Power corrupts — An example from CARM chat room

Lately, I had an instructive experience online which I want to share with you so that we may learn from it all of us. Recently, I was on the CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry) chat room, and as usual many topics were being discussed together, although the majority of those topics are just opened for fun and not for the purpose of building up each other or of reaching the lost with the light of the Gospel… This is not strange, because in that chat room there are often many unbelievers and false believers who succeed to center the topics around their interests. I want to note here that CARM is a blessed Christian ministry, and we pray that the Lord may use it more and more to His Glory, as He is doing now. But this doesn’t mean that those who work on CARM are infallible… In fact, the more the workers in a certain ministry get humbled before the truth of their nothingness and fallibleness and God’s rich Grace and Mercy, the more that ministry will be blessed and used to God’s Glory. So while I was in that chat room in that night, a topic was suddenly opened about being a “volunteer”. Well, being a volunteer is a kind of privilege besides being a moderator or an administrator (and not just a responsibility as it sounds), and it gives those “volunteers” some kind of a feeling that they are part of the great ministry… And it is a rule that anyone who wants to be a volunteer should agree with the Statement of Faith of the CARM ministry, i.e. he should be a biblical Christian (he should be born again). While that topic was being discussed, suddenly an unbeliever jokingly asked Diane S, an administrator, if he can become a volunteer. And the answer of Diane S was in accordance with his foolishness; she said that he can become a volunteer as soon as he tells them when he was born again… (Did she think she was being “cool” in her answer?…) Well, this answer of Diane S could sound “cool”, but it contains a sad misunderstanding that many people have today, although Diane S may have not even thought to back up that misunderstanding (but she did it anyway, as she was not careful). The misunderstanding is that people who are born again should know for sure the exact date and time of their new birth or else they are not Christians (and thus they do not agree with the CARM’s Statement of Faith…) We all know from the teaching of the Bible that a true Christian is not supposed to know the exact date and time of his new birth, because the new birth is the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in a man (cf. John 3:8). The one who is born of God knows for sure that he is accepted by God as a son because of the Righteousness of Jesus Christ whom he has by faith and whose fruits he sees in his life (good works are the fruits of Christ the Vine, and not our own works of flesh, as we can do nothing without Christ — cf. John 15:1-8). John MacArthur explains this sad stress on decisionism in the following passage:

Let me give you a fourth reason why people lack assurance. Some lack assurance because they don’t know the exact time of their salvation. Does that ring a bell? Some people lack assurance because they don’t know the exact time of their salvation. They can’t remember when they believed. They can’t remember the moment of their salvation. And because they can’t remember when it was, they don’t know whether it was. Which is like saying, because I can’t remember my birthday, I’m not sure I’m alive. I see. Or because I can’t remember when my plane landed, I don’t know if I’m here. We have made such a fetish out of decisionism, we have so isolated and identified this little formula and this little prayer that you pray at some point as being the moment of salvation that if you don’t have that little moment that you signed a card or raised your hand or walked an aisle or prayed your prayer or did your little formula thing, you can’t identify when it happened, so many it never happened.

I remember a man saying to me, “Last Sunday morning I settled my salvation.” I said, “How did you do that?” He was here in the church. He said, “On my way home I stopped on Roscoe Boulevard and I never could remember the moment I was saved and so I never felt saved. And so I got out of my van,” he was in a van, he said, “and I went over to the sidewalk, the grass between the curb and the sidewalk and I took out a piece of wood and I hammered it into the ground. And I drove that stake and I said, `This is…I think it was June…this is June something and this is the day I am committing my life to Jesus Christ.’ And now I know I’m saved because I know when I did that.”

And so I had to pull up his stake…metaphorically speaking. But there are some people who have been so over exposed to a decisionistic approach or what you call decisional regeneration, there’s some point in time, some mystical moment when you do your little formula and you’re zapped by God. Now for some people there is a moment in time, obviously, for many people there was a very decisive moment in which they exercised their faith in Jesus Christ. But for many many people, particularly those raised in a Christian environment, they can’t identify that transformation. They can’t identify that moment because they have always believed. People often ask me, “Have you been a Christian all your life?” My standard answer is, “Not yet.” But that’s looking at the future end of it. Going on the other direction of it, I do not know a time when I did not believe. But that does not mean I’m not a Christian. There are those today who would even teach that the remembrance of such a past event is the real legitimate basis for a believer’s assurance. And in fact, if you can’t remember that event, you might not be saved. The exact time is not the issue…not at all. But that will create a lack of assurance if people have been exposed to too much focus on some event and that if you can’t remember the event, maybe you’re not a Christian. One contemporary writer says, “The only legitimate point of assurance for our salvation is the past event.” The exact time is not the issue.

I can’t remember the moment that I was saved. I don’t know when I passed from death unto life, but I know I did. I don’t know a time when I didn’t believe. I never went through a time of rebelling openly and flagrantly against God. I had a car accident when I was a freshman in college, but I can’t say that was the time of my salvation. I remember praying a prayer with my father on the steps of a church in Indiana when he was holding a revival meeting, his sermon convicted me because I had done some things that week that were not right. I don’t know whether that’s the moment I passed from death unto life. There were times as a little child when I prayed prayers. There were times as a teen-ager when I went to camp, I remember as a fourteen-year-old going forward and throwing a pinecone in a fire, teary-eyed and wanting to make my life right with God. I don’t know when I passed from death unto life, I know I did, but I don’t look for a past event to make it real, I look for a present pattern of life. There are some people at this particular point who have a false assurance because they can remember a past event, but the reality of it is there isn’t any present righteousness.

Source on www.biblebb.com

As you see, this is a very important issue: people may deceive themselves that they are saved, just because they know or remember a date called “the date of their Salvation”, and thus they go to eternal perdition unawares… And others lack assurance because they misunderstand this issue of “the time of their Salvation”… As I know the position of CARM on this issue, so I know for sure that Diane S was not even dreaming of convincing that unbeliever that a past decision is the proof of his Salvation and thus of his agreement with the Statement of Faith of CARM. But what she said sounded like that, and I thought it to be useful for the readers to make a clarifying comment. So I made the comment that it is sad that many people think a Christian should know the date of his new birth or else he is not saved… I aimed to explain that the new birth is known by the fruits that we see in the life of the one who is born of God… But Diane S took that as an insult against her, and trying to defend her pride of being a worker on CARM who should not make a theological error (as if humans are perfect in themselves when they are Christ’s…), she called me a liar who is not telling the truth, then she silenced me in the chat room so that I may not continue explaining this important issue… This doesn’t express perfection…

Well, what happened with Diane S before she reacted to my comment was something that happens with anyone of us when we are not careful in the choice of our words and we give little importance to the way we express our ideas in a chat. This usually happens in live chats, because in an article like this the probability of such seemingly doctrinal errors is very low, as the writer of an article has the time to review what he has written and to make his ideas theologically clearer. So when we make such unclear and seemingly erroneous statements in a chat, the humble way is to admit that we didn’t make a good choice of words and thus our idea was not expressed in a good way, and to retry expressing what we had in mind so that the idea would be clear. One needs the gift of a teacher in order to be able to lessen to the minimum his errors in a live conversation like chats. That’s why the Holy Spirit told us through James: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” (James 3:1-2) And that’s also one reason why a woman should not be a pastor-teacher in the Church, as the Lord our God has not created the woman with those natural characteristics that would make her able to be a leader of man, but He has given that nature to man as the head (read 1 Timothy 2:11-14 where Paul relates the inability of a woman to be a pastor-teacher to the fact that Adam was created first to be the head). That’s also one reason why a woman should not exercise the spiritual authority of a teacher or leader over man: “but I do not suffer a woman to teach nor to exercise authority over man, but to be in quietness” (1 Timothy 2:12) This leads us to the next error that Diane S made after I made my comment…

When I made the comment that it is sad that many people think a Christian should know the exact date of his new birth or else he is not saved, Diane S considered that as an attack against a moderator of CARM chat room (herself) and began to call me a liar and a troll… and then she silenced me in the chat room (i.e. I could not post anymore for that time). Why did she do this? I guess it’s because she identified herself with CARM, and thus she considered my correction of her seeming error about the date of the new birth as an attack on CARM’s credibility and the right of its moderators and administrators to express the rules in the chat room however they please… I also often met a similar case with Matt Slick, the administrator of CARM… Indeed, power corrupts… People in power are tempted to identify themselves with the position which they occupy (which in fact is a responsibility and not a worldly authority made to serve the person who has that authority…), and they are tempted to defend themselves against any correction of any error that they may do by relating that correction to an attack against the honor of that position which they occupy. Many great saints in the past fell in this error; today’s saints are not better than them, as we all are saved by God’s Grace alone and not by any merit in us. The Grace of God in the life of a true saint appears in the fact that, after he falls in an error, he admits his error and he repents of it with all humility before God and he leaves it. A great saint like David fell in such an error when he wanted to destroy the whole house of Nabal because he didn’t want to give him and his men a gift from the product of his shearing (cf. 1 Samuel 25 and our study of that passage). Abigail, the wise godly wife of Nabal, went to David and told him not to identify his personal interests and honor with the position or power that he occupies (cf. 1 Samuel 25:26-31). The Grace of God in the life of David shone when he admitted his error and he answered that godly woman: “Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, who sent thee this day to meet me. And blessed be thy discernment, and blessed be thou, who hast kept me this day from coming with bloodshed, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.” (1 Samuel 25:32-33) Yes indeed, it’s not shameful to listen to a subordinate… David listened to the wise words of a woman, and you know what a woman was under the Old Covenant… Just as we learn this great lesson from the life of such a great saint of the Old Covenant, we also learn it from the life of the saints of the New Covenant…

So let’s learn some important lessons from all this. Let us be careful for what we say and how we say it when we express spiritual truth, because, as James wrote by the Spirit, we all stumble in many ways, especially in what we say, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, then he is a perfect man… And we all know that none of us is perfect in himself; those who belong to Christ are perfect in Christ and not in themselves. So as we live and walk by the Spirit under the authority of Christ, we will not stumble and we will not be condemned (cf. Romans 8:1,4,13 and 2 Peter 1:10). Therefore the Lord said: “But I say unto you, that every idle word which men shall say, they shall render an account of it in judgment-day: for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37) We should remember that power corrupts, therefore those who belong to God should be careful of the corruption of power so that they may not be tempted with its evil. Power may tempt us to identify ourselves with the honor of the position that we occupy as servants of the Lord, thus leading us to be proud and to forget that we are in that position as servants and not to lord it over those who are under that stewardship. Power tempts us to justify our wrong words and deeds, thinking that our position gives us the right and the responsibility of justifying those wrong words and deeds for the sake of the honor of that position. Thus power tempts us to mistreat those who are under that power or authority… Our corrupted old nature (the flesh) may even use the power or authority given by God to make us think we have a right to that power or that this power is for any merit or ability in us… The right thing to do is to always remember that the whole power always belongs to Christ, and not to us, and that we are only stewards to do His Will. Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh and are no longer in that corrupted nature, but in Christ; they should walk as children of Light.

Diane S, please don’t take these comments as personal attacks or trolls as you usually do…

Be in Peace!

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3 Responses to Power corrupts — An example from CARM chat room

  1. salpie says:

    God bless you brother, you once again shed the light on a very important issue: date of Christian birth.
    Glory to God, for our new life is all His work.

  2. Mary T says:

    Hi this is Kittie from the carm chat room. If this is my dear friend from the carm chat room – greetings brother 🙂 I have been praying and thinking about you and your ministry and am concerned that all is well … i wish i could be a real help to you in the ministry… and/or missions…. as the Lord may be leading… to give my life to Christ as fervently as God commands me… I remember what you told me last time in chat and it has been on my mind… I am always – Your friend in the Lord, Kittie aka Mary T

  3. Yes, sister, welcome!

    Thank you for your concern. Your prayers and concern are very valuable for me.

    If you would like to post anything on this blog or to serve in any way, please contact me through the email which is available on the Contact us section of this blog. We can discuss in emails how you can be of help by the Lord’s Grace.

    Thank you again for this beautiful comment.

    Be in Peace!

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