I consider myself blessed to have received the following thoughtful response to my earlier post about the suicide of Tom White, head of Voice of the Martyrs. The e-mail I received was too long to post as a comment, so I have included it here in grey, with my responses.
Concerning your first question, was Tom White most likely a Christian or not, my first thought is we cannot know anothers heart, we can only know our own. We can never be sure of anothers. My second thought is based on why I guess someone would commit suicide. Two reasons come to mind: the first is when the future looks in general too painful to live, so the easy way out is to not live it. The second reason is to pay for the cause of the embarrassment and shame. If Tom felt like he was a Christian, he probably felt he had besmirched the reputation of his Lord. The kicker comes when he decides to execute the punishment himself for the crime. He is either not trusting God to do what is right and has to do it himself, or he is trying to earn points by self-punishment. God never asked anyone to pay for their own sin. That Tom would do this would suggest he did not understand or accept the gospel. To do it to save the victim further pain just doesnt ring true to me.
It is possible that he did not understand the gospel or that he forgot what he had learned. Sinful humans do that. But one would think that a man who spent years building a ministry that clearly reflects the heart of God, not to mention 17 months in a Communist prison because of his efforts (effective or otherwise) to spread the gospel, would have been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, and shared in the Holy Spiritin short, hes no flake like mein such a way that his first reaction when he knew the jig was up would have been to seek reconciliation with the girl and her family.
And, as a better mind than mine has pointed out in private, this assumes that events were what the government says they were.
First, we dont know the identity of Brother Toms accuser, and it could be that there is no girl at all. One would think that a system interested in justice would publish the names of either both parties or neither. That only the defendants name is published creates a moral hazard for the prosecution (including the plaintiff) in that it suffers nothing if it losesand the prosecutor himself, of course, is paid handsomely for his effortswhile the defendant loses freedom, time, and money in the process. Its win-win for the prosecution and lose-lose for the defendant.
Second, people dont usually commit suicide at work. They do it at home or in isolated places. Conclusive evidence that the state was after him for something else? No. Strange? Yes.
The above is from a human perspective. You ask also about Gods perspective. We can be assured that God is both good and just, and allows only that which ultimately brings Him glory. One could argue that either suicide or not committing suicide could meet those ends. In this case perhaps the lesson is the punishment for sin is death, either ones own death, or the death of our Savior on the cross.
Concerning the setup for the second question, let me respond to some of your statements. [My original statements are in italics; his response is in bold.—QP]
1. Every rape complaint means more work for government agents. For some I am sure this is true. To say it is true for all is oversimplification and unfair to many truly helpful, caring, and loving social workers.
Government workers are paid whether they do their jobs or not. Yes, some are scrupulous. Others are not. The question then becomes, do the scruples of the scrupulous justify a system that also pays the unscrupulous (using money that is, dont forget, extorted from those who earn it)? Or do the scruples of the scrupulous actually allow the extortionsinecure system to expand by lending it the perception of legitimacy?
2. I assume you consider soldiers exemplary government agents. Not true. We are all aware of unjust, hateful, cruel and mean acts conducted by soldiers through all of history. They are sinners under severe mental strain given inordinate power, which is a recipe for problems.
The church attended by the letters addressees prays regularly and specifically for the US military and until recentlyand then primarily because of yeoman efforts by a lay womansporadically and generally for missionaries the church supports. While there have been occasional prayers that Christian soldiers will act in a manner that befits their claim to be Christians, the assumption that the mission they are on is truly to defend our freedoms, to execute Gods wrath on evildoers, and to be of no threat to those who do what is right has never been questioned.
3. the same soldier who told me, "I don't make the policies. My job is to carry them out." Yes, lower ranking soldiers in general are paid to follow orders, not to make decisions.
Is this not also a moral hazard? Will God not judge the soldier who ordered female prisoners at Auschwitz to disrobe and enter the gas chamber and then turned on the gas, as well as the officer who commanded him to do it, as well as the politicians who set the policies? To acknowledge the legitimacy of the state is to legitimize the whole process: the guy at the top gets a pass because he didnt turn the switch, and the soldier gets a pass because he didnt give the order.
4. government agents in charge of investigating sexual assault are less interested in the welfare of the victim than in doing their job... No- not every government agent is a soldier. Other people are paid to investigate justice and make moral decisions- not to just follow orders. You are grossly oversimplifying.
This was a blog post, not a doctoral dissertation, so yes, I was oversimplifying. But again, it is the scruples of the agent, not the incentives built into the system, that results in justice. And no less an authority than Chuck Colson has gone on record as saying that victims feel exploited by the justice system.
5. The welfare of the victim is secondary at best. I agree that it seems that way sometimes. This contradicts, however, a quote in the second article you cited. Bartlesville Police Capt. Jay Hastings noted that the department's next step is to ensure the girl receives proper treatment or counseling.
If I read Colson correctly, his point was that the welfare of the victim is secondary most of the time. When Bernie Madoff went to jail, how much of the money he stole went back to his victims? Or are they rather now not taxed to provide him room, board, and whatever else he consumes as a prisoner? And if the government were not to see that the girl gets counseling, what recourse would her family have?
Also, what kind of counseling would the girl receive? Would a government that fastidiously avoids mixing church and state pay for her to receive Christian counseling? Or is it more likely that shell be counseled by a radical feminist to blame her situation on the patriarchalism inherent to Christianity? And who will pay the bill? The putative offender is dead. Will his family have to foot the bill? Or will the already-overburdened taxpayer be hit up once again?
6. the prosecutor, another government agent, is not likely to be as concerned with the victim's welfare as with advancing the interests of the state or his own career. Yes, this is likely, however his job is to uphold justice, which is a higher calling than the interests of an individual. Otherwise the legal system would be nothing but retribution and blood feuds. Thats the value of the rule of law.
Again, he is paid whether he upholds justice or not. If the position requires an election, the only thing that keeps him employed is getting the votes, and only his scruples dictate how honestly he pursues those votes.
I disagree that his job is to uphold justice. His job is to further the ends of the state, whatever they be. Law enforcement is not the same as upholding justice: the agents who enforced the fugitive slave laws in the US and who rounded up the prisoners for Auschwitz were enforcing the law, but I dont think they were upholding justice.
God never calls us to the rule of law. He calls us to submit to him as a person. This is what we as his ambassadors are to be calling our neighbors to. There are rules, but they are Gods rules. Most of the laws our law enforcement people enforceprohibitions against peaceful activities like growing hemp and selling raw milk come to mindare unbiblical.
So, I think your second question is How is this [judgement by the church] a worse situation than what would have [happened] had Mr. White taken his medicine like a man [and lived to be investigated and prosecuted by the law]? My answer is I dont think it would have been worse, but may have been considerably better by being tempered with love, compassion for both, a deep God-given understanding of human nature, and willingness to invest counseling and time in restoration. I think conflicts between believers should be resolved in the churchGod is quite clear about this.
Thank you. That was my point exactly.
It would have been considerably better had the situation been handled through non-state means, specifically the church in this case. First Corinthians 6:7 says, The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
Child molestation is certainly more serious than the financial matters Paul appears to be talking about, but then the question arises, when is a matter too serious for Gods people to handle alone? When do they need the assistance of the godless state?
Here the victims family apparently chose state terrorismthe state is supposed to be a terror for evildoers, some would sayrather than the path of fraternal confrontation, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation, a path I have never heard of a state even offering. Perhaps the family tried non-state means first and that was never reported. But even so, then, were back to the question of when God wants us to hang our dirty laundry out for the world to see.
I have seen signs in churches declaring that the state will be called in to deal with any cases of child molestation on church property. Now Ive had four daughters go through church youth programs, and had I had any doubts about the moral fortitude of our churchs staffno such doubts ever crossed my mind I would have taken comfort in knowing that the matter would have been taken seriously. But the last thing I would have wanted to see would have been those men and women whose names I knew and whose children were my childrens friends put in jail, their names in the papers, their futures ruined, their spouses alone and impoverished, and their children publicly shamed—not to mention the church's name in the papers and thousands of tongues wagging that Christ not only doesn't save his people from sin, they can't deal with it without help from unbelievers.
I hope the girls father is happy. If it was a dead child molester he wanted, he got it. I suspect the only fly he sees in the ointment is that either he didnt get to do the deed himself or the process wasnt made more torturous by some sadist in prison.
Call me what you will, but the sooner I no longer share the planet with people who share his happiness, the better.