Just when my life starts getting back to normal, the Southern Baptists hear about it and start acting up again. If you want a little background to these words that I say, consider this brief article from Tom Ascol.
When I was a young man in the Navy, I went through a jag where I read an awful lot of A.W. Tozer. He was a bracing dose, he was. And for some reason, when I thought about the current disheveled state among Southern Baptists, I thought of that old Tishbite, now with the Lord. And perhaps I might sometimes wonder if he was overstating things a mite back then, or if he was merely being prescient in that uncanny way that prophetic voices have. I mean, you know, just to put things in perspective, writing back then decades and decades ago, Tozer thought that evangelicals were addicted to their entertainments back then. Back when Carl Henry was still alive, and well before J.D. Greear was even born, which meant it was long before anybody was shaking their booty for the saints.
What would Tozer say about our monkeyshines now? Speaking frankly, I think we are in the zone where we should conclude that he was being prophetic, and in no way alarmist. That being the case, we should also pay attention to what he likely would have said was at the root of it. And what the solution might be.
The Arm of Man Cannot Pull Us Out of This Quicksand
What does it take for a judicious commentator on such doings and events to make sense of them? I mean, before he undertakes the solemn task of commentary, it might seem that he must first go down into the basement to get some extra adjectives. He might feel that he might even have to get into the Christmas bins to break out some of the red and green ones.
But this is a problem that cannot be fixed with a rant, however colorful and on point it might be. Neither can it be fixed through ecclesiastical politics, however good it might be to call people to office who actually see the problem, as opposed to those people who don’t see it, or even worse, pretend not to see it. In short, there is no solution to be sought from the arm of man.
Getting Evangelicals Saved
Here is the root problem. The problem is restlessness. There is no sabbath in the modern evangelical world, which means — since Christ is our Sabbath — that there is no Christ. These things are happening to us because of widespread Christlessness.
Gospel Sabbath does not exclude hard work, and indeed it presupposes it. We should be industrious, we should be given over to good works, we should be obedient. But in contrast, modern evangelicalism is restless.
There is a great difference between working hard and scrambling. This whole thing is one giant hustle for market share, which is to say it is a striving for the limelight, which is to say, the only thing they care about — together with P. T. Barnum — is that their name gets spelled right. There’s a sucker born again every minute. They don’t think in terms of witness and testimony, but rather in terms of publicity and brand. The entire evangelical mega-world is in hot pursuit of the mirage created by self-promotion.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Matthew 11:29 (KJV)
By way of contrast, Christ promises rest for the soul, which is the last thing our hustlers for market share want. They don’t want it, and they certainly don’t want to offer it to the consumer. They are shopping a product that has self-obsolescence built right in, just like the blood of bulls and goats.
Nature will out. There are certain things which cannot be hidden away forever. One-month pregnancies will eventually be eight-month pregnancies, and harder to conceal. When you planted that crop of Canadian thistle, it was possible for a week or two afterwards to tell everybody that it was going to be barley. But time is not your friend on this one.
And so whenever you have a large body of churchified people, but who are not born again, who are not regenerate, who are not converted to God, then at some point the demands of the flesh will start to be taken seriously. They will be taken seriously both by them and by their leaders who are pandering to them.
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness . . .”
Galatians 5:19 (KJV)
The works of the flesh are manifest, Paul says. In that part of Galatians, he gives us two different lists. One is the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, and so on. The other is this one, and he says that the works of the flesh will out. They will be manifest.
So what will happen when you have a massive crowd of people, church-going people, but the gospel is not being preached in power? Note that I did not say anything about “affirmed in the statement of faith that is in a file cabinet somewhere.” I am talking about a situation where Christ and Him crucified is not applied to the people week after week with any kind of authority. I am writing about a case where the blood of Christ is not being applied to the sins of the people. I am writing about the situation we are in right now.
In short, it is not possible — given where we are — not to have Revoice conferences. In in our day, if you will not have Christ, you will have Revoice conferences. If you will not have Christ, you will have flagrant disobedience in the pulpit. If you will not have Christ, then you will have whatever volunteers to fill up that void. And be assured, what fills up the void will not savor of the tabernacle. Without Christ, you will be unable to keep dancing chicks out of the worship service. It is not possible to plant one thing and harvest another. Why? Because God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
It is long past time for American evangelicals to go out to the field, and to take a good look at what is actually growing there.
And it is just what Tozer said it was. Acres of self-indulgence, acres of self-flattery, and acres of lust. Excuse me. Gospel-centered self-indulgence. Gospel-centered self-flattery. Gospel-centered lust.
And the only way to get out of “where we are” is through reformation and revival. The only way to save the SBC and the PCA is to burn them both down. It has to be the fire of revival, and if it is, then God will be magnified. If it is not, then God will be magnified with a different kind of fire. But He will be magnified either way. Christ crucified and risen, and that message does not need any help from our junior high skits.