An Authority Covering Umbrella of Protection parable, to celebrate the Reformation

While others are spending October celebrating the Five Solas, I want to celebrate umbrellas. Actually, I want to celebrate getting out from under umbrellas.

And for good measure, so the non-initiate can understand my Umbrella Parable, here’s the expanded version of The Umbrella Diagram, for Reformed churches. That is, this diagram came from some inheritors of the Reformation that we’re celebrating this month.

Hopefully for those who aren’t familiar with The Diagram, the message of The Diagram will be self-explanatory: Don’t get out from under the Umbrella of Protection covering of your Authority, lest you get rained on by Satan, whose raincloud (or maybe it’s another umbrella??) is bigger than Jesus.

And this leads us to . . .

Our Parable

Once upon a time, long ago and far away, lived a fearful and guilt-ridden monk who began reading the Bible and receiving the lightning bolt of revelation of the life of faith. The people over him and the people under him and the people equal to him told him he needed to stay under the covering of the Umbrella of Protection that was to be found in his Authority. They said if he stepped out from under this Umbrella, he would be doomed.

But the monk’s problem was that he was already doomed, even while he was faithfully under that Umbrella.

Because this formerly fearful and formerly guilt-ridden monk was drinking in the water of the Word of God, he began to see the holes in the Umbrella of Authority and the holes in the entire paradigm of the Umbrella of Authority. He stepped out from under the Umbrella of Authority and out from the entire Paradigm of the Umbrella of Authority and began to experience the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and the fiery darts of the enemy, which he fought with the shield of faith.

This is the beginning of what we call the Reformation.

Once upon a time, not quite so long ago and not quite so far away, a friend showed me her entire correspondence with the pastor of the Reformed church that she eventually left when she escaped her abuser.

All through the first couple of years of that email correspondence, I saw my friend telling her Reformed pastor she wanted to stay under the Umbrella of his Authority and the church’s Authority.

I was puzzled as to where she had gotten the term. You see, even though the concept has been around a long, long time, far longer than that fearful and guilt-ridden monk, the term was a fairly new one and originated with a man who taught many thousands of eager listeners in my generation, of whom I was one, but I knew my friend was not. I asked her where she learned the term.

My friend told me her Reformed pastor taught this age-old Umbrella-ism from his Reformed pulpit, a lot. He assured his Reformed church members they were “under the Umbrella of Protection of the church.” He warned those Reformed church members that if they were to walk away from that Reformed church, they would no longer be under God’s protection. “So,” she explained to me, “our salvation was because of the church. And the children’s salvation was because of their families who were under the church.”

My friend observed that she couldn’t remember hearing any preaching about Jesus dying on the cross for us in that Reformed church. Instead, like that fearful and guilt-ridden monk and his peers of old, all eyes were on the church, which meant the pastor.

“The pastor represented God, and we were to huddle under and obey.”

My friend got out from under the Protective Covering Umbrella of her Reformed church’s Authority and began to experience the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but experienced the fiery darts of the enemy no less than when she had been under the Protective Umbrella Covering, and to her relief as she stayed out from under the Umbrella of Authority and drank directly and deeply from the Word of God, she began to experience the rain of God’s grace in a way she hadn’t in a long time.

This was the beginning of what we might call a new life.

***

And in the end, what do we make of it all? We find out the Umbrella Heresy is an age-old smoke-and-mirrors show:

The “Umbrella of Authority” is really a Specter of Control.

The “Umbrella of Protection” is really a Specter of Fear.

Some have shown the Umbrella heirarchy as just within the family, with fathers being the ultimate umbrella (though how it’s supposed to work when he’s sexually abusing those who are under his protection isn’t clear, except that somehow it’s their fault if he has holes in his umbrella or his umbrella is completely broken).

But we mustn’t forget about those church Umbrellas. Even those that would call themselves the inheritors of the Reformation. For example . . .

 A biblical counselor tells us that the church as well as the father is an “umbrella of protection.”

The book You Can Be the Wife of a Happy Husband: Discovering the Keys to Marital Success (Darian Cooper, Destiny Image, 2010) describes Christ as being under the umbrella of God the Father (!) and then forming an umbrella for the men of the church, who are then the umbrella for their wives and children. 

And it’s here in this teaching from Mary Kassian, in an interview with Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth of the popular “Revive Our Hearts” radio program: 

. . . [T]he elders of the congregation protect all the women and the men who are under their covering of authority.  

Ultimately this is the recipe for control and fear.

But there was once a fearful, guilt-ridden monk who became guilt free and bold as a lion when he stepped out from the Paradigm of the Umbrella Heresy. He is one of the many voices through the generations who has called to us,

“Look not to a ‘church’ for your authority and your spiritual protection. Through the Scriptures alone, and by faith alone, look to Jesus Christ alone.”

Happy 500th birthday, Reformation. Together we’ll celebrate not just the reign, but the rain of God’s amazing grace.

11 thoughts on “An Authority Covering Umbrella of Protection parable, to celebrate the Reformation

  1. *”Don’t get out from under the Umbrella of Protection covering of your Authority, lest you get rained on by Satan, whose raincloud…is bigger than Jesus.”*

    Well said Rebecca… that’s the sum of everything that is wrong, twisted and backwards with this umbrella theology.

    This false teaching convinces people that, first and foremost, they need to be fearful of perpetually overwhelming “rain” (calamities, curses, etc.).

    That the only way to avoid personal eternal disaster is to seek and accept the layers of protection against that rain, of which Jesus is only one layer, and not powerful enough to do the job alone all the way down the line of authority.

    But biblical truth is the exact opposite. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, shining to all people. He is the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in His wings. There is no “rain” that can overcome the sunshine of Jesus.

    Manmade layers of umbrellas of authority will only *block the sunshine* and cause people to walk in shadows and darkness.

    If only I could say to sincere folks caught up in the shady umbrella theology… put down that umbrella and walk in the Light!

    John 8:12 (NIV)
    When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

    • I love it! And also, in the Scriptures, rain is *always* considered a good thing. He is the one who brings the sun to light his world and the rain to water the earth. The umbrella heresy is toxic through and through.

  2. Wow, Darian Cooper must be one old lady! I perused her 1970’s tome when I was 12 and thought she was wrong to put her husband where only God belongs. The 70’s was also when The Stepford Wives came out, btw.

    When I heard that Abigail was punished for not mindlessly obeying her abusive lush of a hubby I thought God had a funny way of chastising her. She saved a bunch of innocent men in Nabal’s house. Nabal died at the hand of God. Abigail got to marry David–the future King of Israel. What’s not to like?

  3. Thank you for this! It is really remarkable to notice that the same abuses continue under many ‘umbrellas’ – those authorities claiming to be children of the Reformation are repeating exactly the same mindset they are so criticizing about the Roman Catholic church.
    Here in my country (a predominantly Lutheran nation heavily influenced by Reformation in many ways), we are hearing so much about Luther this year. Luther this and Luther that… but there are many similar groups or subgroups under the ‘Lutheranism’ that like to keep their members in bondage, believing that salvation is only possible through the group leadership, and blind obedience.

    Just a slight clarifiaction, if I may. There is a common misconception that Luther was not ‘allowed’ to read the Bible, or that was frowned upon as a sin of rebellion. Actually, reading and teaching the Bible was one of his official duties as a doctor of divinity, and he was a teacher in the Augustinian monastery 🙂 So he did not exceed his ‘authority’ when he opened the Bible, quite the contrary.

    What was remarkable, was how he dared to question the abuses and the practices of his day, especially in regards to indulgences. At first, he fully hoped and expected to stay under the church authority, and when it became clear that the Pope and other superiors did not want to repent and renounce the wrongdoings, only then did he fully understood that a break was inevitable. His stance towards the Pope grew gradually harder: at first, he sought a respectful dialogue, and in the end he was ready to send him straight to hell 🙂 It was not an overnight change but a process.

    Sorry for nitpicking, I just come across the concept often that Bible somehow was forbidden at the time, and it was not the case. It is quite similar today in many groups: reading the Bible is seen as good and even encouraged, but it is only taught through a certain lense, and questioning or interpreting for oneself is seen as an act of rebellion or even apostasy.

    • That’s a very good comparison, and quite apt, I think. I knew that as a monk Luther had access to the Bible (which was how he was able to read it), but I was under the impression monks were supposed to just take it as the authority told them it was to be interpreted, and to not really do any thinking on their own.

      I know that some people in Bill Gothard’s organization (a big Umbrella Man) would spend hundreds and maybe even thousands of hours poring over things Gothard wrote, and spend very little to no time actually asking the Lord to help them understand the Bible for themselves. It’s actually really shocking when you think about it.

  4. Great post and great meme!! How ironic that the same churches that celebrate Martin Luther are the ones who are so hierarchical, authoritarian, and controlling. And how ironic that they use the umbrella analogy, when rain actually means blessing!

  5. Wow! The timing of this article is pretty incredible. I have greatly feared the idea of no longer being a member of a church. It felt “unsafe,” but I couldn’t remember where that belief system came from. What you describe above is what I was taught.
    I am finally gaining freedom from the chains of church umbrellas that had the power to fill me with shame and guilt, to lead to my feeling isolated when they seemed disapproving and confident when they approved.
    I look back now and I wonder how they gained so much power over my life. I wonder why I felt that I needed their approval.
    The wake up has been incredibly painful as I feel a bit like a pincushion repeatedly stabbed by betrayal after betrayal. For a long time, I tried to defend myself, clarify things, re-state things to attempt to be more clear and I the condemnation didn’t fit my actions or my heart attitude towards God.
    I am finally finding that freedom in Christ also means freedom from church approval. I have wrestled with many passages and have read about the importance of gathering with other believers, loving one another, etc. I’m just coming to a place where I’m beginning to wonder if any of those verses were ever referencing a church building where the leadership is made up of men? Some of those men might be true followers of God. Others appear to be false shepherds or wolves in sheep’s clothing. Either way, the system seems broken. I don’t see much of Jesus in the church where I first discovered his love.
    I feared this journey as I thought it would result in no longer believing in God. It has actually done the opposite. It is freeing me to know him and follow him. I am finding the “church.” They aren’t where I expected to find them – NOT at church / in a church building. Instead, they are people who live their lives acting similarly to how I picture Jesus acting. They seem willing to give their time and resources towards the same people that Jesus gave to. They love unconditionally towards others who can never be expected to love them back in the same way.
    It has been a bit of a wake up call for me to realize that my encounters with church leadership, leave me feeling shame and feeling that they dictate reality for me. My encounters with individual followers of God leave me longing to know him more, safe in his presence, eager for continued healing, eager to love and serve others, unafraid and so much more.
    In my search, I encountered a church that I didn’t understand and still don’t fully understand. There doesn’t seem to be a list of rules and a hierarchy of leadership where people are striving to earn approval. They get together and worship God. They seem to love each others and love those that they encounter in life. They don’t seem perfect – which, ironically, is pretty awesome! There don’t seem to be any pretenses. I haven’t encountered anyone sort of revering the leadership. There don’t seem to be any umbrellas around. Initially, I asked a few times if something was permitted by the church/leadership. All I got in response was looks of confusion. Finally, one day, someone pulled me aside and explained that the looks of confusion are because the people in the church are all following God, not the pastor or various leaders. They just live their lives knowing that they answer to God. It isn’t some sort of license to just live however people want to live as if they want to live free of rules. It just seems that they live following God himself and they don’t seem to be caught up in what everyone else is thinking of them or how they are being judged. I TRULY don’t think they even gossip!
    For the record, my “umbrellas” that I thought I was supposed to live under, took their umbrellas away. I didn’t seek to get out from under them. I was shunned and the umbrellas were taken away. In my panic, I have been learning that all of that might just be sort of some man-made religious thing that has nothing to do with God.

    • Thank you so much for telling your story, SJ. I’m so sorry to hear that the church in which you first discovered the love of Jesus isn’t showing you His love now. But I’m so glad you’ve discovered one that is. This is a gift from God. Blessings to you on your journey.

  6. Umbrellas only offer protection from rain.

    Fiery darts, not rain, are mentioned as being a real threat to believers.

    To which I must state the obvious: an umbrella offers zero protection from fiery darts.

    Thank God that Christ has given us effective protection instead of silly umbrellas!

    Thank you for this excellent post, Rebecca!

I welcome your thoughts