The Duggar’s are in the news again, and their squeaky clean image is being dragged through the mud, and with it the image of Christianity as well. Josh Duggar is checking into a rehab center, likely for sexual addiction, though there may be other problems as well. I will again refrain from commenting on his sincerity, I commend him at least for admitting his sin, without blaming anyone else, and I hope he sincerely will turn in repentence to the God of grace. I pray when I see the news for his wife and children, and I hope they find peace.
Yet, scandal is not something new for the church. Scandal has plagued the church since its inception; when Paul wrote the church at Corinth, he was forced to counsel them to deal with a man sleeping with his step-mother. Yet when scandal hits, it’s a good time to consider the matter involved, and not just from the standpoint of PR.
One issue that is becoming abundantly clear in the Duggar scandal as it has played out in the press is the essential question of the law and grace. Tragically, the church has preached moralism rather than Christianity when it comes to public policy. Moralism, with its emphasis on law and on performance makes much of civic pride and duty, but it is sub-Christian in its understanding of the world, man, and the purpose of the law. Moralism can’t save, and in fact, it gives men the pharisaical notion that they are somehow “OK” or that God is somehow “ok” with them on the basis of their deeds, and not on the basis of Christ’s atonement. As Paul stated, “the good which I would do, that I do not,” and if he admitted that he was not a perfect Christian why is it so difficult for us to present the picture to the world that we don’t have it all together either, though we recognize that God is the answer?
As Christians, we have confused our culture with our message about Josh Duggar. We rightly discussed God’s forgiveness for sins, but this confuses the world because the message they have taken from our political activities and discussions for decades has been the bootstrap moralistic philosophy that tells men they must measure up to God, a message doomed to fail. And then we are surprised they don’t understand why we have responded to Josh as we have – we have sent a mixed message by not preaching the gospel.
We need to preach the law, the law is intended to be motivational towards repentence, but we need to preach it as broken sinners to a broken world. The law points out our failures, that we deserve to be punished, and compels us to flee to Christ, and it is this part that seems so lacking in our public discussions. When I was younger I thought of Focus on the Family and Fundamentalism as radically Christian ideas, but as I’ve grown older, I realize they are not radical at all, they have become tamed, Americanized, and made culturally and politically relevant. They do not interpret American culture from a Christian perspective they interpret Christianity from an American perspective. Christianity that fails to understand the radical nature of relationship with God as the cure to human ills is tepid and weak. During the end of the Fundamentalist era, we lost this essential understanding of the purpose of the law. We are paying for it now.
So where do we go from here? We need to make sure as we discuss the events and circumstances of the Josh Duggar scandal and afterwards to portray the entire message of the gospel – that Christ Jesus came to save sinners, and that Christ, not moral reform is the answer to our societal ills.