Spent a tense forty five minutes over the weekend, perched uncomfortably on the couch, devouring Rachael Denhollander’s long and detailed Facebook post about Sovereign Grace Ministries. I commend it to you in its entirety. It is unlike anything else you are likely to read on the internet for weeks. It is clear, precise, unemotional, filled with carefully delineated evidence, and, by the time you come to the end, shattering. More important than reading anything I might say here, go read her piece.
After reading it as closely as I possibly could, given all the usual distractions and interruptions of my life, I spent a few minutes on twitter, trying to see if anyone was saying anything about it. Which there were–ordinary people like me. But not the thunderous applause and approbation I longed for from the halls of reformed intelligentsia and pastoral sway. Maybe it is coming. It isn’t prudent to make big statements and announcements on twitter anyway. Better to be as thoughtful and measured as Denhollander herself.
But she is opening the door for a wonderful opportunity–one Christians the far breadth of this country have said they wanted for many an age. At least as far back as the 80s and 90s. It is the opportune time, the favorable moment to put the theology, as it were, where the mouth is, to talk about sex honestly and helpfully, having, for once, the veil pulled back and the deep sickness of this culture cast into sharp and unavoidable relief. It’s an unprecedented moment.
One, because the entire country is having to look at and consider in what realm sex ought to reside. It is chaotic out there, but in a good way. To have so many women finally allow themselves to be fed up enough to say what’s happened to them. To, even though it’s a cliche, speak out. And to keep speaking out. Even though the systems and institutions that allowed abuse and horror to go on have tried to keep a handle on it and carry on as if nothing is wrong, the mask is off. No one believes the lie anymore. If someone abused you, however long ago, you can say it and you’ll actually be believed.Two, because the church finds itself no longer on an impregnable moral high ground. Evangelicalism is caught up in the same swirling confusion as everyone else. The gospel of Be Good and Be Morally Good is crumbling as ordinary Christians have to decide to what extent they are willing to put up with sexual immorality in the gilded halls of political power. Some go one way, others go another, and everyone recriminates everyone.
Three, because God is still God and the gospel is still the gospel. The church, just like every human institution, regularly gets itself into a foul muddle, says one thing and does another, falls into the same habits and bad ways of thinking as everyone else. But, unlike Hollywood and Congress, the church isn’t just a human institution. It is divinely and irrevocably bound to God the Father, through the blood of the Son, and it can’t be destroyed, either by persecution from the outside, or corruption and sin from within. God himself won’t let it be destroyed. He protects it on both counts, miraculously, age by age, by the powerful convicting work of the Spirit.
I mean, it is both ironic and strangely comforting that the church upon which we are all gazing in various levels of horror, has claimed both the word Sovereign and the word Grace. Indeed, God is sovereign. And he is also holy. And he often delays the meting out of judgement long after any of us think we would like him to. But he doesn’t ever forget. And he sees everything.
It is a stark, ruinous, and I would say, sublime vision to see the slender, poised, unrelenting figure of Rachael Denhollander staring down the world and the church. If you thought you could insulate yourself from her clear, steady gaze, you have not had enough coffee this morning. She knows about grace too. And, if you’ve listened to her, you know that she knows that it can’t be separated from justice. Indeed, if you leave off the justice, the proper judgment due to the sinner, the grace and mercy of the cross have no meaning at all.
I hate to say it, but it’s like she was born for such a time as this. May God make her steps sure and her hands nimble. May we hear what she is saying.