Ted Haggard On How Not To Repent

In 2006, Ted Haggard joined the “pantheon” of fallen megachurch pastors after being caught red-handed in a gay sex and drugs scandal. Most Christians weep over such incidents, grieve for the damage done to the church of Christ, pray that the man will repent and find forgiveness with God, and hope that he will take a quiet and unpublicized place in the church of Christ for the rest of his life.

Usually it’s a vain hope. As it was in this case too.

After a short period of “restoration,” the Haggards returned to the public eye with books, television interviews, and a re-launched ministry.

I suppose we all still hoped that despite appearances, there had been true repentance, that Haggard really had owned his sin, taken responsibility, accepted the blame, and sincerely confessed his guilt.

But a recent blog post raises a huge question mark against that hope. In Suicide, Evangelicals, and Sorrow, Haggard used the recent suicide of another megachurch pastor’s son, Isaac Hunter, to continue his attempts at resurrecting his name, reputation, and ministry. His post really is an almost perfect example of how not to repent.

So why highlight it? First, because it will help us to spot these characteristics when dealing with others who have fallen into public sin and scandal. Sadly, there are predictable patterns to these things that we’d do well to acquaint ourselves with so that we are not duped.  And second, because we can use it as a personal heart-check to examine how we respond to our own sin.

1. I’m no worse than anyone else. In a number of places Haggard basically says, “OK, I’m not perfect, but neither are you. We all fall short. We’ve all had sin intrude horribly into our lives. Only Christ is perfect.” In other words, why make such an example of me when you’re no better.

2. My problem was not spiritual. ”The therapeutic team that dug in on me insisted that I did not have a spiritual problem.”

3. It was something that happened to me. “Contrary to popular reports, my core issue was not sexual orientation, but trauma.” It’s not so much about what I did, or who I am, but about what someone else did to me.

4. I wasn’t responsible; someone else was to blame. ”I had a physiological problem rooted in a childhood trauma.”

5. I needed therapy, not faith and repentance. ”I needed trauma resolution therapy….I went through EMDR, a trauma resolution therapy.”

6. It wasn’t a personal choice. Haggard asks: “Do we actually believe that the many pastors who have been characterized as fallen decided to be hateful, immoral, greedy, or deceitful?” Then answers: “I think not.”

7. Christians are cruel and unforgiving. In a number of places Haggard attacks Christians saying that they lack sympathy, grace, and forgiveness. “My sin never made me suicidal, but widespread church reaction to me did.” He also speaks of the “brutal mail” and “hurtful communications” he received, and he imagines the Warrens and Hunters did too. He lambasts an “evangelical culture that alienates those who fall and spiritualizes their struggles.”

8. Attack the accusers. Throughout this piece Haggard is continually swiping at his accusers and those who initiated church discipline against him. They are “flat-earthers,” “Judaizers,” “scrutinizers,” “Pharisees” who are “too busy with the sins of others.”

9. You just don’t understand me: “When I explain [my trauma and the trauma resolution therapy] to most Evangelical leaders, their eyes glaze over.” He goes on to characterize Christians who rejected his excuses as simplistic fundamentalists.

10. My sins were not as bad as you think. ”My accuser failed his lie detector test and refused to take another, and I passed four lie detector tests given by three different polygraphers saying that the primary accusations were false.”

Sadly there is no shortage of naive people who will swallow this self-pitying self-justifying narrative hook, line, and sinker. (And sadly there’s no shortage of media outlets who will happily use Haggard as a stick to beat the “unforgiving” church with.)

Even more sadly, our own hearts can also do a Haggard when we are confronted with our own sins.

Real repentance looks and sounds radically different. It says: “I’m worse than you, worse than you think, and did worse than you can imagine. No matter what was in my past, I deliberately chose these sinful actions and accept full responsibility for them. I deserve whatever consequences result from them. I shamed my Lord and His church. If some Christians treat me badly, that’s OK, I understand. I can’t and won’t complain. I won’t say or write anything that will portray the Church or Christians in a bad light. I’ve brought enough damage on the church already. And I certainly won’t use the tragic suicides of others to further my own public rehabilitation.”

That’s the kind of repentance that leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).


GM Drives Through the Glass Ceiling – Finally
A Detroit Free Press editorial underlines the significant cultural milestone of Mary Barra becoming the first woman head of a Big Three Automaker: “There is something especially notable, and pleasantly jarring, about a woman ascending to the top job at a company that has been so consumed with male ego and bravado.”

Avoiding the Idea of Death
Paul Wilkinson spots a new trend in sympathy cards. We seem to have gone from “died” to “passed away” to “passed” and now simply to “away.”

Being Against Gay Marriage Doesn’t Make You a Homophobe
A homosexual argues that people can oppose gay marriage without being “anti-gay.” While he still believes that those who are opposed to gay marriage are wrong, he provides distinctions that could help take some of the heat and anger out of this debate. Key line: ”Disagreement is not the same thing as discrimination. Our language ought to reflect that distinction”

And if you want to see real phobia in action look at how gay activists reacted to one of their own leaving their “lifestyle of death” to marry a woman, read Former Gay Activist Marries a Woman.

Raising A Generation of Helpless Kids
Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders has dedicated himself to developing Generation Y leaders (kids born between 1984 and 2002).  He says that many parents’ obsession with safety is ruining their kids’ prospects: “”We are consumed with protecting them instead of preparing them for the future. We haven’t let them fall, fail and fear. The problem is that if they don’t take risks early on like climbing the monkey bars and possibly falling off, they are fearful of every new endeavor at age 29.”

Where did we go wrong?

  • We’ve told our kids to dream big – and now any small act seems insignificant.
  • We’ve told our kids that they are special – for no reason, even though they didn’t display excellent character or skill, and now they demand special treatment.
  • We gave our kids every comfort – and now they can’t delay gratification.
  • We made our kid’s happiness a central goal – and now it’s difficult for them to generate happiness — the by-product of living a meaningful life.

And what are the uncomfortable solutions:

  • We need to let our kids fail at 12 – which is far better than at 42,
  • Kids need to align their dreams with their gifts.
  • Allow them to get into trouble and accept the consequences. It’s okay to make a “C-.” Next time, they’ll try harder to make an “A”.
  • Balance autonomy with responsibility. If your son borrows the car, he also has to re-fill the tank.
  • Collaborate with the teacher, but don’t do the work for your child. If he fails a test, let him take the consequences.

Riley Banks Q&A
And if that depressed you too much, read this inspirational story about a 17 year old girl who is making a profound impact in Kenya.

7 Enduring Lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Just to keep you in the holiday spirit, Matt Lewis “preaches a sermon” on the classic film. Here’s how he introduces his 7-pointer:

If you’re looking for proof of the decline of values, comparing two holiday movies — Love Actually and Frank Capra’s timeless black-and-white classic It’s a Wonderful Life — is illustrative.

The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr recently penned an excellent takedown of the former, calling it the “least romantic film of all time.” Among the pernicious lessons imparted, Orr says, is the notion “that love is overwhelmingly a product of physical attraction and requires virtually no verbal communication or intellectual/emotional affinity of any kind.”

Fortunately, It’s a Wonderful Life is still around. And in contrast to Love Actually, it’s chock-full of terrific lessons, ranging from moral to financial to practical. Here are seven…”

Check out

The Conditionality and Unconditionality of Grace
Sinclair Ferguson explains a vital distinction.

I’m giving you a whole pile of books this Christmas
Santa Armstrong comes to town bearing 26 books and three Logos 5 packages.

Athanasius on the Unique Place of the Psalms
And if this doesn’t get you singing the psalms, nothing will.

Why our Housing Schemes are not Post-Christian
This jives with my own years of working with men in the homeless shelters of Glasgow.

You Can be Hospitable Even with Little
Nicely timed encouragement.

Top 10 Reasons I Love Evernote
And just in case you’re not convinced, Tim Challies says Evernote Owns Me.

Three Special Offers on Jesus on Every Page

Jesus on Every PageTurned on my Mac this morning to discover Amazon selling the Kindle version of Jesus on Every Page at just $2.99. Not sure whether to be happy or sad about that!




Special OfferThat comes on top of the special offer of $100 of free Old Testament Resources if you buy before December 20.



SkypeLastly, and hopefully not leastly, if you are using or plan to use Jesus on Every Page in a group Bible study, I’d love to connect and chat with your group via Skype. Shoot me an email at blog@headhearthand.org and we’ll set up a time for a Video Q&A about the book.

The Power of Empathy (Animated)

Want to learn how to be a better counselor, friend, or even just a better parent? Then you need to learn the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Let a sad fox, a judgmental reindeer, and an empathetic bear teach you the difference as they bring Dr. Brene Brown’s famous 2010 TED Talk (viewed 12.5 million times) on The Power of Vulnerability to life.

Top 70 Resources on Christ in the Old Testament

The latest in a periodic series highlighting resources on the Web.

That last entry lists the best of the web by various authors on Christ in the Old Testament. The list below links to the blog articles I’ve written on Christ in the Old Testament.

7 Ways the Old Testament Deepens our Love for Jesus

Jesus on Every Page Poem

Top 50 Books on Christ in the Old Testament

Excellency of the Gospel Above the Law

Covenant Theology for the Rest of Us

7 Reasons to Study Your Old Testament

Christ in the OT: Calvin’s Eight Principles

Noah’s Ark and the Cross of Christ

John Newton on Christ in the Old Testament

Why Sing the Psalms?

The Popularity, Pitfalls, And Practice Of Christ-Centered Interpretation

Christ-Centered Hermeneutics and Typology

Jesus on Every Page Podcast

4 Ways To Get From Joseph To Jesus

The Most God-Like Man In The Old Testament

Two Keys To Old Testament Prophecy

I Wish I’d Died In Your Place

Is the Law our Greatest Enemy?

Two Vital Old Testament Questions

Is This The Most Sexist Verse In The Bible?

God’s Powerpoint of Grace

7 Reasons the Old Testament is Neglected

Calling All Women’s Bible studies

4 Ways to Sing the “I’m Persecuted” Psalms

6 Tips for Choosing Books on the Old Testament

Law and Gospel in the Old Testament

5 Reasons to Study Old Testament history

What’s the Difference Between Typology and Allegory?

“Death, You Shall Die”

Mercy for Roadkill

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

20 Tips on How to Use Bible commentaries

Can you Preach the Gospel from the Law?

Was Abraham a Flip-flopper?

The Prototype Believer

Therapeutic Praise

Desiring the God who Desires Sinners

7 Tips for Balanced Biographical Preaching

30 “I will’s” from Hosea

Sermon Notes on Song of Solomon

Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching: Narratives

God’s Face

The Old Testament on One Page

10 Problems with Old Testament Teaching

A Good Question from Justin Taylor

Two Mistakes in Bible Interpretation

A Sponge, a Dropper, and a Pressure Washer

10 Ways that Believers Experienced the Holy Spirit in the OT

Did the Holy Spirit Indwell OT believers?

Mr and Mrs Israelite Read Ruth

Reformed Forum: Christ in the Old Testament

Why Does God Seem so Different in the OT than in the NT?

Do Christians Have to Obey Old Testament laws?

Some Faulty Theological Arithmetic

How Many Animals will Save my Soul?

Big Question. Bigger Consequences

Optical Illusions and Theological Realities

Gloriously Cloudy

Cautions on Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

Psalm 2: The first (and last) world war

Psalm 1: The Great Divide

O My Son Absalom?

Deborahs or Jezebels

General Guidelines for OT exegesis

The Old Testament: Where to begin?

Fraser Valley Bible conference video

Is the Old Testament Still Relevant?

Psalm 77 Therapy

Is Moses in Heaven? How?


The Old Testament: A Dictionary Of Christian Vocabulary

The Best Bible Dictionary

Our Undercover Boss