We all stumble in many ways...

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Under the post, "Rachel Miller's straw men...," one reader wrote:

There is simply no room for error in your teaching.

My response:

This couldn't be further from the truth. Is there any pastor who goes a month, week, or day without having the Holy Spirit remind him of His warning:

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. (James 3:1, 2)

"For we all stumble in many ways." Pastors know this is true of us in what we write online and in books, what we preach and teach, how we speak and are silent in session meetings and pastoral counseling, at home and school, in the car on the way to church Sunday morning, etc. We see our stumbles in many ways, and we tell our congregations about them. We apologize after session meetings for our anger or passive-aggressiveness. We all stumble; we all sin in many ways.

This should satisfy you that you are wrong, but sadly, I doubt it. Why not?

Because what people really want is not for us to admit we have error in our teaching where that error truly exists, but where it doesn't exist. In other words, those who accuse us of refusing to admit error in our teaching won't agree we've admitted error in our teaching until we admit that we have sinned against half the human race by teaching God's Creation Order—that is the only place where our admission of error would ever count...

And yet it is precisely there where we will never ever admit error because it is precisely there where we declare the world and much of the church today is heretical.

Sure, the talk is all about sex abuse, but horrible as sex abuse is and as terrible as the consequences of that wickedness against little girls and boys are, the greatest intensity against us is not centered on the ways we have succeeded or failed in our pastoral care of the predators and victims of sex abuse (and yes, we all have failed in our care of predators and their victims), but the fact that, as our opponents see it, we create a seedbed for child abuse, wife abuse, and incest by our teaching of God's Creation Order of Adam first, then Eve. It is there that the teeth gnash most loudly; there that the hands close into a fist; there that the fuel of the engine of public lynching is stored.

Read this quote of Pastor Wilson that Ms. Miller trots out on her Aquila Report as proof positive of Pastor Wilson's wrong teaching:

The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23), and fathers have the central responsibility to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Children are required to obey their parents (both of them), and since the wife is to follow the lead of her husband in all things (Eph. 5:24), this means that the father is responsible to provide for and protect his family. Father rule. That’s the good part. ...The thesis is not that men are good, but rather that men are crucial. When they are crucial and selfish, a lot of bad things happen. When they are crucial and obedient, a lot of good follows.

Read the comments on any of a hundred blog posts about Pastor Wilson's work with the Sitlers. Always, always, it comes back to something like "that's their view of women" or "that's the fruit of his demeaning view of women" or "he thinks he's a man and can do no wrong" or "he doesn't care about women and children" or "what's a woman worth to him until she's married, submissive, and pregnant?"

As if any of the slander of Pastors Wilson and Piper concerning their teaching about sexuality is true, let alone the slander about its fruit in their lives and the life of the congregations they serve.

I have no hesitation in saying that I believe the session of Christ Church in Moscow and Pastor Wilson himself erred in the pastoral care they provided in the wake of both Mr. Wight and Mr. Sitler's crimes. I've spoken to Pastor Wilson personally about my concerns and no one reading this post is surprised to hear it. When I speak on pastoral care and church discipline, I never fail to warn pastors and elders that every last case of church discipline will find us, ourselves, at the end of the matter seeing how our own failures and sins have added to the pile of sin in the middle of the room. There is no such thing as a perfect sermon because there is no such thing as a perfect pastor. And thus there is no such thing as a perfect response by pastors and elders to incest and child abuse because there are no perfect pastors and elders. If God had wanted perfection in our sermons, instruction, and the pastoral care of the predators of child abuse and their victims, He would have sent angels to preach and teach, and to provide our pastoral care. But He chose, instead, to send us men who often go wrong because they (and you and I) have feet of clay.

So, to review: I am often wrong. Pastor Doug Wilson is often wrong. Pastor John Piper is often wrong. But are Pastors Wilson and Piper wrong in their constant warning of the church that we must not give in to the wicked spirit of the age that is feminism? Are they wrong in calling husbands to love their wives and wives to submit to their husbands? Are they wrong to rebuke the church for allowing; or should I say, promoting women into teaching and exercising authority over men when the Apostle Paul said he did not allow it?

Until faithful Pastors such as John Piper and Doug Wilson give in and say this right here is the error in their teaching, they and the few who work beside them in this thankless task will continue to be accused of refusing to admit there is any error in their and our teaching. But we do admit there is error in our teaching. All the time, and not just in our teaching. There are apologies (including recently) here on this blog for errors in my teaching I've made here. The congregation I serve has listened as I've corrected myself in the pulpit. The elders and pastors on our session have heard and received apologies from me for sins I've committed against them during our meetings. Need I go on?

But such things don't cut it. Nothing less than my repudiation of Adam first, then Eve; and woman not being allowed to teach and exercise authority over man; and man being the glory of God but woman being the glory of man will cause women to leave off accusing me of refusing to admit my errors.

So should I scratch your ears and turn away from God and His Word? Is this what Pastors Wilson and Piper should do so the dogs will be called off? Do you really think that if Doug said publicly he has reconsidered his officiating at the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Sitler in light of the subsequent birth of their baby son and Mr. Sitler being banned from his own home because of his ongoing sin, and that he (Doug) now thinks his approval of that marriage was well-intentioned but wrongheaded, and he regrets it; do you really think that even one person howling for his blood would be pacified? Even one?

Time will tell about the Sitlers. We must pray for them and all concerned, but can't we fight at the place where the battle lines are truly drawn? And is there anyone who would deny that place is Adam first, then Eve; and Eve deceived, not Adam?

If we wish the hyenas and jackals to back off, we know precisely where we must admit our teaching is in error. Sadly, though, that's about the only place we are right, so we can't have any hope of getting the hyenas and jackals to back off.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!