A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

How Christian Celebrity-ism Promotes Abuse in Churches

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

***

And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)–those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. (Gal 2:6)

Christians reflect the world more often than we realize, and one example of this conformity is the celebrity status that we endue certain “big name” personalities with. We do this to our own harm, and I want to explain here how this person-worship spreads a contagion of error and promotes abuse of all kinds in our churches.

We begin with some facts from church history. What has church history to do with the subject of abuse? Read on and I will show you. (Most of these facts were taken by the way from History of the English Calvinistic Baptists – 1771-1892, by Robert W. Oliver.  Excellent book).

John Gill was a leading English Baptist pastor and theologian who ministered at Horsleydown Baptist Church in Southwark from 1720 to 1771.  Gotta love those English names – Horsleydown, with a British accent. (If I had those things going for me everyone in America would listen!  Pastor Geoffrey Crippen of Tillamook-on-the-Down). But to return.  John Gill was a remarkable man (Charles H. Spurgeon would be one of his future successors in that church by the way) who was an expert theologian and Bible expositor.  You can still use his commentary on the entire Bible (the first to be completed in the English language) and his systematic theology called A Body of Divinity. And they are very useful tools.

But Gill had his problems. Depending upon whose opinion you read, John Gill is described as being anywhere from a full-blown hyper-Calvinist (probably an exaggeration) to just a Calvinist who had a couple of unorthodox positions — at least unorthodox in respect to the mainstream of Calvinists. Robert Oliver says that Gill believed in the eternal justification of the elect. That is to say, Gill concluded that the elect were not only chosen by God in eternity past (sound Calvinism) but that God also justified them in eternity past. Along with this eternal justification notion, Gill either denied (depending upon who you read) or was soft on the requirement that sinners must repent and believe in Christ to be saved. He even wobbled then in ways when it came to the question of whether preachers should call upon particular sinners to repent and believe the gospel.

Now, without going into a lot more detail about these doctrines (which are certainly not without importance), what I want us to take note of is that Gill’s brand of what I suppose we could call a form of hyper-Calvinism, spread. It spread through the English Calvinistic Baptist churches and had a significantly negative effect upon the preaching by the pastors of those churches. If you go on to read about the days of William Carey (missionary to India), you will find that his desire to go to the mission field was opposed by leaders in his church because they held that God didn’t need Carey in order to save His elect in India. Andrew Fuller, who was a contemporary of Carey’s and became a leading pastor and writer in the same group of churches began to speak out against this distortion of biblical teaching. He said that all sinners were required to repent and believe in Christ and that this gospel invitation was to be boldly preached to them.

Why did Gill’s teaching, including his errors, have such an effect on the other churches? Robert Oliver believes it was because Gill pastored one of the larger churches (his building could seat 1,000), and his writings and preaching resulted in his becoming well-known to many. That is to say, to some extent we might conclude that Dr. Gill was something of a celebrity. Certainly not popular with all, but known by many. If a more minor figure, though he had been a pastor, had expounded these teachings, would they have been embraced as readily? Probably not.

And so we come back to where we began — the current Christian celebrity-ism that we see so much of in our day. John Piper. Voddie Baucham. John MacArthur. Books, books, and more books printed by the big-name publishing houses. Some good. Some not-so-good. Some very, very bad — like those that send abuse victims back to their abuser, forbidding divorce for abuse and sometimes forbidding divorce for any reason at all. Why do we listen to these people? Why are their teachings so widely accepted even when they are just plain wrong? I suggest that it is because we are guilty of exalting man and as a result we make the traditions of men superior to the Word of God.

Isn’t it about time that we stopped all of this? The next time you walk into a Christian bookstore, or the religion section of Barnes and Noble, or start browsing at some bookseller’s website, why not just keep walking right on by the featured, big-name, Christian celebrity author’s display that has lights shining all over it, and search more judiciously. Maybe, possibly, just perhaps, back there in the corner on a lower shelf is a book by someone you never heard of who is saying things that will actually set you free. After all, that is what Jesus’ Word does, right?

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (Joh 8:31-32)

12 Comments

  1. Ellie

    This post reminds me of an old Stuff Christians Like Post, Stuff Christians Like [Internet Archive link]. Somehow, I think that we are all tempted to say to ourselves and others, “I’m not wrong. Generic Christian Celebrity agrees with me! And only heathens disagree with GCC. So if you disagree with me, you aren’t really a Christian. If GCC is our standard then I suppose he’s also our Pope, eh?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Ellie – precisely. We create these traditions by allowing the mini-popes (celebrities) to craft them and foist the nonsense upon us. These celebrities are mere humans, just like us. Their breath stinks in the morning, they put on their pants one leg at a time, and they act like jerks sometimes. Why do we put a fancy hat on them and kiss their ring?

      • ooooh! yes, it’s like Martin Luther broke us free from the Pope but then we feel we must have another pope in our lives. So we start exalting celebrity preachers. I have noticed that every single one of these celebrities (that sell tons of books) – have some area of weirdness/weakness in their theology. Everyone from Max Lucado and Joel Osteen to John Piper and Mark Driscoll. The only popular writer I’ve read that doesn’t appear to have any “Freakiness” so far is Tim Keller, but he reminds me of C.S. Lewis. I think the more humble a man is, the closer he can get to the truth. And “humbleness” is not a feature I notice in the celebrities.

      • Ellie

        Tim Keller for Pope!

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        Humbleness is not a trait found in abusers either…false humility, yes, but real humbleness and sacrifice for others…

    • Annie

      Isn’t this precisely what the “Appeal to Authority” and “Appeal to Popularity” fallacies are all about? If our behavior and attitudes are based on fallacies, then we are really basing our lives on false beliefs. And since we know that whatever is false is not of God, we are really excluding God from our lives if we continue to live that way.

  2. Brenda R

    Quite true. I read John Piper’s book on marriage a few years ago when I was throwing myself under the bus in order to save the marriage no matter what. He truly helped me do it. Marriage was to be saved no matter what, even through adultery. You can do it, and if you don’t, you’d better not remarry for any reason other than death. I have gotten through that brain washing. I don’t take marriage lightly, but after being beat down physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and sexually…I think Jesus understands and says enough is enough right along with me.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Brenda – Not only does the Lord understand, He rejoices in seeing you free of that evil. The fact that you realized that what you had was not marriage demonstrates that you have a very high view of marriage.

      • Anonymous

        “The fact that you realized that what you had was not marriage demonstrates that you have a very high view of marriage.”

        Oooo, I like this!

        I just cannot help but think, that those men in particular, who hold to the no divorce for any reason “theology”, do so, because they want their wives to get the idea that no matter what the husband does, she is not free to leave – ever. At least not if she wants to remain in God’s good graces and be obedient to Him. Truly, it is a rabid form of manipulation and false guilt. I do not advocate divorce for any reason, other than the biblical reasons indicated in Scripture, but those men advocate that they know better than God Himself, what should happen in marriage and they give themselves license to do whatever they please in their own marriages, and the wife is just plain stuck with it, with no recourse, even if God says she has recourse through divorce! They make out that the marriage covenant is equal to God’s covenant with us as His people, and that the breaking of the marriage covenant is equal to breaking our covenant with God, which if divorcing for biblical reasons, is not even close to that. It is a “lie”, but I think for me, having been a victim of much abuse, it is just harder for me to accept that God loves me enough to rescue me from an abusive marriage, and any other abusive relationships I may have in my life.

        As for exalting men and following them instead of God, it happens a lot. I have found myself on numerous occasions, having to tell myself “he’s just a man – go see for yourself whether what he is saying is truth”. The problem is that there are so many differing interpretations of Scripture, and if your desire is to know the truth, it makes it very hard to find that truth, when there are so many varying interpretations. I am guilty of having gone to where I felt the interpretation was the “best”, only to find out it was the worst. However, in that little lesson, I learned that God is fully able via His Holy Spirit, to teach me the truths of Scripture. It is fine to look at and read others’ interpretations, but we all know that God is the only One who holds the real truth, and nothing but the truth. As victims of abuse, we are trained not to trust ourselves, so I think it just makes us more vulnerable to fall into this kind of thing.

      • Brenda R

        I’m not sure why they hold to that theology, but I do know that John Piper and his wife Noel admit that their marriage has not always shown the relationship between Jesus and the Church. So they are honest about it. Noone is going to have a perfect marriage. We still live in a fallen world.

      • Keeping this anonymous

        “The fact that you realized that what you had was not marriage demonstrates that you have a very high view of marriage.”

        Yes and amen! The Piper view tries to take the moral high ground by saying they have a higher view of marriage than those who would justly allow divorce and remarriage. But the relationship between Christ and the church is NOT reflected in an abusive relationship. We may not be fully sanctified yet, but it demeans the work of regeneration and the power of the Holy Spirit to say that a believer would treat Jesus in the same way an abuser would treat his victim. Rather than “high”, it seems to hold the bar very low if a twisted distortion can qualify as a marriage.

      • Brenda R

        I wonder what Jesus would say to those who would keep a woman and even children in a home regardless of the abuse they may endure. It is not like being a missionary and giving your life up for the cause of Christ. The only thing you may give your life up for is the “head” of the household. I use that word head really loosely. I truly hope he has set up time for Q & A once I get there.

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