Doug Wilson has already done a great job of explaining some of what’s wrong with the recent apology fest with Beth Moore and Thabiti Anyabwile leading the charge. And I would like to add my two cents as well.
Let us begin by noting that the devil is no slouch. He loves to set up the optics both internally and externally to make questioning his attacks look utterly heartless and impious. How could anyone find fault with tearful, heartfelt apologies, heartbreaking letters of appeal? What kind of monster do you have to be to make fun of that?
My friend Tim Bayly likes to say that in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is a monster. In the land of the blind, when we love our blindness, the ability to see seems like utter arrogance, hatred, and a monstrosity.
But here we are, and what shall we do? Ignore the truth?
So, brother Thabiti, with all due respect, you have been hijacked. After coming on to CrossPolitic, you wrote a gracious followup post responding to our episode on the MLK50 race conversation on Crosspolitic. You picked up on that phrase that our man Chocolate Knox used, a wonderful phrase, “Hijacking Repentance,” and I’m so thankful that you did. I have to think that it stuck out to you for good reason, and I think at the very least it was providential. But let me tell you straight: you just got hijacked. You are riding a train that is taking you somewhere you don’t want to go. Your car was heading to Florida but you just gave your keys to somebody driving to Canada. You may have an official ticket from an official ticket office, and it may have all the appropriate signatures and seals and bumpy embossment, but you are being played by thugs and gansters.
What do I mean?
Here’s the thing: Christians naturally have tender hearts when it comes to confession of sin. We know we are sinners, we know that Christ died for our sins, and we are (rightly) eager to confess sin, have clean hearts, and be reconciled to our brothers and sisters. But this is how the hijacking works: It’s a play actually being run from two different directions. In every sin there are at least two sides: the side of the one who sinned and the side of the one who was sinned against. The devil is currently running some of his most effective plays on Christians from both of these angles, milking both sides, mugging us coming and going.
What do I mean? Well, fundamentally, we have a standard problem. This is what we talked about on CrossPolitic in our short reply to your blog post on this topic. What Choc Knox was getting at and what we tried to explain was the often missing standard when it comes to Christian repentance. In order to repent of sin, Christians must define the sin biblically, and then having defined the sin biblically, we have to find out how the Bible prescribes repentance for that particular sin. These are the same two categories or angles where our repentance is getting hijacked. Christian repentance gets hijacked when the standard is unclear or ambiguous. Christian repentance is always for sin — which is to say, something that Jesus died for. And this really is why the act of repentance is such a sacred thing to Christians. Jesus died for our sin; His blood was shed for all of our sin. And this is important: His blood was not shed for a bland, ambiguous file cabinet of miscellaneous sins. He died for particular sins, for particular acts, thoughts, words that are unclean, shameful, evil, disobedient. This is why sin must be defined biblically. And this means it must be as specific as possible.
But the devil’s play is to get us to confess our sins ambiguously and vaguely. This has a number of pleasing results for the devil. This makes it harder to be sure that you have actually confessed everything needing confessing, it makes it more difficult to know if you are really forgiven, really clean, and the same goes for those who have been sinned against. How can they be sure you really confessed all of it? How can they be sure that the sin has really been fully dealt with? Has sufficient restitution been done?
This is where the devil hijacks our repentance — on both ends of this transaction. If he can get the perpetrators to confess vague sins, he can keep sinners shackled in the ambiguity of sorrow and regret without any real confidence of forgiveness and freedom. And if he can get the victims to traffic in the vague confessions, the devil can keep victims in the ambiguity of sorrow and shame without any real confidence of resolution and freedom. And tenderhearted Christians can get sucked into this black hole because it can feel very spiritual and brokenhearted. But there is a massive difference between the broken and contrite heart that God loves and leads to true freedom, and the emotional death camp of vague guilt and shame.
Now add to all of this the fact that we live in a culture that is in high rebellion against the God of heaven. We have thrown down the 10 Commandments symbolically and judicially. We have officially enshrined lies, theft, murder, and sexual immorality as the law of our land. And meanwhile, we are slowly but surely demanding that the backward knuckleheads who still want the Bible to be our standard of ethics and justice — that those morons be silenced. California is on the from lines of this fascist regime, but the same tyranny is in the DNA of every act of rebellion. You cannot demand that millions of babies be slaughtered and imagine that you will be allowed to carry on believing in Jesus in your heart. The judicial demand for baby blood is itself a defiant middle finger at the God of Heaven and all those who are loyal to Him. Now comes the Obergefell decision mandating homosexual “marriage” in all fifty states, and California is following the logic faithfully: all those who would teach or counsel transexuals or homosexuals to repent of their sin must be disciplined and punished. And parents may not remove their children from the sex-ed classrooms that seek to indoctrinate them in the ways of deviance and perversion.
And here is my point: we live in this pagan culture in which we have officially insisted that God’s Word is not over us. We will not have Christ as our King. And it is in this climate that the #MeToo moment has arisen. But what is this thing you speak of called morality? Where did you get it? What is this thing that you sing of called R-E-S-P-E-C-T? What is this thing you call human dignity? Why shouldn’t men think and speak and treat women as slabs of meat? Our nation has officially enshrined the sexual urges of man as the highest standard of law in the land. This is what the Supreme Court officially ruled in its Obergefell decision. For any Christian to don the pink hat, to seriously join that hashtag movement, or lend their support to its confusion in the slightest is to bow to the Baals of our day. In the name of what god is the mistreatment of women wrong? In our culture, it is in the name of the mob, in the name of the Supreme Court, in the name of the goddess of sexual deviance. And therefore, for Christians to join that pantheistic catechism class is to sell the farm, to give the keys to our car to thugs, to get hijacked.
The reason why men must treat women with honor and respect is only because of Jesus Christ. We must not take the name of any other god upon our lips. God created this world. God created man, male and female, in equal glory and dignity and honor. Jesus shed His precious blood for men and women, Africans and Chinese and Russians and Americans. This is the only foundation for Christian respect, honor, and repentance.
And so, let me say clearly that I have no doubt that Beth Moore has experienced real mistreatment by Christian men. And I hate that, I abhor that, and I condemn it as antithetical to the Christian gospel.
But you know what I hate even more? I hate the thought of allowing the devil to steal the ground upon which we are even capable of hating that sin. The devil is always making deals. He offered Jesus the kingdoms of the earth if He would only worship him, and when we use the #MeToo moment to address the real sins of Christian men against Christian women, we are taking his cookie. We are making a deal with the devil. Our repentance is getting hijacked.
Real Christian repentance establishes the standard that Jesus is Lord, that the Bible is our standard, as it clearly defines sin, clearly confesses it, clearly puts things right, and brings true reconciliation and freedom. But this is not what Beth Moore’s letter or your follow up apology have done. You have inadvertently created confusion and ambiguity by speaking into that microphone, by implicitly submitting to the false gods of our culture.
Another way to say all of this is that Christian repentance must be obedient to God’s Word, not merely an emotional dumpster dive. And this means that when the world around us is demanding submission to their false gods, Christian apologies must be even more careful, especially for those who would be leaders or teachers. We have an even greater responsibility.
Thabiti, I still hope we can do lunch before too long. You owe Choc Knox that Three Musketeers too! And if you can get Beth Moore to join us, I’d love an opportunity to talk this through even further with both of you.