by Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D.
With another clerical scandal in our back yard, this time of the Roman Catholic variety, we can see once again how far we are from learning anything vaguely resembling a meaningful lesson in all of this. The tragic element, once again, is that our blind loyalty to religious institutions and tradition rather than scriptural principles and innocent lives is exercised at the expense of children.
In traditional biblical Christianity, the believer is his own priest. He has direct access to God, and does not need a robed intermediary who thinks marriage is incompatible with serving God. In the nineties, we saw the child abuse scandals at the hands of First Baptist Church of Hammond and their child molesting deacon and scandal ridden pastor. Then came other child molesters in ecclesiastical garb who had also been spawned by this church and their college in Indiana, Hyles-Anderson College. The most notable was Andy Beith, the Christian school principal from Lake Station who abducted and repeatedly raped an eleven year old female student and became the object of a nationwide F.B.I. manhunt before being captured in Las Vegas.
Having attended First Baptist Church of Hammond, graduated from their college and seminary, and having spent a year at the church in Lake Station that hired Andy Beith, I have some insight as to why certain institutions seem to be more prone to child molesting scandals than others. No, it’s not something in the water. I saw it all happen, I understand the pathology, and I know how keep it from happening and how to fix it once it has.
The Christian scriptures have held for several millennia that spiritual authority does not rest in any office: it ultimately rests with the group, the “eklesia“. Roman Catholicism is based on the complete overthrow of this basic principle, establishing a man-made church hierarchy that woos the church with its accouterments, fanfare, rituals and costumes. Thus the accountability is not to the people, it is to appointed individuals over whom the local church members exercises no influence. Given the understanding we derive from the Bible concerning man’s nature, this is a recipe for disaster, especially when the contrived element of forced celibacy is added to the mix.
In traditional, biblical Christianity, the believer is his own priest. He has direct access to God, and does not need a robed intermediary who thinks marriage is incompatible with serving God, and whose own church history has left millions dead and tortured in it’s wake for the crime of “heresy:” expressing an opinion that disagreed with that of the church.
The abusive pastoral legacy left to Northwest Indiana and the rest of the nation by Jack Hyles is in principle not any better. The late Jack Hyles bequeathed upon himself the title of “God’s man,” once boasting from the pulpit in my presence that the “entire spiritual fate of this nation rests on these two shoulders right here,” pointing to his own shoulders. The requirement in his church was termed “blind loyalty” — you supported him 100% and didn’t ask questions. Nothing could set the stage for the disastrous abuse that befell this group any better than this mindset, as we see demonstrated over and over again, apparently without learning a thing from seeing children repeatedly victimized there. Hyles’ number one Bible teacher, Joe Combs, now sits in Tennessee prison for decades to come for enslaving and abusing his illegally adopted daughter. Many church cults have leaders who live their lives with a strictly Old Testament mindset. Combs was a brilliant Bible teacher, but knew nothing of grace. This is always a dangerous mindset when it lives in the minds of church leaders. I am convinced that even after a decade in jail, Combs probably doesn’t think he has done anything wrong.
What will it take to see a pattern in these churches, and to begin understanding the reasons why they abuse? It all has to do with the unwillingness of churches to hold their leaders accountable to biblical standards of leadership. Instead, we weekly provide them with a platform for self-exaltation and endorse a religious agenda designed to centralize ecclesiastical power more and more and to increase the artificial disparity created between “God’s man” and the average church member.
Anyone asking questions is painfully reminded of the cardinal rule in these churches: DON’T STAND UP IN THE CANOE! The system becomes quite adept at the political ostrasization of anyone demonstrating the capability to think independently and critically in applying correct biblical standards of behavior to church leaders and events. Righteousness loses its place of honor on the altar and is replaced by the church itself. This perversion of holiness has brought to human history the persecution and even the death of millions. This dynamic is responsible for the Inquisition, a dark, dark time in human history when the process described above was wielded by Roman Catholicism, endorsed by popes and executed by Jesuits. The cost in lives was 50 million! The torture devices they used now fill many museums in Europe. (The Rack, the Breast Ripper, the Iron Maiden, the Cage, etc..)
So when you see legitimate, biblical authority abused by church leadership, act with courage, with much prayer, and with the determination to see righteousness prevail regardles of personal cost.
I am including here a video I produced on Pastoral Authority. You will also find on Youtube my 5 part series entitled, “How a Good Church Becomes a Cult.” These are 100% Bible based. They are designed to teach truth.
Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D.