WHEN SCANDAL STRIKES by J. Parnell McCarter
When a scandal occurs of certain prominent figures, especially religious leaders, there is a rush to judgment about the cause. (“It was because he believed in patriarchy.”; “It was because he was a legalist.” ; “It was because he was a dispensationalist.” ; “It was because he was a theonomist.” ; etc.) More often than not, the reality is that it is owing to the fact that all people are subject to heinous sin due to human depravity. In certain cases it may evidence the guilty party is not converted at all, but a hypocrite like Judas Iscariot. On the other hand, it may be a case of backsliding, like in King David’s case.
With respect to drawing conclusions about a certain doctrine, it is much safer to draw conclusions from an examination of scripture, rather than whether a certain person fell into scandal who held a certain doctrine. Probably every doctrine (true or erroneous) has had adherents who fell into scandalous sin. Even holding to a complete body of true doctrine does not immunize someone from scandalous sin.
With respect to drawing conclusions about a given religious institution from such a scandal, there we must look to how the institution handled it when the scandal became known. Does the institution seek to cover it up and not exercise appropriate discipline, or does it really address the issue and exercise appropriate discipline, including turning the guilty party over to civil authorities if the scandal was criminal? There is evidence certain institutions are less institutionally equipped to address scandal than others. But even there, in the final analysis our judgment about institutional structure should be based upon scriptural examination.
In conclusion, we should be cautious in our judgments when scandal strikes, as seems to have happened in recent months with a number of prominent figures.