Sheep-Dog, a regular reader here, wanted to see the original press release from our former pastor. The link to the original “press release” is no longer working at The Wartburg Watch and the document was apparently removed from the BGBC website. A reader sent O’Neal an e-mail and this press release was included in O’Neal’s response and was later forwarded to me.
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Things are not always what they first seem to be. Here is a portion of the rest of the story.
BEAVERTON GRACE BIBLE CHURCH
There is another side to the story. Beaverton Grace Bible Church wants to present its side of the story before anyone rushes to judgment. In Nov. of 2008 a man was removed from the staff of Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC). Since that time, Pastor Charles O’Neal and the Beaverton Grace Bible Church have been the targets of a three and a half year campaign of defamation by a group of former church members and attenders who are close personal friends of the former staff member. The church elders and the pastor did little to defend themselves over these three and a half years, believing that the individuals would tire of the effort and eventually cease the defamation. However, that did not prove to be successful. In fact it was counter-productive. The defamation campaign escalated recently when one of the former congregants established a blog on the internet with the intent of reaching a broader audience. This divisive group has used review websites, blogs, the police, the Department of Human Services, and now the local media in their three and a half year campaign to destroy Pastor O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church with false accusations that range from ridiculous to criminal.
The facts will show that this is not a free speech case. Just after the release of the before mentioned staff member, in Dec. of 2008, a member of this group called the police and the DHS to deliver a false report accusing Pastor O’Neal of physically abusing his own children and allowing pornography to be distributed to adolescents in the church. He, his family, and the church were subsequently investigated by the authorities and the case was dismissed as unfounded. His only response to these vicious charges was to state his own denial. As the campaign has escalated the postings on the internet have falsely accused Pastor O’Neal of being a “wolf,” a “liar,” a” narcissist” and one who “knew about a sex offender in the church who had access to the nursery and the children on a weekly basis and did not have any safeguards in place.” In yet further escalation, Julie Anne Smith stated that the church allows “sex offenders having free reign in childrens’ area with no discloser to parents… .” This is most likely the second worst thing that can be said about a pastor and a church and most certainly constitutes defamation.
Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Pastor O’Neal, and his family have patiently suffered these accusations for three and a half years. In light of the escalation of postings on the internet and the creation of the blog dedicated to continuing the accusations and spreading them to and even wider audience, the elders of the church concluded that their only viable option was legal action. They very reluctantly decided to defend their church and their pastor against these allegations in the courts of Oregon where they believe that truth will prevail. They trust that application of the law will demonstrate that defamation on the internet is not the type of speech that is protected by either the U.S. Constitution or the Oregon Constitution.
In response to the many rightly concerned Christians in the local community and around the world who are emailing and calling, Pastor O’Neal has stated:
Please do not be quick to believe what you hear or read in the press and then pass judgment upon our motives or our commitment to Scripture. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.” Proverbs 25:8 says, “Do not go hastily to court; For what will you do in the end, When your neighbor has put you to shame?” We have not gone hastily to court. For three and a half years this group has been engaged in a public,church to church, and World Wide Web defamation, showing their willingness to discredit God, harm the church, harm wives, harm children, and harm the testimony of Christ’s Gospel. It is BGBC’s firm conviction that this cannot continue. The ministry of the local church and the Gospel cannot continue to be hindered. Families cannot continue to be threatened by false allegations of abuse. 1 Cor. 6:7-8 was not meant to protect this group from the the legal consequences of their deeds. Matthew Henry (Charles Spurgeon’s favorite commentator) comments on 1 Cor. 6; “Here is at least an intimation that they went to law for trivial matters, things of little value; for the apostle blames them that they did not suffer wrong rather than go to law (v. 7), which must be understood of matters not very important. In matters of great damage to ourselves or families, we may use lawful means to right ourselves. We are not bound to sit down and suffer the injury tamely, without stirring for our own relief; but, in matters of small consequence, it is better to put up with the wrong. Christians should be of a forgiving temper. And it is more for their ease and honour to suffer small injuries and inconveniences than seem to be contentious.” (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.) After three and a half years of suffering a great many injuries tamely, without stirring for our own relief, we are now using lawful means to right the ministry of the Gospel at BGBC and to protect our families. We thank you for your prayers.
*The following msn news story may help give you a better understanding of what is taking place (please follow the link).
*BGBC has a very high view of God’s Word as did others though out the history of the church, who understand that there are times where legal recourse is necessary in the defense of one’s family, one’s children, and other families and children.*Matthew Henry (Charles Spurgeon’s favorite commentator) comments on this text: “Here is at least an intimation that they went to law for trivial matters, things of little value; for the apostle blames them that they did not suffer wrong rather than go to law (v. 7), which must be understood of matters not very important. IN MATTERS OF GREAT DAMAGE TO OURSELVES OR FAMILIES, WE MAY USE LAWFUL MEANS TO RIGHT OURSELVES. WE ARE NOT BOUND TO SIT DOWN AND SUFFER THE INJURY TAMELY, WITHOUT STIRRING FOR OUR OWN RELIEF; but, in matters of small consequence, it is better to put up with the wrong. Christians should be of a forgiving temper. And it is more for their ease and honour to suffer small injuries and inconveniences than seem to be contentious.” (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)
*Albert Barnes: Where a Christian is INJURED in his person, character, or property, he has a right to seek redress. Courts, are instituted for the protection and defense of the innocent and the peaceable against the fraudulent, the wicked, and the violent. And a Christian owes it to his country, to his family, and to himself, that the man who has injured him should receive the proper punishment. The peace and welfare of the community demand it. If a man murders my wife or child, I owe it to the laws and to my country, to justice and to God, to endeavor to have the law enforced. So if a man robs my property, or injures my character, I may owe it to OTHERS as well as to myself that the law in such a case should be executed, and the rights of others also be secured. But in all these cases, a Christian should engage in such prosecutions not with a desire of revenge, not with the love of litigation, but with the love of justice, and of God, and with a mild, tender, candid and forgiving temper, with a real desire that the opponent may be benefited, and that all HIS rights also should be secured;(from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)
*Forbidden Lawsuits –John MacArthur1 Corinthians 6:1-8
October 26, 1975
Now, lemme add this. It may be under some circumstances, and I have to leave in aloophole here, it may be under some circumstances necessary for a Christian to go to court. Sometimes you have a sad thing where one Christian want to divorce another one, and in a divorce situation, of course you know what the Bible says. God hates divorce. God hates it. Malachi said that. God doesn’t want divorce. Divorce just shatters lives, and sometimes a Christian will be divorced by another Christian, and there’s no way that that Christian can try to preserve a union which he believes God wants than to go to the court, and he isn’t really the one who is suing. He’s just going to protect what he believes God has ordained. There’s no personal vengeance there. There’s no personal gain there. There’s no monetary motive there. If his motive is to glorify God and preserve what God has said is right, then…then maybe there is justification at that place to go to court, and I won’t make a moral judgment on that.There may be such a thing in custody situations, too, where you have children, and you have parents that are split; and one parent is a…is a solid, really God-honoring, Christ-loving parent, and the other one is just…claims to be a Christian but I…I knew of one situation just like that. This woman claimed to be a Christian and became a prostitute, and there was a natural desire to get custody of the children, and the court case came up, and custody was given to the Christian situation; and it was a really…it was a good thing. It was a very happy thing. The children were being abused. They were being beaten up by various and sundry men. All kinds of tragic things were happening.I’m not saying that the Bible forbids ever entering a court under any circumstances; but what the Bible is saying is when your motive is revenge, when your motive is recompense, when your motive is even getting what you deserve to get, when it’s involving you alone, then it’s in violation of all these principles. Now, if you’re trying to rescue somebody from the clutches of Satan, or if you’re trying to save something which you believe God has ordained for His glory, then that may be something you’ll have to make a personal evaluation of. But the general principle here is very clear. Don’t go to court. Why? Because the church will do the judging. If you’ve got an issue, bring it to the church. Bring it to the elders. Let us know about it if it’s an issue between and another Christian or a group of Christians and another group of Christians.Lemme go a step further. Now this may hang some of you out, but lemme say it anyway. I myself, personally, this is me talking, I would be very hard pressed to ever even sue an unbeliever for anything. You know why? If anybody wanted anything I had bad enough to sue me, I would give it to ’em, and let ’em…I’d let ’em have it. It’s yours. And then I’d just say, “My friend, the Lord knows maybe you just need it more than I do,” and I’d just commit him to the Lord. “‘Vengeance is Mine. I will repay,’ says the Lord.” You don’t have to worry. You say, “Well, what about me? He took…he owes me the…” God knows what he owes you, and God’ll take care of you. God’ll take care of him, and I’d just as soon leave him with God as try to mess with it myself. You know, God doesn’t take 15 percent…or 50 percent or whatever, and I’m not being vengeful. I’m just saying you do it God’s way, and God makes things right. God is the great Judge of all, isn’t He? God’s gonna make all things equal in the end. God knows what’s best.
*William Barclay describes how normal it was to be involved in the legal system in Corinth. As you hear this description of Corinthian life, see if you’re not struck by how Corinthian we ourselves are:“The Greeks were naturally and characteristically a litigious people. The law-courts were in fact one of their chief amusements and entertainment…In a Greek city every man was more or less a lawyer and spent a very great part of his time either deciding or listening to law cases. The Greeks were in fact famous, or notorious, for their love of going to law. Not unnaturally, certain of the Greeks had brought their litigious tendencies into the Christian church; and Paul was shocked.”*Dr. Gordon Fee, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, talks about this issue of the motivation, the spiritual issues in being involved in litigation: “Litigation will hopefully be the last resort even with non-Christians. If it is out of concern for the one defrauded and for all others who might be taken in, then it is fully justified.”
*John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, xx, 14-21(Public law and judicial procedures, as related to Christian duty, 14-21)14. Old Testament law and the laws of nationsNext to the magistracy in the civil state come the laws, stoutest sinews of the commonwealth, or, as Cicero, after Plato, calls them, the souls, without which the magistracy cannot stand, even as they themselves have no force apart from the magistracy. Accordingly, nothing truer could be said than that the law is a silent magistrate; the magistrate, a living law.
But because I have undertaken to say with what laws a Christian state ought to be governed, this is no reason why anyone should expect a long discourse concerning the best kind of laws. This would be endless and would not pertain to the present purpose and place. I shall in but a few words, and as in passing, note what laws can piously be used before God, and be rightly administered among men.
I would have preferred to pass over this matter in utter silence if I were not aware that here many dangerously go astray. For there are some who deny that a commonwealth is duly framed which neglects the political system of Moses, and is ruled by the common laws of nations. Let other men consider how perilous and seditious this notion is; it will be enough for me to have proved it false and foolish.We must bear in mind that common division of the whole law of God published by Moses into moral, ceremonial, and judicial laws. And we must consider each of these parts, that we may understand what there is in them that pertains to us, and what does not. In the meantime, let no one be concerned over the small point that ceremonial and judicial laws pertain also to morals, For the ancient writers who taught this division, although they were not ignorant that these two latter parts had some bearing upon morals, still, because these could be changed or abrogated while morals remained untouched, did not call them moral laws. They applied this name only to the first part, without which the true holiness of morals cannot stand, nor an unchangeable rule of right living.
15. Moral, ceremonial, and judicial law distinguished
The moral law (to begin first with it) is contained under two heads, one of which simply commands us to worship God with pure faith and piety; the other, to embrace men with sincere affection. Accordingly, it is the true and eternal rule of righteousness, prescribed for men of all nations and times, who wish to conform their lives to God’s will. For it is his eternal and unchangeable will that he himself indeed be worshiped by us all, and that we love one another. The ceremonial law was the tutelage of the Jews, with which it seemed good to the Lord to train this people, as it were, in their childhood, until the fullness of time should come [Galatians 4:3-4; cf. ch. 3:23-24], in order that he might fully manifest his wisdom to the nations, and show the truth of those things which then were foreshadowed in figures.
The judicial law, given to them for civil government, imparted certain formulas of equity and justice, by which they might live together blamelessly and peaceably.
Those ceremonial practices indeed properly belonged to the doctrine of piety, inasmuch as they kept the church of the Jews in service and reverence to God, and yet could be distinguished from piety itself. In like manner, the form of their judicial laws, although it had no other intent than how best to preserve that very love which is enjoined by God’s eternal law, had something distinct from that precept of love. Therefore, as ceremonial laws could be abrogated while piety remained safe and unharmed, so too, when these judicial laws were taken away, the perpetual duties and precepts of love could still remain.But if this is true, surely every nation is left free to make such laws as it foresees to be profitable for itself. Yet these must be in conformity to that perpetual rule of love, so that they indeed vary in form but have the same purpose. For I do not think that those barbarous and savage laws such as gave honor to thieves, permitted promiscuous intercourse, and others both more filthy and more absurd, are to be regarded as laws. For they are abhorrent not only to all justice, but also to all humanity and gentleness.
16. Unity and diversity of laws
What I have said will become plain if in all laws we examine, as we should, these two things: the constitution of the law, and the equity on which its constitution is itself founded and rests. Equity, because it is natural, cannot but be the same for all, and therefore, this same purpose ought to apply to all laws, whatever their object. Constitutions have certain circumstances upon which they in part depend. It therefore does not matter that they are different, provided all equally press toward the same goal of equity.
It is a fact that the law of God which we call the moral law is nothing else than a testimony of natural law and of that conscience which God has engraved upon the minds of men. Consequently, the entire scheme of this equity of which we are now speaking has been prescribed in it. Hence, this equity alone must be the goal and rule and limit of all laws.Whatever laws shall be framed to that rule, directed to that goal, bound by that limit, there is no reason why we should disapprove of them, howsoever they may differ from the Jewish law, or among themselves.
God’s law forbids stealing. The penalties meted out to thieves in the Jewish State are to be seen in Exodus [Exodus 22:1-4]. The very ancient laws of other nations punished theft with double restitution; the laws which followed these distinguished between theft, manifest and not manifest. Some proceeded to banishment, others to flogging, others finally to capital punishment. False testimony was punished by damages similar and equal to injury among the Jews [Deuteronomy 19:18-21]; elsewhere, only by deep disgrace; in some nations, by hanging; in others, by the cross. All codes equally avenge murder with blood, but with different kinds of death. Against adulterers some nations levy severer, others, lighter punishments. Yet we see how, with such diversity, all laws tend to the same end. For, together with one voice, they pronounce punishment against those crimes which God’s eternal law has condemned, namely, murder, theft, adultery, and false witness. But they do not agree on the manner of punishment. Nor is this either necessary or expedient. There are countries which, unless they deal cruelly with murderers by way of horrible examples, must immediately perish from slaughters and robberies. There are ages that demand increasingly harsh penalties. If any disturbance occurs in a commonwealth, the evils that usually arise from it must be corrected by new ordinances. In time of war, in the clatter of arms, all humaneness would disappear unless some uncommon fear of punishment were introduced. In drought, in pestilence, unless greater severity is used, everything will go to ruin. There are nations inclined to a particular vice, unless it be most sharply repressed. How malicious and hateful toward public welfare would a man be who is offended by such diversity, which is perfectly adapted to maintain the observance of God’s law?
For the statement of some, that the law of God given through Moses is dishonored when it is abrogated and new laws preferred to it, is utterly vain. For others are not preferred to it when they are more approved, not by a simple comparison, but with regard to the condition of times, place, and nation; or when that law is abrogated which was never enacted for us. For the Lord through the hand of Moses did not give that law to be proclaimed among all nations and to be in force everywhere; but when he had taken the Jewish nation into his safekeeping, defense, and protection, he also willed to be a lawgiver especially to it; and — as became a wise lawgiver — he had special concern for it in making its laws.
17. Christians may use the law courts, but without hatred and revenge
It now remains for us to examine what we had set in the last place: what usefulness the laws, judgments, and magistrates have for the common society of Christians. To this is also joined another question: how much deference private individuals ought to yield to their magistrates, and how far their obedience ought to go. To very many the office of magistrate seems superfluous among Christians, because they cannot piously call upon them for help, inasmuch as it is forbidden to them to take revenge, to sue before a court, or to go to law. But Paul clearly testifies to the contrary that the magistrate is minister of God for our good [Romans 13:4]. By this we understand that he has been so ordained of God, that, defended by his hand and support against the wrongdoing and injustices of evil men, we may live a quiet and serene life [1 Timothy 2:2]. But if it is to no purpose that he has been given by the Lord for our defense unless we are allowed to enjoy such benefit, it is clear enough that the magistrate may without impiety be called upon and also appealed to.
But here I have to deal with two kinds of men. There are very many who so boil with a rage for litigation that they are never at peace with themselves unless they are quarreling with others. And they carry on their lawsuits with bitter and deadly hatred, and an insane passion to revenge and hurt, and they pursue them with implacable obstinacy even to the ruin of their adversaries. Meanwhile, to avoid being thought of as doing something wrong, they defend such perversity on the pretense of legal procedure. But if one is permitted to go to law with a brother, one is not therewith allowed to hate him, or be seized with a mad desire to harm him, or hound him relentlessly.
18. The Christian’s motives in litigation
Such men should therefore understand that lawsuits are permissible if rightly used. There is right use, both for the plaintiff in suing and for the accused in defending himself, if the defendant presents himself on the appointed day and with such exception, as he can, defends himself without bitterness, but only with this intent, to defend what is his by right, and if on the other hand, the plaintiff, undeservedly oppressed either in his person or in his property, puts himself in the care of the magistrate, makes his complaint, and seeks what is fair and good. But he should be far from all passion to harm or take revenge, far from harshness and hatred, far from burning desire for contention. He should rather be prepared to yield his own and suffer anything than be carried away with enmity toward his adversary. On the other hand, where hearts are filled with malice, corrupted by envy, inflamed with wrath, breathing revenge, finally so inflamed with desire for contention, that love is somewhat impaired in them, the whole court action of even the most just cause cannot but be impious. For this must be a set principle for all Christians: that a lawsuit, however just, can never be rightly prosecuted by any man, unless he treat his adversary with the same love and good will as if the business under controversy were already amicably settled and composed. Perhaps someone will interpose here that such moderation is so uniformly absent from any lawsuit that it would be a miracle if any such were found. Indeed, I admit that, as the customs of these times go, an example of an upright litigant is rare; but the thing itself, when not corrupted by the addition of anything evil, does not cease to be good and pure. But when we hear that the help of the magistrate is a holy gift of God, we must more diligently guard against its becoming polluted by our fault.
19. Against the rejection of the judicial process
As for those who strictly condemn all legal contentions, let them realize that they therewith repudiate God’s holy ordinance, and one of the class of gifts that can be clean to the clean [Titus 1:15], unless, perchance, they wish to accuse Paul of a shameful act, since he both repelled the slanders of his accusers, exposing at the same time their craft and malice [Acts 24:12 ff.], and in court claimed for himself the privilege of Roman citizenship [Acts 16:37; 22:1, 25], and, when there was need, appealed from the unjust judge to the judgment seat of Caesar [Acts 25:10-11].
This does not contradict the fact that all Christians are forbidden to desire revenge, which we banish far away from Christian courts [Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:39; Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19]. For if it is a civil case, a man does not take the right path unless he commits his cause, with innocent simplicity, to the judge as public protector; and he should think not at all of returning evil for evil [Romans 12: 17], which is the passion for revenge. If, however, the action is brought for some capital or serious offense, we require that the accuser be one who comes into court without a burning desire for revenge or resentment over private injury, but having in mind only to prevent the efforts of a destructive man from doing harm to society. For if you remove a vengeful mind, that command which forbids revenge to Christians is not broken.
But, some will object, not only are they forbidden to desire revenge, but they are also bidden to wait upon the hand of the Lord, who promises that he will be present to avenge the oppressed and afflicted [Romans 12:19]; while those who seek aid from the magistrate, either for themselves or for others, anticipate all the vengeance of the Heavenly Protector. Not at all! For we must consider that the magistrate’s revenge is not man’s but God’s, which he extends and exercises, as Paul says [Romans 13:4], through the ministry of man for our good.
20. The Christian endures insults, but with amity and equity defends the public interest
We are not in any more disagreement with Christ’s words in which he forbids us to resist evil, and commands us to turn the right cheek to him who has struck the left, and to give our cloak to him who has taken away our coat [Matthew 5:39-40]. He indeed wills that the hearts of his people so utterly recoil from any desire to retaliate that they should rather allow double injury to be done them than desire to pay it back. And we are not leading them away from this forbearance. For truly, Christians ought to be a kind of men born to bear slanders and injuries, open to the malice, deceits, and mockeries of wicked men. And not that only, but they ought to bear patiently all these evils. That is, they should have such complete spiritual composure that, having received one offense, they make ready for another, promising themselves throughout life nothing but the bearing of a perpetual cross. Meanwhile, let them also do good to those who do them harm, and bless those who curse them [Luke 6:28; cf. Matthew 5:44], and (this is their only victory) strive to conquer evil with good [Romans 12:21]. So minded, they will not seek an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, as the Pharisees taught their disciples to desire revenge, but, as we are instructed by Christ, they will so suffer their body to be maimed, and their possessions to be maliciously seized, that they will forgive and voluntarily pardon those wrongs as soon as they have been inflicted upon them [Matthew 5:38 ff.]
Yet this equity and moderateness of their minds will not prevent them from using the help of the magistrate in preserving their own possessions, while maintaining friendliness toward their enemies; or zealous for public welfare, from demanding the punishment of a guilty and pestilent man, who, they know, can be changed only by death. For Augustine truly interprets the purpose of all these precepts. The righteous and godly man should be ready patiently to bear the malice of those whom he desires to become good, in order to increase the number of good men-not to add himself to the number of the bad by a malice like theirs. Secondly, these precepts pertain more to the preparation of the heart which is within than to the work which is done in the open, in order that patience of mind and good will be kept in secret, but that we may openly do what we see may benefit those whom we ought to wish well.
21. Paul condemns a litigious spirit, but not all litigation
But the usual objection — that Paul has condemned lawsuits altogether — is also false [1 Corinthians 6:5-8]. It can easily be understood from his words that there was an immoderate rage for litigation in the church of the Corinthians — even to the point that they exposed to the scoffing and evil speaking of the impious the gospel of Christ and the whole religion they professed. Paul first criticized them for disgracing the gospel among believers by the in-temperateness of their quarrels. Secondly, he rebuked them also for contending in this way among themselves, brethren with brethren. For they were so far from bearing wrongs that they greedily panted after one another’s possessions, and without cause assailed and inflicted loss upon one another. Therefore, Paul inveighs against that mad lust to go to law, not simply against all controversies.
But he brands it a fault or weakness for them not to accept the loss of their goods, rather than to endeavor to keep them, even to the point of strife. That is, when they were so easily aroused by every loss, and dashed to the court and to lawsuits over the least causes, he speaks of this as proof that their minds are too prone to anger, and not enough disposed to patience. Christians ought indeed so to conduct themselves that they always prefer to yield their own right rather than go into a court, from which they can scarcely get away without a heart stirred and kindled to hatred of their brother. But when any man sees that without loss of love he can defend his own property, the loss of which would be a heavy expense to him, he does not offend against this statement of Paul, if he has recourse to law. To sum up (as we said at the beginning), love will give every man the best counsel. Everything undertaken apart from love and all disputes that go beyond it, we regard as incontrovertibly unjust and impious.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia, 1960), IV, pp. 1502-1509Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics, XX‑XXI. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960.