Not to us, O LORD, but to your name give glory
Thank God that in a world reverberating with blasphemous music and an increasing perversion of the arts, there are initiatives such as Eve(ning) of Poetry; which offer artists a platform to minister on societal issues — under the penetrating light of the gospel. I (Huston) am grateful for all those who make unknown sacrifices behind the scenes in order to make this event possible. I’m thankful to have had occasion to perform there and hope to have such an opportunity again.
The month’s event, themed “Uncovering The Sheets”, aimed to encourage, uplift, and help bring healing to those dealing with sexual temptation, addiction, and/or pain of abuse.
The guest speaker was Pastor Terry Gobanga, who shared with her audience the story of her struggle to recover from the trauma of sexual abuse and the grief of losing her husband so soon after their wedding.
Her story is undeniably tragic. Many cannot imagine — let alone endure — some of the horrors she experienced and only the most granitic of hearts could have remained unmoved after listening to her recount her sufferings.
This post does not seek to, in any way, diminish the gravity of what she went through.
However, there are several issues that we (Huston & Julie) had regarding this month’s eve of poetry and Terry Gobanga’s message to the audience; which we feel compelled to address.
We know that many of these issues, far from being isolated to one Eve of Poetry event or even to Kenyan churches, are in fact worldwide historically recurring issues that concern the entire body of Christ. This makes them all the more weighty, and should make us all the more attentive, and concerned to deal with them.
Here are the four things that we think must be said:
1. WOMEN WHO CALL THEMSELVES PASTORS ARE WALKING IN DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD
From the time Christ ascended after His resurrection and all the way down through church history, it has been the clear teaching of Scripture and the obedient affirmation of Bible-believing churches that the only two offices of church government (i.e. 1: elders/pastors/overseers and 2: deacons) are reserved for qualified men. The ignorant persistence of present day ‘prominent’ women such as Joyce Meyer; Paula White; Kathy Kiuna; ‘Evangelist’ Wairimu (etc. etc.) does absolutely nothing to change the fact that the Bible is unequivocal about the God-ordained blueprint for church leadership.
The Bible not only describes this through the example of the early church in the New Testament, but also prescribes it as a direct command to all Christians. The most distinct and clear passage is 1 Timothy 2:12-14:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy 2:12-14, ESV)
The most common and seemingly plausible arguments against this command are the claims that “it only applied to that specific church at that specific time” and that “God is redeeming fallen mankind through the church so there is now neither male nor female”.
On closer inspection you’ll find that these claims are utterly shattered by the fact that the inspired Apostle Paul bases his instructions on a period prior to the fall: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve”. That means his basis for commanding that men lead the church is based on God’s own perfect and infallible design. The principle therefore applies before the fall and after the fall, not just to “a specific church at a specific time”. Much more can be said about this, but that would be belaboring the point: there’s no way around this bulletproof Scripture.
The Bible is clear and if Terry and other “female pastors” love Jesus, they’ll obey His commandments, deny themselves, and humbly seek to serve Him and His people within the framework that God has declared to be honorable to Him.
2. WHEN STRIVING TO UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE, WE MUST BEGIN WITH GOD; NOT OURSELVES; SCRUTINIZING EVERYTHING IN LIGHT OF HIS WORD
While on stage, Terry consistently used her experiences rather than Scripture as her primary point of reference.
When teaching (and studying) the word of God it’s imperative that we begin with Scripture and draw out the meaning from the text itself (a process theologians would call exegesis).
For instance, in the first point, we have exegetically shown what Paul’s inspired words mean by closely examining the passage.
We don’t first decide what we want to say then go find the verses that seem to fit (a practice often masquerading as ‘topical studies’, the most popular ones being ‘finances’ and ‘relationships’). No, the verses tell us what they have to say, and our task in study and teaching is to find out what the main point of each passage is.
In contrast Terry only quoted a couple of passages (the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 and the story of the woman in the Synoptic Gospels who had a discharge of blood) then retold her experience as she drew implications and conclusions that had nothing to do with the Biblical texts.
Not once did she bring out the context of Tamar’s rape: the fact that it was the second in a series of judgments because of David’s adultery and murder. The first was the death of the baby that Bathsheba bore unto David. The climax of these judgments is in the conspiracy, betrayal, and death of his son, Absalom. The chapters around the story of Tamar are not an expose of rape. The big picture is that God hates sin, and that the consequences of our sin (apart from Christ) can have more far-reaching consequences than we can imagine.
Terry loosely made reference to particular portions of the passage in 2 Samuel. For example, since she’d been left for dead after her assault, she compared that to Amnon hating Tamar afterwards and not wanting to ever see her again. This common giving of a secondary role to Scripture as personal experience and presuppositions take center stage is what theologians call eisegesis.
We can get used to randomly quoting Scripture as Christians, but God expects us to “tremble at His word” (Isaiah 66:2). We ought to be careful not to use God’s word as a rubber stamp for what we want to put across. Simply having a moving testimony doesn’t mean that you’re “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
3. IT IS UN-BIBLICAL TO DEMONIZE SIN
There is a practice amongst even true believers of demonizing our sins. We create demons according to our particular struggles. Ergo, we talk about demons of lust, anger, greed and so on. When sharing her testimony, Terry referred to rape as a demon.
Now, we believe that demons do exist. The Bible tells us so. We also believe that there are territorial demons and others that can torment humans in certain ways. The Bible tells us that too.
However save for “Legion, and Beelzebul/Lucifer/Satan”, nowhere in the Bible are we made privy to the names of demons.
What’s more, directly relating the struggle with sin to demonic activity is a deception. Even in the passage Terry referred to in 2 Samuel where Tamar is raped by Amnon, there is no direct reference to demonic involvement!
We should heed what the book of James has to say:
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15, ESV)
Our worst enemy is not somewhere outside of us. Our worst enemy is our own indwelling sin, for without it the external luring of the evil one and his minions would be completely ineffectual — as it was with Jesus.
This is why Paul commands us to kill our flesh, not demons.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13, ESV)
Saying that sexual sins are demons is to teach a lie and the reason why this lie is so dangerous is because it has misled some true believers into thinking that since they struggle with a besetting sin, it means that they must be possessed by some overpowering demon or the other.
The Christian can rest assured that the Holy Spirit resides in them, and we cannot see how the temple of the Holy Spirit can simultaneously accommodate the devil. But more importantly, Scripture doesn’t teach it. So… Neither should we. In fact, the truth about our struggle with sin can be found in Romans 7. In this passage Paul cries out:
“Oh wretched man that I am”
Oh. Wretched. Man. That. I. Am.
4. THE SOLUTIONS WE, THE CHURCH, OFFER TO THE WORLD MUST BE GOSPEL-CENTRIC; NOT SELF-CENTERED
As Terry wrapped up her message, she ended with an exhortation that was based on the woman who had a discharge of blood. In a nutshell, she said that there is a process to healing, and that for one to truly find it they have to stretch out and touch Christ despite the shame and guilt that they may feel.
Bottom line? It is up to me to get up and go get the healing, and if I haven’t found healing, it’s my fault. I haven’t stretched out far enough, I haven’t let go enough, I haven’t had faith enough.
Aside from victimizing the victim, this paradigm also goes against the grain of the gospel – which is about how God must reach out to us because we simply cannot reach out to him. He reaches out to us not because of our own actions but by His (unmerited) grace and through faith in Christ – the kind of faith that God placed in the woman with an issue of blood.
The Gospel begins with God’s sovereign deeds and our utter helpless state (whether regarding sexual sin or not) in the face of God’s righteous requirements.
The Gospel dictates that God’s sent his Son, Jesus Christ to the world to live the perfect life men could not; die the gruesome death men deserved; and after 3 days, God raised this Jesus from the dead, proving that He was in fact, who he had claimed to be. The Son of God. The Savior of Israel. The great I am. The Lord.
The Gospel is a summons to radical repentance from our unbelief and idolatry towards a pursuit of the infinite worth of this Christ.
The Gospel states that if we do this, if we repent, if we put our trust in Christ to save us, he will. He will regenerate us – change us from the inside, out – by his Spirit and for His Glory.
The gospel was the most important story in the room during Eve of Poetry that night.
It is the one story powerful enough to bring ultimate, eternally effective, fundamental healing.
And sadly, it’s the story we didn’t hear.