"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Tyranny of Omnipotent Moral Busybodies

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. C. S. Lewis

That last half-sentence is dynamite to my mind. Lewis is in essence saying, ‘The worst thing you could do for the people you love is hound them about changing, constantly harangue them ‘for their good,’ and perpetually concentrate on their problems.’ I could not agree more. I believe the greatest secret to real transformation in relationship is to so concentrate on your own issues that you ignore the problems in others. In other words, when your focus is on Christ and what He can do and is doing in your heart, you will free others up to focus on the Holy Spirit doing His work in them – because they aren't distracted by your torment of them.


Bill Scott said...

Tyrants are seldom aware of their tyrany.

davidbmclaughlin.com said...

CS Lewis is da bomb!

One of the greatest thinkers ever.

Rex Ray said...

Have you known someone that nearly every time you met, they gave you some advice on something—no matter how small it was?

That may be off topic but it’s still irritating.

Many years ago, our church had a ‘xxx xxx day’ to celebrate the song director’s fifth year.

He met with the deacons and on a chalk board drew a line up, horizontal, and down that represented the congregation’s spiritual level.

He said he had moved the announcements to the end of the service. The “up” line was HIS music, the horizontal line was the sermon, and the announcements was the down line.

I wanted to say, ‘According to your chart, we should give the pastor's salary to you, but instead I said, “How are you raising my spiritual level when I’m trying to hear some spiritual music on my car’s radio? Why don’t you ask the congregation what it wants to hear?”

Afterwards, the chairman of the deacons said to me, “Rex, you don’t understand. He’s been to school and knows what’s best for us.”

And I believe that is very much on topic.

BTW, he split the church and started a non-denomination church

bruce c said...

thanks for your information. sorry that there are Christians who believe so strongly in destroying other Christians.

take care and keep going.

Will said...

"Omnipotent Moral Busybodies" or "OMB" for short. Isn't that acronym used popularly today? *grin*

Bob Cleveland said...

As they say ... express your opinions, but send your advice fourth class. And I might add, for all you young whippersnappers, being old does bring the freedom to tell the OMB's what you really think.


PJ said...

"... for it often incapacity for defending the faith they love which turns men into persecutors."

-George MacDonald
"The Birth of Persecution"
[292] An Anthology, excerpted from Wilfred Cumbermede, ch.18

Lewis was, indeed, "the apostle to the 20th century," but Lewis considered MacDonald his "master" in terms of Christian teachers. And MacDonald himself experienced much of this sort of persecution.


Lin said...

"They know so much that just ain't so."

Ronald Reagan

Steve said...

Wade reminds me of the old advice that it's better to deal with a drunk than a fool because drunks do occasionally sleep it off and sober up.

creed said...

Any pastor more than likely has a basketfull of stories about the tyranny of OMB's. In the past 30 years of pastoring I have my share of stories and the killing stress of dealing with these sorts of people. Rather than telling the story or stories, my feeling this bright Thursday morning is how to best handle such events brought on by OMB's. We recently have been under the gun regarding traditional worship and more open and participatory worship. Wade will need to deal with the pharisee at the IMB meeting, I will have to deal with my own. I suspect the action principles will be the same.

1. Check out my own heart and intentions.

2. Speak carefully and prayerfully.

3. Dare I say stand your ground if there is the leadership of the Spirit and without malice.

What else? Someone may be going down for the third time and needs help.

Kerygma said...

Ah, but there's that pesky mote in our own eye.......

NativeVermonter said...

I desire to be a busybody! I desire that my body be busy for the Gospel. I desire that my body be busy for sacrifical service.

BTW, I tried my first ever post, just click on the Scott Bradley link on Wade's blogging friends. Shamless plug but y'all do it all the time.

greg.w.h said...

Ready for my attempt at a deep thought:

How is it that an infinite God survives without being an OMB, but we--his children--consistently fall into the trap of believing that if we police other people's lives, we're more like Him?

Irony is a dish best served warm.

Greg Harvey

MSH said...

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is as follows:

"Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable."

If the shoes fits...

Anonymous said...

Rex, You and I must have gone to the same church. Same thing happened to one I used to go to (at least the music minister leaving and starting a non denom church).

Wade, keep on keepin' on! :)

Denise the Enid girl in Humble, TX

Anonymous said...

"I believe the greatest secret to real transformation in relationship is to so concentrate on your own issues that you ignore the problems in others."

We are taught this too well. We are so completely intimidated by "don't judge" and the plank in our own eyes that we are now willing, without a peep, to let people in church tank.

There is a false dichotomy between haranguing and tormenting others with constant advice, and ignoring or remaining silent when someone needs to speak up.

I've been gently (and not so gently!) rebuked by church friends here and there. These are the people who love the Lord, and me, enough to speak up, even with trembling. I can't thank them enough.

greg.w.h said...


Your story would make your friends entirely different than Omnipotent Moral Busybodies, if for no other reason than your portrayal of them shows them as careful and restrained. I also think the point of the quote you highlight may be that once we have experienced true mortification of our own sin (helped along in your case by your friends), then we fully understand what grace really is. And when we understand that, we realize that it isn't the problem in the other that was bugging us before.

It is then that we are prepared to patiently participate in God's redemptive plan. And at that point we no longer ignoring the plank in our eyes in preference to seeing the spot in theirs.

I think, by the way, that busybodies can come to us with both negative messages AND positive messages that are entirely inappropriate for what God needs to accomplish in us. It's just as unbiblical to tell someone "I'm praying for you" when God is telling us to give them a cloak to put on to stay warm as it is to gossip about their situation or condemn them for "not working hard enough to fix the problem".

Greg Harvey

Wade Burleson said...


You have a good comment. It is balanced, presently fairly, albeit opposite of the general direction of the post. However, I scratch my head over why you wish to be anonymous. Good dialogue always begins with two views. Let me encourage you to present your views and stand behind them. The SBC needs to get to the place where opposing views are welcome.

Alycelee said...

Would Omnipotent used with Moral an oxymoron, like 'that's a fine mess you got me in', or one we know and love, 'let's just agree to disagree'?
I personally think Omnipotent Moral busybodies are just 'big babies.' :)

Paul A. Coleman said...

Good post, Wade. It is very easy to fall into this trap. To label someone an "omnipotent moral busybody" is to risk becoming one. It's like the old saying, "When I point at you, I have three fingers pointing back at me." Many times it is difficult to separate issues from personalities. These are things all Christians should consider.


Darby Livingston said...


I couldn't agree more with your assessment. Nevertheless we can't ignore texts like Hebrews 3:12-14, 10:24-25 and James 5:19-20; and I'm confident you don't. The obvious reason for confrontation is that we're often blind to our own faults and rebellions. That's one of the values of your blog to the SBC in general. Perhaps you could reconcile the concepts of avoiding moral tyranny and necessary (even daily) loving exhortation in a future post so that we can see how they fit together?

Darby Livingston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greg.w.h said...

Sorry for the stream of consciousness posts today, but Darby caused another thought to surface:

Can we really fix our own unhappiness by focusing on someone else's sin? And if it isn't our own unhappiness we're addressing, then why focus on someone else's sin?

I'm not saying that in an anti-biblical way. I'm asking it within the context of the original post: we all know people like Wade is describing. They're not spiritual. They're unhappy.

Greg Harvey

Chad Kaminski said...

rex ray,

There's been a lot of times I would have like to have pulled this verse out.
"A fool does not delight in understanding,but only wants to show off his opinions."
Prov 18:2 (HCSB)

Scott Gordon said...

So Wade,

Have you shared this thought with your staff, namely Ben Cole, and his Omnipotently Busibodiesque persuit of Dr. Patterson?

Sola Gratia!

Anonymous said...

Why anonymous: because I am fairly recently Baptist (relatively speaking, meaning less than 40 years), and these intra- and inter-convention Baptist battles constitute absolute minefields for us newbies.

And I say that from experience.

RRR said...

I'm finishing "Miracles" by CS Lewis. He's so smart and I'm so dumb that I have to read much of the book two or three times before the insights finally sink through my thick skull! But it's s-o-o worth it. I've been highlighting those points most profound and so far my entire book is YELLOW!

Religious tyrants were the ones that made Jesus the most furious. He judged harshly those religious tyrants of His day who were oppressing the poeple with their nick-picky rules while showing no compassion or evidence of the true Spirit of God. He had no patience for those who saw the short comings and faults of others while not acknowledging the hardness of their own hearts. Sure makes me hesitate to point my finger!!

Rex Ray said...

Chad Kaminski,
Yes, I like your (HCSB) of Proverbs 18:2
It shows King James does not mean what it says: (“A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.”)

Half of the verse says what it means, but “that his heart may discover itself” is off the subject.
In fact we should discover what’s in our hearts so we can correct them.

Criswell’s Study Bible is good in its explanation: “…but delights only in sharing his own personal opinions, since to him his views are unquestionably right.”

Also, the New Living: “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.”

And the Living is not bad: “A rebel doesn’t care about the facts. All he wants to do is yell.”

Paul Coleman,
I feel the old saying, “When I point at you, I have three fingers pointing back at me” has been overused so much that Christians are afraid to say anything while the devil has his way.

One blogger went so far as to say, “Homosexuality is no worse a sexual sin than that of a little white lie.” He was trying to prove any sin is against God and none were worse than others.

Didn’t mean to hijack Wade’s post, but when Jesus pointed his finger at the Pharisees, he didn’t have three fingers pointing back at him…if you get what I mean.

And I believe that answers Scott Gordon’s question about Ben Cole.

Of course I’ve left myself wide-open as being a “Moral Busybody”, but I hope I deal with facts.

(What’s that old TV show where the detective had that funny line? “Just the facts, Mam, just the facts.” Was it Dragnet?)

Anonymous said...

Scott - How can you spell "Busibodiesque" correctly (I think?) and then mess up "pursuit"?

Denise - Can you tell me where you are exactly in Humble? My roots are wondering. :)

Thanks for the link Wade and keep it up brother.

Anonymous said...


I served in that church! Oh, it had a different name, and was in a different place, but it was the same church.

John Fariss

Chuck Andrews said...


Great post for building better, healthier relationships. I have found that the easiest place to be a busybody is in my own family and church. A principle I learned a few years ago and try to practice in relating to my adult children, the rest of my family, and all my relationships is:

“Advice given without being asked for is really criticism dressed in concern and/or control dressed in care.”

The only “thorn in the flesh” worse than a busybody church member is a preacher who uses the pulpit and position as a license to be an “omnipotent moral busybody” with the authority of God to correct, condemn, and censure anyone who disagrees with him/her. I know, I use to be one. It’s the way I was taught and trained to be an SBC pastor. Incidentally, I was taught and trained by some of those in SBC leadership today.



Wayne Smith said...


WES KENNEY has anyone that is a defender of the truth BLOCKED from posting on His Blog. Wes like Jerry C will not reply to E-Mail either. CB Scott and Bob Cleveland have Posts on their Blogs in defense of the Truth. You and Yours are in our Prayers.

on October 24, 2007 5:11 pm Your comment is awaiting moderation.

1. Wayne Smith on October 25, 2007 11:16 am Your comment is awaiting moderation.


Have you ever Known CB Scott to be Wrong?

In His Name

Anonymous said...

I rest my case.

Rex Ray said...

Chuck Andrews,
Most people live the way they’re trained. It’s very unusual for a person to have the insight to recognize their training was wrong, and change. I want to thank you.

Hero of fundamentalists, Criswell, believed and taught the pastor is to be the ruler of the church. This philosophy has been around a long time. In Paul’s day, the second bishop of Antioch, Ignatius, wrote:

“We ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself.”

Some pastors set up a few with some name (with him in charge or leading) to ‘run’ the church:
It is not the deacon’s responsibility to lead the church. They do not keep the pastor in line. He does not answer to them. That is not their role. A personnel committee has that role. That committee would follow the lead of the pastor. A wise pastor will seek input from his personnel committee about any direction he believes God is leading. But, ultimately he must lead.

One such pastor, who got his Dr.’s degree in record time from SWBTS, stated he had been trained on how to run a church. He got new by-laws passed that read in part:

“The highest ecclesiastical tribunal of the Church shall be the Leadership Board. The Leadership Board shall be the express and final arbiter of Christian doctrine, membership discipline, and shall make the final decision with respect to any other matter that shall arise concerning the Church.

The Senior Pastor shall be leader of the Leadership Board, the Church congregation, the Church staff, all Church organizations, all Church ministries, and all Church Advisory Committees.

The Senior Pastor shall be in charge of all ministries of the Church. The Senior Pastor shall be responsible for hiring a staff and determine their salary and benefits. The Senior Pastor shall be vested with authority to terminate any staff member with or without cause.

Any person desiring to join the Church should notify the Senior Pastor.

Any person deemed by the Leadership Board to be causing, about to cause, or capable of causing disruption, may be ejected summarily.

The Senior Pastor shall appoint Chair and vice-chair of each Committee and Advisory Team. The Senior Pastor shall have the power to appoint and remove members of all Advisory teams and serve as an ex officio member.

The Leadership Board shall elect the Independent Compensation Committee which determines the Senior Pastor’s salary.”

Bob Cleveland,
You once said in words to the effect if you wanted to change the SBC, you would hire teachers that agreed with you to teach the preachers.
I believe your idea has been used for many years.

Chad Kaminski said...

Rex Ray,

Man, that is good reading. ;)

Paul A. Coleman said...

Rex Ray is right in pointing out that Jesus, when pointing at the Pharisees, did not have three fingers pointing back at Him. Of course, He was sinless. Also, I admit the phrase has been overused and abused. So, let me clarify what I meant. Sin should not be glossed over under the "let's not be judgmental" banner. It is not judgmental to faithfully apply God's Word to a situation, even when it means calling sin what it is. God's Word judges, not me. We have all sinned, but we all need to repent of that sin. We should be willing to speak the truth in love. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is confront someone with the truth. It is judgmental when, like the Pharisees, we apply our own extra-biblical standards to a situation, or speak the truth without love, thus opening the possibility of becoming an "omnipotent moral busybody."