David Petraeus and His Bathsheba

Dr. Albert Mohler yesterday in The Briefing:

Adultery Still Matters: The Downfall of a General

Even in our morally confused age, adultery still matters. Gen. David Petraeus, who until Friday served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, had to resign when he admitted to a sexual affair with the woman who had written his biography. That biography is now significantly altered.

Gen. Petraeus was a four-star Army general, known simply as P4 to many insiders. His appointment to the directorship of the Central Intelligence Agency came after he retired from one of the most illustrious careers in the modern American military.

As The New York Times reported:

“He was the preeminent military officer of his generation, a soldier-scholar blazing with ambition and intellect, completing his meteoric rise as a commander in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Worshipful Congressional committees lauded him as a miracle worker for helping turn around the war in Iraq, applying a counterinsurgency strategy he had helped devise and that was widely viewed for a time as the future of warfare. Then, dispatched to Afghanistan to replace Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who had been fired by President Obama, he sought to apply the doctrine he had championed, while also applying an aggressive counterterrorism strategy. He was fiercely competitive and carefully protective of his reputation.”

Furthermore, the paper noted that “Mr. Petraeus had seemed all but indestructible.” All that came to an end on Friday, when his resignation was announced. In a letter to CIA employees, Petraeus stated the matter directly:

“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.”

In the past several years, adultery has brought down two governors (Eliot Spitzer of New York, who resigned, and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who did not), one presidential candidate (John Edwards), and numerous business leaders (including Harry Stoneciper, former CEO of Boeing). The same day that Petraeus’s resignation hit the papers, word came of the fact that the incoming CEO of Lockheed Martin, Christopher E. Kubasik, had been forced out under similar circumstances.

As The New York Times noted, none were more shocked about Gen. Petraeus’ downfall than his former colleagues in the military, who compared his fall to that of David and Bathsheba in the Old Testament.

Christians know that adultery is not merely a sin — it is the breaking of a covenant and a maligning of God’s good gift in marriage. This particular sin also comes with devastating consequences to individuals, families, and institutions. Beyond that, it leads to the unraveling of community.

Even in our day of moral confusion and uncertainty, adultery has consequences. Tellingly, some argued that Petraeus had not done anything worthy of resignation unless national security had been breached. Gen. Petraeus knew better than that, as do we.


About savedbygrace1976

Mark Chanski (author of Manly Dominion; Womanly Dominion; and Encouragement: Adrenaline for the Soul) has labored as a full-time Pastor since 1986 in churches in Ohio and Michigan. He has been Pastor of Harbor Church in Holland, Michigan, since 1994. He has also been elected as Coordinator of the Reformed Baptist Network. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Cornerstone University, and a Master of Divinity degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He teaches Hermeneutics for the Reformed Baptist Seminary in Sacramento, CA. Mark is married to his wife Dianne, and has fathered their four sons and one daughter, whose ages stretch from 36 to 26 (born 1983 to 1994).
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