Circling the Bunkers

Circling the bunkers
A Russian Bunker Source: Flikr.com

Sometime ago, I met a learned man. My aunt in the United States introduced me to him and he gave me an appointment to see him at the faculty.

Aside from being a respected professor in his field, he is also a clergyman in the Anglican Church.

My meeting with him was purely regarding my career, but as we began talking, he started to admonish me on my personal life. He began to tell me stuff about my thoughts and relationship with God which no one – not my relatives or anyone else – could have known except by supernatural means.

I looked on in surprise with my mouth almost ajar as he probed into my life and appealed to the biblical story of David and Goliath and how with God on my side, I will become victorious in life. I knew right there that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me through him.

By the way, that’s not the first time that God would send someone to strengthen me in my time of despair. The first time I experienced that was in 2014 during my Masters at the University of Ibadan.

A Christian professor from another faculty suddenly walked up to where I was seated before the lecture started and told me a certain thing which no one else knew. At that time I was depressed and was about throwing in the towel, but what he said gave me hope and confidence in God.

In the case of this Anglican canon, although I treasured his counsel, I didn’t expect that a man in “that” denomination would be a mouth piece for God. You see, my family were baptized in the Anglican Church, but the controversy that occurred when my parents exited the denomination left a degree of cynicism in my mind.

I had little trust in anyone in a position of leadership in that church because I perceived them to be  opposed to the move of the Holy Spirit.

Later as I reflected on this experience, God spoke to my heart, “You can’t pocket My Holy Spirit!

How true!

All along, I had been putting the Holy Spirit of God in a test tube of sorts. I had concluded that He could only speak to me through certain pastors or ministers that I revered or those from the denomination I approved of. That was a “we alone” mentality, and thank God for demolishing it.

This mentality is what I call “circling the bunkers.” A bunker is a defensive military shelter designed to protect people and valued materials from falling bombs or other attacks.

A bunker is mostly built underground – and metaphorically speaking – it is a fortress of ideas or practices that is specially protected or defended by individuals with an agenda.

Circling the bunkers is a preconditioned thinking in which a believer invests so much in church traditions, denominational positions, theological systems or outward labels as criteria of spiritual legitimacy and is more ready to defend these than the gospel of Jesus Christ itself.

Many believers today have sadly missed out on God’s intervention in their lives because they assumed that He can only speak or supernaturally work through their preferred or “our own” vessels.

But God can and does ministers through vessels who don’t meet up with our self-made conditions.

I want you to understand that God is not limited by denominations, institutions or human vessels. In fact, God can use a weak, despised, uneducated and a very young person to confound the strong, influential, wise and mighty of this earth.

Yet, many people have a problem accepting others on the basis of minor doctrinal differences or finicky rules:

An Arminian is teaching theology? I’m not interested.

He’s a pre-triber? Nope. Bye.

A Christian woman wearing make up and jewelries? She’s a Jezebel!

An evangelist dancing disco, wearing jean trousers, a hand chain and a even a tattoo? Have mercy Lord, he’s a false convert.

You are from that denomination where you speak unknown languages and raise your thighs when praising God? Out.

That pastor doesn’t use the King James bible? Heretic alert.

I remember when I started a Facebook Christian group six years ago, one guy demanded I put a Bible verse on all my articles because as far as he’s concerned, if a Christian doesn’t have a Bible verse for everything he writes, he’s going by “human wisdom.” He’s defending his fundamentalist bunker.

Couple of years ago, a friend tagged a pastor of a popular Nigerian Pentecostal church to my Facebook post, Unmasking the Queen of Heaven, and the man said something like:

“I was following along when he was quoting the Bible to expose this spirit, but you see when he began quoting these historical and religious non-biblical sources, he lost me. I don’t give attention to such write ups.”

Nothing new here. In the cute little world some people live in, the Bible is the only authority that must be appealed to: history must be scorned, logic should be rejected, science despitefully spat on, arts (especially African arts) demonized, theology should be relegated and unless it’s Jewish culture, it should be trampled upon.

This is what I call a “fundamentalist heritage.” It’s a constructed mental box that is obsessed with dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” at the risk of being labelled an apostate. They can take just one sentence you made and turn it back at you with a polemic of 2000 words and quotes from an entire chapter of the Bible.

We must not fall into the delusion that unless a person speaks or writes like our own pastors or reverend or elders, he must be messed up or absolutely false. This is how people miss out on God’s treasures.

I have known people who found the truth of Scripture even while they were still trapped within a religious system of deception and by God’s leading, they eventually found their way out, especially when they realized they couldn’t change the system.

God used a mute donkey to convey His message to a recalcitrant prophet. And there are times He will use poor, broken vessels to reprove, instruct, reveal His will or work in the lives of His people. That’s the sovereignty of God.

In the Bible we have an example of a prophet who discredited God’s revelation because he felt only his “clique” could legitimately speak for Him.

When God permitted a deceiving spirit to lead Ahab to his death, out of 400 prophets, Micaiah had a different message – a genuine insight into the heavenly conference. When he prophesied Ahab’s death at Ramoth Gilead, a respected prophet reacted:

“Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. “Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?” he asked” (1 Kgs. 22:24)

Such arrogance! Notice, he was not dedicated to God’s truth but a “party line.” Just talk like we do and you belong. This prophet felt he had a patent on the Spirit of God. He thought he had a corner on His revelation.

This is why it is dangerous to follow anyone who tells you he is the only mouth piece of God, or that his ministry is the only one that carries God’s approval.

Elijah nearly fell into this trap when he said, “I am the only one left” – the only one jealous for God. But God made Him realize that He has marked out for protection seven thousand in Israel who have neither kissed Baal nor bowed to him.

I do not have a corner on God’s truth. I am not the only contender. My blog is not the only place where truths are being shared. There are many others who have been labouring before me and will continue when I am no more here. That leaves no room for arrogance.

In Matthew 23, Jesus assessed the situation and rightly called the religious leaders of His day, “blind guides” (vs. 16, 24), “fools and blind” (vs. 17, 19), and “blind Pharisee” (v. 26). They were blind because their hearts were hardened and they idolized their outward piety above their inner spiritual state.

In Romans 11:25, Paul explained Israel’s mistake: “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”

Their hearts were hardened because they were blind to what God is doing. The same can happen to a Christian too – stuck up in a traditional or denominational rot and blind to the move of the Holy Spirit.

The key is to accept others just as Christ has accepted us. He “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which he made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:4, 6).

It was by His grace – not our works – that we were accepted, so we should extend that same grace to others. We need the ministry of the brothers and sisters outside our bunkers.

Finally, our focus should be on Jesus Christ as the sole standard (Heb. 12:2). It’s self-righteousness when we judge people by their outward labels rather than their devotion to Jesus Christ and His Word. It’s self-righteousness when we compare ourselves to others and judge them on that basis. God has only one standard for righteousness: Jesus Christ.

Touch not God’s Anointed: What it really Means

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This post is a quote from the appendix of a book I am currently reading, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century authored by Hank Hanegraaff in 2009 (published by Thomas Nelson).

Hendrik “Hank” Hanegraaff, before his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy in 2017, was the president of the Christian Research Institute, an apologetic ministry founded by one of the brightest Evangelical minds in the 20th century, Dr. Martin Walter. For decades, Mr Hank was the anchor of “The Bible Answer Man.”

The first edition of Christianity in Crisis was published in 1993. It systematically unmasked the Word-Faith movement – a movement which threatens to undermine the foundations of the faith delivered to the saints.

The book was a bestseller and it won the Medallion Book Award for excellence in evangelical Christian literature. The new volume has been “augmented with a ‘Cast of Characters’ section that provides comprehensive information as well as biblical evaluation of the newest and most prolific stars in the faith galaxy—virtual rock stars who command the attention of presidential candidates and media moguls” (from the Introduction).

The following is an excerpt from Appendix A: Are “God’s Anointed” Beyond Criticism?

“During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ exhorted His followers to not judge self-righteously or hypocritically. Is this necessarily what Christians do when they question the teachings of “God’s anointed” preachers and evangelists?

Many teachers who claim such anointing would say so, and many more of their followers commonly reply to all manner of criticism: “Touch not God’s anointed.”

Some of these teachers even add that such actions carry literally grave consequences. Consider what prominent Faith teacher Kenneth Copeland affirmed in his taped message Why All Are Not Healed (#01-4001):

“There are people attempting to sit in judgment right today over the ministry that I’m responsible for, and the ministry that Kenneth E. Hagin is responsible for . . . Several people that I know had criticized and called that Faith bunch out of Tulsa a cult. And some of ’em are dead right today in an early grave because of it, and there’s more than one of them got cancer.

In addition to certain Faith teachers, such sentiments may be found among various groups involved with shepherding and other forms of authoritarian rule (from diverse “fivefold” ministries to a host of large and small “fringe churches”).

The leaders of these groups are commonly regarded by their followers as having a unique gift and calling that entitles them to unconditional authority—sort of a heavenly carte blanche. To dispute any of their teachings or practices is not distinguished from questioning God Himself.

Advocates of such unquestionable authority assume that Scripture supports their view. Their key biblical proof text is Psalm 105:15: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (KJV). But a close examination of this passage reveals that it has nothing to do with challenging the teachings and practices of church leaders.

First, it needs to be noted that the Old Testament phrase “the Lord’s anointed” is typically used to refer to the kings of Israel (1 Samuel 12:3,5; 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16; 19:21; Psalm 20:6; Lamentations 4:20), at times specifically to the royal line descended from David (Psalms 2:2; 18:50; 89:38, 51), and not to especially mighty prophets and teachers.

While the text does also mention prophets, in the context of Psalm 105 the reference is undoubtedly to the patriarchs in general (vv. 8–15; cf. 1 Chronicles 16:15–22), and to Abraham (whom God called a prophet) in particular (Genesis 20:7). It is therefore debatable whether this passage can be applied to select leaders within the body of Christ.

Even if the text can be applied to certain church leaders today, in the context of this passage the words “touch” and “harm” have to do with inflicting physical harm upon someone. Psalm 105:15 is therefore wholly irrelevant to the issue of questioning the teachings of any self-proclaimed man or woman of God.

Moreover, even if we accepted this misinterpretation of Psalm 105:15, how are we to know who not to “touch”—that is, who God’s anointed and prophets are? Because they and their followers say they are? On such a basis we would have to accept the claims of Sun Myung Moon, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, and virtually all cult leaders to be prophets.

Because they reputedly perform miracles? The Antichrist and False Prophet will possess that credential (Revelation 13:13–15; 2 Thessalonians 2:9)! No, God’s representatives are known above all by their purity of character and doctrine (Titus 1:7–9; 2:7–8; 2 Corinthians 4:2; cf. 1 Timothy 6:3–4).

If a would-be spokesperson for God cannot pass the biblical tests of character and doctrine, we have no basis for accepting his or her claim, and no reason to fear that in criticizing his or her teaching, we might also be rejecting God.

Finally, if any individual Christian is to be considered anointed, then every single Christian must be considered anointed as well. For this is the only sense in which the term is used (apart from Christ) in the New Testament:

“You [referring to all believers] have an anointing from the Holy One” (1 John 2:20). Thus no believer can justifiably claim any sort of special status as God’s “untouchable anointed” over other believers.

With this in mind, it is significant that the apostle John does not use this term with reference to inspired or dynamic preaching or teaching, but to the ability and responsibility of each believer to discern between true and false teachers (vv. 18–24). Nobody’s teachings or practices are beyond biblical evaluation—especially influential leaders.

According to the Bible, authority and accountability go hand in hand (e.g., Luke 12:48). The greater the responsibility one holds, the greater the accountability one has before God and His people.

Teachers and other leaders of the Christian community should be extremely careful to not mislead any believer, for their calling carries with it a strict judgment (James 3:1). They should therefore be grateful when sincere Christians take the time and effort to correct whatever erroneous doctrine they may be holding and preaching to the masses.

And if the criticisms are unfounded or unbiblical, they should respond in the manner prescribed by Scripture, which tells them to correct misguided doctrinal opposition with gentle instruction (2 Timothy 2:25).

There is, of course, another side to this issue: criticism often can be sinful, leading to rebellion and unnecessary division. Christians should respect the leaders that God has given them (Hebrews 13:17). Theirs is the task of assisting the church in its spiritual growth and doctrinal understanding (Ephesians 4:11–16).

At the same time, believers should be aware that false teachers will arise among the Christian fold (Acts 20:29; 2 Peter 2:1). This makes it imperative for us to test all things by Scripture, as the Bereans were commended for doing when they examined the words of even the apostle Paul (Acts 17:11).

Not only is the Bible useful for preaching, teaching, and encouragement, but it is equally valuable for correcting and rebuking (2 Timothy 4:2). In fact, we as Christians are held accountable for proclaiming the whole will of God and warning others of false teachings and those responsible for them (Acts 20:26–28; cf. Ezekiel 33:7–9; 34:1–10).”

[Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2009, pp. 382-386]

A Call for Christian Accountability and Ethics

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Christianity, by its very nature, is the way of Christ, and this way is a narrow one. It is a highway of holiness in which Christians are expected to be salt and light to the world.

This is why when a Christian leader (someone who has been appointed to teach the Word of God at any level) has credible allegations of crime levied against him/her, the response of the Body of Christ to it sends a strong message to those within and without the church.

It cannot be denied that Christianity has been a strong historical and cultural force which shaped the Nigerian political and religious sphere. This is why the decisions that the Nigerian Christian body make regarding serious allegations such as rape against a popular pastor, tells us the kind of society we want to build.

In the midst of the baffling controversy of the alleged serial adulterer and rapist, Biodun Fatoyinbo, the Christian Organization of Nigeria (CAN) gave a press release that contains a number of howlers, none of which should come from a Christian body that values justice, truth and moral integrity.

In the release made public on Saturday, they wrote:

As we seek the help of CAN Elders and the Holy Spirit in resolving the current problem, it is our prayer that both parties will sheath their swords and stop the media war in the interest of the Church and for the greater glory of God.”

I sincerely don’t understand what they meant by the call to “sheath their swords” and stop the “media war”? Are CAN members oblivious to what this issue is all about or they are deliberately trying to twist the narrative? I suspect the latter.

Do they think Busola Dakolo’s allegation was borne out of personal vendetta or was she his only victim?

Is this a “media war” instigated by a scorned woman or the exposure of a sexual predator in the pulpit?

It’s indeed a disappointment to find a supposed Christian organization playing cheap politics with the lives of the wounded flock.

In the release, they made an appeal to Romans 5:8,11 and 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 as if this hoopla is all about Biodun’s sins. This is the same “we are all sinners” line that Biodun’s defenders have been chanting all across the public space.

And I wonder if someone ever informed them that there is a big difference between sins and crimes.

According to a legal dictionary, crime is a violation of a law in which there is injury to the public or a member of the public and a term in jail or prison, and/or a fine as possible penalties. In a plain sense, when there is a crime, there must be a penalty.

But not all sins are crimes though all crimes may be sins. Therefore, the redress of crimes cannot be the same as sins. Not in every instance. With the exception of those under Sharia dictates or Mosaic laws:

Fornication is a sin, not a crime.

Adultery – sin not crime.

Not paying tithes – sin not crime

Breaking the sabbath – sin, not crime.

Eating shellfish or pork – sin, not crime.

Homosexuality – sin, not crime (though some countries criminalize it).

Sorcery – sin, not crime.

Gambling – sin, not crime

Alcoholism – sin, not crime.

But when you are talking about rape, paedophilia, theft, perjury, murder, destruction of private or public property, money laundering, financial embezzlement and so on, you are talking about crimes. That’s the way the world works. Deal with it.

Some sins can result in crimes, such as sorcery being used to murder and fornication which can include sexual acts with a minor or sexual predation – which is an accurate description of a pastor taking his flock as sexual preys.

When a crime is uncovered, it shouldn’t stop at mere apology to the aggrieved, it should also be adjudicated in the court of law:

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake” (Romans 13:3-5).

Knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:9-11).

Therefore, the first act of injustice against all the victims of Biodun Fatoyinbo is to reduce his crimes against them to mere “sins.” That’s a callous, mendacious and unchristian attempt to minimize the injuries he inflicted on others.

Furthermore, in all the accounts given by his victims and numerous sex partners, there were often large pay outs and monetary gifts. It will be vital if this is equally investigated.

The organization he heads is registered with a non-profit status, and to the best of my knowledge, he doesn’t have any allied industries or entrepreneurship schemes that serve as sources of great income. So where was the money coming from?

If the money he showered on these women were from the tithes and various offerings and other public money donated to his ministry by people who thought they were “connecting the power” for their breakthroughs, then he should be penalized and have his tax-free status revoked. 

A church leader expending “God’s money” on satiating his lust is gross betrayal of public trust, lack of financial stewardship and abuse of spiritual authority. Is there a Christian body with enough integrity to call this evil by its name?

I have read posts by church goers who highlight his benevolence, Bible knowledge and miracles that have come from his ministry. What is in dispute here is not his giving to charity or ability to teach the Bible. Anyone can do these without necessarily been born again.

And since the name of Jesus and the Word of God are effective any day, God will always honour the faith of His people even if the vessel ministering to them is as false as a 13 dollar bill.

At this stage of our Christian experience in Africa, miracles should no longer be the yardstick of genuineness.

Some Christians, in their desperation to launder the image of their hero (and it’s all about him), appeal to us to cover the crimes of our leaders just as Muslims do for theirs. This is the lowest watermark that people will sink to.

I must ask, since when did Christians – who are called to be the light of the world – began to model their ethical codes after the religions of this world? Indeed, it’s written in the Islamic hadith that if a Muslim covers the sins of a fellow Muslim, Allah will also cover their sins on judgement day.

Aside from the ethically flawed implications of that charge, the whole idea of sins being covered on judgement day is completely alien to Biblical eschatology and soteriology.

What does the Bible say we should do about evil or grievous sins being committed in Christian leadership?

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11).

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11).

Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Tim. 5:20).

This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13).

And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds” (Rev. 2:21-22)

Nothing here about covering up crimes or criminals to protect the image of a person or church. It is actually our exposure of them that shows the world our revulsion and makes it clear to others within the church that such actions are contrary to the Faith.

If you take a look at civilized climes, you will find that accountability in the church is not often overlooked.

Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Robert Liardon, Eddie Long etc. were all exposed for their sexual indiscretions at one point and they publicly confessed their deeds, and in the case of Bakker, served his sentence for financial misappropriation.

Even David Yonggi Cho, the icon of South Korea, publicly confessed his misdeeds and was sentenced to prison for his financial embezzlement – and the earth didn’t cave in neither did the sky fall to the ground.

But why is it that when it comes to our dear country, influential church leaders are excluded from any degree of scrutiny and accountability? Why do we prioritize image and status over truth and justice?

Here again is what the Bible says about Christians like Fatoyinbo who use Christianity as a cover for their unclean practices:

But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person” (1Cor. 5:11).

Paul even said such an evil person should be expelled from the church (v. 13)! This should cover all those defending and protecting sexually loose persons in their churches with the veil of shame.

The church in Nigeria needs to take some hard, unpopular stance in order to restore its sullied image before the world.

We cannot be denouncing corruption outside the church while making allowances for it inside the church. It is a travesty of the noble examples we should be giving to the unregenerate.

Most sex predators don’t work alone; they usually have enablers, whether in word or deed. There is always someone who saw or knew something but chose to look the other way. They need to break their silence on this case because judgement will start in the house of God.

From the accounts of Biodun’s victims, his wife, Modele, “Pastor Flo” and the elders of the church (“the COZA 12”), are all aware of Biodun’s numerous sexual assaults over the years. These are the devious people helping him in covering his tracks and giving him a makeover after each of his sexual vampirism.

These are the people who “strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life” (Ezekiel 13:22). No, Biodun is not the only alleged culprit of sexual predator and COZA is not the only slaughter pen in this country.

May the Lord expose them all. And may His healing balm minister to the lives of all their victims.