Chapter 9 – Of Free Will – Exposition

Chapter 9: Of Free Will

Introduction

                The topic of free will has been misunderstood and misrepresented throughout history, and it often justifies good or bad behavior. Perhaps, part of the misunderstanding of free will is man’s inability to think clearly and rightly about biblical topics outside of regeneration and a new life in Christ. One other possibility is that it contradicts their theology. Mankind tends to hold himself up as an example of goodness and overestimates his abilities. The writers of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith recognized free will as a tricky topic or one to be held in tension. How much free will does man have compared to what God grants him? With these issues in mind, it is the goal to examine Chapter 9, Of Free Will, to exposit what God and the writers of the Confession teach about this important topic.

1. God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. 1

1. Matthew 17:12; James 1:14; Deuteronomy 30:19

The first thing to notice about Chapter 9, Paragraph 1 is that God is the first cause of man’s[1] ability to do anything. He, being the Creator, has created man and provided man with a will. Here we see man created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). The modern version of the Confession substitutes endued with the word given, meaning God has given to mankind everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). The ability that God has provided is what the Confession calls natural liberty and the power of acting upon choice.

Natural liberty and the power of acting upon choice need to be defined. It is imperative to define free will and what free will is not.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary provides this:

  1. : voluntary choice or decision
  2. : freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention[2]

Most people understand they can do or avoid what they want. To have the ability to cross the street or stay put, run a red light, stop at a red light, wear blue jeans, or wear shorts. Human beings can make these natural choices without any spiritual or moral consequences. In this sense, man can make a free-will choice, and while God is sovereign over all things, He allows these choices.

Sam Waldron clarifies, “The human will is not subject to any physical necessity. Men are free. Their choices are not determined by factors external to their free, personal identities and moral natures. There could not be the human responsibility and accountability the Bible clearly teaches, unless this were the case (Proverbs 1:24 – 33; John 3:18, 19).”[3]

The Bible rejects the teaching of determinism. Britannica defines determinism this way.

determinism, in philosophy and science, the thesis that all events in the universe, including human decisions and actions, are causally inevitable. Determinism entails that, in a situation in which a person makes a certain decision or performs a certain action, it is impossible that he or she could have made any other decision or performed any other action. In other words, it is never true that people could have decided or acted otherwise than they actually did.[4]

In His wisdom, God has provided mankind with decision-making abilities and the freedom to choose certain things, and in God’s wisdom, man is also responsible for his rejection of God. He is not forced to choose or reject God; instead, God changes the heart of men so that they willingly and freely choose Him (Ez. 36:26).

There are multiple facets to God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, and both are at play. Waldron defines it well when he says, “Divine freedom (God’s sovereign, decretive will) and human freedom are not in conflict. Rather, it is only because our wills are made in the image of the freedom of God’s supreme will that our derivative wills are free. Human freedom is rooted in God’s sovereign freedom.”[5]

It is also essential to understand that free will is not libertarian or that man is autonomous.[6] While some believe they have autonomy, it is easy to prove they do not. As an example, a person must eat to sustain their life. They must work to provide a home or attend a class on time to achieve a grade. Nobody is without responsibility. Even those that reject authority and the idea of being accountable to anyone need necessities to survive, so their will is not wholly free.

Lastly, these choices are not forced or bound by nature to do good or evil. These choices are legitimate. They are not predetermined as determinism defines them, nor are they without consequence. The choice to commit an evil act land squarely on the shoulders of the one who made it. While the old statement, “The devil made me do it,” has some validity, since mankind’s natural inclinations are bent toward evil, it does not relieve them of responsibility.

2. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God, 2 but yet was unstable, so that he might fall from it. 3

2. Ecclesiastes 7:29 3. Genesis 3:6

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16—17).

God’s command to Adam was clear. Adam lacked for nothing. God provided all of Adam’s needs and only gave one regulation. He was forbidden from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Is it reasonable to believe that God had equipped Adam with the ability to obey? In paragraph 1, the Confession states that mankind is not forced to do good or evil. God provided Adam with an opportunity. Do this, and you will live. Do this, and you will die.

K.A. Matthews provides clarity,

“The prohibition against eating the fruit of the “tree of knowledge” gave Adam opportunity to worship God through loyal devotion. Luther likened the tree to “Adam’s church, altar, and pulpit. Here he was to yield to God the obedience he owed, give recognition to the Word and will of God, give thanks to God, and call upon God for aid against temptation.”[7]

Adam’s choices were real choices. He has been given God’s command not to eat of this one tree, and as Matthews articulates, he can call upon God to help in his temptation. If Adam had rejected the serpent’s lies and confronted his wife, he would have pleased God. God provided the testing of his faith, but Adam failed the test.

It is also significant to understand that Adam’s world was good and very good (Gen. 1:31). In other words, the world had not yet experienced sin. Adam holds a unique position in humanity as the first human being and the first in a state of innocence, as the Confession says. He was uncorrupted by sin but not incorruptible. As humanity’s federal head, Adam would represent all of mankind and his posterity. Paul summarizes this in Romans 5.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” (Rom. 5:12).

Adam’s act of rebellion ushered sin into the world, and with the entrance of sin, God’s words, “you shall surely die,” echoed forth.

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:18—19).

God’s testing period for Adam ended in failure. His trespass condemned the whole human race under sin, yet God promised a Redeemer. His obedience and righteous acts will save sinners from their sins.

Adam proved his instability by failing to keep the command, and just as the Confession states, he fell from this state of innocence and became a transgressor of the law. Adam had the power to choose good, but instead, he chose evil.

3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; 4 so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, 5 is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. 6

4. Romans 5:6, 8:7 5. Ephesians 2:1, 5 6. Titus 3:3-5; John 6:44

While it is clear from the Confessions’ first two paragraphs on free will that mankind makes legitimate choices in life, these choices are without coercion. What is the difference between man’s “morally neutral” decisions and the free will decision to follow the Lord? There is no relationship. Paragraph three transitions to a post-fall condition and sets up a clear dividing line between everyday decisions and the decision to follow Christ.

It all begins with a promise from God to Adam that if he remains obedient, he will live, but should he disobey God’s commands he will surely die (Gen. 2:17). As the narrative of Genesis progresses to Adam’s rebellion, the immediate consequence of his disobedience appears. God pronounces curses upon him and the woman, but Adam does not drop dead.

It is worth a short detour to look at how Adam did indeed die, but not in the immediate. The Confession lays out free will in a progressive manner. Waldron says, “The first paragraph defines free will. Paragraphs 2 – 5 deal with the different states in which it exists. These move from the state of innocency, where it is marked by instability, to the state of glory, where it is marked by immutability. As finite, ethical beings we do undergo a moral and ethical development.”[8]

What sort of death occurred in Adam and all his posterity? Matthew Henry remarks on one way in which Adam died,

Thou shalt become mortal and capable of dying; the grant of immortality shall be recalled, and that defence shall depart from thee. Thou shalt become obnoxious to death, like a condemned malefactor that is dead in the law” (only, because Adam was to be the root of mankind, he was reprieved); “nay, the harbingers and forerunners of death shall immediately seize thee, and thy life, thenceforward, shall be a dying life: and this, surely; it is a settled rule, the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”[9]

Of course, Adam eventually died in the flesh, but a spiritual death occurred within Adam and all his posterity. The doctrine of original sin. Paul writes in Romans 5 as one of the proof texts the Confession provides, but a few verses later describe this death that passes to all.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

Paragraph 3 provides the proof texts that indicate this spiritual death. Ephesians 2:1 is a prime example stating mankind is dead in his sins and transgressions. In this deadness, the Confessions states mankind is without any power to convert himself. He has not had the free will to will himself to God. Romans 3:11 says, “no one understand; no one seeks for God.” The simplicity of this statement is evident. The Spirit of God must move and draw, or man stays dead in his sin.

The quotation of John 6:44 is appropriate as Jesus said, “unless the Father draws him.” The drawing is never forced or compulsory; it is a work of the Spirit that makes a man willing. Calvin provides a succinct view.

“True, indeed, as to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant.”[10]

While it is essential to understand the inability to respond to God without God’s help, it is equally important to realize this does not provide man with a pass should he never come to Christ. The gospel invitation is a sincere invitation for all to come to Christ. Those that remain in their sin and rebellion do it willingly, which is the topic of paragraph 4.

4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin, 7 and by His grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; 8 yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruptions, he does not perfectly, nor only will, that which is good, but does also will that which is evil. 9

7. Colossians 1:13; John 8:36 8. Philippians 2:13 9. Romans 7:15, 18-19, 21, 23

Paragraph 4 is a progressive step in Chapter 9 that relates to post-conversion. God converts a sinner. He takes him from his sin and moves him out of darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). There is a full-on change to him or her; they are now children of God. They have been justified and sanctified[11] by the blood of Christ.

Where he once was enslaved to sin (John 8:34), he now becomes a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:16). The natural inclination or proclivity toward sin has now been radically altered toward godliness. The sinner has now become a saint and begins to live in the light of the gospel.

Ezekiel prophesied this new reality in chapter 36.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ez. 36:26—27).

The change wrought by God in the heart gives a new attitude, affection, and an entirely new perspective. The outward evidence is obedience to the commandments of God. It does not mean perfection, for that would be impossible (1 John 1:8), and as the Confession continues to expand, evil still resides in the heart of the converted.

In many fundamental or strict orthodox circles, obedience tends to mark the status of justification. Mercifully, the Lord has provided a clear revelation that faith is never dependent upon works, but works will proceed from faith. The recent rise of Federal Vision Theology has reignited the debate about the law and gospel distinction. It can create confusion in the minds of many, especially in churches where overly zealous pastors attempt to assist the Holy Spirit in His work of sanctification toward the people. The tendency is to make judgments regarding salvation purely based on external measures. The Confession addresses this concern in Chapter 17, paragraph 3.[12]

In summary, the paragraph states that believers can fall into grievous sins for a time, but God will renew and preserve them in Christ to the end. Here is a powerful statement about the Divine grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Man looks on the outside, but God looks upon the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

Caution must be extended toward those acting in rebellion. The state of their salvation should be a two-way street. Dr. Brian Borgman preached an excellent sermon on not being overly righteous or overly wicked, providing context to the balance that needs to be maintained.[13] The ditches are steep on both sides of the narrow path. Avoiding licentiousness is just as important as avoiding legalism; they are both wrong and dangerous. The Confession addresses these concerns and provides the right balance if understood correctly.

True disciples, followers, and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ look forward to the day they are free from sin and the troubles of this present world, and that is the topic of the final paragraph of Chapter 9.

5. This will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone in the state of glory only. 10

10. Ephesians 4:13

Ongoing sin will continue within the life of a believer. Paul spent a good portion of Romans chapter 7 relaying how this internal battle continues to rage. There will be no ultimate peace until glorification or the act of being perfected after physical death in this world.

The Confession writers tell us that man’s will is made perfectly and immutably free. The struggling believer is made whole. As the believer once saw dimly, he will now see clearly. The rags of sin are exchanged for those final garments of white that are perfect, in Christ, and unchangeable. Sin reigns no more. It is finally and totally eradicated in glorification. It is the ultimate consummation of the beauty in Christ.

Christians have a calling to do good in this world. They are to be light in a dark place and impact the society around them. Throughout history, Christians have sought to help the sick and indigent free slaves and stand against the horrors of abortion. The good done by Christians in these contexts are imperfect, and God only recognizes their good works as works done through Christ (Matt. 25:40). Works outside of Christ carry no eternal merit because it is impossible to please God outside of faith (Heb. 11:6).

Once the believer departs the present world and enters the kingdom of heaven, there will be no more pain, no more suffering, and no more struggle with sin. The will of the glorified believer will entirely focus on worshipping the redeemed Savior. They will forever be in the image of Christ as sons and daughters.

As John describes the final victory scene in Revelation, he says there be no more pain, no more tears, and no more death. Sin is the cause of all these, and when sin is vanquished, only beauty remains, and man’s free will has been wholly created new in Christ and glorification.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).


[1] For ease, the term “man” will be substituted for mankind or used interchangeably. The term includes male and female.

[2] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freewill

[3]Samuel E. Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 5th ed. (Welwyn Garden City, UK: EP Books, 2016), 166.

[4] https://www.britannica.com/topic/determinism

[5] Ibid., 166.

[6] https://www.gotquestions.org/libertarian-free-will.html

[7] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 210–211.

[8] Samuel E. Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 5th ed. (Welwyn Garden City, UK: EP Books, 2016), 166—167. 

[9] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 9.

[10] John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel according to John, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 257.

[11] Sanctification has an immediate effect (1 Cor. 6:11) but will also be ongoing (Heb. 10:14) in a progressive fashion, so this is not to say the sinner is fully sanctified.

[12] 3. And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, 9 whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, 10 come to have their graces and comforts impaired, 11 have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, 12 hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, 13 yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end. 14

[13] https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1030221944157927

Their Devotion, God’s Design – Acts 2:42-47

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).

God’s Wisdom – James 3:13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:13–18).

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – Lessons Learned?

I’m nearing the end of listening to the podcast series on the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. It has struck me to the core in more ways than one. I’ve recommended it on Facebook multiple times, but I feel like an echo chamber doing so. I can hear myself shout it from the mountain tops but I’m not sure anyone hears.

Why does this affect me so much? Because I lived through and went through a similar experience but on a much smaller scale. Smaller in terms of it was a small church, but larger because it was a small church. What I mean is that we were not in some distant relationship to the issue like many at Mars Hill. Of course, there were those there that probably had it worse than us. They experienced firsthand the abuse Driscoll dished out, and then they lost their jobs, they lost their church, and they lost their friends in one failed swoop.

I see how narcissists simply move on. They do damage, they defend, they deflect, and then they trample. It’s easy for them. It was easy for Driscoll. He has moved on. He is now pastoring a new flock in the Phoenix metro and most of them probably have no clue who he is or what he’s done. He’s a great storyteller, as the podcast has repeatedly told the listener, and he really is. I went to Mars Hill once while in Seattle and it was really cool at the time.

Yet, Mark moves on. He left the bus after it had rolled over many and left a mountain behind it. Narcissistic leaders are not new, and sadly Driscoll isn’t the first and he certainly won’t be the last. What motivates these people? I don’t know, but it is probably insecurity. It probably stems from Daddy or Mommy wounds. Maybe it’s from childhood trauma or a sense of bravado that needs to be the center of attention. No matter the cause it’s a real thing, and when these guys get into a leadership position, and they always end up in leadership positions, they tend to steamroll people and leave dead bodies in their wake.

I wish I could write more. I wish I could write more eloquently about the issues, and about how the damaged people are still damaged, and yet the Driscoll’s of the world move on. We were “lucky” I suppose. We didn’t depend on them for our livelihood, and we had other friends. We landed at other solid churches, and we never blamed God or questioned our faith. We questioned people, and we should question people, because it’s the people doing ungodly things that hurt others, not God Himself.

And the hope is that God uses it for blessing others. How can we forget those that have suffered far worse than us? How can we forget what Paul went through at the hands of others, or our Lord Jesus Christ so that we might receive His benefits? I don’t think I’m like Jesus by the way, but I want to be. I will work at it, and I’ll work at being able to be a blessing to those that have suffered at the hands of an authoritarian leader. If God sees fit to use me this way.

If you haven’t, I encourage you to listen to this whole series. It is really done remarkably well, even to the amazing production level that Driscoll himself sought. How ironic.

No matter what seek Christ and stay close to Him. He is a comfort in the deepest storms. He is worthy of our earthly suffering. No matter what.

Kevin

The Need to Control People

I once heard Joe Theismann say, “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” I understand the sentiment. It’s a “nice” statement. Being nice is not a biblical position, but it is a biblical position to be kind. Kindness has the connotation of virtue, and of being useful. Nice, according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary is softness or delicate. Modernity has told us it’s nice to be nice, but the Bible has a different solution to properly deal with people given the context necessary to deal with them. We can’t always be nice, but we must be truthful and loving, and sometimes love is not received well.

We started our summer vacation and that included a trip to Iowa. Yes, I know, who goes to Iowa for vacation? We have now lived in New Mexico for three years. It was a planned trip, and we had a desire to see many friends. The time spent with them has been sweet, and renewing affections for them and us was unnecessary, the affections have never left.

We also knew there was the possibility of encountering our old “friends” from Grace Fellowship (GFC). If you are new here you can brush up on who they are here, here, and here. In short, they are the church we were members of for nine years. When we left the church, I was serving as a Deacon and we were in good standing. We had never been under any discipline. We attended faithfully (of course that was required) and we gave faithfully and abundantly to the ministry (God loves a cheerful giver as we were reminded of every week). But we were giving to the Lord, not to them, although they were charged with the stewardship, I digress…

In the six or eight months leading up to our departure, I began having conversations with the pastor, Mike Reid, about legalism. The church was going through a lack of joy phase, admitted by the elders, and certainly experienced by our family. As time progressed it became evident, that they had zero intention or desire to make any course corrections. They were firm in their resolve, we might say, to stay the course. The course, of course, was not just legalism. It was far worse and looking back it was hard to imagine just how bad it really was and still is. I expect this post may help shed some light on those skeptics, or the ones that might think it’s time for us to get over it. I’ve addressed that topic as well previously; you can find that article here if you are so inclined.

The week we’ve spent in Iowa has been surreal. It’s a great place. It’s beautiful, it’s green, it’s friendly, it’s almost everything you would want in a place to live, except for the roads, the winters, and the cultish, or dare I say cult, “The Church of Davenport” that we once called home. I’ve not come to that distinction lightly. It took a long time for me to call it a cult. The more I’ve studied, read, and discussed the issue with others far more advanced than me, I can come to no other conclusion. The audio below will hopefully convince you as well.

Since coming to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel I have given myself to seeking the Lord and living as God calls me to live. I fail often. I get back up and seek again. The one thing I’ve never sought to do is be willfully ignorant nor rebellious to His word. I know what the Bible teaches about most major doctrines. I understand many theological nuances. I am well-studied on many topics. I understand my own weaknesses and shortcomings. But I would never knowingly dishonor the Lord through my actions. That is what I’m being accused of doing by writing these articles and appearing on the Apologetics Live podcasts to expose GFC.

What I can’t get my mind around is whether Mike Reid thinks the same thing. I’ve tried to reconcile his salvation with his actions. He has stated that I’ve questioned his salvation. I certainly do urge him to examine himself. Just as he has urged so many to examine themselves.

What I find reprehensible are his actions.  

It is after all, “by their fruits that we will know them” (Matthew 7:20). What are the fruits of Mike Reid and Grace Fellowship’s actions? These are just a few.

He has a poor reputation in the community and abroad. I would say that every church in town knows of GFC and knows how they act. It’s not just that they are active in the open air. I have no issue here, but it is that Mike himself is thought of as being imbalanced. I have personally spoken with several pastors locally, and many others nationally that know of him and know what he does. This alone should disqualify him from ministry.

“Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7).

He is not above reproach. He has a loose tongue and often says things that are unbecoming of a pastor. Those that have been around him when he is in a casual setting know this about him. I’ve written before about how he asked my wife if “all her parts were still working” while riding in the car with another man. It is disgraceful to say something like this, but then never to recognize just how boorish this is and never come back and say something. “You know Jen, that was inappropriate of me, I’m sorry.” He can’t do that because this would show weakness from a man that touts holiness.

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8).

I could say so much more, but I’ve been fairly exhaustive in my critiques in previous articles.

The main crux of this article is to highlight our encounter here in Iowa with a man from the church while in a grocery store on our very first night here. I’ll call him Peter for the sake of this article, but that’s not his real name. Jen and I anticipated the possibility of running into someone from GFC while here. It was simple really, we agreed to say hello in a friendly manner. We wouldn’t seek a conversation, but we would be polite, and kind. There were no internal motivations on our part as we have been accused. If we saw Mike Reid or one of the other elders, I had planned to be, “not as nice” and would say something to the effect, “how long will you go on hurting people?” I think an appropriate response to what they’ve done in their fourteen years. There is a well-attested list of those damaged under their “ministry.” 

On our first night, we went into Hy-Vee (grocery store chain) to pick up some milk. Moments into the store I saw Peter walking my way. My wife was ahead of me and she turned and pointed at him, but I had already seen him. I said, “Hello, Peter.” He turned and looked at me, probably quite surprised as you will hear in the audio. He was caught off-guard. He returned the hello and then stopped to talk. I believe he was ready to extend a hug to me, but I offered my hand instead, and he took the handshake. We spoke for a few minutes, he introduced us to his sweet daughter, five years old, as she willingly informed us. We exchanged a few pleasantries and asked a few questions, and he did the same. There was nothing nefarious, and in hindsight, his actions to be kind back to us were keeping with his instincts and his love for others.  

He and I were once friends. He respected me, and I liked him. We did a lot for his family. Jen did a LOT for them. But we did it because we loved and cared for them, not out of a sense of obligation.

As we departed the store Jen and I said, I’m betting the church knows by now that we are here. We also discussed we hope he doesn’t get in trouble for talking to us because we knew if he told Mike he would have some serious questions to answer to. I’ve been on the receiving end of those situations. You do something inadvertently or violate the rules, or don’t do something you should have, and you’ll get a call into the pastor’s office, or a meeting with the elders and a firm rebuke. “I need to love you more than that Kev,” Mike has told me before. I cringe to think of Peter getting the beat down when he was caught flat-footed by us. We didn’t do anything to hurt him or them intentionally. I hope it is an opportunity for him to reflect on the lack of grace at the fellowship “church.” Perhaps, an opportunity to see what we saw so many years ago now, and actually think for himself rather than being told what to do and think.

That happened on a Friday night and Monday morning someone sends me a text and says, “Hey, check this out.” He had no idea we were in the Quad Cities, and I don’t know how he came across it, but as I listened, I knew immediately what it was all about, because I’ve seen it play out more than once. I’ve seen grown men either make some sort of a mistake toward the church or ask too probing of a question and then end up “repenting” over their egregious sins toward the elders. I would have to believe Peter got up and confessed his sins of “ministering to us” that night in the store. I’m sure he sought the elder’s forgiveness and the congregation’s forgiveness for not honoring his lord and savior, Mike Reid.

After all, this is all about Mike. It is his reputation that was offended. It was his leadership that is being threatened. What I found most shocking, was his insistence that everyone in the church be on guard and ready to defend HIM. He was very clear that this was about HIM and HIS reputation, and the people that had interactions were not ready to stand up for their poor ol’ pastor who is being treated so terribly. 

Does that sound harsh?

In my non-professional view, however, supported by others that are in the know, Mike fits all the descriptions of a narcissist. If you listen to this recording it exhibits narcissistic behavior. He is controlling, he demands obedience, and he is afraid of losing a grip on these people. Did I mention he is controlling, not to mention his visible anger? It rolls off his tongue. To post this monologue publicly exhibits his narcissism as he twists the Scriptures to fit his own needs.

I will cite some examples but there are many. He says that we have been “put out” of the church. I stated above that we left while in good standing. Our being “put out” was after we left. So, his claim that we were put out is only to make it sound good to him and the congregation. As if, they had done it biblically. No, we LEFT the church. It’s like getting fired after you quit. No employer with a shred of intelligence fires someone after they quit because then they are liable for unemployment, but GFC excommunicates’ people like it’s going out of style. They fire them after they quit.  

He says we are the chief revilers and slanderers, and in effect, is hoping God strikes us down. Here again, Mike uses the Scriptures to meet his needs. He refuses to look at all the things he has been accused of. Not just by me, but by fourteen years of victims of his “ministry.” For there to be true reviling and slandering these things must have no basis in truth. If I went out and said he was a bank robber I would be reviling him and slandering him, but he’s not a bank robber. What I have said via the written or spoken word is true and if anyone would like to contradict those statements I’m willing to stand behind them and provide evidential support.

The truth is that he just doesn’t like the exposure. It’s easy to say I’m the slanderer and in this, he becomes the slanderer of me. He is the reviler, he is the slanderer, and he is the divisive one, and this is what narcissists do best. If I’m a believer and Peter is a believer, we are both members of the universal church and unless there is good reason to believe that I am in unrepentant sin then Peter has every right to greet me with a “holy kiss” and doesn’t need to cower because his pastor has been offended that I’ve exposed his hypocritical lifestyle. Peter did the right thing. He handled the situation with grace and love because he knew it was the right thing to do. Sadly, it probably didn’t end up that way. I only pray he realizes it someday.

In his rousing monologue linked below, Mike gave explicit instructions to his congregation on how to deal with us if they see us in public. We attended a high school baseball game and saw one of the leading men of the church. He is a man that is not afraid to tell you what he thinks. He is not afraid to offer a stern rebuke. I saw him walking straight toward me. We would have been difficult to miss. He approached and was within touching distance then took a hard left turn never making eye contact although I was looking directly at him.  

I’m sure he had to consider if the confrontation was worth it or not and decided it wasn’t by the fact he didn’t engage. He has plausible deniability. I’m confident he saw us. He has a reputation that I’m sure he wants to protect. That is probably more important than Mike’s honor, or so I theorize, perhaps the congregation doesn’t fully agree with Mike on this issue? Will others engage us if they see us while we finish our days here? That’s hard to say.    

I write this hoping that others will read these words and understand the dangers that abound. These dangers are especially real in what parades itself as Orthodox Christianity. Abuse abounds. Narcissism abounds. Legalism is only one branch of the tree. At the root lies an authoritarian leader that needs his ego stroked. Mike Reid loves to have his ego stroked, he loves, or demands to be called pastor. He loves it.

Please take the time to listen, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. I desire to be very careful with my words. To be exact in my accusations, and not to accuse without good cause. I’m not the arbitrator of who is saved and who isn’t, but I think if someone consistently hurts people and calls themselves a pastor, they better be prepared to examine their testimony of faith and see if it aligns itself with the Scriptures. It seems to me they are self-deceived. The track record is long and speaks for itself, and many have testified to its validity.

“Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim. 5:19—20).

Lord help us stand against tyranny and abuse in the church so that they may fear the repercussions of their actions.

Listen to audio here: The audio is of poor quality, but that is in the original.

Original is located here. It starts just before two minutes and ends at sixteen minutes.

Kevin