Hammond, Accountability and Legalism

The pastoral scandal in Hammond has sparked many conversations about why these disasters keep happening, what the phenomenon says about independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches and ministies, and what ought to be done to fix whatever exactly is broken. The idea of accountability has figured prominently in several of these conversations.

But if IFB and other branches of Christendom1 are going to use accountability effectively, we’ll have to arrive at a clearer understanding of what accountability is, what it’s limitations are, and where its real value lies. My aim here is to make a small contribution toward that end.

Defining “accountability”

For some, accountability has an almost magical power to keep all bad behavior from happening. Whenever some kind of shocking sin comes to light, their first and last response is “we need more accountability.” In these cases the term “accountability” tends to be defined vaguely if at all. At the other end of the spectrum, some argue that accountability is only something that occurs in response to wrongdoing and that has no power to prevent it (see the conversation here, for example). Read more about Hammond, Accountability and Legalism

In Defense of Rules, Part 2

Quote-PhariseesRead Part 1

“Rules were meant to be broken,” an old adage goes. Christians tend to have a different attitude, but we recognize a kernel of truth in the folk wisdom. Rules are so often wrong-headed, excessive, or motivated by foolish fears or lust for power. Sometimes they get in the way of the very things they are intended to accomplish.

Christian ministries can have too many rules and develop a cold, offense-focused culture. They can also err by according some rules a spiritual significance and power they don’t possess. These problems require that we give serious thought to what rules we have and what they are really accomplishing. But we should not overreact to the excesses and errors, criticize rules systems too broadly and blame them for problems that have other causes.

In Part 1 of this series, I presented two arguments for valuing rules more than many fundamentalists and evangelicals are inclined to nowadays. Here, I’ll offer a third argument, then respond to some objections. Read more about In Defense of Rules, Part 2

In Defense of Rules, Part 1

First posted October, 2009. Discussion here.

Fundamentalists and evangelicals of my generation are generally not fond of rules, especially in ministry settings. Exactly why this is the case is an interesting study in itself. In the case of fundamentalists, perhaps it’s due to the fact that many of them grew up in rules-heavy Christian schools in an era full of glowing idealism about what these highly-disciplined, conscientiously spiritual environments would produce. The inflated hopes of those days were sure to result in some disappointments. And maybe the current rules angst is the result of a generalized disgust with the whole concept and all that seems connected to it. In defense of those who feel this way, it is only too easy to find examples of rules excesses and absurdities.

Whatever the reasons, young fundamentalists are often eager to cast “man-made rules” in a negative light and to argue from Scripture that these rules are dangerous at best, and downright hostile to Christian growth at worst.

My aim here is to offer a perspective that differs from that of many of my peers, but one that I believe answers better to both Scripture and experience. Read more about In Defense of Rules, Part 1