(Thanks to Jim West who drew my attention to this story.) I can’t help but reflecting on a few things here…
Apparently the PA shooter who killed 3 and wounded 9 claimed his pastor (Rev. Knapp) had convinced him that a man could commit mass-murder and still go to heaven (source). It appears that the Tetelestai Church doctrinal statement is currently unavailable at this time at their website. An older version of the church’s doctrinal statement archived here shows that the doctrine of eternal security was part of the church’s list of core beliefs. Quoting from the archived statement, they define the doctrine as follows: “We hold that all believers are kept secure forever and each has the right to personal assurance of this eternal security (John 10:27-30; Romans 8:1, 38, 39; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24; Hebrews 10:14; 1 John 5:1, 13).”
I bring this up not to suggest Rev. Knapp or Tetelestai Church did anything wrong. (It seems they kicked Sodini out in 2004 for problems). I bring this up to highlight how far some will go to justify their evil desires. I’m reminded of Paul’s warning to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 that some will simply turn from truth to myths, from sound teaching to ear-itching. George Sodini heard what he wanted to hear.
I’m reminded of the importance of teaching the Scriptures in such a way that the congregation not only understands a particular passage within its context, but how they arrived at such an understanding (i.e., teach the congregation how to study the Bible as they’re led through the text). (NB: these are my thoughts as provoked by the story, not any suspicion regarding Rev. Knapp).
It is interesting to note the background against which the book of 2 Timothy emphasizes the significance of guarding the Gospel (2 Tim. 1:14) and biblical instruction (esp. 2 Tim. 3:16). Timothy is advised to do these things in the face of a swell of false-teaching (2 Tim. 3:13).
Let’s be sure our teaching is sound, and that any who desire to have their ears itched won’t find any relief under our teaching.
Update: I want to clarify that I am not suggesting the church took their doctrinal statement down in light of the recent events (I simply don’t know). Nor am I suggesting that the doctrine of eternal security (properly understood) had anything to do with the crime. I quoted this section of their doctrinal statement to reveal the normalcy of the confession (as it appeared on the archived site) in contrast with the abnormality of this man’s behavior… “From Sound Teaching to Ear Itching.” This cause me to reflect on the care I take in my own teaching to limit the possibility of being so severely misunderstood.