A Singer, A Song

August 12, 2008

“Why did you leave Heritage Bible Church?”

Filed under: Changes — galewis @ 9:30 am

A former student and I have been carrying on a conversation recently about Reformed theology. When I suggested that she look to see if there are any PCA churches in her neighborhood, she was understandably a little tentative at the prospect since she’s never been exposed to much outside of the fundamentalist Baptist camp. To her credit, though, she wanted to know more about what Presbyterianism and Reformed theology were. We were engaged in our back-and-forth conversation when things took a slightly unexpected turn. She asked, “If you don’t mind telling me, why did you leave Heritage?” I saw her words on the screen, took a deep breath and wrote, “I don’t mind telling you, but the topic is still a very tender one.” And then I wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more.

After having spilled it all out, it took me a moment to realize that this was a story that I have been avoiding telling — to myself or to anyone else — for ten months now. Other than offering an off-handed word of explanation here or there, I haven’t told anyone. I haven’t even rehearsed it with myself because I didn’t want to acknowledge what had happened. And the question that quickly followed was “Why? Why have you not talked about this? Why has it taken you ten months to come to grips with what happened?” Whether my reticence has been due to fear, pain, or shame I’m not sure. But with one leg now over the hurdle of denial, it seems that the time has come for me to lay this out plainly, because I know others have gone through similar circumstances in their lives, and I know, based on recent experience, that sharing these kinds of stories helps people.

It’s not my desire to lay blame or to justify my position. It IS my desire, however, to show how good people can become enslaved when they hand the reins of their lives over to a fallible human institution, over to an extra-biblical, man-made system of rules and regulations… just like those that enslaved the Galatians.

So let’s get started. To do that, I’ll need to back up a bit.

The change that was eventually responsible for leading Camille and me away from BJU was in very large part due to the Reformed theology being preached at Heritage. It wasn’t called that because, as we later found out, BJIII told Danny Brooks that if the word “Calvinism” was ever used from the Heritage pulpit, the church would be put off-limits to BJU staff and students. (In fact, Danny had begun attending classes at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte some time before 2000 but was explicitly forbidden to continue there by BJIII. As unbelievable as that sounds, it’s true. And perhaps even more unbelievable, Danny complied.) So even though it wasn’t called “Reformed theology,” that is indeed what we were learning while at Heritage. As a result, God began to change us. I explained a lot of the clash in those two big blog posts that I made just about a year ago:

http://www.drslewis.org/grant/2007/08/01/justified-sanctified-glorified/

http://www.drslewis.org/grant/2007/08/02/whats-important-to-god/

God was teaching us that the Christian life was not about US; it was about HIM; that our sanctification wasn’t something born of our own effort, but that it was a God-ordained process that we have the opportunity to embrace; that the Christian walk was not about works, but about love for our Savior. The more we understood and embraced these things, the more we found ourselves at odds with the theology that we were hearing at BJU. The Christian walk was NOT difficult! It was something that God had, at the moment of our salvation, re-created us to do. We were so overjoyed at what we’d found, we were telling everyone about it. It was like finding an inheritance tucked in the back of the closet that we never knew was there. It was utterly transforming, and we were bursting at the seams to share it with everyone we knew… first and foremost the students we saw who were so oppressed by the performance-based mindset that permeates student life at BJU.

That transformation and the resulting conversations put us at odds with BJU’s theology. They kept saying, “You have to do such-and-such in order to be a good Christian.” We were saying that “in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love” (Galatians 5:6). They kept saying, “These rules are in place so that the students will learn to be better Christians.” We were saying, “The moment any one… submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered…. The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law” (Galatians 5:2-3). Eventually BJU realized that what we were proclaiming was Reformed theology. In fact, they recognized it before we did. And to be perfectly frank, putting Reformed theology with its Christ-centered focus and grasp of grace up against BJU’s works-righteousness mindset resulted in exactly what should have resulted: a clash so incompatible that there was no way both messages could coexist. The no-holds barred embrace of grace that we were championing was death to BJU’s system of control and manipulation, and so they gave us an ultimatum: shut up or get out. There was no way that either Camille or I was about to repudiate the light of the Gospel that God had shined into our hearts, and so we left.

That part of the story you’ve heard before. The next is the part I haven’t been able to relate until now.

Danny Brooks had been a great friend and counselor to us the entire time Camille and I were “going through it” with BJU. We were under his counsel for literally months last fall. It wasn’t that he was actually giving us advice about how to proceed and what to do; it was much more that Camille and I understood the ramifications of what was happening to us, and, by extension, to those with whom we associated. We loved Heritage, and we didn’t want BJU’s blows to reach our church home. We spent hours over several different sessions telling him what was going on with us and what God was teaching us. They were all very amicable, very encouraging meetings.

In mid-October Danny and I had lunch at NGU. It was a good meeting. He gave me some things to think about, and I responded in a sincere and, I believe, receptive manner (though I don’t now remember what exactly his points were). It was a good time of friendship and ministering grace to one another. Twenty-four hours later, however, an email from Danny with a very different tone arrived for me. It was VERY long — probably two pages typewritten — and he finished by saying, “I need you to stop talking about all of this. I need both of you to lay it down. And until that happens, Grant, you cannot sing solos at Heritage any more.”

I think it’s entirely likely that Danny may have been trying to say, “Look: you’re blowing our cover with BJU. The Reformed message we’re trying to instill in this community has to be introduced slowly and patiently, and you’re attracting attention — negative attention that we don’t want.” In retrospect, I think that’s probably exactly what he was trying to say. I also think that in the back of his mind he was saying, “I stopped attending RTS because of BJU. I was willing to do what I did, and so you two need to be willing to keep your mouths shut about all of this.” Whatever Danny’s intentions, his method and manner utterly floored me, cut me to the quick. There was nothing in our conversations up to this point that would have warranted that kind of a heavy-handed action. It was the same brand of punitive coercion that we had borne up under for literally YEARS at BJU. And what was even more hurtful was that it was under Danny’s preaching that we had learned the things that had set us free from BJU’s system of rules and regulations. We were both shocked and hurt. I immediately wrote to him:

Wow, Danny… wow, wow, wow. Whether you’re right or wrong — I’m not saying either at this point — I just can’t believe you’d deliver this kind of news in an email message. That’s just seems incredibly inappropriate to me.

Your email adds upheaval to upheaval, and Camille and I are still trying to wrap our heads around what to do and what to think. I do know this, though: if it’s not appropriate for me to be involved in a leadership position as a soloist at Heritage, then it doesn’t seem appropriate for me to be involved in a leadership position as a choir member or for Camille and me to assist with the 4-year-old Children’s Church (which we began last Sunday).

Right now I don’t think the healthiest course of action for our family is to engage in any activity that has BJU’s imprint on it in any form, and that includes life at Heritage. I think we need some time away… a “leave of absence” if you will. I hope you understand what I’m trying to communicate. We feel very wounded and alone. I think we’re just going to hole up for a few months.

That was October 17, exactly one year to the day and hour that Camille had emerged from her particularly awful meeting with Darren Lawson and Lonnie Polson. I felt so betrayed by what had happened (this was FAR worse than what we’d gone through at BJU), I couldn’t even abide the idea of walking into a church… ANY church. I didn’t want to have anything to do with organized religion at that point. I understood that it wasn’t God who had betrayed me; it was people. I knew that God didn’t “need” me in church, and so in order to get my head straightened out, I just kind of spiritually curled up into a ball and “went away” for the remainder of the year.

During that time — and in the time since then — Camille and I have both realized that BJU’s influence is toxic for us. The good people, good music, and good preaching at Heritage notwithstanding — even the amicable apology that Danny offered us after the first of the year notwithstanding — BJU’s influence had invaded even the sacrosanct haven that was Heritage, and we had to acknowledge that any aspect of life touched by BJU would simply be incompatible with who we had become. We had, by God’s good grace, outgrown all of it. I missed Heritage terribly. There were people there who meant a lot to me, and frankly, it was Heritage’s nurturing environment that allowed me find the spiritual wings to fly away from BJU. I now know that Danny had the best of intentions and that he really WANTS to have a church that is beholden only to Christ… but sadly, that’s not the case. He has, at least in part, surrendered the reins of his ministry to an institution hell-bent against anything that wrests from its grasp the control it seeks to wield over others. And so there was no other choice for us but to leave. In retrospect, God helped us to do the right thing, and that was for us to just go.

It was during those months of soul-searching, I think, that I first realized what we had become; where, in coming to grips with our theological conclusions, we had arrived. Surprisingly, God had begun leading us even in the parenting techniques that we adopted back when Isaac was born (a subject that Camille can better verbalize). It’s a little hard to wrap descriptors around the journey, to put into words how literally every major life event that God had taken us through beginning in 2000 were only steps leading us out of fundamentalism and into a broader understanding of and appreciation for what He had to teach us. There are a number of good PCA churches here in Greenville where Camille and I could have found a home. It’s only been after 10 months that we’ve finally settled on Mitchell Road, a PCA church just a couple of blocks from Heritage. Next Sunday we meet with a representation of the church elders to give our testimonies. A week from then we’ll be joining the church. And I don’t think it’s any small coincidence that the conversation with the aforementioned student gave me the opportunity to reflect on how it was that God brought us to this new Ebenezer in our lives.

Another reason I sincerely believe God wanted us to keep talking OPENLY about what has happened to us during this transforming process is the scores of “thank you” notes we get from people telling us how helpful our speaking about all of these things has been to them. For instance…

… one from a recent BJU graduate:

After reading about your journey over the past two years — something that I didn’t know anything about — I’m thankful that your struggle highlighted the strong Keswick influence in the BJU community. In particular, the Sunday morning sermon in which I wasn’t in attendance but spent 5 hours+ discussing (arguing against) with fellow Seminarians.

… a paraphrase from an undergraduate BJU classmate of mine:

Grant: Thanks for your candidness. I can’t help but wonder if God helped us get reacquainted to help me with these unknown apprehensions about BJU.

… from a former student:

Keep talking, keep writing, keep learning, keep moving towards what God has for you and what He has for you to gain…I am praying for you!

… and from a current BJU faculty member:

I just wanted to let you know that I sit here silently applauding you guys. If it weren’t for fear, I’d be giving you a standing ovation. I’m sure you can understand…

Why must we all be content to live in our small, hermetically-sealed, individualized environments where everyone judges how spiritual you are by studying your bubble to see how happy you appear to be? People never have the opportunity to realize that others struggle, that others become disillusioned, that others hurt when they’re mistreated… and so we all suffer in silence, alone. Sometimes the cries of those who are in pain are an inconvenience. They interrupt our reverie, cause our plans to be waylaid, or make us wish that we could all just “get along.” But every part of the Body needs every other part… even those parts that are hurting. It’s only by talking, by being genuine and transparent, and by speaking openly that we can minister grace and healing to one another.

2 Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

55 Comments »

  1. [...] of the night when the kids were asleep and when the shunning eyes were absent. They literally tried to stop my husband’s singing in the middle of his song–just as he and I were learning how free and full-of-grace that song was. They said our study [...]

    Pingback by A Time to Laugh » Blog Archive » Shaking the Dust. — August 12, 2008 @ 10:10 am

  2. Wow…reading that is like taking a kick in the gut…and I am a complete outsider to this situation. I can’t begin to imagine how hard it must have been for your family. I mentioned this on the Facebook board when the Heritage issue came up, but I attended Heritage my freshman year at BJU. It never clicked for me, much like no BJU church ever clicked my whole time. I chalk that up more to the way we were required to interface with the true local church (as opposed to the dog and pony show that was the Sunday morning “service” on campus), but I always liked Heritage.

    It seems that Pastor Brooks and his leadership need to decide who they want to follow, Bob Jones III or the God of the Universe. After graduating, I attended North Hills Community Church, which made the decision to leave the BJU circle after being delivered a similar ultimatum. On the surface, it was a music issue, but after attending there, it was obviously their reformed leanings that did it more than the music. I hope that God will grant Pastor Brooks the same courage the Pastor Hubbard had when he left the BJU sphere. God has greatly blessed NHCC and the community because of it and I hope that He will bless Heritage for the same reasons one day.

    Comment by justin tarlton — August 12, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  3. While reading your post, I thought of President Bush’s comments to the press about the need for religious freedom in China after Bush visited a government-sanctioned church on Sunday, and in particular how China needs to leave house churches alone. It then struck me that Danny Brooks’s dilemma isn’t much different from that of a genuine Christian leading a government-sanctioned church in China.

    No, I don’t think that BJU comes close to being like China in terms of a police state or in terms of opposition to the Gospel. BJU doesn’t kill people, doesn’t reject basic elements of the Bible, and of course many of its employees operates from far more noble motives than the Chinese (and unlike China, BJU keeps its poisoned food to itself!). But both BJU and China are powerful entities that permit *some* teaching of the true gospel while simultaneously trying to control the message and stay in power. China’s leaders are no longer militant atheists; they don’t object to religion per se, but they object to people having a king besides Caesar. Likewise, you have recognized that the powers-that-be in Fundamentalism reject Reformed theology because it threatens their own power.
    In both cases, a preacher may stay within the “system” and yet preach enough of the Truth that those who are truly looking (or, to put it in Reformed terms, those whose eyes have been opened) can find the Truth, and, perhaps more importantly, can learn where to start digging for deeper Truth. Note that even after BJ III put the squeeze on Danny, folks like my sister and I were nevertheless able to see that something was different at Heritage and we wanted to know more. Two weeks ago when Adrienne visited a PCA church for the first time, the first thing she told me was “it was kind of like Heritage.”

    Danny has a choice: he can continue to operate “under cover,” trusting God to reveal the Truth to those who are listening, or he can blow his cover and leave, and thereby deprive folks in BJU’s orbit of what often proves to be the first stop in a spiritual underground railroad to freedom. Likewise, the pastor at an official church knows that he can preach enough of the Gospel that people can, and will, be saved, and that those who want to know more will know where to look.

    It is hard–if not impossible—for those of us not in this situation to grasp how hard this dilemma must be. Of course, at some point, operating undercover is no longer possible. An order to deny the Trinity must be disobeyed. But where is the breaking point? And what must be sacrificed to maintain cover? Our spy agencies sometimes sacrifice one spy to preserve a more important one, and undercover officers are even allowed to commit crimes to preserve their cover if their mission is important enough (say, a mission to infiltrate the biggest mob family in a city). On the other hand, undercover agents can operate undercover for so long that they forget whose side they are on.

    None of this is to defend the tone in Danny’s letter. But I want to capture just how hard his position is. Maybe his real message is “guys, I just have to pretend like I don’t know you in order to keep my cover.” Why wouldn’t he say so? Fear that his secret will get out? Shame of how he treated you? He doesn’t think it is time? On the other hand, maybe he has lost sight of the mission. God alone knows. The lawyer in me can spin dozens of scenarios to explain the facts as I know them. But the lawyer in me also thinks the jury is still out, and until it comes back, I think Danny warrants more prayer than almost anyone else still in BJU’s orbit.

    Btw, Danny, if you are reading this, and I am right about the undercover thing, please call Grant and Camille. Call from a payphone in Tennessee at midnight if you must, but call.

    Comment by The Bard — August 12, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

  4. Wow, Grant. Bravo to you for finally coming out with the whole story. You are absolutely correct–telling your story helps people. You and Camille have been a wonderful help to me (even though we’ve never met face-to-face). I know others who have grown from hearing your story, too!

    You have inspired me to sit down and tell my own story. Last week a mom aquaintance of mine asked me why BJU fired me. And so I told her, wrote it all down in an email. Back and forth, back and forth, and my whole story is out, but only to her. But I don’t feel sick or horrible or sad about having told her. I think maybe I’m ready to be open about the whole story. Time to go blog…

    Comment by Hannah — August 12, 2008 @ 6:18 pm

  5. Wow. My husband and I and our children (whom you know) also recently left our church after being there for 18 years. I know exactly what you are going through. I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything! I thank God for giving me the strength to do the hard thing, though looking back, it wasn’t so hard. It would have been much harder to stay. Yes, I miss friends, but the freedom that I am experiencing is unbelievable. Thank you for sharing your journey. God is so good!

    Comment by Kelley — August 12, 2008 @ 6:44 pm

  6. Sometimes our environments are not “hermetically-sealed”…they’re heretically-sealed! Sorry, couldn’t resist. ;-)

    Comment by Ruth — August 13, 2008 @ 1:53 am

  7. via http://liqin.bravejournal.com/entry/31199

    Inspired by a fellow blogger, I have come to place where I feel I’m ready to talk about (and write about) what happened the summer of 2005. I did blog about it immediately after it happened, but it was in anger and hurt, and I was more lashing out than calmly recounting events. I’ve since then deleted that post. Time is a great healer and Christ is a great lover, great enough to cover a multitude of hurts. He doesn’t change or erase what happened, though, and I now realize that events in my past have shaped my life and Christ has used even the bad things to grow me and mold me and refine me.

    Comment by Grant — August 13, 2008 @ 11:04 am

  8. Thought I’d take your advice. ;-)

    The circumstances kind of reminded me of a passage in John (John 12: 37-43). I’ve heard the same ‘interpretation’ and message over & over in fundamentalist circles…but I seem to have always seen it in a different light. In the fundamentalist circles, they always portray some as believers but are afraid of the Pharisees so they keep their belief secret. So…among the fundamentalists, the believers love the ‘praises of men more than the praise of God’. They seem to use it to make a follower of Christ out to wanting the praise of men more than God if they dress ‘wrong’, or listen to the ‘wrong’ music, or go to the ‘wrong’ places, etc. But…they (fundamentalists) never see themselves as the Pharisees in that passage. The ones that set the rules, decide who is and isn’t right with God based on their set of regulations. Actually, come to think of it…I don’t think I’ve known any fundamentalist that sees themselves as Pharisees.

    It seems to me that my view is reinforced in Romans 2:28-29, where the Bible talks about how one is not a Jew ‘outwardly’ but one ‘inwardly’. I like the way the NIV says it in verse 29. “No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.”

    Seems to me that your former pastor was truly more concerned about and feared the Pharisees (BJU), more than God. That he wanted the praises of BJU more than God.

    Reminds me also of something I heard someplace else. That ‘religion’ is man-made. That’s one of the reasons it causes so much conflict. And, that maybe we should all be more concerned about our ‘relationship’ with God and less concerned about our ‘religion’.

    Comment by Debbie — August 13, 2008 @ 11:13 am

  9. Grant, do you think that this experience entering the public arena through this blog will have any impact on the situation at Heritage? It is obvious that BJU does at least some monitoring of blogs, forums and probably Facebook too, so I wonder if this little tidbit about BJIII dictating policy to an independent church will come back to bite Heritage or even BJU?

    Or will they just write it off as the ramblings of a “carnal” Christian who has gone astray?

    Comment by justin tarlton — August 13, 2008 @ 1:26 pm

  10. Justin, that was the consideration that gave me the most significant pause when writing this post, the thing that made me wonder if this was something I should say publicly. I’m not sure I have a way of expressing what’s in my head in a meaningful, coherent manner, so I’m just going to kind of “scatter gram.”

    God does not deal in dim alleyways and under cover of darkness. The Gospel does not need to be protected or hedged, and neither do God’s people. God has not given us a spirit of fear. He tells us to speak boldly in truth, in love, and with forthrightness. I believe with all my heart that in speaking with openness and liberty, we side with God.

    If there’s one thing that I learned and am learning through this process, it’s that BJU’s abusive system abhors public scrutiny. As more people speak out about the abuses they’ve suffered, the more that abusiveness is called to accountability. One of BJU’s most significant shortcomings is that it has NEVER made itself accountable to anyone. I believe that those days are very rapidly coming to an end, that its days of behind-the-scenes manipulation and coercion are numbered. There may indeed be casualties during that process, but will those casualties be brought to the account of those who sound the alarm, or will they be brought to the account of BJU’s grasping, control-seeking system?

    It’s not my desire to hurt anyone. But this spirit of “keep quiet and keep the peace” has got to stop. Too many people have been harmed.

    Comment by Grant — August 13, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  11. Grant, I agree wholeheartedly with you and your motivation for putting this out into a public forum. One of the biggest problems with fundamentalism is its inherent need for secrecy and cover-ups. I have seen the horrible effects of it first-hand, not just at BJU but at churches and Christian schools as well. I’ve seen ministries nearly destroyed because no one would ask hard questions of leadership and no one would admit to sin and corruption. “Keep quiet and keep the peace” has led to tarnished reputations, spiritually damaged individuals, abused children and countless other travesties. I applaud your willingness to shine the light of truth into the darker places of fundamentalism and pray that God will use this as an opportunity for cleansing and restoration.

    Comment by justin tarlton — August 13, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

  12. Wow, Grant . . . I don’t know what to say. There are so many thoughts filling my mind about my own departure from Heritage, but the thought that has come again and again in the last few weeks is, “It’s time to give up the dream.”

    It was during the mid ’90′s that the truths of grace and Christ-centered living became a reality for me. God put me through some difficult times and used a Sunday school teacher at Heritage to deepen my understanding of grace-centered living. In the years that followed, I became somewhat involved in the HBC move to reformed theology, particularly in the Sunday school department and other children’s ministries, but also a bit in ladies’ ministries. I knew Danny was walking a fine line with BJU, but I really believed that HBC could attain a Christ-centered focus that would make us a community-oriented church where Christ, not educational affiliation, was the basis for fellowship. I assumed my children would be baptized at Heritage, that they would learn Christian leadership and ministry there, and that my daughter would be married there.

    In 2006 we walked through a situation at Heritage that bears a bit of resemblance to yours. For the two years prior, I kept trying to convince myself that I wasn’t seeing, hearing or feeling what I was experiencing, and for the last two years I’ve still been trying to convince myself that fellowship at Heritage really is headed toward a Christ-centered basis. This summer, however, I realized that many others were seeing, hearing, and feeling the same disconnect I began feeling four years ago, and these “others” were people I’d never spoken to before (like you and Camille), or friends I hadn’t talked to in years! I’ve finally accepted the fact that Heritage is no longer the place I thought it would become. I’ve given up the dream.

    Through it all, though, isn’t it wonderful that we worship a God who orchestrates our lives for His glory? Although I’m not as passionately reformed as you and Camille are right now, I fully understand what you’re experiencing — that wonderful realization that you are FULLY accepted in Christ, just as you are, and NOTHING can take that standing before God from you. You enter the community with new confidence, relationships take on new meaning, and the joy you experience is overwhelming.

    Praise be to God for His unspeakable gift!

    Comment by JR — August 13, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  13. Hm. “Passionately reformed.” I think I really like the ring of that. :D

    Comment by Grant — August 13, 2008 @ 5:05 pm

  14. “God was teaching us that the Christian life was not about US; it was about HIM . . . Camille and I have both realized that BJU’s influence is toxic for us . . . We feel very wounded and alone. I think we’re just going to hole up for a few months. . . . I couldn’t even abide the idea of walking into a church… ANY church. I didn’t want to have anything to do with organized religion at that point. . . . I knew that God didn’t “need” me in church, and so [insert excuse] . . . I just kind of spiritually curled up into a ball and “went away” for the remainder of the year. . . .”

    After a few months’ sabbatical from these blogs and the serial story, I feel for you and Camille but also want to sound a cautionary note: it’s still sounding like it’s all about you, not Him.

    Had hoped to come back and find that your postings would reflect more of the Reformed focus on His glory and not more of the same “look what they did to us” (as if they mattered in the grand scheme of things). It still seems, though, that the blog posts are inward-focused instead of pointing toward Him, about how it hurt you and not how he ordained it for His glory rather than yours or mine. They’re intriguing reading, in a muckraking sort of way, but at the end of the day aren’t very edifying to the body.

    Attending BJU at the same time as you, I learned Reformed teachings in classes like Bible Doctrines. A switch to the PCA, over 15 years ago, though, happened for His glory and because He foreordained it, not because of what I thought or felt or knew was ‘wrong’ with the previous, immature focus on our perspective of God that I also ‘learned’ at Bob Jones).

    I’m not keen on the BJU approach either; but if I fixated on it even a few months after I graduated, I wouldn’t be doing my job of being salt and glorifying Him. A continuing focus on the ‘wrong’ done there might have played well to some integrally warped sense of “my” intellect, but it certainly wouldn’t have conveyed a proper Reformed (Calvinistic/Knoxian) thinking about God’s awesomeness.

    It’s all about Him, not me, which means we only grow by being bathed in the Light rather than attempting to chase the Darkness. Sorry, bad analogy since BJU’s core values don’t qualify for Darkness or toxicity, as much as one doesn’t like the way they’re bastardized, err, canonized.

    That being said, welcome to the PCA. Glad you’re almost home and do look forward to posts that focus on His glory, since that’s what we’re all here for, right?

    Now for the next challenge: please help dispel the notion within PCA churches that all Baptists are Anabaptists or hyper-dispensationalists, rather than feeding the dragon of uncertainty that most second generation Presbyterians ‘know’ about Baptists. You’ll be rather surprised at what you hear as ‘fact’ in that regard.

    And, in doing this, please remember the PCA is considered “Reformed Lite” by some of our more orthodox Reformed brothers, who tolerate it for the sake of us former Baptists (since 80% of PCA attendees arrive here from Baptist churches).

    Home never looked so good, or so confusing . . . Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria!

    Comment by Tim — August 13, 2008 @ 7:52 pm

  15. “One of BJU’s most significant shortcomings is that it has NEVER made itself accountable to anyone. I believe that those days are very rapidly coming to an end, that its days of behind-the-scenes manipulation and coercion are numbered. ”

    Grant – would you care to share with us why you believe this to be true.

    BJU survived the tax issues, the loss of non-profit status, the loss of their monopoly on fundamentalist Christian higher education, and the loss of the Heir to the Throne – BJIV. I’m sure they’ve survived other scandalous stuff we don’t even know about. BJII controls the school absolutely.

    Comment by gordo — August 13, 2008 @ 8:02 pm

  16. So to put it succinctly, Tim, you’re basically saying, “I need you to stop talking about all of this. I need both of you to lay it down.” Is that about right?

    I’ll be sure to check in with you next time as to what my scheduled time table for healing should look like.

    Comment by Grant — August 13, 2008 @ 8:23 pm

  17. You may be right, Gordo. But it just feels to me as if, with the Internet making the relating of these things so much easier and direct, people will not stand for this kind of behavior much longer. I’m not saying that they’ll storm the gates and shut the place down; I’m saying that they’ll take their educational dollars elsewhere.

    I may be wrong. Time will tell.

    Comment by Grant — August 13, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

  18. Hi Grant, sure that about sums it up, except for the point about checking in with me. I have nothing to do with your healing.

    Focus on yourself and the healing takes a lot longer because the Band-Aid keeps getting pulled off to check the cut; that’s the Baptist way.

    Focus on Him and how it ALL glorifies Him; that’s the Reformed way. Not nearly as interesting, especially if He chooses to not show you why He ordained it. But the healing doesn’t leave as much of a scar on the body (or the Body) as the Baptist way.

    How’s you’re homebrewing technique these days? Sola Guinness seems to be a secondary sacrament as well in the PCA ;)

    Comment by Tim — August 13, 2008 @ 8:31 pm

  19. Hm. Baptist way, Tim? I believe you’re mistaken. The “Baptist” way (a.k.a. the Chaferian/Dispensationalist soteriological way) says that your problems come as the result of your self-focus. Focus all on God and they go away. Ask us how we know that! ;)

    The Reformed way says a la Luther that there isn’t that arbitrary divide between Him and us. That even in our mistakes and in our humanity, God is glorified because He’s God and because we’re His. That was Luther’s big contribution (after faith-alone justification, I’m sure) on vocation.

    Our pastor preached on Job last Sunday. He reminded us that you can’t preach God’s sovereignty in the middle of someone’s suffering. You have to preach it before to prepare them and after to remind them. During suffering? You hug ‘em and cry with ‘em and pray for ‘em.

    So many people tell parents who’ve lost children to just get over it. “God took her. It was for the best. Don’t you think you should be done by now?” Job’s friends did the same actually.

    IOW, telling someone to “shut up already” is the exact opposite of preaching God’s sovereignty. It’s preaching that happiness is the only acceptable emotion and that negative feelings hurt the Gospel (sound familiar?). And Grant in this post, I know for a fact, worked very hard at being true to the facts, at being true to the Christian brothers that hurt him, and true to the Gospel. His goal was to see if he could say it in a way that shows God’s goodness in it.

    That you can’t see how God is using these posts is okay. And frankly, we don’t need to prove it to you. It’s easier to ignore the really, really big cancer that’s growing here in Greenville. The time will come when no one can ignore it anymore.

    Comment by Camille K. Lewis — August 13, 2008 @ 9:28 pm

  20. A little walk down memory lane a la American Public Address. . . .

    Muckraking, eh? I think Grant and I would actually wear that label with pride. Good ol’ Teddy Roosevelt applied the label to the press in his “Muckrake Speech of 1906:”

    There are, in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful.

    It’s because of the muckrakers that we have safe(r) meat and that we have anti-trust litigation. Sure, sure — John D. Rockefeller didn’t like Ida Tarbell anymore than other Powers don’t like us. We shouldn’t worry though. God’s sovereign after all!

    Back in the day, muckrakers were accused of being socialists and communists. Today, fundamentalist equivalents are called selfish and bitter. Sounds about the same. ::shrug:: I’m glad Tarbell never got over it.

    If you are concerned that these tiny little blogs might actually do harm to the Powers that Be like McClure’s did in the past, then bully for you! :)

    Comment by Camille — August 14, 2008 @ 12:53 am

  21. Grant, David wrote in Psalm 55, “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.”

    Betrayal is the most hurtful when it comes from the hands of our religious brethren. Paul must have had this in mind when he spoke of perils amongst his own countrymen and false brethren. We will never know how many people have been betrayed within the BJU orbit for the sake of the patronage of BJU/the Joneses.

    Bob Jones Sr. said, “Some say ‘Don’t say anything. You can’t wash dirty linen in public.’ But I say, it’s better to wash dirty linen in public than to not wash it at all.” You are doing the Joneses/BJU, and the brethren whose faith has been leavened by them, a great service by reproving their ways.

    Much of the New Testament was dedicated to exposing and correcting errors that had crept into the Church. New Testament leaders were expected to warn unsuspecting brethren of errors and evil workers. This was done by Christ, Paul, Stephen, and men made of the “sterner stuff”.

    Today, most fundamentalist preachers fancy themselves too “spiritual” to fulfill their New Testament responsibilities of correction or “muckraking”. And, it is within this fundamentalist religious fraternity (can they be called “men”?) that lies the greatest blame for what has become of the Joneses/BJU. There isn’t a true man amongst the group -particularly in Greenville – because the fraternity would not tolerate a real man who gave voice to Biblical principles and conviction.

    Danny Brooks is not unusual. In the past 40 years, I have observed that the typical BJU-trained preacher is driven by a personal loyalty to the Joneses and institutional idolatry to BJU. As your post reveals, this leaves little room for Christ, His Eternal Word, and the welfare of the people in his church.

    BJU has survived because it has been led, and supported, by dedicated practitioners of pragmatic expediency. The internet – with blogs like yours – is the most effective means of making manifest the doings of the university.

    mark

    Comment by Mark Fitzhenry — August 14, 2008 @ 9:11 am

  22. In many ways I understand. I’ve been an active part of a church, even served in leadership, only to become disillusioned and quit. I’ve wandered in the wilderness for a while. These experiences served to put me where I am now. As painful as they were, I wouldn’t trade them.

    I feel the need to be a voice of moderate pragmatism here. Changing the culture of a church is something that takes time, patience and the innate knowledge that you are indeed doing God’s work. It’s not for the faint of heart. I left fundamentalism a long time ago and haven’t looked back. I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to work in a church in the BJU orbit. I think most churches that are in the BJU orbit consider it a mixed blessing. On one hand, they get well-trained pastors who are doctrinally sound and use fairly conservative, traditional music. On the other hand, they know they are monitored for theological pureness, worship style and how “carnal” their membership is.

    Churches that have left the BJU orbit have, ultimately found freedom. Freedom from being spied on all the time. Freedom to go theologically where God leads. Freedom to include different worship and music styles in their service(s).

    Churches in the Greenville area that are part of the BJU orbit walk a fine line. Losing the blessing of BJU, means no faculty or staff or student support. This is a big thing. Paying wages for a music director, or any ministry associate, who’s not on faculty or staff at BJU opens the church to a dramatic increase in salaries and benefits. Losing this could put a church in a financial tailspin from which they may not recover.

    Negotiating change is tricky work – it’s getting from point A to point B that will kill a person’s ministry. I would hope that the leadership at your former church has weighed all their options. Maybe they’re not at a point where they can lead the change. Maybe they need more time to lay a better foundation. I don’t know, but I do know that God will lead them where they need to be and then THEY will make their choices. Our prayers can only be they will do what God wants them to be. I can’t imagine anyone who has stuck it out at Southside regrets losing the BJU blessing.

    Comment by dan keller — August 14, 2008 @ 9:59 pm

  23. What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world but lose his own soul.

    I am no longer a believer, but I think about this verse every day.

    I can’t judge the church leaders in Greenville who try to stay in the orbit, but I do believe that what BJU does is slimy. My experience in business has taught me that you can’t do business with slime. Slime may throw money at you but ultimately you’ll get burned.

    Comment by gordo — August 15, 2008 @ 10:22 am

  24. [...] Kaminskis all have grown in Christ together, and we all again stand on the threshold of something new but still familiar since God is at the [...]

    Pingback by A Time to Laugh » Blog Archive » Gently Leading — August 17, 2008 @ 8:01 am

  25. I have never been a student of BJU and actually have never been a fan either so I can’t comment on the situation you have experienced except to say that this scenario is happening everywhere you turn. By scenario I mean people daring to think for themselves and being ostracized for it.

    In the last two weeks I have met person after person just on Facebook alone…people that I know from my past and as we have gotten reacquainted and I keep hearing the same story over and over. More and more have left the fundamentalism we were taught and held to be so sacred. They haven’t turned their backs on God…and it’s a wonder they haven’t…but instead on their belief system that they built their lives upon. Others have not been so fortunate and are shipwrecked if you will in their Christian walk. They are disillusioned and hurting and their entire support system has been removed leaving them to fend for themselves.

    I was in that belief system from 8th grade until 7 years ago…more than 30 years. I have come from a place of walking away from the church… God…the Bible…and those “so called Christians” to a place where I have a genuine…real…and a passionate relationship with Christ. Something I never knew all of those other years and it took me being removed from that belief system to get to this place. Living the Christian life was an extreme source of frustration for me and I couldn’t understand why God had made it so difficult for us to do something that He so much desired for us to do.

    Someone mentioned the coverups in this circle….I have seen sexual sins covered up and even paid off. I have seen lying to cover up less than scrupulous behaviors. I have seen things I never thought I would ever see all done in the Name of Christ.

    I was at a place where I wondered why we even needed the Holy Spirit…there were so many little holy spirits running around in the church doing His job for Him.

    This may be extremely blatant, but when I saw the expose of the LDS church in Texas I realized that in many ways that was what I had come from and I understood perfectly how those ladies got to where they are. They sincerely thought they were pleasing God…they were told that was how they should live.

    I pray daily for others to come to know the Christ I know now in a real and personal way. For them to truly walk in “grace” we had preached at us constantly.

    Comment by Casey — August 17, 2008 @ 9:29 am

  26. Drs. Lewis,

    Your testimony here is a blessing and a help to me as I struggle to reconcile God’s grace and my responsibility to live a holy life unto Him. I’m not affiliated with BJU, but the Christians I fellowship with and am discipled by hew to a fairly fundamentalist theology. My failings to live a sanctified life grieve me daily as I worry about their implications on my faith and salvation.

    I’m sorry that the things you blog embarrass or pain some brothers or sisters, but it does a great service to me.

    God’s blessings on you both,
    E.

    Comment by E. — August 17, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  27. My failings grieve me daily, too, E. All of us are imperfect, and all of us fail… daily, even hourly. But even our grief over sin speaks mercifully of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling counsel, His communion, and His conviction. The work of the Holy Spirit is reserved for God’s children alone, and like a loving parent’s reprimands, it reminds us Whose we are. We are not spiritual orphans, unloved and forgotten; we are the children of a Heavenly Father who promises to accomplish in us the good work that He started. What an incredible reassurance that He loves us!

    So grieve for your sin… and then give thanks that God has given you the capacity for that grief.

    Comment by Grant — August 17, 2008 @ 2:33 pm

  28. Thank you Grant. I’m very interested in Camille’s post about Chaferianism/Keswick theology and how “humanity” is frequently conflated with “sin.” Which means that, to a person under the thrall of Keswick, something pleasant like a visit to an amusement park is a sin because of the very fact that humans find it pleasurable; q.e.d.

    Anyway, thanks again to you both. I somehow wound up at your blogs while googling for study guides for “Changed in His Image.” While the utility of that book is debatable, the Lord worked it for my good because it led me here!

    Comment by E. — August 17, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

  29. I’m thankful to have been a help — and I know Camille is, too. That’s really what all of this has ever been about (despite what others may think!).

    I know that Camille would love to dialog more about the whole Chafer/Keswick scene, so I’ll put you two in touch via email and just turn you loose to enjoy yourselves. ;)

    Comment by Grant — August 17, 2008 @ 9:23 pm

  30. OK, I have a question about Reformed theology and covenant theology … honestly, I haven’t studied it much, so that’s why I’m asking you :) What does covenant theology mean? Why are babies baptized at PCA churches?

    And what does all this mean for me, a person saved out of an unsaved, non-Christian family?

    I’m curious, because I too have been considering a PCA church. Though, after my graduation from BJU, I didn’t go to church at all for several years, and now for two years I’ve been going regularly to a Calvary Chapel church. Go figure :)

    Comment by Jen — August 21, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

  31. That’s a good question, Jen. All Presbyterians baptize infants, but there’s considerable misunderstanding of what that means and what it entails. (I know I didn’t understand it when I was “on the outside looking in.”) Here are some quick points on the Presbyterian view of infant baptism:

    • Baptizing an infant has nothing whatsoever to do with their salvation. It is not a meritorious act and earns the child nothing in the sight of God. Salvation comes through repentance and faith in Christ alone.
    • Baptizing an infant is more than just a “baby dedication.”
    • Presbyterians believe that baptism replaces circumcision as the “sign and seal” of the Abrahamic covenant. Circumcision did not create the covenant, but rather commemorated and reiterated the pledge given by God that He would honor His promise to all who, like Abraham, put their faith in Him. Baptism is the New Testament version of the rehearsal of that promise.
    • God promises to specially bless His children and their households. “Faith naturally germinates and matures so that it is possible even common, for the children of Christian parents to never know a day that they do not believe that Jesus is their Savior and Lord. Such covenental growth of a child is, in fact, the normal Christian life that God intends for his people, and it is one of the most striking… reasons that baptism is rightly administered to infants” (Chapell, 27).
    • Paul’s words in Acts 2:38-39: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins… The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
    • In the New Testament accounts of baptism, every person identified as having a household present at his or her conversion also had the whole household baptized. Although there are many New Testament accounts of entire households being baptized, there is no command to discontinue that practice.

    The question of what this means for someone who was saved out of an unsaved, non-Christian family sort of seems like an apples-and-oranges sort of affair. It’s not like children who were baptized in a Presbyterian Church are in some special club or exclusive group. I have heard them referred to as “covenant children,” but in my mind that’s a term used to rehearse that God is good a keeper of promises, a faithful Father who blesses His sons and daughters and their sons and daughters. We’re all adopted; we’re all “grafted in,” so no one in a PCA church would look down on you just because you grew up in a non-Christian home.

    I hope this answers your questions. If not, volley back and we’ll try again.

    Comment by Grant — August 21, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

  32. I’m not sure this comment related to your last comment is appropriate for this thread. It sort of diverges from your reasons for leaving Heritage to a discussion of the sign of the New Covenant. But since you seemed to welcome the discussion, I’ll forge ahead.
    I understand the Presbyterian point of baptizing infants in that it parallels covenant initiation into the Abrahamic Covenant through circumcision. I have, however, a couple of problems with that view. First, the covenant community of the Abrahamic Covenant was one of physical construct. It was through physical birth that one joined the covenant community. However, entrance into the New Covenant community is through spiritual birth. That, to my thinking, is Christ’s point in John 3:5-7.
    But second (and, to me, much more importantly), I’m unclear as to why Presbyterians claim baptism as the sign/seal of the New Covenant. From what Scriptural basis is that conclusion drawn? Looking at OT covenants, the sign/seal was (1) given at the establishment of the covenant and (2) continues as a sign/seal throughout the covenant. Baptism just doesn’t seem to fit the qualifications. Now, take a look at the giving of the Holy Spirit. It’s given at the New Covenant initiation (John 20:22) and continues as a sign/seal throughout the covenant life of the believer.
    Not only does it fit the qualifications, but Scripture seems to attest to the gift of the HS as covenant sign/seal. As a sign (that which ensures/guarantees) we have 2 Cor 1:21-22; 2 Cor 5:5; and Eph 1:13-14. As a seal, we have John 3:31-33; 2 Cor 1:21-22; Eph 1:13, and Eph 4:30.
    And, therefore, if the gift of the HS is the sign/seal of the New Covenant and baptism is not, we no longer have purpose for infant baptism.
    I’m no Baptist. For Baptism, I kind of like the mode of pouring as symbolic of both repentance (washing) and the Holy Spirit’s coming–two elements associated with the new birth. Baptism has always been (in Christianity and as practiced by other religions/nations) a sign of repentance and turning. It is a one time event symbolizing the turning away from one life philosophy to another life philosophy. But the sign/seal of the New Covenant is the Holy Spirit promised and given to us by our Covenant Lord.

    Comment by Dan — August 21, 2008 @ 8:26 pm

  33. I appreciate your comment, Dan, but I’m just about the last guy on the planet to be answering these kinds of questions. There could not possibly be a person more theologically green in this area than I am; I’m not “officially” a Presbyterian until next Sunday! (ha). My answer above to Jen is just about as far as my level of study can go at this point. I’ll interject a few thoughts, but don’t expect much….

    A very helpful 14-page document was included in the MRPC membership class curriculum titled “Infant Baptism: How my Mind Has Changed” by Dennis E. Johnson. It’s nearly impossible for me to summarize here what’s in that document (particularly because I haven’t even completely digested it for myself).

    In the Old Testament, Abraham was commanded to circumcise infants who were too young to demonstrate faith, a clear indication that the children of believers were accepted into the covenant community apart from anything that the child had himself done. In the New Testament, Romans 4 makes a pretty clear link (at least in my mind) that that “circumcision symbolized the righteousness that believers (like Abraham) receive by faith, just as it symbolized cleansing and renewal of heart by the Holy Spirit” (27). Johnson goes on to say

    Water baptism symbolizes the same spiritual blessings that circumcision symbolized: renewal and transformation of our hearts (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 5:23…) by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), who brings us into a community of faith, a Body (1 Corinthians 12:13). Baptism speaks of being such things as united to Christ, clothed with Christ, right with God by faith, Abraham’s seed, and heirs of God’s promises (Galatians 3:26-29). It speaks of being united with Christ in his death and resurrection, so that his death for us is counted as our death before the justice of God (Romans 6:23, Colossians 2:11-12).

    I found the New Membership classes that we just took at MRPC to be very helpful. Everyone there — the voting/ruling elders, the theologians, the pastoral staff — was very open to people’s questions. John Pennylegion (“Penny”) was particularly helpful, and he’s currently enrolled in seminary. I’d recommend that you check with someone like one of these gentlemen if you really want to intelligently dialog on the subject.

    Comment by Grant — August 22, 2008 @ 8:28 pm

  34. Grant, thanks for your reply. I have done some study in this issue particularly because I have been attending a PCA church in Fountain Inn (Palmetto Hills Presbyterian). I have also discussed this with the pastor, Joe Franks. Obviously, my views differ somewhat. Even in the Dennis Johnson quote, his references seem to me a confirmation of the rite of baptism representing the new birth, but again seemingly offering little as to identification of the rite as the covenant sign/seal. The Greek use of the word baptism in both identifying the rite and as the more basic meaning of immersing also confuses the issue at times. But that is a subject for continued study and determination each on our own.
    A greater point, I think, is that among Christians we should be able to discuss these non-vital doctrinal differences without fear of ostracism. That’s one thing I appreciated from Joe Franks and Palmetto Hills. He knows my position, yet that would not be a stumbling block to my joining their church. The church, being PCA, of course practices paedobaptism. But that is not a vital doctrine (such as virgin birth, penal substitution, the trinity, etc.) that should separate us. Fundamentalism’s roots argued strongly for the necessity of separation from challenges to those fundamentals (what I’ve been calling vital doctrines). Somewhere in the 50s and 60s, the emphasis morphed to a 2nd and 3rd degree variety of separation. It seems now that a further morph calls for separation for denominational distinctions. That is troubling and, it seems, is at the heart of your story.
    Your passion for deeper and invigorated understanding of God and His Word are evident in your discussion. Naysayers will always abound. Don’t let them dampen or embitter your spirit. Keep your attention on the awakening light.

    Comment by Dan — August 23, 2008 @ 10:17 am

  35. I’ve thought a lot about infant baptism in my life. For me, it boils down to what happens. If there is no washing away of sin, i.e. only symbolic, does the age and manner of baptism matter? This was always a sticky point for me when I was baptist. For most baptists, baptism is only a symbol, but the age and manner of baptism is important. I think this is a strange duality of the baptist theology. Infant baptism started in a time when children might not live very long. The church came up with this system to help assure parents their children were part of God’s family. I think, overall, this is a good thing.

    People come to us with all different kinds of family issues. We baptize mainly babies in our United Methodist church. However, we’ve baptized adults and older children also. At baptism, the parents and sponsors take vows to rear their children in the stature of Christ, so they may be able to profess their faith openly. At confirmation, the baptised children profess their faith for themselves. I think, ultimately, this is a good thing.

    Comment by dan keller — August 24, 2008 @ 6:07 pm

  36. I think that since baptism is symbolic, the issue is what it symbolizes. Does it symbolize conditionally being a part of the New Covenant community (paedobaptism) or does it merely symbolize the philosophical acceptance of repentance and faith (believer baptism). The first is a sign/seal of the New Covenant; the second merely points to acceptance of the New Covenant. That may sound like splitting hairs (which it sort of is), but it does change the approach. Philosophical acceptance obviously requires intellectual assent, and therefore that position must deny infant baptism.
    As to mode/manner, I find it difficult to argue one mode over another. Unless you believe the water somehow represents dirt or death itself, insisting on total bodily immersion seems to have little support of necessity. If the water is understood as symbolizing a washing or purification (change, turning, removing of the old and/or sin), our examples in biblical purification rites/practices almost always show partial washing as symbolic of total washing (e.g. tabernacle’s laver and even Jesus’ foot-washing to an extent). Therefore, any mode would seem valid to symbolize both purposes mentioned above.
    But again, although the understanding of symbolic purpose for baptism does influence one’s overall perception of the New Covenant framework, I believe it absolutely should not be used to draw lines, separating Christians from fellowship and other interaction. Sure, separate churches do develop from these types of distinctions, and that may be fine and necessary for educational growth. But the wrong type of separation is in shunning or otherwise breaking off communication and exercise of Christian love with other Christians because of a non-vital doctrinal difference such as this.

    Comment by Dan — August 25, 2008 @ 10:22 am

  37. I heard the Bob Jones IV was reformed in theology…

    Comment by Dean — October 17, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

  38. Perhaps that’s so… I’m not sure. As far as I know, he’s dropped off the planet. I haven’t heard anything of him for years… ever since Stephen’s installation as president at BJU.

    Comment by Grant — October 17, 2008 @ 5:30 pm

  39. Grant,

    Just found your blog. I also went to your wife’s link and left a comment. I graduated in 1986. I left the fundy church while still at BoJo and went to the Presbyterian Church. The irony is that I converted to Calvinism and abandoned pre-millenialism while at BoJo and primarily because of my independent research in response to Bible class and chapel instruction. It is my understanding that their attacks on Reformed students and faculty have intensified since I left. I was very outspoken about Calvinism while there. I questioned every Bible teacher I ever had about the Reformed implications of the passages we were studying. I suppose these days I would be expelled.

    Maybe you can answer a question for me. I have heard that Dr. Rude was run off because of Calvinistic leanings. Is this true?

    The thing that angers me the most, even after 22 years, is the amount of spiritual damage that BoJo’s legalism wrecks in the students’ lives. I have too many friends that were severely damaged spiritually. I am afraid some of them may never recover. My children will not be attending there, and I don’t know anyone whose children will be attending there.

    I have a funny illustration. When I was at BoJo, everyone called me a liberal. I was told later by a friend of mine that was a monitor and then an assitant to the Dean of Men that I was on their prayer list. When I went to the University of Texas School of Law five years later they called me a Nazi. I was the same person.

    Coram Deo.

    Peace.

    Kenneth Holt
    Sugar Land, Texas

    Comment by Kenneth Holt — November 5, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

  40. Yep, that’s why he left. He was, I think, being too outspoken about his Calvinist leanings and so was fired in the middle of the semester. It wasn’t too long after that Michael Barrett left, too. Michael now teaches at Geneva Reformed Seminary:

    http://www.grsonline.org/academic/faculty.php#barrett

    I know what you mean about the damage inflicted by BJU’s legalism. They manage to manufacture a mighty shiny product, students that are mighty good at rule-keeping. But I can speak firsthand that what that atmosphere also induces is a pridefulness that’s death to a walk of true humility and Christ-centered faith.

    Comment by Grant — November 5, 2008 @ 10:38 pm

  41. I think it finally dawned on me when Stephen Jones was named president that the title “cult” may not be too extreme to apply. It is clear that the Jones family owns the school and dictates all management decisions. In that respect I don’t think it differs materially from Oral Roberts U. and similar organizations. I frankly have been completely disassociated with the school and anyone that could be called a fundamentalist since 1986. I recently re-established contact with people I knew there, some fundies some not. The email correspondence with the fundies proceeds swimmingly until I tell them where I go to church and where my children attend school, then I receive no further replies. Sad.

    Having said all that, I am thankful for BoJoU for two things. Although they don’t apply the standard to themselves, they did constantly hammer into us that we should search the Scriptures to verify that our faith and conduct comports with its demands. Funny thing is, when I did that, I realized how dreadfully wrong they were (God works in mysterious ways). Second, they nurtured my love of literature and gave me an abiding love of the arts. I had the opportunity to perform in three Classic Players productions and a couple of Vespers productions. I also was introduced to opera, which is the musical love of my life. It is doubtful that I would have had these opportunities elsewhere. On balance though, I would not attend the school if I had it to do all over again. I am teaching my children to love Shakespeare and opera, so there is no need for them to risk material spiritual harm to gain on appreciation of those things.

    Coram Deo.

    Peace.

    Kenneth Holt
    Sugar Land, Texas

    Comment by Kenneth Holt — November 6, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  42. < < It is clear that the Jones family owns the school and dictates all management decisions. In that respect I don’t think it differs materially from Oral Roberts U. and similar organizations. >>

    If nothing else, it’s a for-profit, family-owned business. It doesn’t surprise me in the least, then, when pragmatism and/or profit outstrip perspicuity.

    Comment by Grant — November 6, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

  43. At least ORU and Liberty have regional accredidation and tenured faculty.

    Comment by dan keller — November 10, 2008 @ 11:11 pm

  44. I am sorry to hear about your resignation. I, too, have become more Reformed in my theology. My home church, Calvary Bible Church in Ohio, was a Presbyterian church until 1943 and the only doctrine holding me back from becoming a hardcore Reformed thinker is my Dispensational persuasion. What do you think about the Orthodox Presbyterian Church? I just started attending a church in Indianapolis which, ironically, just ordained Charlie Owen’s former pastor of Grace OPC in Columbus where Dr. Dunbar played an organ recital a few years earlier.

    Comment by Tim — November 26, 2008 @ 11:02 pm

  45. Hey, Tim — good to hear from you.

    From what I know of the OPC, its theology is sound. It’s “distinctiveness” from the PCA is more a geographical one than anything else, isn’t it? OPC being more northern?

    Comment by Grant — November 27, 2008 @ 12:18 am

  46. Interesting website Grant. I have some friends from BJU and they seem like nice people, but I can tell that the system there is very monolithic. I also have some friends in the PCA and they seem to hold to a very monolithic system as well. Why not avoid such monolithic structures altogether and enjoy the freedom of a more emergent model? Blue Like Jazz and Velvet Elvis are huge for me right now — check em out!

    Comment by tj — November 30, 2008 @ 7:42 am

  47. I’ve read Blue Like Jazz — love it! I’ll have to check out Bell’s book.

    As someone who’s been in both camps, let me tell you: being in a PCA church is NOTHING like being at BJU.

    Although I could say that there are aspects of the emergent movement that I find resonance with, the reason I left BJU wasn’t because I was looking for a different religious experience or a new way to look at my faith. I left BJU because they chose to place policies and politics above Scripture. When I pointed that out to them, they showed me the door. It’s really ironic to note that my problems with BJU began when I took the Scriptures more seriously than they did.

    Comment by Grant — November 30, 2008 @ 10:16 am

  48. I’ve been following this conversation with interest. I find myself in the same position as many of you. During my first year as a graduate assistant working on my master of divinity degree I began to seriously question the pragmatic philosophy of the school as well as the prevailing position and direction of fundamentalism. I began to covertly study things out for myself and was struck by the contradiction between the teaching of grace in Scripture and the legalistic culture fostered on campus. Eventually I had my own “eureka!” moment when I realized that we live each day completely by grace; the same measure of grace (100%) necessary for our justification is the same needed for our sanctification. I didn’t know it at the time but after reading your post Grant, apparently this is basic Reformed Theology. Thank you for sharing your story, it has encouraged me and many others.

    Comment by Josh — December 3, 2008 @ 5:59 pm

  49. Praise the Lord, Josh! You’ve hit the nail square on the head. There are no dispensations of grace, no differences between saving grace and sanctifying grace: it’s all one big, wonderful, pervading, consuming, OCEAN of grace!

    Comment by Grant — December 3, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

  50. Dear Camille and Grant,

    Thank you for openly sharing your painful experiences at BJones. I spent eight dreadful years in silent suffering there. The spiritual abuse they dish out is relentless and brutal. They have made no changes toward grace and freedom in 35 years ! They are what they were. Today I look on their circle with pity and sorrow. They are sadly, sadly missing out on the sweetness and warmth of our grace-abundant God.

    Bessings of joy and hope to you,
    EL

    Comment by elunn — August 31, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  51. Interesting, very interesting. I grew up in fundamentalism…and in 1991 walked away when I attended Duke Divinity School. I will never forget Dr. BJIII telling me “I’d rather them be throwing dirt on my coffin than to hear my son is going to Duke Divinity School.” I thanked him for the comment…smiled and never saw him again. I hold nothing against him or BJU.

    I eventually found my way to the PCA. I was ordained. I served in one of the largest PCA church in S.C. I quickly found the fundmentalism I left had made its way to the PCA. It’s a “lite” version…but it’s fundamentalism.

    I left the PCA a year ago. I no longer consider myself a Christian. I love God…and worship Jesus…but I checked out of the Institutional Church and have no plans to go back.

    I miss Duke. I cut my teeth in post-modern thought at Duke even though I never heard the word. I studied w/ E.P. Sanders and heard the whole New Perspective before it was a controversy.

    I so look forward to seeing what happens in your journey. I’m so glad you’re “out”. I get a sick feeling when I (vaguely) remember my BJU and fundamentalist days. I love my family…love my upbringing…and I’m thankful for much of what I was taught.

    It is another lifetime. A universe I no longer visit…but I do still remember. It is still painful at times…but not in an angry way. I love my friends – fundamentalist and liberal alike.

    Comment by Franklin — July 10, 2010 @ 7:30 pm

  52. [...] “they’ll try to stop your singing in the middle of your song” was so pointed. The pastor had forbidden Grant to sing solos (he told us this in a lengthy email message, of all things!), just weeks after he had said that he [...]

    Pingback by From Me to Me – A Time to Laugh – He has made everything beautiful in His time. — December 16, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  53. Hello Grant,

    You probably don’t remember me, but I am at Heritage Bible Church. I have recently come out of my cave and learned why you and Camille left. I have read your post, as well as much of Camille’s blog, trying to get up to speed. I’m told that you posted Pastor Brook’s letter to you. Would you direct me to it?

    Thanks.

    Comment by Stephen Enjaian — February 27, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

  54. Sure, Stephen, happy to. Here it is:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/39247584/20071017-Correspondence-With-Danny-Brooks

    Comment by Grant — February 27, 2011 @ 10:58 pm

  55. Grant, your writing style is so readable and refreshing. Reading this so clearly articulated post for the second time, has made me realize that, that there is ‘ more than one’ gifted writer in the Lewis household! Although the topic is about serious emotional pain, anguish and considerable devastation of the feelings of betrayal, about all that you both went through, ‘before’ you Grant, found the Grace to write about it, I find I even more and more insight into more understanding of the strange dynamics which were going on behind the scenes and beneath the lines, of what ‘people’ had been saying’ and ‘doing’ back then, that were so hurtful. When I use the word ‘strange dynamics’, I do not suggest in any way that ‘the strange’ was at all amusing or entertaining to be reading about. No sensitive caring person could ever ‘possibly’ consider such disclosure of past devstation, to be entertaining. Such a devastating experience of receiving ‘out of the blue’ negative comments, coming against you when both of you least expected this to come your way, especially from a pastor and friend with whom you had both had been sharing your hearts. How tragic that your former pastor, allowed a mere man, in the form of BJ3, to ‘frighten him’away from the Grace message that God had been gifting his life with. It’s like a pastor moving toward a sweet well of living water, and being headed off in a wrong direction to religiously brackish water, all because of, “the fear of man!’ How one old man in the form of BJ 3, could have so much power over another pastor, who ‘wsn’t even on staff at BJU!’ is simply not only shocking, but also scary. UNBELIEVABLE. I think Jesus weeps over that. That one of His shepherds who really wanted to learn the truth about true Grace, would be willing to settle for a religious subtitute a la BJU Gulag religion! All the 3 Bobs have really been plain, simple and ugly in the flesh,BULLIES. Everyone of them. God says “The meek shall inherit the Earth.” Barbara’s paraphrase: “But NOT the bullies!” You don’t need to be a PHD doctorate theologian to write about God’s Grace. All you need is a wonderful experience of God’s true Grace, which you already have, and it IS wonderful,and the heartfelt desire, aong with Godls direcetion, to TELL YOUR STORY to others. I hope you keep telling your wonderful story to others. There are many who still need to be awakened from their fundy / spiritual sleep, like “Sleeping Beauties”. The wonderful message of God’s true Grace, is the Supernatural touch, like the ( magic )Apple, that the unhappy prisoners of legalism will ‘taste’ and ‘be awakened by,’ when they ‘hear’ your wonderful story and “To God be all the Glory, for the great things HE has done, and will continue to do” through your precious life in Jesus. Thanks so much for wrting your story.

    Comment by Barbara Quinn — September 17, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

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