The irony is this. The only way for us to declare a gospel for snowflakes is by seeing that there is no way for the gospel to be preached by snowflakes. This requires unpacking, and so please allow me.
In Scripture, the gospel is the objective good news of salvation. It is the message of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That message is declared to mankind in a way that summons us all to do two things—repent and believe. This repentance and belief are all the same fundamental and entirely fluid motion. Repentance is turning away from all that is not Christ, and belief is turning toward all that is. Repentance turns away from sin, and faith embraces Christ. This is the way it is by definition, and so it is not possible to turn to Christ actually without turning away from not Christ actually. This means true and real repentance.
To be given an opportunity to do this is good news indeed. However, there are two kinds of good news. One kind is the “out of the blue” sort. You get word that you have inherited millions from a distant relative you never even knew about. The other kind of good news is the kind that presupposes some awareness of antecedent bad news. The governor signed the pardon and you won’t be executed in the morning. A further review of the tests shows us that you do not have cancer. This is the kind of good news that shows us how turning away and turning toward can essentially be the same thing. This is good news that displaces the bad news.
But in this snowflake generation of ours, we have outlawed any real communication of the bad news. This means that the good news (as it is found in Scripture) becomes contextually nonsensical. We are found peddling cures in a world without diseases, offering pardons in a world without justice, and preaching resurrections in a world without death. One is reminded of Niebuhr’s great summary of liberalism: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” And in this shrewd summary, we see just how far the leprosy of liberalism has already advanced in ostensibly evangelical circles. So we need to look to our message, and in addition urge all the messengers to look to their hearts. We need to start proclaiming a message that will not only get evangelicals saved, but which will also get a number of evangelists saved as well.
In Scripture, prophets of repentance do not come barreling out of the wilderness in order to tell the listening world that all their basic instincts are quite right. The apostolic message was never one of flattery. When Paul was discoursing with Felix, that man who had the authority to dispose of Paul or set him free, the great apostle still did not hold back. “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25). Paul was not standing before Felix in chains with a message of soft words that would help soothe his felt needs.
“For we never came with words of flattery, as you know . . . God is witness” (1 Thess. 2:5, ESV).
But Christians today have largely gotten the idea that evangelism is some churchy form of salesmanship. Because of this, the customer is always right—and we are living in a time when many of the “customers” spend a great deal of time feeling sorry for themselves. We are no longer doctors, delivering an unwanted but life-preserving message, but rather salesmen, hawking an unwanted product, one that is ill-suited to the impulse purchases of narcissists. And because the product is unwanted (because there is no awareness of any bad news needed), we start trying to create other incentives for the purchase. We do this by decorating our message with various lusts. The central lust we are currently using—and which works well on snowflakes and feminists—is the lust for affirmation and flattery.
This means that old school evangelists are, by definition, thought to be off-putting. They are considered “mean.” “And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat . . .but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil” (2 Chron. 18:7). You know that Micaiah guy? No uplift at all.
Now all sinners like flattery, and so there have always been “evangelists” who specialize in it. But there is a difference between the natural bent to flattery, which all of us must deal with, and the addiction to flattery that characterizes so much of these effeminate times. In saying this, I refer not only to the feelings of pampered women everywhere, but also want to include those soft men who imitate these women, from the jewelry and nail polish down to the constant hunger for affirmation.
Paul tells us that soft men are going to Hell (1 Cor. 6;9-11). The word he uses for them is malakoi, the same word that Jesus uses in describing the stark contrast with an unvarnished preacher of rough cut repentance.
“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:7–11).
Those who wear soft clothing and who speak soft words are found in king’s palaces . . . and in the mouth of modern evangelicalism. And so it is that a gospel preached by snowflakes is incapable of offering snowflakes what they so desperately need—which is to get over themselves. This is because the best way to get over yourself is to see your ramshackle self hauled off in shame and disgrace to be nailed to the same cross where Jesus died. The promised glory comes later.
But to talk to this way is to be considered mean. And because narcissistic preachers would rather the whole tribe of narcissists go to Hell than to be ever considered mean by them, their whole sorry enterprise continues to stagger down the road.
“If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people!” (Micah 2:11, ESV).
But we don’t just want the wine and beer. We want some of the wind and lies too.