Two Plus Two Isn’t Nine
A friend alerted me recently to the suicide death of a popular mega-church pastor named Thomas Young (see also this blog and a bio here). While we cannot know all that went on in the final moments of this man’s life, there are disturbing statements being made to try and make sense of it.
This man was a Mark Driscoll success story, a bad boy turned preacher and church planter. Yet he chose to abruptly end his life after a fight with his wife. Which raises the question: can a saved person, especially a preacher, be saved and commit suicide? When we read the guy’s conversion story it all seems obvious because of the drastic change in his life. But consider a very similar story here, where the turn-around is attributed to “Alcoholics Anonymous, meditation and looking to a higher power”.
While some would call the other guy’s story a salvation experience, scripture does not support this at all. God is not a vague “higher power” and salvation is only through Jesus. So we have here two very similar lives and “conversions”, but the one that clearly wasn’t saved is not the one who took his own life.
And that brings me to the disturbing statements. He was not “called to go home to be with his heavenly father”; he “called” himself. He did not “make a bad choice” as if he had been trying to decide which suit to wear; he chose to punish his family and God for things that weren’t going his way. And if “the father of lies deceived him”, then God lied when He promised to keep us from falling and to prevent us from suffering anything that we could not bear (Mt. 6:13, John 17:15, 2 Thes. 3:3, 1 Cor. 10:13, 1 Peter 1:5, 1 John 5:18, Jude 1:24). It also absolves the man of any accountability to say “the devil made him do it”. And don’t these people always say that Eve and all women are the deceivable ones? If a man like this can be so deceived, then who was he “covering”?
Again, we cannot know whether there might have been some chemical imbalance or anything, and God is still the ultimate Judge of souls. But if we can only explain the suicide of an apparent believer by denying scriptural promises, then we don’t have any grasp of the great salvation we preach. And since unbelievers can mimic the same changed lives, and sometimes greater peace and self-control, then we have all the more reason to carefully consider what it is that saves and how we can recognize a fellow believer.
This incident highlights the vital need to sharply define the gospel. Spirit and Truth must walk together, and above all, no Christian leader should ever be unaccountable to others who are not in his or her “inner group”. There are always signs and red flags preceding a “choice” of this magnitude, and somebody somewhere along the line was not facing them or wasn’t allowed to speak of them. And we must wonder why this church planter, this life so changed, this preacher of righteousness, was in possession of a loaded gun during a fight with his wife.
When things don’t add up, we are most unloving if we turn a blind eye or try to cover it up so nobody ever learns a lesson. Keeping quiet is never the answer.