Particular Pitfalls of Independent Baptists: Legalism

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Alex Guggenheim's picture

John Piper? the legalist himself who invented a new kind of legalism when he claimed:

It is unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in Him

Never found that in the Bible but he was sure more than happy to hang this around the necks of Christians.

jimfrank's picture

Is the possibility of the moral failure of Fundamental Baptist pastors because of their legalism.  It's possible, of course, but may I suggest another reason?  Lack of accountability.  Many of these men are not accountable, period.  No one dares to ask "Why?"

Bob Hayton's picture


My first post on this issue dealt with accountability.  I agree.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

jimfrank wrote:

Is the possibility of the moral failure of Fundamental Baptist pastors because of their legalism.  It's possible, of course, but may I suggest another reason?  Lack of accountability.  Many of these men are not accountable, period.  No one dares to ask "Why?"

Um...he was let go, fired, he was called into account.

Accountability means you account for your actions, not that you will be prevented from acting secretly.

DavidO's picture

Alex, Surely you differentiate between a single instance of accountability (apparently contrary to long history) and an ongoing dynamic of accountability to his officers and flock that might have prevented this.  And surely you realize the latter type is what most here are recommending as a (the best?) remedy to this type of abuse. 

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Again, if something is determined to be done in secret, it will be done, both casually or rarely or regularly and over a long period. Do you have any idea the degree of accountability in the CIA? I am sure you can imagine yet, we have had, at times, decades of passing secrets to enemies.

There are certain liberties and freedoms that even the most accountable Pastor or Teacher will have, that is part of their trusted office. We do not treat them with mistrust. If they decide to use it inappropriately, it is clear that they may and will do so for extended periods before detected. The question isn't how can we stop it but are we responding correctly when discovered.

In Schaap's case it seems that the church is acting just as many would hope.

This is like expecting Law Enforcement to be crime preventers. Sometimes they can, but truthfully, they respond to crimes and then call the offender in to account. This is precisely what a church government is suppose to do and First Baptist did on this occasion.

Now, if a church decides to permit a Pastor to surround himself with lackeys who will look the other way when inappropriate things are done, that is the church making that decision. That is simply the way it works.

CJ Mahaney, in my estimation, should have long been dismissed from ministry for heresy, gross heresy along with gross spiritual abuse, but he hasn't been and, in fact, has been embraced by a group who operates by this allegedly superior form of government, elder-led.

Accountability is for those who accept it, not those who are going around it. And apparently accountability is a matter or relativity for some, depending on the group.

Finally, it seems quite clear that Jack Schaap accounted to the church and they released him from his office. The beef with most people is with the church, itself, though they do not know it, for choosing, collectively, its form of government.


Aaron Blumer's picture


There does​ seem to be some magical thinking these days about accountability. To some, if there was only more accountability, all bad behavior would cease.  But think through the implications of that: all the behavior prevented accountability is behavior the individual would not be willing to refrain from without people looking over his shoulder. So if that's the case, a few questions:

  • What kind of character does he really have?
  • How is this better than the kinds of rules regimes folks have been decrying as "legalism"?  (Both are ways of regulating behavior externally)
  • Can "accountability" change people (i.e., is it a "means or measure of spirituality"?)

Ultimately, there is no substitute for genuine virtue in leaders.

On the other hand, I do believe good fences make good neighbors. There are common sense forms of accountability that are both necessary and helpful (just as there are rules that are both necessary and helpful).


​There's a lot of ambiguity on the accountability concept. For some the term means "less power." So "more accountability" is synonymous, in their view, with multiple elders, ruling counsels, etc.--various methods of distributing power. 

For others, the term means close mentoring/discipling relationships. People meeting together regularly to ask each other hard questions and, theoretically "hold one another accountable."

For some accountability means both of these things and more.

I guess for a view accountability means "where the power ultimately resides." As in, the congregation fired Schaap, so he was "accountable."

... just realized I have tons to say about this and the post is already long, so maybe a little article is a better idea.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.