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Liberty from Abuse

One of the purposes of God's law is to restrain evil. God's sanctions against certain acts limit the circle of harm and, where possible, provide redress and restitution. In particular, God's law provides the framework for freedom from abuse and liberty from tyranny. In regard to abuses emanating from those holding spiritual authority, God's primary sanction is permanent removal from office. The widespread failure to apply this Biblical sanction leads to a world of untold misery for countless victims throttled by institutional machinery working overtime to keep restitution and restoration inaccessible to them.

Martin G. Selbrede
  • Martin G. Selbrede,
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To be guiltless of the blood of all men, we must follow Paul's example: we must not fail to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-30) and follow it (Psalm 103:18, Matt. 5:19, James 1:22f.). This entails an awareness of what God has revealed across all sixty-six books of the Bible. Tragically, between today's perpetual kindergarten syndrome1 among professing Christians and our general ignorance of the Old Testament, we are ill-equipped to bring that whole counsel to bear on critical matters. This kind of theology deficit disorder can wreak considerable harm inside the church no less than in the culture at large. Ignorance is not bliss.

One of the purposes of God's law is to restrain evil. God's sanctions against certain acts limit the circle of harm and, where possible, provide redress and restitution. In particular, God's law provides the framework for freedom from abuse and liberty from tyranny. In regard to abuses emanating from those holding spiritual authority, God's primary sanction is permanent removal from office. The widespread failure to apply this Biblical sanction leads to a world of untold misery for countless victims throttled by institutional machinery working overtime to keep restitution and restoration inaccessible to them.

The original context of Paul's assertion of being guiltless involves the sheep in God's flock and their relationship to the overseers that Paul was addressing:

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:26-30 KJV)

We see here the duty enjoined upon the overseers (to feed all the flock) being contrasted with the conduct of subsequent leaders (who would not spare the flock). The shepherds of grief would presumably arise out of the circle of overseers. Paul had been sounding this warning for three years (as verse 31 affirms), so serious was the matter of shepherds who would mislead and mistreat the flock. The Apostle John's battle with Diotrephes, "who loved to have the preeminence" and who excommunicated those not adhering to his wishes (3 John 9-10), illustrates the massive scale of this problem.

Virtually everyone is aware of the abuses and subsequent cover-ups plaguing the Roman Catholic Church, where priests implicated in abusive conduct are quietly relocated to unsuspecting new congregations where the abuse often recurs. Modern evangelicalism in America has its own list of distinguished perpetrators who, once exposed, made tearful confessions to their supporters (via pulpit or television cameras or both).

In virtually all cases, the restoration of the leader to his former station has been a dominant part of the evangelical package. The trappings of accountability are in the service of protecting the ministry under the guise of protecting the flock. The dual principles of forgiveness and restoration are dutifully applied, and many proof-texts (which support these two principles in general) are cited as if they apply not only to congregants but also to fallen church leaders in respect to their office. If, however, we consider the whole counsel of God, a very different picture emerges: an extraordinary picture grounded on nothing less than God swearing an oath against His Own life to confirm the immutability of His counsel on precisely this issue.

Because God's direct counsel on the question of shepherds who've inflicted harm on anyone in their flocks is located in the middle of a poorly understood Old Testament book, few are the churches that know of it. Of the churches that know of it, even fewer will consider applying it. As a consequence, we do not see freedom from abuse today. At best, we see a mechanism kick in that, pious window-dressing notwithstanding, works for the freedom of the abuser. This often compounds the harm to the sheep still under the leader's hand.

Before we dig into the Old Testament, we must forcefully remind ourselves of the particularly heinous nature of abuse emanating from a Christian leader in respect to the injured party. All such leaders evoke a profound trust among their supporters: each of them is seen as God's man doing God's work and being above reproach. The flock looks up to its shepherd and his authority. Consequently, when abuse arises, the victim's relationship with God is often mortally wounded. Victims with the courage to expose a powerful leader often pay a high price: they grow more isolated while the leader's supporters grow in solidarity. Mind-searing, incapacitating depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome are endemic among such victims. There are documented cases where the victims of clergy abuse committed suicide as the ecclesiastical tables were turned against them.2 As Paul affirmed of the implicated leaders, they will not spare the flock. Those who support such leaders share their leader's indifference toward the sheep.

The Good Old Boy System

For some years I've been collaborating on a major book project that was set in motion when a famous (and still active) missionary initiated an attempted sexual exploitation of the victim nearly ten years ago. As bad as the original incident was, the aftermath involving the handling of the situation by churches, counselors, and parachurch organizations made it worse. One of my tasks was to work through the exhaustively-documented evidence prepared by the victim and to extract the dominant patterns embedded in that mass of ugly details.

The victim, no slouch in respect to researching such behavior after the incident, had purchased and read 121 books on the issue of clergy abuse, totaling 27,949 pages of material. You can see that mountain of books in the accompanying photo. In addition to those books, the victim had meticulously annotated several thousand pages of journal reprints. This one person had arguably researched, written, and edited enough material to earn two, if not three, doctorates on this one topic. The source material identified the problem clearly enough, but until the victim encountered the writings of Dr. R. J. Rushdoony, no actual solution was evident because everyone else, without exception, adopted either antinomian or humanistic assumptions.

Martin Books

Martin Selbrede in February 2010 compiling over 130 systemic failures by more than two dozen Christian institutions in their handling of a single attempted sexual exploitation perpetrated by a noted missionary. The 121 books at the right were read by the victim in an effort to regain sanity after encountering the stone wall of ecclesiastical collusion for nine straight months.

What the victim experienced first-hand were various well-known tactics that are routinely applied whenever someone steps forward with a report of this nature. The victim had 58 key encounters (6.5 per month) with churches, parachurch ministries, and counselors concerning the incident. To understand the significance of the results of these encounters, you need to learn the vocabulary of collusion, which puts a name to each of the eight major tactics usually deployed against the victim to frustrate justice. We'll step through these tactics so you can understand the systemic nature of what happened in those 58 documented encounters.

The first three tactics are self-explanatory: Denying the Problem, Ignoring the Problem, and Minimizing the Problem. The remaining five tactics require further elaboration. No originality is claimed for this breakdown. I am adapting ideas from a well-known source3 and modifying them for the sake of clarity.

Role Reversal involves thoughts or behaviors that treat victims as perpetrators and perpetrators as victims ... what some psychologists call Reattribution of Blame. Turning the victim into a troublemaker and scapegoat saves an abuser's colleagues from feeling grief over their own betrayal and from having to take responsibility for the effects of his behavior and betrayal on others and the church. Such slander of the victim "is a form of murder" and works to discredit the victim by destroying their reputation and integrity.4

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil involves shaming of self or others for even thinking about, speaking about, or listening to anyone who is speaking about, the abuse.

Passing The Buck entails an endless game where persons at every level and capacity of an organization rationalize that the work of investigating an incident and holding a perpetrator accountable belongs somewhere else. The buck often gets passed back to the demoralized victim, who must resume the exhausting search for justice all over again. Worse yet are churches that pass the responsibility for dealing with dangerous perpetrators and the damage they cause back to God Himself. This is done by invoking cheap, meaningless platitudes which "heal the wound of My people slightly" (Jer. 6:14, 8:11).

Let's Pretend (also known as Out of Sight, Out of Mind) means doing church while refusing to acknowledge the elephant in the room. If the victims and their advocates talk about the elephant, then the problem is theirs. If they do not, then there is no problem.

Let's Make a Deal concerns offering a victim or advocate something, either tangible or intangible, to keep quiet. Silence is mandated: the victim must keep the situation a secret, usually for some alleged greater good (e.g., protecting the ministry and/or its work). "If you will just go quietly to another congregation, we won't tell anyone that you were involved in a scandal." "If you'll agree not to take the perpetrator or denomination to court, we'll pay you for the damage done."

Now you know the eight basic elements of the vocabulary of collusion. Let's put that information to use and see what happened when the victim sought justice over the course of nine months with the Christian community (this is a tabulation I performed as a collaborator on this project):

The Documented Track Record

Encounters with Churches/Ministries/Christian Counselors 58
Ignore the Abuse Incidents 12
Role Reversal Incidents 18
Pass the Buck Incidents 19
Deny the Abuse Incidents 10
Minimize the Abuse Incidents 21
See No Evil Incidents 8
Let’s Pretend Incidents 12
Let’s Make a Deal Incidents 4
Outright Rebukes of Victim 8
Failures to Connect 4
Rejections of Biblical Restitution or Godly Justice 10
Withdrawal of Offers to Help 4
Loss of Credibility Charged Against Victim 1
Promises broken to the victim 4
Average Number of Church Encounters Per Month 6.5
Average Number of Moral Failures Per Church Encounter 2.25
*This number excludes Failures to Connect, which were recorded only to fully tabulate the victim’s attempts to reach out for help.

In light of this abysmal track record, involving highly respected churches and para-church ministries, we can be blunt: this serious problem will persist so long as antinomianism persists. Can you imagine seeking justice and being rebuffed 131 times over nine months in the multitude of ways shown above? This happened despite the fact that the perpetrator fully admitted guilt in the matter. Still, no Christians knew what to do: they just wanted the victim to go away. The perpetrator was, in effect, protected (and remains so to the present day) and lost relatively little, while the victim incurred enormous personal expenses and emotional devastation in the wake of the trauma inflicted by the antinomian churches.

The first problem that antinomianism brings to the table is failure to secure restitution. The rickety engine of Churchianity stands idly by while the victim sinks under the growing burdens and expenses incurred by the perpetrator's and church's conduct, but leaps into action to support the perpetrator (whether a missionary, priest, pastor, or parachurch leader). The modern church shortcuts restitution and thus invalidates the injury inflicted upon the victim. The damage done to the victim is more severe than words can express or restitution can restore, often involving a crisis of faith, total isolation, loss of all hope, complete helplessness, a blocked future, and worse. Without a serious theology of restoration (such as Derek Carlsen5 had started to build in 2006), the situation will remain bleak.

The second problem is equally serious. Although the modern church drags its feet in respect to the restoration of the victims, it almost always makes the restoration of the perpetrator its highest priority. There is a self-serving jargon that drives this process (appeals to supposed accountability programs, allusions to King David's situation, the unwarranted application of scriptures about forgiveness and restoration to the matter of church office, etc.). All of these gambits operate in total ignorance of God's own view. And it is to Ezekiel 34 that we now turn, to grasp what God has to say about this most invidious epidemic.

Taking God's Oath Seriously

It is common, of course, to dismiss appeals to Ezekiel 34 with a cavalier retort such as "That's the Old Testament!" This hostility to Ezekiel 34 is remarkable in its own right (since Jesus in John 10 is appealing precisely to this passage), but it further involves the critic in denying the validity of God's oaths. Does this approach suggest a God-honoring submission to His Word?

Ezekiel 34 elaborates on a theme expounded in Jeremiah 23 and Zechariah 11, namely, shepherds who fail in their duties to protect the flock entrusted to them. In the key passage of Ezekiel, it is God Himself who speaks:

Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. (Ezek. 34:7-10 KJV)

The oath is contained in the phrase "As I live, saith the Lord God." We often encounter this phrase in the third-person, such as by a prophet like Elisha:

And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee. (2 Kings 3:14)

But in Ezekiel, there are instances when God swears the oath Himself. The meaning of this oath is surprising, and in fact should strike us with awe. Puritan commentator William Greenhill points out that God is saying, "Let me not be the living God, but be laid aside as some idol or false god, if I do not punish these shepherds which have dealt so with my flock."6 A. R. Faussett adds that "as I live is the most solemn of oaths, pledging the self-existence of God for the certainty of the event."7

God swears oaths to confirm the matter being sworn to (not that modern Christians will necessarily accept that God can actually keep His oaths, most notably with respect to Isaiah 45:22-23). The writer of Hebrews regards the divine oath as signifying that God's affirmations are permanent, fixed, and never subject to change.

For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath. (Heb. 6:16-17)

It naturally follows that God's policy respecting shepherds who harm the flock is immutable. God has staked His Own existence on the eternality of His counsel as set forth in such passages.

If we decide that what God has laid down as an eternal rule in Ezekiel 34 no longer applies, having been somehow superseded by something else, God's oaths mean nothing: He simply doesn't mean what He says. The Lord's words of confirmation are no better than the popular self-maledictory oath uttered by children: "Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye."

For Christians who accept the word of God as The Word of God, His oaths should be to them "an end of all strife," putting the matter being confirmed beyond any debate or dispute. We would then treat the confirmed matter with as much solemnity as God showed in putting His Own existence on the block to verify that His pronouncements have permanent validity.

What the Lord Confirmed by an Oath

The failure of the shepherds to protect and feed the flock entrusted to their care has at least six aspects (which we'll elaborate on later):

The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. (Ezek. 34:4)

The exact reversal of this situation (which begins with the demotion of these shepherds as required in Ezek. 34:10) is laid out farther on in the chapter:

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats ... Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. (Ezek. 34:16-17, 22)

How, precisely, does God save His flock so that they should no more be subject to the shepherds who have inflicted harm on the sheep? The answer once again is found in verse 10: God calls for the permanent removal of such shepherds from their office. Then the sheep can never again fall prey to the men who have violated the trust that God has reposed in them as leaders of His people. What is declared here is "a freedom from bad shepherds," as R. J. Rushdoony noted.8 Where it's faithfully applied, the potential for recidivism disappears.

Let us consider the text of Ezekiel 34:10 and examine what 350 years worth of solid Bible scholarship had to say about its meaning and implications.

A Parachute of Lead

When executives leave a corporation, they hope to make their exit while wearing a golden parachute-a wonderful severance package replete with pensions, bonuses, and dividends regardless of their performance in office. But when God calls for the demotion of shepherds who have failed to protect their flock, the parachute is not made of gold, but of lead.

"They shall be deprived officio et beneficio-both of the work and of the wages. They shall cease from feeding the flock, that is, from pretending to feed it. Note, It is just with God to take out of men's hands that power which they have abused and that trust which they have betrayed. But if this were all their punishment, they could bear it well enough; therefore it is added, "Neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more, for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, which, instead of protecting, they had made a prey of." (Matthew Henry)9
In such a state of things, plainly the first act of mercy to the flock must be the removal of the unfaithful shepherds. (Rev. F. Gardiner)10
They are as far removed from their office as can be. (Jakob Raupius, 1655)11
"Neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more." Here is a fourth punishment; they should be deprived of those opportunities they had to enrich themselves: they made a prey of the flock, eating the fat, clothing themselves with the wool, and killing those that were fed, they made advantage of the flock, only seeking themselves, not the good of it; but they should not do so any longer. ... Being once delivered, they shall no more be spoiled and devoured by such tyrants as they were, but shall enjoy liberty and safety ... "Behold, I am against the shepherds;" I will call them to account, and have satisfaction for all the wrong and violence they have done; I will deprive them of their sweet morsels, and throw them with shame out of their places. These are severe judgments, which God swears, by no less than his own life, that he will bring upon them: God commits great trust unto them, and when they are unfaithful God visits severely for it. (William Greenhill)12
The Lord will demand His sheep of them; and because sheep have been lost through their fault, He will depose them from the office of shepherd, and so deliver the poor flock from their violence. There is nothing said about the punishment of the shepherd, but simply that the task of keeping the sheep shall be taken from them, so that they shall feed themselves no more. (Carl F. Keil)13

The trust reposed in a man of God is a stewardship, and God is clear that "it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (I Cor. 4:2). Their mission is the care and protection of the flock, and no exceptions to this covenant of protection are to be admitted. Nobody is special in this regard, or gets a pass respecting God's standards and what He requires. As Dr. Morecraft wisely observed, "We must never think that we and God have a special arrangement other than His covenant."14

The shepherds thus demoted shall not feed themselves by working as shepherds "any more." Period. God conceives of no temporary "step down" from the reins of spiritual authority. Their authority in respect to the flock has been forfeited once for all. Such deposed individuals must find another line of work for themselves: the flock shall no longer be their source of food ever again. Even liberal expositor Walther Eichrodt made clear that such shepherds were to be "cashiered" (dismissed from service with disgrace) "and the sheep torn out of their greedy hands."15 To oppose God's oath-backed policy is to trample His pledging of His Own life underfoot.

Some might seek to evade the force of this conclusion by postponing the deliverance because God said that He will require the flock at their hand (implying a future event) but A. R. Fausset declares that translation to be faulty: the clause should be rendered "I require the flock at their hand"-as in now.16  This better rendering is also adopted by Lange.17 Besides, one must question the value of a deliverance that's indefinitely postponed.

That the deliverance is not to be postponed follows from Ezekiel 34:16-17, as Lange noted,18 for the shepherds having been discharged from their office are now on the same level as the flock, wherefore God now says "Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep." Should such men genuinely repent,19 they may rightly be restored to fellowship and communion but not restored to office.20

Addressing Objections to the Lead Parachute

Objections to looking to Ezekiel 34 for guidance fall into several basic categories. The first objection is that the shepherds in view in that passage are political rulers (kings) and not spiritual rulers. The objection is based on the fact that Jeremiah 2:8 apparently distinguishes shepherds ("pastors" in the King James Version) from the priests and prophets, so that the men being demoted are kings and princes, not spiritual leaders. A closely related objection is that Psalm 119:96 doesn't apply here: the commandment is not exceedingly broad and we shouldn't apply the notion of general equity to this passage.

Nevertheless, let the consensus21 of Biblical scholarship speak to these objections:

The prophecy in Ezekiel 34 is kept very general, and does not connect itself closely with specific occasions and circumstances, hence admits (apart from its typical bearing on the experience of Israel, outward and spiritual) of manifold applications to all states, churches, families; and with justice, for it is really designed for all that could be named figuratively shepherd and flock, like a mathematical formula which expresses a law that may be applied to innumerable cases. (Heinrich Schmieder)22
The shepherds of Israel were the chief rulers, both political and ecclesiastical, princes, magistrates, prophets, priests, and Levites. (William Greenhill on Ezek. 34:2)23
Those that are set over the people in church or state are shepherds, and ought to be like unto them towards their flocks. They should govern them gently, protect them constantly, provide for them carefully, and feed them faithfully, and seek their good diligently. (William Greenhill on Ezek. 34:6)24

Even scholars who held that the shepherds are the kings acknowledged that the spiritual component of their reign remained the emphasis. Patrick Fairbairn is representative of this line of thinking concerning the king:

He was the head of a theocracy which, from its very nature, was predominantly spiritual in its aim, and sought nothing in comparison of the moral and religious interests of the people ... Bearing this in mind ... we have a sufficient explanation of what seems at first a peculiarity in the passage before us-its charging upon the kings all the evils that had befallen the heritage of the Lord.25

Further, applying this passage to kings but not Christian ministers would mean that God's standards for kings are much higher than His standards for leaders of His flock. St. Paul would probably have some strong things to say about that claim.

One final objection should be addressed, which arises from those who cite King David's case as a parallel to Christian leaders who have "fallen" (a weasel word26 if there ever was one). If David can continue in office, it is argued, then Ezekiel 34:10 cannot be applied: we must follow the example set in David's life.

But that alleged "parallel with King David" would only be a true parallel if the "fallen minister" were to offer his youngest child up to die: then the situation would actually match David's situation. However, if the minister were to offer up his youngest child to die, that act in itself would disqualify him from the ministry. No man can ever enjoy "parallel status" with David without adopting the whole Davidic package deal announced by the prophet Nathan, and no one can shoehorn himself into David's situation without becoming a moral monster to his own family.

Dressing All the Wounds

There are as many kinds of abuse as there are sinful impulses in the heart of man. Physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, and ecclesiastical abuse must never be depersonalized or smeared with the vocabulary of collusion. Where abuse has in fact occurred, it must be dealt with in a godly way. Ezekiel 34 can help us grasp the manifold facets of such abuse and harm that can be inflicted on one or more sheep.

Consider Lange's comments on Ezekiel 34:3-4: "What should have been protection had turned into simple domination."27 The "weak" became that way either "through sickness or overdriving." The "driven away" were driven away "in consequence of harsh treatment." The Hebrew phrase used of the victim's resulting mental state denotes "to lose one's self." In response, "God procures for the suffering sheep justice against the malicious,"28 namely, the loss of the leader's office which provided the power base from which the abuse was launched.

But if we fail to take God's oath seriously, and move to retain individuals in capacities where the harm they inflicted can be repeated, we will have placed ourselves firmly on the side of injustice. Small wonder that the modern church is filled with the walking wounded (see R. J. Rushdoony's The Cure of Souls for valuable insights on how to reverse this deadly trend). Deuteronomy 16:20 reads "Justice, justice shalt thou do," not "Injustice, injustice shalt thou preserve and protect."

When God's law lays out the parameters for restitution, we note a remarkable thing: many kinds of restitution involve restoring more to the victim than was taken or lost. When the victim received the restitution, they realized that God had their back! He really cared for them, as the overabundant scale of the restoration testified. God valued them by making good their loss in a concrete way: not only the loss of property, but the loss of time as well.

Imagine now a situation where a person's life has been ruined by the actions of a Christian leader, actions that make clear that the covenant of trust has been violated. Such harm to the victim might easily defy efforts to quantify it because its impact can encompass every dimension of life. Where loss of time and opportunity has been inflicted, one could see how a ten-fold restitution based on Biblical precedents could follow. Whatever the incalculable harm is, the restitution would need to exceed it by a factor of ten before the victim can know that God is truly "the repairer of the breach" (Isa. 58:12).

Imagine that the first step this hypothetical church or ministry takes is to relieve the leader of his office: this in itself represents justice to the victim in light of Ezekiel 34:16. "Mercy to the flock imperatively required the execution of judgment upon those who had betrayed and injured them," explains Fairbairn.29 The freedom this unleashes is most precious, putting the healing process on track. Betrayal of any number of sheep greater than zero must trigger these sanctions. This replaces humanistic mechanisms (countless regulations to manipulate the environment to counter the effects of today's limited liability slap-on-the-wrist mindset) with something infinitely better: God's answers, deeply rooted in the concept of full liability.

But now imagine a very different but altogether more common scenario: the church turns the victim into a pariah while retaining and protecting its spiritual leader. By circling the wagons, that church has renewed the assault on the victim's personhood on an exponentially larger scale compared to the original transgression of boundaries. To fail to remove the leader from office is collusion and involves the church or ministry in collusion against God's law as well as collusion against the victim. To protect the transgressor is to harm the victim (and often spawn future victims). R. J. Rushdoony often put it this way: mercy to the perpetrator is hatred toward the victim. As with the sons of Eli, the protected parties will wax worse, provoking God to place more severe sanctions onto the household that failed to intervene (1 Sam. 3:13-14).

And this is what motivates the removal of candlesticks by the Lord Who walks in the midst of them (Rev. 1:13, 2:1, 2:5). "The LORD watches and is displeased, for there is no justice. He sees there is no advocate, He is shocked that no one intervenes" (Isa. 59:15-16 KJV+NET).

The victim of such abuse can be likened to a bruised reed or a smoking flax. The Lord has revealed the end game for all such as these: "A bruised reed shall he not break, and a smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth justice unto victory" (Matt. 12:20). Christians who dismiss God's law and scoff at His swearing against His Own life won't hesitate to break the bruised reed and quench the smoking flax, to marginalize the victim and aggrandize the abuser (with or without a timeout in the corner). But Christians who put God's law and justice first, who repair the breach rather than whitewash it (Ezek. 13:1-15), who make liberty from abuse and mercy to the injured their first priority, He will honor. Such men work to insure that "they shall neither hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain" (Isa. 11:9, compare Heb. 12:22).

There are, then, two paths to take. One path will take you to justice and victory. The other leads to destinations that are unprintable.

1. Martin G. Selbrede, "The Perpetual Kindergarten," Faith for All of Life May-June 2007, 14-19.

2. In a particularly notorious example when such statistics were first being recorded, one Mrs. Marcia Bezak hanged herself a week before her testimony against a minister was proven to be true. It appears that her case is the tip of an inadequately-reported iceberg.

3. See for the original formulation by Dee Miller. While I disagree with Ms. Miller on causes and cures, I believe her work on the dynamics of collusion is valuable. It has stood the test of time. But like virtually all other researchers, she advances humanistic solutions to problems of a moral nature. You cannot manipulate the institutional environment (via educational conditioning, regulatory mechanisms, etc.) to solve a moral problem. Antinomianism lacks the power to offer moral answers and can mount no consistent challenge to spiritual incest. This fatal disconnect is bridged only when the entire Word of God is consistently applied.

4. R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1973), 567.

5. Derek Carlsen, "Rape and the Victim's Sexual Purity," Christianity and Society 16:1, Summer 2006, 52-54.

6. William Greenhill, An Exposition of Ezekiel (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994, orig. publ. 1645-1667), 685.

7. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), Volume 2, Part 2, 217.

8. R. J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1994), Vol. 2, 761.

9. Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.), Vol. 4, 950.

10. Charles John Ellicott, ed., Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, n.d.), Vol. 5, 299.

11. Carl L. Beckwith, ed., Reformation Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2012), Vol. 12, 167.

12. Greenhill, op. cit., 685.

13. C. F. Keil & Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1983), Vol. IX, Part 2, 85.

14. Joseph C. Morecraft III, Authentic Christianity: An Exposition of the Theology and Ethics of the Westminster Larger Catechism (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press/Minkoff Family Publishing 2009), Vol. 4, 367.

15. Walther Eichrodt, Ezekiel (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, [1966] 1970), 471.

16. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, op. cit., 333.

17. John Peter Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Ezekiel & Daniel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, reprint n.d., Eng. Orig. 1874), 316.

18. Lange, op. cit., 320.

19. The critical need to work toward restitution would be a key part of any such repentance, but restoration to spiritual authority remains off the table. The repentant offender is the one who refuses to take up the reins of leadership again.

20. The thief on the cross next to Jesus was forgiven but nonetheless suffered the temporal consequences of his deeds, consequences which he (being truly repentant) endorsed. Christ's parables about stewards and husbandmen never speak of restoring those who violate their trust: such restoration is an alien concept premised on turning forgiveness into a self-serving abstraction rather than a concrete reality.

21. A few commentators take the view that the shepherds are exclusively political in nature. G. Currey is representative in taking Jer. 2:8 as the basis for this minority view. Cf. F. C. Cook, ed., The Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, [1871-1881]1981), Vol. 6, 144. See also A. R. Fausset in this regard (loc. cit.) as well as Carl F. Keil (op. cit., 81-82).

22. Lange, op. cit., 324.

23. Greenhill, op. cit., 682.

24. Greenhill, op. cit., 683.

25. Patrick Fairbairn, An Exposition of Ezekiel (Minneapolis, MN: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, [1851 T. & T. Clark] 1979), 369-370. See his extended discussion beginning on page 367.

26. According to this dangerous view, the "fallen" leader just needs to live out the defiant chorus of a song by the band Chumbawumba: "I get knocked down, but I get up again; they're never gonna keep me down!" The convenient wedge used to secure such illegitimate restoration also fits the lyrics of a more famous song: "All you need is love." If all you need is love, you surely don't need God swearing about something or other in Ezekiel 34!

27. Lange, op. cit., 318.

28. Lange, op. cit., 321.

29. Fairbairn, op. cit., 370.

Martin G. Selbrede
  • Martin G. Selbrede

Martin is the senior researcher for Chalcedon’s ongoing work of Christian scholarship, along with being the senior editor for Chalcedon’s publications, Arise & Build and The Chalcedon Report. He is considered a foremost expert in the thinking of R.J. Rushdoony. A sought-after speaker, Martin travels extensively and lectures on behalf of Christian Reconstruction and the Chalcedon Foundation. He is also an accomplished musician and composer.

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