Ted Haggard: Truth is in order to goodness...

"Two consenting adults in a bedroom is not really the role of the state." -Ted Haggard in a 2005 interview from ChristianityToday.com

Asked about the Supreme Court decision striking down bans on gay sex, Haggard responded: "I'm pretty liberal on that actually. I don't think the state should have any business with what goes on between two consenting adults in their bedroom." -BBC News Online, 16 October 2004

Almost one year ago, on November 15, 2005, I posted the following article on this blog. Now I'm putting it back up on the first page because there's a lesson here for those of us who belong to Jesus Christ--particularly those who serve as officers of Christ's Church.

Back in 1788, two geographical centers of American presbyterianism, the Synods of Philadelphia and New York, composed and adopted as the introduction to their Form of Government what were then, and still are, known as our "Preliminary Principles." Between one and two pages long, these eight principles continue to be foundational to presbyterian polity today to such an extent that the Orthodox Presbtyterian Church, the mainline and liberal Presbyterian Church (USA), and my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, all continue to adhere to them.

Since hearing about Haggard's resignation, the fourth of these principles has been at the front of my mind constantly, and I reproduce it here believing it's worth careful consideration in this present context. (I'd also recommend that pastors and elders memorize it.)

Here then is Preliminary Principle Number IV, followed by the blog post from one year ago:

That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness; according to our Saviour's rule, "by their fruits ye shall know them:" And that no opinion can be either more pernicious or absurd, than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a man's opinions are. On the contrary, they are persuaded, that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth, or to embrace it.

In the nick of time, Ted Haggard says 'no' to sodomy laws... (November 15, 2005)

Ted Haggard is Senior Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and President of the National Association of Evangelicals. During an interview a few weeks ago, he said (thanks, David Talcott):

I think some issues should have rules within the church. For instance, we believe within the church that sexuality should be only between a married man and a woman. But in civil law, I would never want that inculcated.... There are many things that I teach in the church that I would never want integrated into civil law.... Two consenting adults in a bedroom is not really the role of the state.

Pastor Haggard goes further...

He claims that it is his close study of the book of Galatians that has brought him to these conclusions:

This book reflects the crisis that America is in right now. Right now it's trying to decide what to do about the law, and how to use the law to encourage people to be more moral or whether the law should ever be used to encourage people to be more moral--or example, the Lawrence decision that outlawed anti-sodomy laws across the country.

That was the discussion of Galatians, whether or not the law can be used to help people be better people. I don't want to take a purely spiritual argument and try to impose it on civil law, but I do think Christians have to wrestle with it, because the easiest way for us to appease our own conscience is to pass a civil law. That is the argument of the Judaizers when they came from Jerusalem and said to the church at Galatia that they needed to have higher standards. The apostle Paul shot back, and he said, "No, these are Gentiles that have been saved; they don't live according to the same standards as the Jews that have been saved."

So Ted Haggard joins PCA seminary professor, David Jones (see here and here), saying that laws that have been on the books of western nations for millenia have been all wrong. According to Haggard, sodomy is not something the state should outlaw because what "two consenting adults" do in the privacy of "a bedroom is not really the role of the state."

For all these years anti-sodomy laws have been wrong and nobody knew it? The arrogance of these men is breathtaking, relegating all prior generations of wise Christian public servants to the dust heap of history. What's going on here?

One giveaway is Mr. Haggard's statement, "we believe within the church that sexuality should be only between a married man and a woman."

Note that Mr. Haggard doesn't say sexuality should be only between "a married man and woman," nor between "a married man and his wife," nor between "a husband and wife who are married," but between "a married man and a woman." Which prompts me to ask whether this woman also must be married, or can she be single? And if she has to be married, must she be married to this man--or is it only that both consenting adults, man and woman, must be married to someone else?

Mr. Haggard's language is imprecise. You may fault me for quibbling over this but the man has asked to be given the privilege of speaking to the world in behalf of evangelicals and our God, so I think he should be capable of forming good sentences that say what God says.

Interestingly, Mr. Haggard's facility with language makes a marked improvement when it comes to signalling our culture that he's a reasonable man not inclined to mess with the current ban of Jesus Christ and His Truth from America's public square. Past generations of fathers in the Faith thought they were loving their nation and her citizens when they enacted the commandments of Scripture in their nation's civil code: Lord Shaftesbury sought an end to child labor; William and Catherine Booth and Amy Carmichael sought an end to child prostitution; William Wilberforce and William Lloyd Garrison sought an end to slavery; and so on.

But Mr. Haggard understands the nature of our national compact as it now stands and is quick to relegate the eternal binding law of God to the status of a private conviction of his own. Is there any other way to understand his velvet equivocation, "we believe within the church that sexuality should be only between a married man and a woman?"

We're so used to such equivocations that they pass us by unnoticed, but it's time to stop and take a closer look. To bring the matter into focus, it's unimaginable that any father in the faith would ever have spoken in this way in addressing the pagan culture in which he lived. Imagine, for instance, such words on the lips of John Knox or John Calvin or Augustine or Edwards or Luther--or, for that matter, the Apostle Paul or Jesus:

I think the church should have rules about some things. For instance, we believe within the church that sexuality should be only between a married man and a woman. But I would never want that inculcated by the Laws of the Roman Empire. There are many things that I teach in the synagogue that I would never want integrated into civil law. What two consenting adults do in a bedroom is not really under Ceasar's purview.

To which a reasonable pagan might well respond:

So these are your thoughts and beliefs, huh? Who cares? You have your beliefs, I have mine. And one of my beliefs is that you should shut up about yours, dude, because I find them offensive. Go back to church, close your doors, and leave me alone. Then maybe I'll leave you alone with your disease. But then again, maybe I won't. What about all those gay kids sitting in your Sunday school classes being oppressed by your bigoted homophobic nonsense and being set up by what you teach them for heartbreak, at a minimum; and possibly even suicide?

You know, I did say that I'd let you have your religion in private but I've changed my mind. Now I'm going to make sure you're never alone. You have your personal and very private beliefs, huh? Well those personal and private beliefs are tearing the hearts out of little children forced to have you as their parents and pastors and Sunday school teachers and brothers and sisters and Pioneer Club and vacation Bible school and Young Life and Youth for Christ and Good News Bible club leaders. So now, all bets are off. You're not going to have your religion in public or in private, and I'm going to make damned sure you're never alone, you bigoted breeder.

I trust our good readers get the point.

Mr. Haggard doesn't want our civil laws to "inculcate" such things given the fact that he fully acknowledges them to be only his own personal thoughts and beliefs--you know, "While personally opposed to sodomy, I don't believe I should use the laws of the state to enforce my own beliefs." But under Mr. Haggard's construct, it's hard to see why any other of God's commandments from the Second Table of the Law ought to be codified? If a nation ought to leave men free to commit sodomy in the privacy of their own bedroom, why not allow them to commit suicide or to murder one another? As long as the murders are consensual, you understand, and occur in the privacy of a bedroom?

And of course this is precisely the rubric by which the state has legitimated abortion. A woman's right to privacy extends to the very personal decision to kill the little child nestled inside her womb. It is not the place of the state to interfere in such a personal and private matter, even if it's not done in a bedroom and the baby's consent is never given.

After all the water that's gone over the dam, one might hope that someone of Mr. Haggard's position and stature would have seen through all this talk about what is personal and private, about not legislating morality, about not forcing our own moral convictions on others, about the necessity of keeping the church and state separate, and so on--but he seems to be oblivious. Rather, he blathers on about his own and his church's private convictions and the wall of separation appropriately erected between those convictions and the laws of the state. And he thinks he's said something when all he's done is mindlessly to parrot back the rhetoric that drives all the God-haters of our day as they defy God and God's universal Moral Law.

Well, rhetoric aside, I have two serious objections to the position taken by Mr. Haggard, Dr. Jones, and others.

First, Mr. Haggard has completely misconstrued the message of the book of Galatians. It has nothing to do with whether or not Christians ought to seek the repeal of laws banning men and women from sodomizing one another. It's not a book about how God has, according to Haggard's view, one set of standards for Jewish Christians and another set of standards for Gentile Christians; nor by extension is it a book about how God has one set of standards for Christian Americans and another set of standards for pagan Americans.

Rather, Galatians is the Holy Spirit's prolonged curse upon all schemes of salvation that include any act of righteousness being added to the righteousness of Jesus Christ in justifying us before Heaven's Bar and the One Who sits there in righteous judgment, God the Father Almighty.

How is it possible that Mr. Haggard could so completely miss the plain meaning of this message from the Holy Spirit called "Galatians," and how could he so completely miss the purpose of all the laws prohibiting sodomy across the western world? Men haven't passed laws proscribing sodomy because they wanted to "appease (their) own consciences," but because they wanted to protect immortal souls who one day would stand before Almighty God and give an account for every evil deed.

And that brings me to my second objection: Mr. Haggard does not love men and women tempted by homosexual sin. If he did love them, he would not hesitate to use the force of law to protect them from their besetting sin. (And this is not even to mention the excellent public health reasons to prohibit sodomy, adultery, bestiality, fornication, and other sexual sins.)

Nevermind. Mr. Haggard is content to give them all over to their lusts knowing full well that one day soon they will stand before the God Who poured down fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah.

Maybe Mr. Haggard thinks his present posture will buy him and other evangelicals a little time before the persecution hits us hard, but in that he reminds me of Hezekiah who was content to think that he would be gone before God's judgment fell. At least he would have peace in his lifetime (Isaiah 39:8).

Tim Bayly

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

Comments

So, how then shall we answer the world, who sneers and says, "So, your big guy went down."?

"My Big Guy did not go down, but rather brought this little guy down." eh?

Beyond that... to respond with compassion, truth, and hope?

...and trembling, lest we fall as well.

Rachel, your point is a key one.

The grace of God is all that keeps me from such a fall. Or my husband. Or those we minister with.

The Calvinism and Puritanism that came out of Europe was that which was repressive and had incidents of persecution that more than matched this scandal. American Puritanism killed (witch trials for example), and persecuted those who differed. The Puritan/Reformed canopy began to collapse about 1730 due to revivalism and other factors. If that had not been so they would not have supported Republicanism and the Revolution. From that time on Christianity gradually lost its moral hold unless it could maintain a consensus for moral persuasion. Such consensus consisted of the Born again believers and others still acknowledging some taught moral philosophy. However, as consensus was lost then moral influence was lost. The government has no right to claim a moral standard without consensus. Foundational to a correct theology of the N.T. church is a recognition of purpose and nature that agrees that government does not exist to coerce or police that which a consensus does not acknowledge. The Reformed state churches produced a disaster and eventual theological and moral decline that has never been recovered.

There is a separation of church and state. That is not only the constitutional position but the Christian moral position. We do not want government enforcing church attendance, what we must believe, or what moral behavior we must adopt. While all law is tangent to morality, even traffic laws, they cannot be enforced without moral consensus.

Ted Haggard was right, we do not want the government in our bedrooms unless there are other compelling issues of harm involved such as incest etc.

If moral failure is involved regarding Ted Haggard, it cannot be connected to his views on this subject or to his theology. Reformed schools and churches have seen moral failure among leadership. Just recently a well known Seminary and Church, which emphasized Calvinism, had the tragedy of moral failure in the faculty who was also a church leader. Are we to search for a wrong view of the role of government in this failure?

Is not the fact that RC Sproul collects a 270 thousand salary for himself, pays his son in law 240 thousand, and wife 40 thousand, all from contributions to his ministry, also indicative of a gross moral failure of another kind? This of course is public knowledge because the government requires their non profit to file a form 990.

Before there are too many careless accusations and connections made regarding this incident we should all examine our own Christian camps for failure and hypocrisy.

There may be an increase in moral failure in ministry today but it appears to be in all kinds of ministries and theological persuasions. It may be because all persuasions have forgotten the old theology of personal separation from the world. This involved avoidance of habits, influences, and places that captured our hearts and our nature bent towars sin but requiring God's strength to do right. 1 John 2:15-17.

By the way, I am anti-Charismatic and disagree with the whole nature of Teds Haggard's ministry.
However, I have prayed for him and his family. May truth prevail and our Lord Jesus Christ be Glorified.

Bob

>If moral failure is involved regarding Ted Haggard, it cannot be connected to his views on this subject or to his theology.

Well that is a truly remarkable statement. Moral failure cannot be connected to theology?

Well, his views are classically baptistic, premillennial, conversionist views.

This is why i never claim the moniker "evangelical" in any way at all. The only thing that Evangelicalism has produced is alot of schism and sects. It is all based on personal opinion and denies the proper authority of the Church itself.

The commandments of God are what they are because they are universal. We don't say that we are to have no other gods before Jehovah because we believe that, in the church, there are no other gods; no, we say that we are to have no other gods before Jehovah, becasue there *ARE* no other gods, and all men everywhere are under obligation to acknowledge the truth. Their refusal is to their own demise.

While i agree with the preliminary principle you quoted (and all of them to a certain extent), they are useless to maintain the truthfulness of the Church. In PCA life, they are used, as a matter of fact, to tear down and undercut the authority of the Church itself (i've seen it firsthand). If those preliminary principles were such a silver bullet, then the PCUSA would be a faithful Church, and we could all reunite. I long for that day, but it is not today. And the sad thing is that the PCA is in just as bad shape as the PCUSA, but we have deluded ourselves into thinking that we're better because we're more "conservative."

But our conservatism means nothing as long as the PCA is filled with "evangelicals" like Haggard. No, what we need is some real churchly men, willing to do the work of the Church. We just don't have them today. What we have is a bunch of moralists. Nothing more.

Yes, there is a connection between morals and theology, between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The truth is that good action and morals flow out of good teaching and theology, and not the other way around. All of evangelicalism is bankrupt because of this very fact. Read Nevin's "The Sect System," and you'll not only get an earful of convicting truth, you'll see why we're so impotent as Christians today.

I just watched the 10 o'clock news here in Denver and was thankful for the coverage of Haggard's dismissal. Thankful because two men from the church, one of the outside overseers and one of the associate pastors, were given good time to answer fully, not edited and treated with respect. It was a well done report, and not from my favorite local station.

The overseers are not shying away from calling it sexual immorality. I think this a rightful recognition that it is immaterial whether or not the two men actually had "sex", we already know from Haggard's public admission that what went on was, indeed, immoral.

Kamilla

I knew reading this blog that I would find people arrogant enough to elude to the fact that if you are "reformed in theology" there is less of a chance of this happening. Pastor TA, what is a "churchly man"? Sounds legalistic and unBiblical to me! Again, adding our man's laws to the finished work of Christ. Reformed types have been good at this for years and have been very good at walking in an arrogance that the Spirit of God will not bless. No, Ted Haggard is not perfect and no man or woman I know in any church is or ever will be until they see Jesus. Pastor Steve Holt of Mountain Springs Church also in Colorado Springs, has the right heart and asks us to pray for his brother in Christ, Ted, and to ask that the "kindness of the Lord, will lead him to repentance." Now this sounds truly "Biblical" to me but not reformed.

I'm reminded of divorce here, as its occurrence is often used as an argument against banning homosexual "marriage"--and then I remember that we used to have laws against easy divorce, too. Might just be a point to this.

>No, Ted Haggard is not perfect and no man or woman I know in any church is or ever will be until they see Jesus.

No, Ananias was not perfect and no man or woman I know in any church is or ever will be until they see Jesus.

Hmmm...

David Gray,

Now what was that reference to Ananias all about? I tend to believe that Jeremiah 17:9 is true of my heart and am just as guilty of heinous sin as Ananias or Ted. Since I believe the Bible is true, I agree with Paul (one of its writers)before he dies. He goes from being the "least of all saints" to the "greatest of all sinners." Before my God, I am no different. You would do well to read Pastor Steve Holt's letter to his churh posted on their website at Mountain Springs Church in Colorado Springs. It's the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance. I knew a man, a music minister at a flagship PCA church who was a 5 point Calvinist through and through with a good seminary education. He was on staff with 10th Presby in Philadelphia. He worked under a man named James M. Boice. This music minister was the first person I knew to die of AIDS. He was a good Calvinist with a secret life for years! The body of 10th Presbyterian loved him and he repented before he died. But it took AIDS to bring him to his knees.

>Now what was that reference to Ananias all about?

Think about it.

You were suggesting that people should not behave Biblically. You were suggesting that they should not be like the Bereans and consider the scriptures when examining others teachings. You were suggesting it doesn't matter because we're all sinners.

I can't imagine you could approve of what happened to Ananias. Whose sin against the church was greater? Ananias was not a leader in the church and scripture tells us that leaders will be held to a higher standard. So was Peter wrong in the case of Ananias? Should he have just said, "we're all sinners here so you and I are not different"? Now it isn't because Peter isn't a sinner and he certainly wasn't confused on that issue so it must be that Biblical understanding goes beyond just the understanding that we're all sinners here (which we are). If we limit ourselves to "we're all sinners here" and don't engage other truths as well we're hard pressed to explain Peter's attitude.

Well Paul, the chief of sinners, tells us in 1st Corinthians that he is instructing the church to "deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." Somehow I sense Paul would be chided by you if he suggested such consequences for sin today. And what did the chief of sinners say about doctrine and its importance? He declared anathema to those who taught a different gospel, not an understanding that "we're all sinners here" so let's not examine teaching. Did he commend the Bereans for their understanding that "we're all just sinners here" so they left all that doctrinal stuff alone (because of course he would know that right belief and right practice really don't have much if any relationship)? No, Paul did pretty much the opposite, didn't he?

>It's the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance.

Absolutely. And here it may well prove that this public revelation is God's kindness to Mr. Haggard. He may be brought to true repentance. It clearly wasn't there at first when he denied even knowing the man, his early statements tended to have a very Clintonian ring. I am not judging where he will wind up in due course.

>I knew a man, a music minister at a flagship PCA church who was a 5 point Calvinist through and through with a good seminary education. He was on staff with 10th Presby in Philadelphia. He worked under a man named James M. Boice. This music minister was the first person I knew to die of AIDS. He was a good Calvinist with a secret life for years!

With all due respect, being a "good Calvinist" is not compatible with the secret life that you describe. But posing as a good Calvinist would be. One might as well say that the BTK killer was a "good Lutheran." Lutheran he may have been but he wasn't a good one.

>The body of 10th Presbyterian loved him and he repented before he died.

And nobody is saying not to love Mr. Haggard. But some are arguing that bad theology and corrupt teaching have consequences as well. It is your novelty, apparently, to suggest that they don't.

>But it took AIDS to bring him to his knees.

Again, as you have correctly observed, it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. We should pray to not be led into temptation. (I'm sure I've heard that somewhere before)

We all sin. We all are in need of confession every day. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. At least that's what Luther said and he wasn't noted for disregarding discerning whether others' teachings were sound and Biblical or not. I think Luther was right. You appear to think him wrong.

I think the heart of this matter is that the law, whether it be Biblical or civil, does not lead to life. Yes, I believe that laws should reflect truth (with the Bible as our standard). To what extent should that be put into government, though? God judges every man, not us. We see all sorts of perversion of authority (that is, service, Biblically speaking) when we attempt to control others to righteousness through rules (crusades, communism, oppressive leadership). The law serves the purposes of exposing our lack, but it doesn't heal a society. Only the sovereign work of God does that. Feeling the anxious need to instill rigid laws that violate privacy leaves no room for the judgment of God - it is us, acting out of fear, instead of love. Yes, we declare truth, we call men to be reconciled to God - through repentance and humility, not perfection - but while God moves on their hearts, our mandate is to love, to offer hope, to show mercy, just as God treated and treats us. By loving and being merciful, I do not imply doing nothing or allowing sin to go unnoticed or unchecked. I tremble to be in the position of handing out judgments though - can you judge others rightly? Do you always act as God would in a situation? He is, by self-admission, SLOW to anger, full of compassion and truth.

I don't think it fair to call Ted Haggard's statements into question now that his sin has been exposed - what does it serve? You may be right - dead right. But who's rejoicing in that? Better to breathe life.

Rachel writes:

***So, how then shall we answer the world, who sneers and says, "So, your big guy went down. My Big Guy did not go down, but rather brought this little guy down." eh?***

Rachel, the question is not whose Big Guy falls--yours or mine? Rather, I was pointing out that we need to see that the inseparable connection between what a man teaches and what he does--between what the quote from the "Preliminary Principles" refers to as "faith and practice."

As my posts have made clear, it doesn't matter to me whether the one arguing for the legalization of sodomy is or is not reformed; his making this argument should be a warning to God's people. Thus I opposed both Professor David Jones and Pastor Ted Haggard for their political advocacy of the legalization of sodomy despite Haggard being from a pragmatic, evangelical non-reformed theological camp while Jones is a professor at my own denomination's Covenant Theological Seminary.

When it comes to pastors and elders using their time and moral capital to advocate for the removal of anti-sodomy laws, it matters not a bit to me whose "Big Guy" is doing it. For a whole host of reasons, he's wrong.

Jessica writes:

***The grace of God is all that keeps me from such a fall. Or my husband. Or those we minister with.***

Yes. In connection with Ted Haggard's fall, Rachel joined many others in repeating the longstanding biblical response of Christians to another's moral failure: "There but for the grace of God go I."

What must be added, though, is that God's grace is not some mystical force that comes to us unmediated by flesh and blood. God is pleased to work in us and in our world using men and women, sermons and Sunday school classes, books and blogs--and most to the point in this particular case, ecclesiastical and civil authorities and laws--each of these is God's grace.

Truth is, when pastors such as Ted Haggard work for the removal of civil laws banning sodomy, they are working to make our civil society less graceful because men will have one less barrier to negotiate in order to partake of this sin they find so tempting.

So why as biblical Christians would we work for the removal of such legal barriers that extend God's graceful 'no' to so many of our neighbors?

"Pastor Steve Holt of Mountain Springs Church also in Colorado Springs, has the right heart and asks us to pray for his brother in Christ, Ted, and to ask that the "kindness of the Lord, will lead him to repentance." Now this sounds truly "Biblical" to me but not reformed."

Actually, Steve Holt is a Charismatic Calvinist, so he is pretty much 'reformed'.

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