Josh Duggar’s Trial Reveals a Flaw in Their Faith

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judge in a courtroom

Yesterday Josh Duggar was sentenced to prison for over 12 years on charges of receiving and possessing child p*rn.

I began loosely following news about the Duggars in 2020, partly because being in lockdown meant I had a lot more time on my hands.

I was also intrigued by Jill Duggar’s renouncement of Advanced Training Institute (ATI), since our family was one of the 100 pilot families accepted into ATI the year it began. We were only in ATI for a handful of years before parting ways due to theological differences being taught in the program.

While there are some good things we learned from some of Bill Gothard’s early teachings, much of his later teachings were out of balance, some completely erroneous.

I had read the news reports that came out exposing Josh Duggar for having abused his sisters and one other young woman, and shortly thereafter it came out that he had an account with Ashley Madison – a website that enabled spouses to have affairs, as well as an adult p*orn addiction.

What transpired after being exposed for having an account with Ashley Madison was heart-wrenching, and I wrote this post in 2015: Why Sexual Sins Are Not Equal to Other Sins

Not long before I began following the Duggars, it was reported that the Homeland Security had raided the car lot owned by Josh Duggar and last year it was revealed that their raid turned up evidence that he possessed child p*rn.

Special Agent Gerald Faulkner said that the media recovered was among the top 5 worst images he had ever seen.

Last December a trial began and Duggar was convicted of receiving and possessing child p*rn and yesterday was sentenced to over 12 years in prison.

It was around the time of the trial that I began to follow the case more closely, because there were several things that began to stand out to me regarding the faith of the Duggars and the faulty foundation on which I believe it was built.

What launched the Duggars to fame with their reality TV show, beyond the unconventional number of children they had, was how their family looked and behaved.

People everywhere praised their house rules, discipline methods, and the orderly way in which their children behaved

I remember at the time seeing pictures of their family walking hand in hand in a line, all dressed alike, with smiles on their faces.

But clearly, what was going on behind the scenes wasn’t as polished as it seemed.

And this is where we begin to see the cracks that led to the utter destruction we see today. Any time we place more emphasis on outward appearance and behavior than we place on the inward spirit of the man, we begin to have trouble.

Preoccupation with outward appearance and behavior only leads to toxicity.

Not only do we become preoccupied with what others perceive about us, we begin looking at those around us with a critical eye, judging their outward appearance and behavior. It is here where we are tempted to hide our faults and shortcomings, and as we begin to do that, the enemy has a wide-open door to come in and begin setting up shop.

As my dad has said, “The enemy builds his castles on secrets.”

After Duggar was convicted, and before his sentencing, his wife, mother, father-in-law, and a handful of friends wrote letters to the judge pleading for a minimal sentence.

It was these letters that exposed what I believe to be massive cracks in the foundation of their faith.

While many have rightfully argued that there was a glaring lack of empathy for the victims of the child p*rn found on his computer, and remarkable lack of remorse both on the side of Josh Duggar and those who supported him, there was something more than I had not yet seen pointed out by anyone.

Each letter carefully pointed out Josh Duggars good deeds.

He was an attentive father. He was a caring friend. He was generous, very generous, sacrificially generous. He was always ready to help anyone in need, and he was a great provider for his family and home.

It was based upon his good deeds as a husband, father, friend, and Christian that they sought mercy from the judge.

Their pleas for mercy were void of remorse or any reasonable acknowledgement of Duggar’s behavior…of his repetitive deviant and predatory behavior.

Their pleas for mercy were void of sympathy and agony for the victims of this behavior – stemming back to his own adolescence clear through adulthood.

Each of these people, being mothers and fathers with daughters of their own, failed to put themselves in the position of those who were victimized by his crimes, and chose to only look at the good deeds Josh Duggar had done.

As if good deeds he had done would cancel out the horrific ways he victimized innocent people.

The glaring lack of public acknowledgement of his sin – sin that the Bible calls abomination, sin that Jesus said would be better that a man put a millstone around his neck and be cast into the sea – their failure to acknowledge it at all, and the very serious nature of it….

The audacity to seek a minimal sentence, considering the nature of the crime and the way in which God’s name has been publicly smeared and soiled because of it….

Shows what I believe to be a very faulty foundation of their own faith.

Faith based on works.

Faith based on outward deeds.

Faith that hides away the shortcomings, rather than sincerely acknowledging them and repenting for them, so that only what is seen is polished and perfect.

Faith that hopes that the vast amount of good we do will somehow outweigh the bad we’ve done, and grant us mercy.

I am 100% sure that they would disagree with my opinion, because no evangelical Christian will admit to a works-based faith.

But so many times our behavior belies our words.

There are so many evangelical Christians who with their mouth proclaim salvation by faith alone, through Christ alone, and yet go the distance to make sure that they’re good enough for God.

Filled with secrets, hiding away their shortcomings, and presenting only a perfect image of a good Christian person.

But this is not what the Bible teaches.

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:14-16

Dear sisters, I write this today because it is vital to our salvation that we understand that God’s standard is 100% perfection.

100% perfect. 0% sin.

There is no balancing of the scales of justice. There is no credit for good deeds done. God will not cancel out sin based on our good character, our generosity, or the glowing reports of the way others perceive us to be.

God doesn’t look past sin. Ever. Not once. Not ever.

If good deeds could balance the scales and cancel out sin, if God could ever look past sin – even for a second – there would be no need for Christ!

If it were true that the scales of justice could be balanced and we could get credit with God for our good deeds, great character, generosity, and glowing reports of good behavior, then Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was utterly unnecessary.

And since we know and believe that Jesus’ death of the cross was absolutely necessary, we can only conclude that by it we are made perfect, no thanks to anything we could ever do.

And dear sisters, this is the best news for us!

If the perfection God seeks for salvation and entrance into heaven is based solely on Christ’s work on the cross, and if our good deeds, good character, and good behavior are not factored in at all, then we are all equal under the cross.

New believers. Old believers. No matter where we are on our spiritual journey. We are equally in need of God’s grace every single day to live this life.

It frees us to be sincere and authentic in our walk.

It frees us to admit our failings and shortcomings.

It frees us to open the closet doors and stop keeping the secrets that keep us bound to sin.

What a burden it must be to live our lives, haunted by secrets, hunched over by the weight of condemnation, and driven to earn God’s favor by constantly keeping up a polished image of perfection and trying to be good enough for God to somehow look past those things we don’t want anyone else to see.

But how freeing it is to realize that nothing we do will ever get us close to being good enough.

We can stop trying. We can stop striving. We can stop being driven by condemnation and the pursuit of perfection.

We are free to live by God’s standard out of love and respect for Him, and not out of a drive for perfection.

Dear sister – I pray that if you have been living out a works-based salvation, that today you are set free in your spirit to love God and live for Christ out of devotion and not out of hope for mercy.

Mercy and grace are given you for free. They cannot be earned or deserved.

We don’t deserve them. We never can, no matter how good we are….our goodness will never come close to earning even a speck of God’s grace or mercy.

It is only because of Christ that we can ever hope to receive these precious gifts from His hand.

Finally, I will close with this:

My heart grieves for the Duggar family. I can’t imagine going through the devastation they have faced over the past almost-decade of scandal. My heart grieves as they watch their son, brother, father, and husband be convicted of a heinous crime and sentenced to prison. No one wants that for a loved one.

I pray that they (Josh Duggar included) will soon come to understand the truth of Scripture and the beauty of God’s free grace and mercy.

My heart is utterly broken for every person who has been victimized and revictimized by these crimes. My most sincere prayer is that they experience complete healing in their soul and spirit. That they come to know that healing that can only come from the shed blood of Christ and identifying with His work on the cross.

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