
liberty because that entails responsibility and they do not want the responsibility
that goes with making decisions. They are like little children who long to be
patted on the head by their oppressive leaders.

There will always be dictators like Saddam Hussein, and lesser dictators
(some in ecclesiastical garb and in pulpits) who are content to be rulers in their
own domain on a smaller scale, who will take advantage and encourage this
servile weakness in others. There is a name for this throughout history and it is
called “Paternalism”. “Pater” denotes “father” so Paternalism could be
called “father-ism.” Of course, we all are familiar with Roman Catholics
referring to their priests as “father” and the word “Pope” is derived from the same
root as “Papa”. There are misguided weak people who like paternalism because
it allows them the luxury of mental laziness by NOT THINKING FOR THEMSELVES
which takes energy and can be hard work. Jesus had something to say about
paternalism when He said in Mt 23:9* "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for
One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” I once counseled a young couple who
had allowed themselves to be enslaved to the sexual lusts of a petty
dictator/personality cult leader who insisted they call him “father.” The man allowed
him to have sex with his own wife and they still considered themselves
Evangelical Christians!

Of course, people who disobey Jesus in this by being paternalistic, or giving
in to paternalism, are not loving God with all their minds. Mt 22:37* And He
ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' No pastor/leader will be holding your
hand on judgment day at the Bema seat of Judgment before Christ where you will
have to give account for every idle word you have spoken. "But I tell you
that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it
in the day of judgment." —Jesus in Matthew 12:36. If every idle word comes up
most certainly how you voted or didn't vote at a church gathering will be
brought up and judged. How you resisted or gave in to overbearing leaders will be
brought up.

We are warned about overbearing leaders in 1 Peter 5:1-4

1* Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and
witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be

2* shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under
compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain,
but with eagerness;

3* nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to
be examples to the flock.

4* And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown
of glory.

Though Paul considered himself the spiritual father of those he led to
Christ, he made it perfectly clear that it was incumbent on the individual believer
to behave properly so he could be rewarded by Christ in the future. He makes
this abundantly clear:

1Co 3:11-15* "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is
laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold,
silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become
evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the
fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he
has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned
up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through

There are those who call themselves Evangelical Christians but who act far
more like Roman Catholics in the worship of leaders and involve themselves in
personality based cults. Of course the cult leaders will never tell them they
are cultic or dictators. Dictators usually prefer names for their enterprises
that begin with “The People’s” or some such designation that obfuscates what is
really going on. Most who play on paternalism in Evangelical circles are
worldly wise enough to not insist they be called “father”. Some other designation
will do as long as it denotes AUTHORITY. When I have been asked whether I
insist on being called “Reverend” I usually reply I prefer “THE MOST REVEREND
PONTOON BOAT MAXIMUS.” I am poking fun at the Papists and their use of a pagan
Roman title used by the Caesars before them: Pontifus Maximus. After the rein
of Diocletian, Emperor Constantine, while claiming to be a Christian,
maintained the title "Pontifus Maximus.

When someone tells you that they should be listened to because they have a
manmade title and infers they should do your thinking for you, and make your
decisions for you, they are encouraging paternalism. It is false humility that
says “I should just leave the thinking to the experts." You can resist them and
be true to the American Christian heritage that has been purchased at so great
a cost, or you can consider yourself a servile medieval European serf that
believes “Father knows best” and let daddy do the driving. You can betray that
heritage or you can rise up like American generations before you and exercise
the true liberty that entails responsibility to think and to put that thought
into action by making decisions.

It is a paternalistic mindset that will lead to the rise of the final false
father figure of history known as the Beast or Antichrist! He will gladly make
your decisions for you. He will tell billions that they should just sit back,
relax and trust him. 666 anyone? I'm afraid we are already at a point in this
generation where many, if not most, would say,


Are we not to be good followers of Church leaders?

Yes! Heb 13:17 tells us to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they
keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this
with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” We should
follow our leaders as they follow Christ. The Apostle Paul lays down this
principle in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of
Christ.” Our following human beings is always contingent upon them following Christ.
WE, the individual believers, must judge whether they ARE or ARE NOT
following Christ! This is shown very dramatically by the words of the Holy Spirit’s
commendation of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 which states: “Now the Bereans were
more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with
great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were
so.” If the Apostle Paul was to be examined or judged by the individual
Bereans then ANYBODY who speaks or teaches you Christian doctrine must be judged by
how faithfully and accurately they are handling the scriptures. You must
determine how faithfully they are telling you ALL the counsel of God in the Bible.

Apostle John addressed the issue of a religious leader who was running on
pride and was so sure of himself that he was bringing people up on false charges
and putting them out of the church!

John says in 3 John 1:9 and 10:

9* I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first
among them, does not accept what we say.

10* For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he
does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he
himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire
to do so and puts them out of the church.

If your church is being taken over by paternalists do NOT let them drive you
out! We are told to stand firm. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free;
therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
(Galatians 5:1). Going to church is NOT a passive activity where you are
supposed to be docile and just look to what you are receiving.

The Holy Spirit in Hebrews 10:23-25 tells us the reason for going to church
and it is NOT passive but proactive:

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who
promised is faithful;

24* and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

25* not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but
encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

If you are not "getting your needs met" or are incensed at what you see
before you in your church you are not given leaving orders but "stand firm" orders
that tells you to encourage others in the fight and not desert them to the
paternalistic desires and dictates of personality-cult leaders who are not true
to what is taught in the scriptures at key points (or who neglect large
sections of Scripture in their teachings). It is they who insist it is the same as
loyalty to God to be loyal to them!.

Jesus said His ministry was about delivering from oppression:


As Luther once said: "Here I stand and I can do no other"

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