March 28, 2020

Guest Blogger: Introducing Steve Scott

I’m sure that many of you have noticed that I have been publishing essays by Michael Bell. I’m now going to introduce a second “occasional” contributor: Steve Scott.

I’ve been impressed with Steve’s blogging at “From the Pew” for quite a while. We share many of the same perspectives and Steve has been a positive and helpful commenter here at IM. You can now look forward to him writing once a month or as he has something worthwhile to say. I also hope you’ll be a regular reader at “From the Pew.” As you might expect, Steve and I don’t completely agree (note the Rushdoony reference), and that’s in keeping with the environment I try to encourage here at the most diverse Christian discussion in the blogosphere. His journey is unique and I look forward to reading his contributions.

I’ve asked Steve to describe some of his journey in evangelicalism so you can know a bit more of where he is coming from as a contributor.

I “became a Christian” in 1994 at the age of thirty. I put this in quotes because my conversion was a long, arduous process rather than a point in time. For simplicity, I use 1994 because it is the time when I started attending church regularly.

I was tossed into the fire from the very beginning. In 1989 I discovered a teacher on the radio who emphasized the Bible heavily, and for the first time I considered my sin and my destiny seriously.

I heard the Gospel, but it was mixed with such a crippling legalism that it was hard for me to want to live that kind of life even if I knew I was going to heaven. I heard a fatalistic brand of Calvinism that left me with no way to be saved, and a complex allegorical method of interpretation that made it impossible for anybody but this teacher to figure the Bible out. I felt like there was nothing to look forward to but an eternity in hell. He made such heavy use of proof texts that I believed everything he said, and was so convinced along with him that there weren’t any good churches out there that I didn’t attend one for five years. Every night I drank a six pack and listened to him plot my doom. As bad as the good news was, I simply couldn’t stop listening.

Things worsened during that time as this man, using a combination of complex mathematical formulas and Old Testament timelines, predicted the end of the world and return of Christ to take place in 1994. My analytical mind bought into this, too. I found his church and attended starting in ’94. His prediction obviously failed, and it wasn’t long before I started questioning his teachings – a dangerous thing in an environment where questioning was out of the question.

A friend introduced me to another church the following year. They were legalistic as well, but in a more Reformed Baptist flavor. Many of the rules were the same, but others that supposedly came from the same Bible were the exact opposite. My prior divorce that would leave me single the rest of my life was suddenly not only Biblically allowed, but I was being admonished to marry. Buying a suit to wear to church changed from being a waste of money in pursuit of worldly vanity to a requirement for giving God our best on Sunday. Formal church membership changed from being a mere option to an exclusionary prerequisite more important than baptism or communion. They introduced me to the idea that everything, including changing a roll of toilet paper, had to be “under the authority of the local church.” They were very controlling of every detail in the lives of believers.

I then came under the influence of a group of Sovereign Grace Baptists who exposed the legalism of my first two churches. Yet they went to the opposite extreme of labeling sanctification as works righteousness.

I was confused, yet through all the confusion I realized that these churches didn’t think much of making disciples. It took four churches and two years before I was even baptized. They were far more concerned with doctrine than with people.

I soon discovered new evangelical leaders: Horton, MacArthur, Sproul, Piper, Hanegraaf. I came to realize that most of what I learned of the Christian life was taught to me in terms of “what to believe” but not “how to think.” The Christian faith seemed to be just a pile of pre-packaged answers inside of a big box. Evangelicals had the “Biblical” answers for everything as well as all the formulas for living, all in easy to read black and white. Getting married? Here, study this. Having kids? Here’s a book for you. Trouble with finances? Here are some sermon tapes. As life became more complicated, I realized that too many things no longer fit in the box. I also realized that an hour of preaching and Sunday school each week couldn’t cover all my needs for answers. I realized I needed to read the Bible for myself.

I credit R.J. Rushdoony for teaching me how to think for myself. Though I don’t agree with all his writings, I gained a newfound freedom of knowledge and conscience.

I first entered Christianity having to cope with false teachings of eschatology and legalism. I seemed to be in defensive mode and learned quickly that I needed to search the Scriptures to see if everything being taught was true. I wrote much of my theological wrestling down. I also saw destruction and pain in people’s lives as a result of bad doctrine. Bad doctrine doesn’t just happen on paper. I’ve never stopped analyzing my beliefs and have developed a desire to change them if necessary.

Along the way I also discovered that the kingdom is much larger than the church. Jesus spoke much about the kingdom, yet only twice about the church. Everything we do is kingdom oriented. The saying, “If it isn’t happening within the four walls of the church, then it’s missions” isn’t really a biblical reality. My earlier beliefs that the church was all there was drove me to be involved in any and every church ministry I could, resulting in burnout.

About five years ago I realized that I needed an outlet for my growth in the Christian faith. I started blogging about my experience of wrestling with theology. I have come to “re-think” a great many things that I’ve been taught in the past. Since I’ve been exposed mostly to evangelicalism, especially from a Reformed perspective, it dominates my focus. In re-thinking things, I’m also driven to write about things evangelicalism doesn’t address very well, things that are necessary in life. I examine the role of government as it was intended by God, and what our response should be. I’ve discovered that “Romans 13 says to obey the government” is a woefully inadequate interpretation. What should we do when laws contradict each other? I’ve never heard a good explanation from evangelical teachers. Why are there different views of baptism? Why are there different ways of doing church? Why do we do what we do as evangelicals?

Writing has become a passion for me. It is therapeutic and gives me a way to organize my thoughts “on paper.” I have dreams of larger writing projects using what I’ve already accomplished. Ultimately my prayer is that I will be able to help other people think for themselves so they can be effective in advancing God’s kingdom for the sake of Christ.

Comments

  1. Jo Ann Peterson says

    Steve – Thank you for sharing your theological struggles. It’s encouraging when you find out you’re not crazy or “hopeless”.

  2. Christopher Lake says

    That “Bible teacher” whom you used to listen to avidly– Harold Camping?

  3. I was going to guess R.B. Thieme.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Who knows? There are a LOT of “Bible Teachers” like that on the airwaves. Beating you over the head with the Party Line/Bible until You Love Big Brother. They messed up my head back in the Seventies.

    Though the “combination of complex mathematical formulas and Old Testament timelines, predicted the end of the world and return of Christ” makes me think it’s that “88 Reasons Why The Rapture WILL Happen in 1988!” guy trying to make another comeback after his sequel “89 Reason Why The Rapture WILL Happen in 1989!!!” bombed. (I am NOT making that up.) Though that’s still not anything unique — there’s a Legion of “Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist” preachers out there, too.

  5. Looking forward to reading more… Thanks, MS, for recommending & sharing other voices.

  6. Scott,

    I have been doing some reading at your site. You have some very nice stuff there. Check him out people.

  7. treebeard says

    Scott, thanks for a wonderful post. (And thanks, iMonk, for the introduction of another great blogger.)
    Could you say more, Scott, about how you overcame your legalistic doctrinal background, and how you overcame your experience of spiritual burnout? Thanks.

  8. Christopher,

    It very well could be. Let me check my records. 🙂

  9. Ultimately my prayer is that I will be able to help other people think for themselves so they can be effective in advancing God’s kingdom for the sake of Christ.

    My “purpose statement” (I flinch a little at the term and idea) would be very similar to this .

    May GOD breath life and hope in all you do and write.

    Greg R

  10. Just read his profile ….the lad likes Guinness and U2 and baseball; we must be from a similar tribe.

  11. “I came to realize that most of what I learned of the Christian life was taught to me in terms of ‘what to believe’ but not ‘how to think.'”

    Thank you for stating that. I think a lot of Christians are brought up assuming that thought is the enemy of faith.

  12. Mr. Ox: I hear this ALL the time from people that should know better. Often put in some kind of package like: reason and faith are at odds, man’s ways (I guess that would include thinking, reason, logic, often the sciences) are not GOD’s ways….blah,blah,blah

    self-imposed religious stupidity…whooo-hooo !!

  13. I’m also a little disturbed iMonk, “I credit R.J. Rushdoony for teaching me how to think for myself” = sincerely scary.

  14. Savannah says

    I’m with Dave N., although I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day. I find many of Rushdoony’s views abhorrent. His views of non-whites and women are not “minor” problems.

    But nonetheless, welcome Steve and thank you for sharing your theological/spiritual journey with us.

  15. This was the tail end of one of Steve’s messages on re-thinking the Sunday service…it’s both ironically funny and sad at the same time; I hope this cut and paste is OK

    from his blog “from the pew”
    In Part 7, I noted that the 1 Corinthians passage showed all the members of the assembly involved in edifying the whole body. The typical American church model, though, has one person – or very few – doing all the work on Sunday. This is made odd when a good deal of preaching is in telling the church attenders that they are a bunch of pew sitters that don’t do much, and should get involved in helping the body.

    So, a very many church people are hindered from doing the work of building up the body, then condemned for not doing the work of building up the body. I can see why so many people want to leave church

    I read that, laughed, and then said, “What the….”

  16. OK….Let me be clear that I don’t know enough about Rushdoony to verify or deny anything said about him on here. Please folks, let’s not go down the “someone said Rushdoony, I’ll say “racist” road.

    He said the guy taught him how to think. I could have left that out and skipped these comments, but it’s Steve’s journey. I once had a box of R.B. Thieme materials. Shoot me.

    Let’s keep it where it is, and not open the box of guilt by association.

  17. A couple of clarifications. First, I could see the Rushdoony comments coming before I wrote this. 🙂 Anyway, I read him for 5-6 years, gleaned some good things from him, then came to a number of different conclusions.

    Second, I don’t think that “what to believe” is void of reason and thinking. As evangelicals, we have a large body of knowledge given to us with a lot of dots to connect using a lot of reason and thinking. Often “what to believe” is also being told how the dots connect themselves together. I enjoy finding the dots that aren’t in the picture originally given to us.

  18. Steve, Enjoyed reading, but have to look up some things (Rushdoony sounds like a Ben & Jerry’s flavor). Just curious, Have you ever read Ambrose, Ignatius of Antioch or Augustine of Hippo? They have lots to say about church, thinking and connecting dots. AnneG in NC

  19. Savannah says

    I never said Steve was “guilty by association”, IM. He brought up Rushdoony, and later confirms that he knew it would be a problem for some people.

    Here’s an irony: the only reason I know anything about Rushdoony is because you wrote a post on “complementarianism” awhile back and I started seriously researching this view and that led me to th patriarchal “view”, and the fact is that Rushdoony is a hero to a lot of these patriarchal folks. Rushdoony’s writings and viewpoints are not hard to find, btw.

    So give me a smack with a ruler if you want, but I’m not the one who brought this very controversial. . .uhmmm. . . theologian up. I understand that he is part of Steve’s journey, but he admits knowing that it would probably cause some angst for people who know who this man was. And it did. So shoot me.

  20. Savannah,

    Please don’t assume that I am associating your comment with all possible future comments.

    I just know that the accusation of racism is denied by many who have read him, and the accusation of racism is regularly leveled at guys like Doug Wilson, who I know isn’t a racist.

    I have never mentioned Rushdoony unless I was quoting someone else. I haven’t read the guy and don’t plan to. I do know a bit about his influence on some good people and some not so good ones.

    I don’t want a Rushdoony debate, but I also don’t want matter of fact statements on racism unless they have some available documentation.

    Honestly I am not smacking or shooting. I am not comfortable with theonomy and have no plans to undertake any discussions of it.

    Just trying to moderate here.

    peace

    ms

  21. All,

    Thank you for the warm welcome. It is much appreciated.

    treebeard, one church I attended had standards for membership that I simply couldn’t meet. I had to agree jot and tittle with all their creeds, confessions, by-laws, etc. It was too much to have to agree with. That’s how I escaped the legalism, and the Sovereign Grace baptist group and my next church pointed a lot of things out, and were more grace oriented. The ministry burnout was solved when we adopted a child. I had to quit them all.

    AnneG, I haven’t read them, but would love to have the time.

  22. Steve,

    I enjoyed your post. I’ll be adding your blog to my regular reads.

    Thanks

  23. FYI: The Kingdom of God = The Church

  24. noarminian says

    So…you still drinking a 6 pack a night? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  25. I ran across some quotes of Martin Luther which may exacerbate the issue of thought vs. faith. One is, “Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense and understanding”; another: “Human reason is like a drunken man on horseback; set it up on one side, and it tumbles over on the other”; and this one, apparently even picked up on by Dawkins: “reason is the enemy of faith”. John Wesley even accused Luther of having a low view of reason.

    I don’t completely defend Luther’s view of reason; however, I think generally he has been misunderstood. All my best reason tells me that I could never be forgiven. In that context, reason stands as my accuser – echoing the stern message of the law. My reason is absolutely correct: I don’t deserve to be forgiven; without Christ, I am beyond hope of forgiveness. But Romans 5:8 says that I am forgiven, in spite of what my reason or the law may say.

    I don’t think Luther had a low view of reason or the law. I think he just knew how scandalous God’s grace is. I think Luther also had a skewed view of Aquinas, but that’s another story.