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A Few Bible Thoughts about Online Confessions

Dave Harvey just posted “a note about online confessions” (see below).  Here is a brief response.

The Bible is full of one honest story after another.  In Genesis 3 we read about the fall of Adam and Eve.  In Exodus, Number and Deuteronomy about the disobedient Hebrews and the transgressions of Moses and Aaron.  In the historical book, we read about the sins of Saul, David, and Solomon.  The Psalms are full of penitent confessions with names often attached.  The prophets outline the sins of nations and individuals. 

The New Testament is the same.  Study the gospels.  Peter, Thomas, Judas and the rest.   Or people and churches in Acts, the epistles, and apocalypse.  These transparent stories of sin and salvation serve the people of God.  The Bible tells a story of creation, fall, and redemption. 

I am afraid, C.J. and Dave want a sanitized history, not an honest history of SGM.  They continue to conceal sins and cover up serious errors.  It is not surprising they are removing such information from official documents.  I guess they hope new people to SGM and future generations won’t notice the omissions.

Dave can remove C.J.’s confessions from the SGM website but don’t give biblical and theological reasons for doing so.  If you want to talk Scripture, then they should stay.  God intends for us to learn from such confessions.  Look at the Bible.

On the other hand, C.J.’s two statements were so meager they are of little worth.  That is the biggest reason to remove them.  As such, they are rather offensive.  But if C.J., Dave, and the SGM Board ever see the seriousness of their sins and write an authentic confession, it should be posted on the SGM website forever like David’s in Psalm 51.  Let it be a humble reminder of arrogance that abuses and grace that forgives and cleanses. 

Unfortunately, there is no sign of that happening.  C.J., Dave, et al., continue to obsesses over their reputations.  C.J. and the SGM Board have yet to ask the SGM pastors or churches forgiveness for anything.  They must hope God forbid people know the truth about them.  


A note about online confessions

As you may have noticed, we recently took C.J.'s initial confession of sin to Covenant Life Church (along with the comments) off of our website, as well as the confession on his blog. I know that this could give the impression that Sovereign Grace Ministries is somehow trying to hide information or cover up sin. 

I understand those questions. Let me try to explain to you my thinking behind this decision.

After the Pastors Conference, I asked the staff to pull C.J.’s confessions off the blog. Here’s why. Since our meetings with Ambassadors of Reconciliation in July and including their written report to us in August, they have been illustrating to us deficiencies they believe we have in our practice of confession and in how we extend forgiveness to people. One of the main application points of this is that when a Christian asks for forgiveness, it should always be answered with a statement of Christ’s forgiveness and, where possible, the listener’s forgiveness. They hit these points again at our Pastors Conference in both contexts where they taught.

I was convicted on this point by what they shared several months ago, but I’ve also been increasingly bothered by the implication of this on how we published C.J.’s confessions. In short, to leave a statement online where C.J. asks for forgiveness, which is then followed by dozens of comments expressing neither the forgiveness of God or others, well, it began to seem wrong to me.

If God responds to our sins by covering them (Rom 4: 7; 1 John 1: 9) and relating to us like they never happened (Psalm 103: 12; Is 1: 18), who was I to perpetuate a man’s sin online as if it isn’t forgiven? It may be internet protocol to leave things online forever, but I believe we need to be led by the Bible here. And we can’t do that selectively for the sake of appearances. Confessions will not be left up on SGM websites, period. I regret we left them up as long as we did and that’s my bad.

Now, this doesn't mean that we aren't closely examining the charges brought against C.J. or the sins to which he has confessed. In fact, we have created several panels for that sole purpose. We aren't simply dismissing the issues. As AOR said, “While God’s forgiveness assures us that the consequence of eternal death has been paid in full, such proclamation does not necessarily remove earthly consequences.” But even as we examine these charges, we need to let the free forgiveness of the gospel ring. The gospel is what breathes life into us, and I want it to permeate this entire process.

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