By Marsha West
Evangelicalism as a movement is rushing headlong toward theological ambiguity, which is another way of saying apostasy. ~ Michael Horton
The failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God. ~ R.C. Sproul
At one time the word evangelical was used to differentiate Protestantism from Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Church. For decades evangelicals were often identified with the right-wing of the Republican party as well as the Christian Right. But that ain’t necessarily so anymore.
At one time most evangelicals were primarily interested in electing candidates with Judeo-Christian values….until Purpose-driven pragmatism slithered into the visible Church. Just like the typical pragmatist, Christian pragmatists hold that “the value of something is established by its practicality, functionality, and usefulness. Therefore, that which is impractical is rejected as having lesser value or no value as compared to that which works. Pragmatism has been considered in various fields of study such as law, politics, psychology, religion, and education.” (Source)
So now there’s a battle brewing between the conservatives and the pragmatists. Conservatives insist on applying the “values voter” litmus test to candidates while pragmatists insist on supporting candidates who, they believe, would tenaciously push the conservative agenda through Congress. A candidate’s morals and character is of no particular concern.
Just to be clear, the pragmatist will always insist on compromise.
A Witch’s Brew
Several years ago I penned a piece that I hoped would help explain the downgrade in the Church. I thought supermarket shopping would be a clever way to paint a word picture. In my piece I pointed out that there’s a “diabolically inspired supermarket of truth and error in the postmodern Church.” So take a stroll with me, once again, up and down the aisles as we shop for the ingredients to make Syncretism Stew….
Aisle 1-Mysticism Madness;
Aisle 2-Charismatic Confusion;
Aisle 3-Pentecostal Pandemonium;
Aisle 4-Enlightened Emergents;
Aisle 5-Purpose-driven Pragmatism;
Aisle 6-Secular Strategies…to suck in seekers;
Aisle 7-Twelve-steps…to “group think”
Aisle 8-Preposterous Pop Psychology
Aisle 9-Discernment Disintegration
Aisle 10-Predatory Pastors.
On and on it goes.
And I added this reminder:
The Body of Christ trusts its Shepherds to feed them healthy nutritious foods, yet many of them are literally starving their sheep to death! A diet of “Bible Light” does not nourish the soul – it causes spiritual malnutrition! A shepherd’s job is to lead the flock in Christian life and faith. (Source)
Tragic, isn’t it?
Loose Definitions of Evangelical
Syncretism in evangelicalism started happening when elements of various religious beliefs were integrated into mainline denominations. As syncretism spreads, creeds, confessions and doctrine get tossed aside resulting in a fundamental change of beliefs. When Truth declines, false teaching flourishes. The wily serpent uses syncretism to separate God from His people.
Before I move away from syncretism, I want to stress that evangelicals have been assimilated into the world because of it. More on how assimilation happens in a moment.
So, has evangelical lost its meaning as some suggest? Or is it still possible to nail down the term? The answer is yes and yes. But in order to fully understand what it means we must go back in time to when the movement first began. It is my hope that after reading this article with the simply stated facts it contains and perusing the research articles which are linked, the reader will come to know what evangelical originally stood for; likewise, those who identify as “evangelical Christian” will know if they can truthfully make that claim.
Uber liberal Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein wrote a piece entitled “Why Donald Trump is tearing evangelicals apart.” In it she quotes David Kinnaman, president of the Christian research firm Barna. “Loose definitions of ‘evangelical,’” says Boorstein, “have ballooned the group’s size from a more accurate 7 to 11 percent of the U.S. population to roughly a quarter. Author of a new book about how conservative Christians feel sidelined, Kinnaman said he has talked with and appeared before thousands of people in recent weeks on his book tour “and I’ve not found a single person supporting Trump. How is he a thing among evangelicals?”
According to Boorstein:
Kinnaman said this election “is the most tribal election we’ve ever seen” and will redraw future evangelical lines. Institutional evangelicalism, he said, doesn’t want this because they like the political and cultural power that comes with being perceived as huge.
But, he said, “We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We want to be big, but not too big as to be associated with all that’s wrong with Christianity.”
Kinnaman’s recent experience where he couldn’t find a conservative Christian that supported Donald Trump could be representative of much larger population. I’ll leave that question and the 2016 election until part 2.
What Evangelicals Believe And Why They Believe It
By definition an evangelical is a Bible believing Christian. A true evangelical holds that Scripture is the infallible, inerrant, inspired by the Holy Spirit Word of God. The written Word is the authority by which he lives his life – his “final court of arbitration,” so to speak.
A true evangelical holds to the essential doctrines of the faith which are:
- The Deity of Christ
- Salvation by grace alone
- Resurrection of Christ
- The gospel
- Jesus is the only way to salvation
- Jesus’ virgin birth
- The doctrine of the Trinity
A true evangelical believes the Bible’s teaching on sin and repentance:
We are saved from our sins by trusting in Christ, who bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet 2:24)–not by ceasing sin and doing what is right. When we receive Christ (John 1:12) we are then justified by faith (Rom. 3:28, 4:5, 5:1), and it is the work of God to regenerate us which then enables us to turn from our sins. Therefore, repentance is the result of regeneration (salvation)–not the cause of it. (Source)
In the early stages of the evangelical movement professing evangelicals held the view that Christ had commissioned His followers to evangelize unbelievers through the preaching of the Gospel — salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. (Ephesians 2:8) The term for this is the Great Commission:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Mat 28:16-20) See also Acts 1:8 and 1 Peter 3:15
The true evangelical Christian believes and acts appropriately on all of the above.
An excerpt from a piece titled “The Alignment of New Evangelicals with Apostasy” expands on who an evangelical is and comments on changes that have been occurring over the past 50 plus years to individuals who are categorized as such:
A person calling himself Evangelical is professing to be committed to the Gospel of Christ as proclaimed in Scripture. The true Gospel demands separation from all who teach another Gospel. As the Apostle declared, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” … “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Without such separation the name Evangelical signifies nothing. “New Evangelicalism”, which willingly compromises with and accommodates another Gospel, has gained ground everywhere, beginning in the early 1960s. Since then, the Evangelical world has changed beyond recognition.
What many people are unaware of is that the word evangelical has been hijacked by liberals/progressives who make no bones about the fact that they out right reject some of the essential doctrines of the faith mentioned above. Because they’re liberals or, as they prefer, post-evangelicals, they deem the Bible’s moral decrees old-fashioned, out-of-date, passé. Moreover, they no longer try to present the Gospel of Christ as a truth claim as they’re partial to a more relative understanding of truth. Because post-evangelicals are steeped in political correctness and pragmatism, they’d never dream of pushing their religious views on someone else, thus they choose not to share the Gospel with the lost. To them it’s no big deal for Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims to remain in their religion for the reason that, to enter heaven, trusting in Christ for salvation isn’t a “must” despite the fact that Jesus clearly stated: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) When Jesus said “No one,” He meant no one.
Many post-evangelicals are universalists. The universalist believes that God so loved the world that He intends to save everybody who ever lived; likewise, upon death each and every one of us loveable creatures will join Him in heaven – and that includes the unrepentant sinner who hasn’t trusted in Christ for salvation. Hell? Haha, the joke’s on those nasty fundamentalist Christians who believe in it. Hell doesn’t exist, say many post-evangelicals.
It should come as no surprise that post-evangelicals support left wing political policies and causes. In fact, many of them hold the opposite views of conservative evangelicals. For example, they support abortion on demand…gun control…the LGBT’s radical agenda which includes same-sex “marriage”…redistribution of wealth…women’s equality…oppose capital punishment…social justice causes…the list goes on.
Confusing isn’t it? The point I’m making is that in this culture when someone says “I’m an evangelical,” it doesn’t really tell us anything.
In Evangelicals Are Politically Irrelevant Fay Voshell helps us to better understand our confusion while at the same time reflecting on how we got to where we now are:
The evangelical call to confront the corruption of culture rather than to rationalize and to assimilate it has been badly weakened over decades. Many evangelicals have absorbed and imitated the celebrity and secularist political culture, swimming with the tide rather than against it.
How did the assimilation of evangelicals into the secularist word happen?
It happened much as the Hellenization of the Jews of the Diaspora occurred. Alexander the Great and his successors insisted Jews assimilate into Greek culture. Circumcision, a religious rite considered barbaric mutilation by the Greeks, was forbidden; Jewish youths were expected to compete naked in Greek games; Jewish holidays were renamed and celebration of them forbidden. Under Antiochus, the Torah was banned under threat of death, and the Sabbath was not to be observed. Much pressure was put on the Jews, who were considered an indigestible cultural subgroup as long as they retained their religious differences, to convert to Greek ways. Many did, seeing that if success was to be had in the Seleucid world, capitulation to Greek mores was necessary. (emphasis added)
Christians in America have been under similar pressure. They have seen their children forbidden to read the bible in public schools, forced to accept “gender free” bathrooms in which ten-year-old girls are to share restroom facilities with grown men who have declared themselves women; seen their holiday celebrating the birth of Christ turned into a secularist Saturnalia; watched as their college-age youths are ordered to stomp on pictures of Jesus, and seen their children forced to study and to recite the tenets of the Muslim faith.
At work, evangelicals are under constant pressure to be silent about their faith and to stifle talk of sexual morality under threat of losing their jobs or businesses because of so-called “hate speech.” It has been easier to stay silent or to capitulate to the multicultural, secularist world view.
In large numbers, evangelicals have surrendered rather than fight.
I’ll wind this up with a quote from Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure:
Christian authenticity is a set of marks of genuineness. Christ said that we can tell false Christians from real Christians by their fruit. There is fruit that real Christians produce that false Christians cannot. Even those who are in the fires of tribulation, fighting deadly battles against their sin nature will be growing in these areas. Their visible fruit may be small or even embryonic, but it will be there. However, the false believer, since he or she has not the Holy Spirit nor are they regenerate, cannot bear this fruit. It grows only in the hearts of those God has touched with His grace unto the New Birth. (Source)
Biblical Fundamentalism By Gary Gilley
An Evangelical Leader Makes Trump His Golden Calf By Steve Deace
Resolution On Moral Character On Public Officials—Southern Baptist Convention
God’s Will in the 2016 US Election By Kathleen Peck
Copyright by Marsha West, 2016. All rights reserved.