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1381325151_michelle-duggar-zoomThe world is shocked at the news of Josh Duggar molesting multiple girls when he was a teenager. After all, the Duggar parents went to great lengths to shelter their children from inappropriate influences in the world — from limiting their access to the internet to implementing a dress code of modesty and femininity. What’s more, they spoke publicly about their standards for sexual purity. They explained why Josh and Anna saved their first kiss for their wedding day, and why the couple always had chaperones.

More than the tawdry revelations of Lena Dunham’s inexcusable behavior toward her little sister, or the sickening accounts of abuse by Woody Allen or Roman Polanski, the Duggar scandal is shocking precisely because of the high bar they’ve set for themselves and the standards they’ve put on display.

Now, I have no interest in debating the facts of this case. It is heartbreaking, disgusting, and infuriating all at once, and even if we can all be thankful for God’s grace poured out on even the worst of sinners, we cannot minimize the long-lasting consequences of such behavior, especially when some of the victims were preyed upon by their own brother.

Instead, I’d like to point out a problematic, but fairly common assumption in many corners of evangelicalism — an assumption that needs to be challenged. It’s the idea that sin is something out there that we need to watch out for. The reality, however, is that sin is not primarily something we need to be sheltered from, but delivered from.

It’s easy for a Christian family that seeks to honor the Lord with distinctive, holy living to adopt this mindset:

“The world is evil, and our family is good. Therefore, we need to protect our family from the evil outside.”

Along these lines, training up children in the way they should go becomes primarily about sheltering our kids. We deliver our kids from evil by avoiding evil influences “outside” our home. We forbid certain television shows, monitor their internet usage, and avoid neighborhood kids. In some cases, we turn to homeschooling or Christian education.

The problem with this mindset is that it takes a legitimate aspect of wise parenting and twists it until it results in a warped view of children and society.

It’s perfectly fine to shelter your children from certain influences. It would be an abdication of parental responsibility to set no limits or standards in your home. In our family, for example, there are TV shows (even cartoons) that we don’t allow our kids to watch. We have standards regarding modesty and dress, the kind of language we use, and we send our kids to a Christian school.

There’s nothing wrong with setting limits and having standards, but neither is there something specifically Christian about these kinds of limits. Plenty of non-Christian parents wouldn’t let their kids watch a sexually-charged TV show, for example. Non-religious dads and moms may object to their daughter’s skimpy prom dress.

The problem for Christian parents isn’t in the desire to shelter children; it’s in the warped perspective that such sheltering can foster.

We begin to believe that sin and rebellion is a problem outside of our home, not inside.

We start thinking our kids are basically good and in need of moral direction, rather than recognizing that our kids are basically bad and in need of heart transformation.

We communicate to our kids that it’s ”us” (good) versus “them” (bad) rather than helping them see our family’s role as one of service (“us” for “them”).

Then, when evil shows up on the inside of our home, we diminish its significance or hide it rather than bring it out in the open.

The reason we shelter our kids shouldn’t simply be that there’s evil outside, but also that there’s evil inside. The line of good and evil runs through every human heart, as Solzhenitsyn once said. No one is immune to temptation. No child is a tabula rasa. We’re born in sin and, apart from the grace of Christ, we’ll die in sin. That’s why we need a Savior who rescues us, not a shelter that protects us.

I’ve long appreciated this distinction from Eric Geiger regarding “defensive” and “offensive” discipleship. His words apply to parenting as well:

Defensive discipleship plays to not lose the hearts of people to the world because defensive discipleship believes the hearts of people are pure. Consequently defensive discipleship focuses primarily on protecting people from influences in the world, from anything that could corrupt the perceived purity of the heart. Defensive discipleship strategy is prevalent and ranges from teaching people to isolate themselves from the culture to constantly alerting people of the influences they should avoid.

While defensive discipleship may sound appealing to some, it is theologically inaccurate. Our hearts are not pure in need of protection; they are wicked in need of transformation.

Offensive discipleship is different. It seeks primarily not to protect people from the world but to empower believers to overcome the world. Offensive discipleship understands the power of the gospel, trusts the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, and knows that if Jesus brings His transformation, obedience will be the joyful result.

Certainly offensive discipleship includes some protecting as the apostle Paul warned about wolves threatening to hurt sheep, but protection is not the end goal— heart change is the goal.

God can bring good things out of horrible tragedies, and the Duggar scandal — as terrible as it is — is no exception. I hope that one good result will be a powerful reminder to good-intentioned evangelicals of the limits of “sheltering” and the need for the transforming grace of the gospel.

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82 thoughts on “The Duggars and the Evil Outside”

  1. Sam says:

    Thanks for the piece, Trevin. I like the quote from Geiger. One thing, though – I don’t think Allen has been convicted of abuse nor has he admitted to it, unlike Polanski on both counts, However, the way you have phrased things, this is not made clear. As far as I know, Allen is currently only alleged to have committed abuse.

    1. Mel says:

      Woody Allen had nude photos of his teenage step daughter who he later married. Another has come forward as an adult with allegations. He is not an innocent man. He is protected by Hollywood. Just as many of the pedophile executives in the industry are…

  2. Dean Peteet says:

    So many people panned or overlooked this film (by a non Christian) when it came out but I think it has a profound theme as well as great application when it comes to this post.

    1. Emily says:

      I watched this with my kids to talk about why these issues. They were seven and nine at the time and they got it! Today they are blod and articulate young women who aren’t shocked by the world, and handle temptation with some pretty amazing conversations with the adults in their lives.

    2. Laura says:

      Great point! I had forgotten about that movie, but it moved me so much when it first came out (maybe because I went in with no expectations)… I think audiences were expecting something different, but the things it has to say are truly profound.

    3. Dana says:

      The Village is one of the most brilliant and underrated films, in my opinion. The acting is out-of-this-world! It will always be at the top of my favorites list for many reasons.

    4. Denisa Dellinger says:

      I saw The Village in the theaters when it came out, I usually fain from going to these kinds of scary horror movies but somehow, I went. The end is a quite a revelation and I applaud the person who posted it in regards to this article about the Duggars. Although I do not agree whole heartedly with him, I agree on principle. Evil is not out there, it is inside as well. I would with all my efforts protect my children from things I deem inappropriate or keep them from the hard cold cruel world of sin as much as I could. However, God did not bless me with a family and children however, I am a teacher and raise other peoples children for those hours during the day that they are under my care and I do my best to educate them in life as well as academics. The main objective for Christian parents is to educate children that it is not what is done to you, it is how you react to it. Each one of us is a victim of something horrible, something sinful whether it is bullying or an illness, or abuse or hurt feelings or even being the perpetrator of a lost temper and quick words uttered to a loved one. How we react to those things is where Christ comes in. We all need a savior. We all sin. Evil came into the Village through a mentally ill young man and well intentioned leaders. It is a perfect example of evil from the inside.

  3. Philmonomer says:

    We communicate to our kids that it’s ”us” (good) versus “them” (bad) rather than helping them see our family’s role as one of service (“us” for “them”).

    So much “us” versus “them” thinking. This strikes me as a large part of the problem.

  4. a says:

    ok there is no justification but really if you were being used in a mighty way to counter the world’s definition of ‘modern family’ why would u be immune to the sin of self righteous, or the attack of the enemy to discredit your entire ministry. why we shouldn’t trust in our own righteousness ANYTHING is possible. some Christians are so judgemental bc the enemy has never had reason to visit their house.They aren’t assaulted with temptations to discredit their ministry bc they are not a threat to his kingdom. They are not making a DIFFERENCE. say what u want jim Bob and Michelle called in to question MANY MANY folks choices and lifestyle decisions by their simple WITNESS to have a godly family. no they didn’t do the right thing..but Christians who stay up in the hills and effect nobody have few threats of falling..why? bc they aren’t doing anything for God except ‘theologing’ to each other. if u are ON the battlefield you can expect to have some temptations and failures. and he was an adolescent NOT an adult. not justifying anything but watching pornography is just as sinful..just bc your sin isn’t his..doesn’t make it any less sinful. so now they are too ‘protective’ no sin effects EVERYONE…big or small.

  5. Rebecca Reynolds says:

    I appreciate many points made in this piece. However, it disturbs me when sentences like this are included in Christian articles:

    “We start thinking our kids are basically good and in need of moral direction, rather than recognizing that our kids are basically bad and in need of heart transformation.”

    Yes, I do believe in original sin. However, that does not mean that our children are basically bad, or that “my kid is untrustworthy” is an appropriate attitude from which to parent.

    Can you imagine being in a marriage in which your spouse perceived you as “basically bad and in need of heart transformation?” No matter what you offered, no matter how you loved, no matter how you tried, imagine being categorized under a constant suspicion that you are essentially a rotten person.

    You would wither and die in that relationship. You would not flourish. You would begin to feel attracted to outsiders who could see good in you. Children are not unlike us in this regard.

    Children can be harmed by a perception that they are essential bad people who need to be transformed. From what I’ve seen, sort of attitude doesn’t tend to create godly humility as much as it creates shame. Shame leads to hiding. Hiding leads to perversion.

    Jesus came to the earth to offer a new identity that we desperately need. However, being in need of him doesn’t negate the fact that humans are also made imago Dei, or that there are many remnants of his glory imprinted on nonbelievers. We shouldn’t let the mathematical theological concept of original sin prevent us from seeing the whole picture here.

    When Jesus interacted with children, he certainly didn’t say, “Wow. You are basically bad little people in need of heart transformation.” He welcomed them, and children do not run to adults who are judgmental and severe.

    I understand that your main point is that sin isn’t just “out there,” it’s also “in here.” I love that concept, and I think it’s an important correction to the fear-driven, amoeba-parenting model that many conservatives embrace. However, I’d like to suggest that as we recognize our internal weaknesses, as well as the weaknesses of the world, it’s healthiest to raise children seeing what God is doing in them. Not just “you are bad” or “you are good,” but “here’s where this is going long term.” I believe it’s important to speak positively about our kids’ growth instead of speaking death into them over every potential disaster they might choose because they are fundamentally bad little creatures.

    Perhaps my reaction is too strong, because I live in Bible-belt Appalachia and have seen some of the harm shame identity teaching does. I love, instead, seeing parents celebrate the gifts and talents God has given their children. I love seeing parents who have a healthy, balanced understanding of sin and perceive their kids in light of the transformation God is ever working. I love seeing parents who envision God’s good future for their kids in the now. J.A. Smith’s _Desiring the Kingdom_ talks about the importance of the affective “vision of the good life.” As parents, that vision is ours to cast. It is harmful to damn children with shame and guilt that is too heavy for their little hearts.

    My kids have made some awful mistakes, and I don’t doubt that they have tendencies to sin. However, that doesn’t mean my kids are “essentially bad people in need of transformation.” I fight to see my children in light of the God who has planted in them a desire for generosity, creativity, and tenderness. I fight to trust that He will sustain this desire. I hold it between my hands like a flame in the wind, and shelter it by my faith until it grows stronger than the darkness. The eternal good God is working in our children is their real identity. The rest will burn away.

    1. Deb Burt says:

      The paradox of total depravity alongside being incredible creatures made in the image of God is mind-boggling! Keeping that paradox in mind helps me not become surprised by my kids’ sin (or my own or my hubby’s) but looking at each of is as made in the image of God and capable of such love, creativity, goodness, mercy, truth, and grace overwhelms my heart as well.

    2. Thank you, Rebecca.

    3. SAE says:

      In light of all you have said. We are all being transformed as we grow, just like children. God provides us with the tools to over come those hard places of growth , it’s called His Word. Practical ways are also provided, but what’s not given is excuses. We can make them or not,but life comes as we wake up each day. That’s what happened to that young 14 year old teen. He woke up and life happened, but I do believe his parents has taken those tools nessarry to shape young Josh Duggar’s life . However. I don’t believe they made excuses.

      Makes me wonder how we can judge other people’s way of life when we have so much going on in ours. If in fact God has graced you to wake up this morning, your life has said , good morning. Will you say it back???

    4. Bonnie Crofutt says:

      Sorry…What you have stated is not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ…We do teach and must have our children understand that they also are dead in their trespasses and sins..We teach them in total depravity..There is none righteous ..No not one..It is only through the power of God the Holy Spirit that can take a cold dead heart and change it to a heart that would serve and honor Him..Of course after the see their need of their Savior and have turned to Him for their salvation…We teach them they are here for a true purpose..To Glorify God and enjoy Him forever..Ephesians 2:8-10

    5. Tim Bauer says:

      We must say what God Himself says: “ALL have sinned” and fallen so far short of God’s intentions for us we have no hope outside of Jesus as Savior. Kids sin. They also make mistakes. We better know the difference or the kids will suffer another warped perspective. The Gospel is not one of shaming, but of convicting. There is no conviction in “you’re a good little child and I’ll guide you along.” Rather, “You’re a gift from God whose only Son died to be your Savior because you are a sinner. We are not sinners because we sin but we sin because we are sinners.

    6. Caroline says:

      Thank you Rebecca! Beautifully said. And no, your reaction is not too strong.

    7. Holly says:

      Wow I love what you said! I agree with every word. It is so nice to hear a Christian parent feel that way and be balanced in their thoughts. I feel for the Duggar girls because they are not expected to reach for the stars, just to get married and have babies. I find it especially sickening when Jim Bob says, I been praying for you and you been waiting for this your whole life. Its like all he expects of his daughters is to be wives and mothers. He doesn’t say I want to send you to college and I want you to be something. They are allowed to have hobbies but are expected to drop everything if they meet someone their family approves of. I find it disturbing that they are only allowed to give their brothers and father and other men at church side hugs. This only enforces the idea that men have no control over their sexuality and that really that everything is sexual even though its not. It fosters sick mindsets and I believe it is why Josh did the things he did. I also believe he was molested when he was young by someone. When I have kids I will never tell them they should get married by age 22 because that’s what society wants, wait no society doesn’t expect that just that small evangelical group. What makes me saddest is the lack of choice all the kids have. They are not allowed to do this or that and many of them are in their 20s and are still being told what to do. I know why though, its called a paycheck and everyone of them gets a paycheck from TLC and so they make face and suck it up. I have never seen them get angry, curse, or do something normal like joke around with each other. If they do its all edited out and it makes them non relatable with the rest of the world. I hate how TLC portrays them because it is not normal. I don’t expect drama like other shows I just expect them to be human. I still watch the show but find it sickening that they act like there was no scandal and they are perfect again. This is not their fault its TLC’s fault because they make them look perfect.

  6. A says:

    Sigh. Another person who “know how the Duggars should have parented differently”. Good points that could have been made without analyzing someone else’s parenting “flaws” (what we believe them to be anyway).

    1. I understand the pushback against everyone trying to be a critic about things they don’t understand.

      However, Wax hit it exactly when he referred to “the high bar they’ve set for themselves and the standards they’ve put on display.” The Duggars have taken a very public platform with their manmade rules (mixed with actual biblical standards). Therefore there is no cause whatsoever to critique equally public criticism of these rules. Such is not a criticism the apostles would have ever tolerated.

    2. Emily says:

      A – I agree. I am disappointed in TGC for publishing this article! The entire first 3 paragraphs could have been omitted. There are just too many assumptions here. ““The world is evil, and our family is good. Therefore, we need to protect our family from the evil outside.””? I’ve watched this series from the beginning and I have never, ever heard them imply any such thing. Also, “… the high bar they’ve set for themselves and the standards they’ve put on display”? I don’t think they’ve claimed perfection or that they believe(d) their methods would guarantee against sinful children.

    3. Larry says:

      I don’t believe Trevin said anything out of line. I do think if you are a star of a reality television show, you should expect analysis of your flaws. And I don’t believe there is much speculation here about what they are. It is fairly detailed and publicly available information.

    4. Matt Norman says:

      This is the same thought I had. The points made in this article could have been made without any mention of the Diggar family. There are ASSUMPTIONS made in this article about the Duggars that really add nothing to the article.
      BUT, including the Duggars in the article brought many more readers than the same article, with the same truths, but without the Duggars. I agree with much of what was written, but shame on the author for kicking another Christian family while their down simply to, in my opinion, bolster statistics.

    5. Brenna says:


    6. Johnny Moore says:

      This is Trevin being a click hound. It’s how unthoughtful writers pay the bills. Put “Duggars” or “Ashley Madison” in the title, you get more clicks. Make no mistake this site, and others are here to make money. They aren’t doing this for free.

  7. Emily says:

    In all respect, what makes you think the Duggars would disagree with anything you’ve said here? Maybe they are also aware that the sin isn’t just “out there”, but something that cannot be sheltered from by making rules. Maybe they DID (and are) teaching their children that they are sinners in need of a heart transformation. I think this article could have been written without referencing the Duggars, because you don’t know what they are teaching in their home, only what you see on TV (which seems to portray them as “infallible” even though I’m sure they’d disagree!) You said there is nothing wrong with their standards, and yet you are assuming that’s all they were/are relying on to shelter their children. Regardless of what Josh did or how it was handled, you can’t know what is taught or believed in their homelife. I bet they would agree with what you’ve said here.

    1. Larry says:

      Emily, there aren’t too bad many assumptions made in this article. I encourage you to go to Bill Gothard’s theology is the heart of this and the Duggar’s parenting philosophy.

      Whether or not they intended to do so is not the issue. The point is that they have made a fortune peddling an unattainable perfect family that they knew they hadn’t been. Why accept all the adoration from fans and do question and answer episodes, write books, and speak at conferences all trying to peddle this theology of behavioral modification. Point people to Christ and admit that you are not what people think you are.

    2. Brian says:

      My thoughts exactly

    3. Susan McCurdy says:

      Excellent point. It appears that it’s ok to “shoot our wounded”…if the wounded is a “more conservative” Christian than you are and appears to have set a “hjgher standard” for their family. It’s ok to shoot what we would call a “legalist” right? Did the author of this article interview the Duggar’s to be sure that they have the viewpoint that the “evil is out there.”

    4. I agree. Those who took the opportunity to watch the Fox News interview last night with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar would have seen that they realize evil and sin can take place regardless of what guidelines and rules are in place or how much you teach a child the ways of God. Sin is an unfortunate part of our current existence. The high moral standards they have set are biblical standards, not some naive approach or belief that evil only exists outside the home. When this issue came to light 12 years ago, the Duggar parents recognized the need for heart transformation.

      “Non-religious dads and moms may object to their daughter’s skimpy prom dress.” I don’t disagree with that; however, what is the standard that non-religious dad is using? Is it just, don’t wear that dress because I don’t want you to get pregnant, or is it what a Christian parent should say and get across to their child about the need to avoid lewd behavior and dress and to be a chaste young woman? Big difference in approach. The non-religious dad may be opposed to dating? Again the underlying reason is vital. I am not a fan of the modern dating model because it is based on selfish motives, the getting from someone rather than building one another up as brothers in sisters in Christ first, allowing God to bring to us the individual He desires us to spend the rest of our lives with. Again a giant difference in approach.

      So a few good points with many statements I just cannot agree with, at least in regards to how they are applied to this situation.

  8. trevor says:

    I was excited to read a piece from TGC on the Duggars, but wish I hadn’t. The article is chalked full of fallacies that kill even the authors main point – that we are desperately wicked and need Christ everyday.

    TGC had a great platform to promote its greatest talking point – GRACE! You guys could have made much of our Savior’s costly sacrifice and highlighted His forgiveness.

    1. Without also discussing the consequences of other anti-biblical ideas that can sneak into our minds and hearts — even alongside biblical beliefs about the Gospel and grace — that would be a reductionistic or even cheap “grace.” Not every portion of Scripture speaks solely about grace. No, I’m not saying, “grace must be logically balanced with something else.” I’m saying, “If Scripture’s presentation of grace is joined by presentations of other truths, including warnings about false beliefs, then there is no reason to emphasize only one or the other.”

  9. RFH says:

    Quit using the Duggars as a platform for your parenting advice and theological arguements. The scripture is enough.

  10. J says:

    I don’t think Josh’s sin is a result of Michelle and Jim Bob’s parenting philosophy. It is because he is a descendent of Adam with a sinful nature. Moreover, I don’t think there is anything sinful or wrong with sheltering children. Proverbs warns us to walk with the wise (Prov 13:20) and that friendship with the world is hostility toward God (James 4:4). Wise parents know their children and what influences will tempt them to ungodliness. Parents must raise their children as those who will give an account to God. Younger children need a good deal of sheltering as their opinions and spiritual appetites are being formed. As children grow, ideally, they need less sheltering, but all people need accountability and must guard against their own weaknesses. No one– including adults– is above temptation. I think Michelle and Jim Bob are good parents who love the Lord and their children, and like all of us, they are doing their best. My concern is not with their parenting philosophy but with their emphasis on their parenting philosophy. When we give more emphasis to family, children, marriage, parenting, etc., than Scripture itself gives, we are in danger of idolatry. Instructions regarding the nuclear family take up a relatively small percentage of Scripture, particularly in the New Testament. The central message and grand theme of the New Testament is the gospel of Christ and His church, not the family. There are some within the church who are seeking to elevate the family to a position Scripture itself does not give. Our public message should be singular– Christ crucified, risen, and ascended. If any other doctrine– even a biblical one– supersedes this by becoming our primarily passion, main focus, or constant theme, we are in danger. It isn’t wrong to share our personal convictions with others, or to tell them what the Bible says about the family, but we ought not make these things our central message or the yardstick by which we measure another’s faith.

  11. Brian says:

    This is the best article I’ve seen on the topic of the Duggar situation. I have been reluctant to post anything on it at all. Most articles were a public shaming of Josh Duggar (and Christianity in general) on one hand, or public praise for the Duggar’s hyper-fundamentalist, cult-like leanings on the other.
    I was once a very active part of the ministry (or cult if you prefer) which the Duggars were a part (IBLP and ATI). I even spent a four-day fasting weekend with a very small group of young men with their beloved, but now disgraced, Bill Gothard. I was one of their poster boys. There is still a quote of mine on one of their promotional pages until this day. However, there was a lot of “evil on the inside” with me, and I was the ugliest version of self-righteousness I have ever known. Something I still have to battle every day …Yet another reason I was reluctant to post anything.
    The Duggar’s movement have seen better days – thank goodness – and this fallout is probably its funeral dirge. But there are still many other movements like it rising which are fueled by fear mongering, along with the promise of great kids, and a godly life, if only you protect your kids and yourself from “those out there.” It typically leads to escapism and pharisaism, of the ugliest sorts, rather than gospel motivated living.
    Let’s remember that while sheltering is appropriate, that your child’s greatest human enemy is themselves. And we are called to reach “those out there,” which means more than lobbing gospel grenades at them from a safe distance.

  12. Donna says:

    A crime is a crime, if saying the lord has forgiven excuses the crime why do we have laws and courts?

  13. Lisa says:

    I have to agree with a commenter on Facebook that shared this post: “I get the impression that Trevin has never watched the Duggars. I have never seen an episode where the kids were ” sheltered.” I have seen several where they were protected and even taught about the dangers of sin in the world, and the sin that is in their own hearts.” So many episodes Michelle talks to her children about the Fruit of the Spirit, with an emphasis on self-control. She clearly understands Jeremiah 17:9 that tells us our hearts are desperately wicked.

    1. Diane says:

      My impression was the same. This article sure didn’t seem to match up to what I saw while watching the show and interviews of the family. It seems like there were false assumptions that grieve me.

  14. Jared French says:

    I wonder if the Duggars have some awareness that evil is not merely outside but within. However, their show was not about the problems/evil within. No one turns on the Duggars’ for temper tantrums of children, emotional breakdowns, crazy bride wars, or marriage messiness. If there is any of that, the film crews turn off because they know the product they are selling to viewers. After all, the completion for crazy family, bridal wars, and player relationships is extremely tough. TLC and other networks have plenty of dysfunctional shows that put the horrors of evil within in blazing glory before the public. To these shows, the public responds, “Boy, my life is not that bad after all” and go back to their reality not feeling so bad.

    The Duggars’ show was to be different. Much to the point of Travin Wax’s TGC article, the show was to paint the picture that generic religious practices and boundaries lead to happy, healthy family. However, contrary to Mr. Wax, the problem with the show and the present controversy is not a lack of acknowledgement of evil within but the Gospel applied and constantly lived out.

    Yes, I believe the present controversy is directly related to the lack of the Gospel in the Duggars’ show and lives. This is not a statement of doubting their faith in Christ’s gracious saving work for sinners. Also, I am making this claim while knowing that acknowledgement of evil within and living out Gospel-centered repentance are two sides of the same coin.

    The controversy that has every Christian and secular newspaper and blog writing is a chiefly a lack of public Gospel-centered repentance. You see American knows the Duggars through a medium that is semi-scripted, edited, and viewer-dictated to be a happy, healthy generic-religion practicing family. These are not precious family moments caught on a handheld recorder but million-dollar enterprise not left to chance. While I am often perplexed by their public legalism and boundaries, which no doubt are fairly consistent with their private lives, I am saddened by Christian and non-Christian alike taking this reality show as reality. Yet, the saddest part of this is that the Duggars’ left this as a reality.

    They left it as reality and fought evil on man-made terms instead of the Gospel. I do not know why they left this as the reality. It could have to protect the million-dollar enterprise or keep the victims from having to relive this account over and over. In either case, the plans fell short and what was done in the darkness was brought into the light.

    Interesting, the situation of the present controversy was something done in the dark and appropriately brought into the light. Most honest articles will account that this a difficult time for the family. These were difficult time that siblings feeling violated, disguise of a sibling, talking to counselors, and reviewing the circumstances with law enforcement for public records. Yes, most articles will even point out the fact that this is old public record! After the “breaking news,” the Duggars have come forward with details. Josh has made a full statement of his grievous sin and how this revealed the reality that he needed a Savior. We have also learned that Josh had to confess this to his future bride and in-laws. Fortunately, these were kept private moments and off the reality television show for real ugly, messiness to be dealt with (as the camera would have messed up reality). While the Duggars’ did right in the moments, they needed to make reality public instead of leaving it up to their not-so real reality show.

    Yes, this was an intimate private sin, but it was a sexual sin that has a public record. Public records equal public sin, and public sin requires a public confession and testimony of the Gospel-work, if the Spirit has worked to bring conviction. As of today, Josh’s public confession and testimony is easily found by googling. However, it is a little late for everyone involved. He had to step down as a hypocrite from a very public Washington D.C. lobbyist organization. The sisters have new emphasis on old scars, and the public, not to mention future suitors, are wondering which ones were the victims. The ripple effects will touch each member of the family.

    It all could have been different; it should have been different. Either the marriage or the new lobbyist job situations were opportunities to publicly confess the sin and testify to the work of Christ in the Gospel. Josh could have testified to the implication of how every mankind on this side of the Eden rebels against God. This rebellion manifests itself in every person’s sexuality, whether hetero or homo. He would not have to go into every detail but properly identify his evil within. However, he could have talked about the Gospel realities that God saves us out of sin to then shine a light to help others turn from their sin. This is how he could have taken a public policy job from a place of humility and repentance in the Gospel.

    This still would have been painful. However, it would have been real! It would have trusted Christ’s work on the Cross, instead of trust in work of man to keep public record from being emphasized. Yes, I can say this as hindsight is 20/20, but it is all there in the Scripture. Christian, may this controversy remind you of the Gospel truths that God saves sinners and uses imperfect vessels. As much as Christ has washed us as white as snow, it does not mean that our sin does not have consequences, which can be very public. However, even in those consequences, God has grace sufficient for you if you cling to the Gospel and the Cross of Christ.

  15. Katherine Brewer says:

    While I agree with much of what the author states here, I find it troubling that the central point is based on the idea of protection or sheltering being to keep children “ignorant” of sin and that an attitude of protection and sheltering must be motivated from an improper understanding of theology and original sin. This type of argument becomes an excuse for some parents to accuse others of being too protective or improper in their parenting choices. It also can be used to defend a more “hands off” parenting style that would essentially expose children to anything without much regard for baseness, evil and depravity and the ability of children to process and respond to such things. I agree with so much here; I was raised in a very protective home at times very similar to the Duggars (though not quite to the same degree) and I saw firsthand that such sheltering did nothing to prevent certain “taboo” sins in either myself or any of my siblings. But now that I am a parent I am faced with decisions about how much to expose my own 4 daughters to and I find that this issue isn’t nearly as simple as this author is suggesting for one important reason: much of the protection, guidance and “sheltering” we provide for our children isn’t merely to prevent them from “knowing sin” or acting out sinfully…clearly they are born into a sinful nature and all that entails. But my efforts are to the best of my ability to keep others from harming my children, from making them victims of abuse or preying upon them in their childhood innocence. I don’t do so believing that they are made “better” or less sinful or that they won’t easily stumble into such sins themselves. I do so in hopes that they don’t experience certain painful experiences, victimization, or destruction. This is the aim of any sane parent. Who of us wants our children to be hurt at the hands of others or because of certain choices. Yes, there comes a point where they must be responsible and take a stand and live out their salvation. And no, I can’t as their mother control this world or prevent sin from taking hold in their hearts. That is only something Christ can rescue them from. But that doesn’t mean I abandon my responsibility or cease being vigilant in their protection while they are children. I’m just troubled that the article is implying that anyone who shelters, protects, homeschools their children…i.e. looks even remotely like the Duggars style of parenting must be misguided and inferior to those who are looser with their parenting choices. It seems that rather than pointing fingers at others and saying “see! see! that doesn’t work either!” we ought instead to hit our knees praying for these and for our own saying “there but for the grace of God go I.”

  16. Antonia says:

    Great insights. The best article I’ve read on the Duggar issue & a vital perspective on parenting for Christians.

  17. Matt says:

    I think this article creates a false dichotomy that I have seen in the “Gospel” movement. It’s as if you can’t both wisely protect your children AND be offensive disciplers. It’s as if parents can’t be both shelter their kids from evil (within reason) as they mature yet boldly tell them of their predicament AND their need of a Savior. It’s as if one can’t be Gospel-centered and also wise regarding what your kids are exposed to. It’s as if you can’t educate them on evil and also protect them from it. It’s as if we can’t show them the world while ALSO training them for it.

    It’s always a good reminder that we don’t want our kids to just be moral or well-behaved. But I think it’s become somewhat of a badge of honor in the Gospel movement to knock parents who, out of a sincere desire to obey God and to raise their kids as warriors for Christ, raise their kids more protectively or differently than the popular culture. It’s as if exposing kids to more of the world is a new form of holiness (for lack of a better phrase).

    For all intents and purposes, the Duggars have likely experienced the grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ so much as they struggled through that. The Duggars might raise their kids differently than you or I. That does not mean that their parenting led to the sin. Or that they care less about the Gospel than we do.

  18. Tom says:

    its easy to criticize the Duggars until your own kids rock your world with sinful behavior. You the realize then that we are all totally corrupt in our flesh regardless of our parenting style. Again we eat our own …

  19. Stephanie says:

    Love this. Great Gospel-centered perspective.

  20. Jon Swerens says:

    Maybe, just maybe, if the decades-old warnings about Gothard’s errant theology and lack of accountability had been taken seriously, these kinds of thought pieces would have been necessary.

  21. Rdrift1879 says:

    Any good team plays both defense and offense with equal vigor. Both are essential and biblical.

  22. Jennifer says:

    I agree totally with the theme of your article, but you have completely mischaracterized the Duggar family. Though you never use the word, you implied that the Duggars have fallen prey to legalism. Legalism is the idea that you can somehow be good or please God apart from Him. This, sadly, is becoming a commonplace charge among Christians. We often tend to label others who have different standards for their families than we do as “legalistic”. We should be very careful in saying or implying this about our brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe that you have totally mischaracterized the Duggar family in this way. They, in fact, do teach their children that they cannot be good apart from God. One easy proof of this, even if you don’t know them, is that they have partnered with the organization The Way of the Master (Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron) in sharing the Gospel. They teach that you absolutely cannot be good apart from God, and that is why we need Jesus and his atoning sacrifice on the cross. It’s actually true that a family with very low standards can be legalistic – again, relying on something “outside” to protect them from evil. But just because someone feels that homeschooling or no TV or extremely modest dress is best for the training up of their children does not automatically mean that they are relying on those things for their goodness or salvation. When you talk about the standards for your family, would it be fair for a family that sends their children to public school to imply that you are legalistic for sending your children to. Christian school? Of course not. You CAN be legalistic for doing those things, but that is a matter of the heart, not of the standard itself.
    Again, I want to say that I completely agree with what you have pointed out in this article. I just wish you had not used the Duggars as the bad example because this may indeed be slander. Slander is a grave sin.

  23. Jon Swerens says:

    Maybe, just maybe, if the decades-old warnings about Gothard’s errant theology and lack of accountability had been taken seriously, these kinds of thought pieces would not have been necessary.

  24. Marcy says:

    “We start thinking our kids are basically good and in need of moral direction, rather than recognizing that our kids are basically bad and in need of heart transformation.” WHAT????? This is the kind of attitude that royally effed me up (I grew up in a born again household). The idea that kids are basically bad? I understand this comports with the concept of original sin; yet bringing up children to believe themselves to be essentially “bad” in need of salvation from an external source has caused no small amount of grief in my life. Luckily, I rejected organized religion and am much happier now.

  25. Marcy says:

    We start thinking our kids are basically good and in need of moral direction, rather than recognizing that our kids are basically bad and in need of heart transformation.

  26. Nicki Ann says:

    Certainly, the Duggars are Arminian to the core and are much more concerned about the evil without, the world and the devil, than the evil that is within. I have been part of the Bill Gothard world in which they live and it is perverse to say the least and the over emphasis on protection from the sin without very probably incites the temptations and lusts of the flesh. That said I fail to see how they handled this situation incorrectly. If you did not see it, Megyn Kelly interviewed them in detail last evening and at least some of the show is online. She interviews the girls on Friday at 9pm on Fox News.

    Additionally, as a victim of long-term child molestation I take these things quite seriously, but I find it irresponsible to put what happened in the Duggar home on par with the acts of someone like Roman Polanski.

    Let us not forget that a juvenile police report is not subject to FOIA and its release is illegal. The suggestion that the Duggars should have made this matter public is just crazy. Even Josh could not use it discretely as part of his testimony for Christ without re-victimizing his sisters each time he spoke.

  27. Andy says:

    I think this is a good biblical teaching to address.

    It’s unfortunate that it’s connected with the Duggars scandal in a way that implies that they neither believed nor lived in accordance with this teaching. It’s borderline slanderous. The Gospel Coalition should be above the “if it bleeds it leads” type of blog post.

  28. Nicki Ann says:

    Certainly, the Duggars are Arminian to the core and are much more concerned about the evil without, the world and the devil, than the evil that is within. I have been part of the Bill Gothard world in which they live and it is perverse to say the least and the over emphasis on protection from the sin without very probably incites the temptations and lusts of the flesh. That said I fail to see how they handled this situation incorrectly.
    If you did not see it, Megyn Kelly interviewed them in detail last evening and at least some of the show is online. She interviews the girls on Friday at 9pm on Fox News.

    Additionally, as a victim of long-term child molestation I take these things quite seriously,
    but I find it irresponsible to put what happened in the Duggar home on par with the acts of someone like Roman Polanski.

    Let us not forget that a juvenile police report is not subject to FOIA and its release is
    illegal. The suggestion that the Duggars should have made this matter public is just crazy. Even Josh could not use it discretely as part of his testimony for Christ without re-victimizing his sisters each time he spoke.

  29. Amy says:

    The article on the Duggars is way off. Many people do not know the true story behind the Duggars. They are a Bill Gothard family. This theological system promotes abuse of every kind. Those of us raised in this system of theology have never experienced the grace and mercy of God. It is very helpful to read a review of Bill Gothard’s teachings and its pitfalls on Recovering Grace’s website. It is important to note that this problem is so rampant amongst Gothard families that there are pamphlets addressing the issue. Many of them blame the victims for “dressing provocatively” as young, little girls. Having discovered the joy of Reformed theology with a loving God has given me hope, but there is a lot of pain to overcome from living in what is really a cult with a standard of artificial righteousness….

    1. LAK says:

      No, Gothard doesn’t promote abuse, he promotes Christ and that the Bible is sufficient for faith and practice. There are plenty of conservative families who don’t abuse their kids and still likes the principles he teaches.

      1. Lynn B. says:

        LAK: I would encourage you to look around and take a look and listen to those who consider themselves “Gothard survivors,” you are apparently still drinking the Kool-Aid. Bill’s teaching is hugely scripture-plus and is legalism at its worst.

  30. Wayne says:

    Yes, God did create us in His image and His creation was good. Everything was perfect, women could even bear children without pain. Then one day everything changed and the consequences of our sin became clear. God sent His son, Jesus Christ to bear the weight of all sin for all that confess and believe in Him. So, yes we are all sinners, including our children. Do we need Christ everyday? Yes, we are in desperate need of a saviour. I know I am, and I am pretty sure we all are!

  31. kris says:

    I think all of you are missing the point this man than teenager forced himself on children that could not fight him off! he is a sex offender and should be treated as one.I’m sorry but if it were my child who was the the one who he attacked he would have one hell of a fight to keep his freedom and his life!! Lets keep it real people if any of this would have happend to your child you would want his head on a stick.

  32. Jules says:

    Very well said and a sound reminder.

  33. Rebecca Crass says:

    This article saddens me. Just another example of Chrisians judging instead of supporting and praying for other Christians. The liberal media is crucifying the Duggars enough, why should we join in? To even begin to think we know what the Duggars did wrong and what they could have done to prevent this from happening is foolish at best and arrogant. We have no clue what they did or didn’t do in thier parenting. Satan looks for ways to destroy. What better way to attack a family that stands for sexual purity than this? Yes, we need to teach our children and not shelter them, but to go so far as to think you know what the Duggars were thinking, teaching, or not teaching their children is ridiculous. We should be rallying around this family to support them. They are hurting. Regardless of what anyone thinks, none of us are beyond this happening to our families. Would we want our worst sins broadcast in the media for everyone to see?? I am ashamed of many people in the Christian community for their response. Should we perhaps try to learn from this tragedy and do whatever we can to avoid it in our own families ? Yes. Do we have a right to think the Duggars “messed up” in their parenting? NO. Josh is paying for his sin. God deals with that. Do we have a right to join in and throw stones?

    1. Gail says:

      Victims of pedophiles, have the right to judge pedophiles. Josh hasn’t been sent to jail, he isn’t paying for his sin!

      1. Nicki Ann says:

        Gail: I was molested by my father for about a decade of my childhood which I share only because you seem to think that makes one qualified to speak to this matter. I do agree that in this situation those who have no personal experience likely have little understanding. Sadly, many Christians wrongly believe that when one is forgiven there should be no consequences to the one who has sinned and I would remind them that the repentant thief on the cross still died on that cross.

        I disagree that Josh should have gone to jail. I likely would strongly support an adult who molests a child always doing jail time; often it actually should be capital punishment. However, this happened between Josh’s fourteenth and fifteenth birthdays and no matter what the media reports we do not know the extent of what happened or the extent of his counseling. Bill Gothard of whom I am not advocate does work with the courts in some cities/counties providing prison diversion programs for juvenile offenders. Whether I would personally chose that program is not the point, it is an on the up-and-up juvenile offender treatment program. I believe that is where Josh went; the Duggars are Gothard people.

        Parents are not mandatory reporters in Arkansas so I cannot see that the parents did anything wrong in how they handled the matter.

        My husband was gang raped at 16 by three men while he was enroute to a juvenile detention facility for some petty crime the details of which I do not remember just now. This does not excuse his crime or his sinful heart but he was in a very difficult and abusive living situation and as much as anything, he was crying out for attention. Sometimes negative attention is better than no attention at all. So you will understand why I think the Duggars did the correct thing in not sending Josh to jail. Juvenile detention really is a university that graduates hardened criminals and accomplishes nothing good.

        I agree that Josh did the right thing to resign from FRC. He is sadly disqualified for life as being a public spokesperson for life and morality. But there is redemption and God will use for good even Josh’s limitations. My husband ended up serving many, many years in prison as he acted out against what happened to him and in the end, God used it all for our good and His glory.

  34. Jerry R says:

    Now, I have no interest in debating the facts of this case. It is heartbreaking, disgusting, and infuriating all at once, and even if we can all be thankful for God’s grace poured out on even the worst of sinners, we cannot minimize the long-lasting consequences of such behavior, especially when some of the victims were preyed upon by their own brother…..So why so much effort put into such a lengthy article of someone you don’t know and all you know is what you’ve seen or read. You pick the bones of the Duggars with apparent zeal. You might reap a whirlwind.

  35. The Duggars wisely and responsibly went to great lengths to shelter their precious children from the depravity in our dark world. Children must ALWAYS be sheltered from the ravages of sin. No Christian parent believes their family to be good. There is only One who is good! The heart is wicked above all else, and the key is to reach our childrens’ hearts with the Gospel of the Good News. Christian parents who have the tools necessary for teaching their children about Jesus do not keep their heads in the sand when evil is displayed in the lives of their children. We do not pretend as if they don’t rebel against us and ultimately against God. He is the only perfect parent and He has only one perfect child! All the rest of us have rebelled against Him! So, of course how can imperfect parents expect perfect children? It is NOT possible! Our children need a Saviour AND a shelter! Vulnerable, naive, impressionable children are not strong enough spiritually, don’t have the proper equipping tools that adults have, to be able to fend off the world, the flesh and the devil as adults, whose frontal lobes have finished developing, do. God’s holy written Word instructs us to be separate from the world, while at the same time engaging it in a wise way. Jesus sent His adult disciples out two-by-two. He could engage the culture in a way that we are not equipped to, for He is God and we are not.

    At the moment we begin to believe we have a right to something that we have been denied, we become miserable, despondent and angry. It should be our own vile sin, committed against a holy God and for which Christ suffered, that fills us with sorrow and remorse – not the sin that others commit against us. Today it is fashionable, almost desirable, to be a victim. Everyone has a story and no one can be outdone when it comes to how severely he has been abused. Even in Christian circles this is a popular theme. The attitude that dominates these tales of woe is, “Someone has violated me and intruded on my rights. Having endured this commends me, makes me special to God. He is now, or will be or should be giving me the peace, happiness, contentment and success that were rightfully mine all along.” Sexual defilement of a child is a monstrous sin, and the rape of a child’s spirit is on equal footing. The damage from either would appear irreversible. Dr. David Jeremiah has said, “Our God has the power to reverse the irreversible.” It is true, for I have tasted of His cure from both, and it fills me with a longing for Him that the happiest of childhoods could not have given. ~Glenda Revell in her amazing book Glenda’s Story: Led by Grace with a foreword by Elizabeth Elliot

    The messengers are guaranteed to be messy, but the Message is ALWAYS true, nonetheless.

  36. Kristine says:

    In the many years that I have read and loved the Gospel Coalition, this is the first article I have disliked. I find this article to be making some pretty big assumptions about the Duggar family and seems to be indirectly suggesting there is a “right” and “wrong” way of sheltering/not sheltering known by the author. While the rest of the world is throwing stones at this family (for indeed some serious events in the past, many years ago), the church should be lavishing prayer on this family and pointing out, shouting about, and boasting about God’s incredibly generous grace on sinners, including those who touch others inappropriately. There are so many more points that I didn’t like about this article, but many have already discussed them.

  37. Christiane Smith says:

    I wanted to say that the Duggars had THE chance to present Christianity to the world IF they had responded properly to the incident(s) in their family;
    but they chose the way of this world to hide the sin because they were afraid and ashamed . . . another glimpse of Eden all over again . . .

    where I could no longer relate to them was when they failed to think about the victims, their daughters, and thought only about their ‘precious Josh’ . . . and when the parents played the blame game against the media, a game that they lost badly in the eyes of the watching public

    what we sow, we reap . . . they have responsibility and even though they did not answer properly to the demands of our laws, they now are being tried in the courts of public opinion, and the verdict is ” Hypocrites ” and the sentence is loss of credibility, even among their ‘followers’ . . .

    I hope someday the daughters will be freed of the cult teachings that the Duggars embraced. Especially the daughters who were victimized and then forgotten in the efforts to cover it all up. A sad display of fallen humanity.

  38. KTB says:

    I live in a small town that has a portion of Christians who shelter their kids from the evil outside. We sheltered to a point, but not too extremely. Unfortunately, the naughtiest kids that got into drink, drugs and other things were probably the most sheltered. They can’t approach their parents with their sins, so they kind of delve deeper. I would even be so bold as to say that the more publicly pious a family is, the worse a kid or two turns out.

  39. Kathryn says:

    While I haven’t read all the replies, I’m going to have to disagree with this article (if you care ;-)). If we believe that we are all created in the image and likeness of God then we are all “good” and seek to do what is right and just. That’s why I think even “non-religious” people seek to do what is right and just. While they still deny God, it’s still planted on their heart from Him. So I recognize that goodness and yet still understand that we have a sinful nature but I don’t think that makes us instrinsically “bad” like this author wants to state.

  40. Tim Bauer says:

    Trevin – you’ve stirred up some controversy so you’ve done your job well! I salute you on the boldness to bring out what holiness is really about for Christians. Well done.

    1. Diane says:

      You aren’t saying that controversy is in general, right? But that you strongly agree with the author’s remarks? And you are very familiar with the Duggars’ parenting, so you know it to be a solid observation, right? No snarkiness in my questions. Sincerely trying to understand your meaning.

  41. Lyell Murray says:

    The Bible is a book written by men and compiled and published by the Roman Emperor Constantine. Without the slightest shred of evidence you claim it divine. I’m pretty sure you have not interviewed anyone who wrote it. I made no agreement with any divine beings as to the parameters of my behavior before arriving in this dimension. When you can come here and relate your direct interactions with divine beings I will take it under consideration. Until then it is what it is. A book that is geocentric to one part of the earth which is evidence of a complete lack of divinity. I’m sure you will be here shortly to denigrate and pass judgement on me as some sort of sinner. More evidence you don’t have the slightest idea of what true divinity is.

  42. Meg I. says:

    Trevin, my 18 year old just told me about a “great article” from the TGC that I need to read. Not only have the Duggars and other families gone through some rough times with kids making sinful decisions, but we have had our fair share too. Anyway, said daughter was very excited about this article and we discussed it in the car today. When I got home I looked it up – I then proceeded to roll my eyes as of course, it is written by Trevin Wax. I had just told my 18 year old how often the TGC, especially Trevin Wax, would write an article on the exact subject God had been dealing with me about at that time in my life. So when I saw your name as the writer of this article, on a topic we have been discussing (that sin originates in the heart no matter how you were raised), I was not surprised. Thank you once again. Many of your readers raised and home schooled our kids in the era of “Raising Kids God’s Way,” a formula method if there ever was one – behavioral management. Many regrets but God’s grace is of course, greater.

  43. Mark says:

    There’s some truth to what you’re saying and the Duggar’s go far beyond what we plan to do with our kids in terms of “sheltering.” We all have to recognize our need for the Deliverer because no amount of will power will get the job done. However, I would point at the 1 out of 19 children have the kinds of issues doesn’t come close to suggesting that their parenting style did not work. In fact, I think there is a lot to be gleaned. I know of many incredible parents who have done an exceptional job parenting, only to find out that one of their children did unthinkable things. It’s called human nature.

    Ultimately, the problem with sheltering can be that the child never has to exercise their own judgement. Their not able to allow their heart for God to determine how they make choices for themselves. When do they cross the line into maturity…that’s something every parent has to pray through and seek God for.

    I would simply say look at the 18 other amazing kids to Duggars have and take it easy on them.

  44. Doug says:

    I think the premise of this article is flawed. I was a practicing Christian for nearly 40 years and remember no one saying or teaching that the heart was basically pure and needed protection. Quite the contrary, we always taught that the heart was prone to evil and wandering from God’s intended way and needed constant monitoring to keep us from choosing what felt good to our depraved side. It wasn’t keeping anything “out” as much as squelching the desires of the “flesh”, as this article posits. But the real problem for me was the thinking that we are “worms” who CAN”T be good without a “moral code” to whip us into shape. I realized that no such code actually exists outside of us and the good we desire is just as much a part of us as the evil we dread so much. The only “moral code” is the desire to make the right choices and see the best outcomes based on the results, not ancient standards. Morality has obviously evolved over several thousand years of human history; it makes no sense that we should live by the same standards of conduct that our ancestors struggled with. Enlightenment looks forward, not backward. We would not have the freedoms we enjoy in America if we based our lifestyle on tradition rather than reason and progress.

  45. Christiane says:

    “sin is not primarily something we need to be sheltered from, but delivered from”

    as far as I know, evangelical fundamentalists do not pray the Lord’s Prayer anymore . . . but I never why . . . ‘libera nos a malo’ is a basic Christian prayer, taught to us by Christ Himself . . . to abandon His teaching and example in pursuit of something ‘new’ seems not to make much sense even to modern Christianity

    1. Christiane says:

      correction: ‘but I never knew why’

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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