Those who have followed this blog for a while are probably aware of a general pattern that I do try to follow. Whenever I address some current events imbroglio, whether it be race riots, or our virus panic porn, or same sex mirage, one of the things I try to do regularly is bring the whole discussion back to the gospel. The fact that we are disgracing ourselves in yet a new way obviously needs to be discussed, and then we clearly need to consider the claims of Christ as a consequence.
Now a cynical critic is going to say that “he is a preacher, that’s just what he does.” He has to tack an evangelistic appeal onto the end of everything, so that the people paying his salary will see that he is out there doing his job. They say this in exactly the same way that they expect an Amway representative to whip out the catalog eventually. You chat people up with whatever until you decide to lurch into the Pressing Subject at Hand.
Now I grant that I do deliberately seek to bring all such weighty matters back to the fact of Christ and Him crucified. I do that, and it is true that I do it on purpose. But here is the key thing about it. I regard it as my task to bring everything back to who Jesus is, and what Jesus did, but with one additional element mentioned beyond that. I believe that it is my responsibility to bring it all back to the crux of the matter without changing the subject.
Nothing Among You
I grew up in evangelical circles, which means that I grew up very familiar with gospel presentations and appeals. I was also quite familiar with the verse I referenced above.
“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 2:2 (KJV)
But in many ways, this verse was a puzzler to me. If the gospel was simply the message of Christ dying, being buried, and being raised to life again, and Paul had resolved to talk about nothing else but that, then it seemed to me that after about three sermons, things would start to get awfully tedious. If the gospel was simply a truncated message that could be written down in full on a 3 by 5 card, and ministers were supposed to talk about nothing but those three or four points, then the world of Christian ministers was going to divide into two groups. There would be those who wanted to do it, but they would do it wrong, and then there would be those who didn’t want to do that, which is more obviously wrong.
There would be those who stayed on the truncated message, and who tried to keep things lively by yelling in the sermons, and with a little spice added through the device of gospel quartets. This is the route taken by a blinkered fundamentalism. They stuck with the true gospel, but it was a true gospel operating within a very narrow compass. The whole world outside that gospel was going to Hell anyway.
But then there were the thinkers of the nuance, the people who wanted to talk about the whole world. They were attracted to what was called “worldview thinking,” At the very least they wanted to be able to go to R-rated movies without anybody at church giving them grief about it. They opted for a pie dough gospel, and the farther they spread it, the thinner it got.
There is a third option, which I will get to shortly. But first let us consider the need for a third option.
Apart from Christ, once the veneer of social custom is stripped away, and once the inertia of normality breaks down, what we see is that the human race is trapped in its hatreds.
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour”
Titus 3:3–6 (KJV)
The unbelieving world sins in everything it touches, and so the unbelieving world needs a Savior who can save and sanctify everything they touch. This would include banking, and war, and marketing, and sex, and child rearing, and recycling, and traffic control, and anything else that men might do. We have even figured out how to rebel against Heaven in how we use pronouns. That shows a certain measure of diligence.
Whenever we make a snarl, as we inevitably do, you can depend on it — the snarl is the result of us not wanting Christ to rule over us. We don’t want to be taught obedience to all that Christ commanded. We don’t want the leaves from the trees that grow on both sides of the river to be made into a poultice, and we certainly don’t want that poultice applied to our ulcerated sores. We are in the process of walking away from the promise of a redeemed culture under Christ so that we can all go live in a shambolic and shitty little shantytown. If you wonder where that might be, look around. The builders are working on it now. And depend upon it, there will be numerous evangelicals who have agreed to go peaceably off to that shantytown. They actually want to go live there, but they sternly object to the use of words like shitty. This is because they are more interested in moralism than morality. Morality tells the truth, and moralism lies.
Getting Evangelicals Saved
Now what are we to make of it when all the hot lava from the world of unregenerate hearts erupts into the sky, and a number of evangelicals start admiring it? or making excuses for it? or compromising with it? Like answers to like. This is happening because a vast swath of the evangelical world is unregenerate also.
The reason why evangelicals can look at race riots, and defend them as expressing frustration over the “root causes” of poverty is because they need to be born again. The reason why countless sermons across the nation are starting to go woke is because the men preaching them are dead in their sins. The reason why the atmosphere of many churches has reached such intolerable levels of humidity is because the controls for the AC are located in the middle of the women’s ministry.
In short, the unbelieving world needs the gospel for obvious reasons. But the believing world also needs the gospel because the believing world is shot through with unbelief. And, it seems to me, the believers should not be unbelievers.
Within the church, what do we see with regard to the first chapters of Genesis? Unbelief. Within the church, what do we see when it comes to assigned role relationships between men and women? Unbelief. Within the church, what do we see when it comes to the authority of Christ in the public square? Unbelief. So what then is our problem?
“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”
Hebrews 3:12 (KJV)
Gilbert Tennent once preached a famous sermon on the dangers of an unconverted ministry, a sermon he later regretted as too uncharitable. But in a time of great unfaithfulness and apostasy, as this generation most certainly is, perhaps the shoe might fit a bit better now.
Thick and Thin
I mentioned earlier that there was a third option. There are those who have a very thick gospel (so long as we are only talking about the salvation of individual sinners), but it is also a very narrow gospel. It does not cover the world. It does not engage with the world. There are also those who have a very broad gospel, and they talk a good game about “engaging with culture,” but what they are really referring to is their deep emotional need — born of unbelief — to surrender to the prevailing culture. Evangelicals engaging with culture should look like something more than a dog lying on its back, asking for a tummy rub.
This is what it means to engage with culture:
“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”
2 Corinthians 10:4–5 (KJV)
Pulling down strongholds. Casting down imaginations. Throwing down every high thing that vaunts itself against the knowledge of God. Taking every thought captive. When we look at the Pauline agenda, and then look at the behavior of evangelicals over the last fifty years, our foreheads should get hot.
But the only way to engage with culture across the board like this without compromising is to connect absolutely everything to the fact that Jesus died for the salvation of the world, and that He rose again for the justification of the new mankind. Everything else is filler. It is filler destined for glory, but still filler.