Evangelicalism has steadily (d)evolved from a consumer-market-driven model to the seeker-sensitive model to the emergent model to where we are today. And where are we today? Many, and perhaps even most evangelical churches are doing what evangelical churches have done for the last 40 or 50+ years. They are observing and mimicking the ebbs and flows and trends of pop-culture. It is my strong conviction that the events of the recent year or so are grounded in the very same kind of thinking, at its core, that produced the market-driven, seeker-sensitive, and even the emergent models. They are all doing the same thing even if they claim they are not. The facts are what they are, and the facts don’t lie. They just get reinterpreted or reframed in way that only the most discerning can spot the strategy and the tactics employed to execute that strategy.
The market-driven model, like every other model invented by the clever seminary graduates is an attractional model. The theological problem is that there is a serious error in soteriology. The myth of unregenerate free-will coupled with the concept of decisional regeneration. Of course, these views are adopted by men who find the depiction of a perfectly and absolute sovereign God to be objectionable if not downright reprehensible. The thinking is that this brand of Christianity will empty the churches and attract to few adherents. In an attempt to remain relevant, music is updated, the flow of worship is altered, programs are instituted, and sermons are crafted all with the same goal: attracting people. This means that theology and doctrine, not to mention Christian praxis suffer immensely. Why? The reason is simple: the unregenerate have no appetite for true teaching and they have even less of an appetite for godly living.
The seeker sensitive model also had at its core the goal of attraction. The basic error of the seeker model is that there are unregenerate men who are seeking God. The idea is that if we present God is just the right way with the right message, we will win people to Christ. As a result, this model operated in much the same fashion as the consumer driven model. The entire approach is to present Jesus as the answer to all your problems, from career aspirations to marriage issues to parenting, Jesus is the great fixer-upper. Want to save your marriage? Jesus is the answer! Feeling that life is without purpose, or meaningless, enter Rick Warren’s purpose driven life. But once again, the theological error in this movement is basic: unregenerate people do notseek God. From the very start, the movement embraces a basic error.
The emergent church extended the attractional model by willingly embracing and painting a radically different view of Christianity, employing Moltmann’s theology of hope. The basic error of this movement is seen in their open challenge to the authority of Scripture. That, in and of itself is bad enough. But there is also a strong theme of hope theology in this movement that has carried over into other movements and is now infecting evangelical churches in masse. Hope theology views God’s work in the future as significantly more important than that in the past. Christians must resist the temptation to withdrawal from the world in hopes for a future kingdom. Instead, Christians must lead the way into the future by working for a new state of hope for all mankind. Christians are responsible for moving the world to this state of euphoria where oppression and suffering and evil are brought to an end. Christians are the hope of the future of the world. The gospel isn’t that Christ will return and redeem the earth. The gospel is that Christ has returned and left the church here so that she will actively work to bring about that redemption. If all this is starting to sound familiar, it should. We see these themes from this theology of hope in liberation theology, feminist as well as black liberation theology in particular.
The liberal evangelical church is the new kid on the block. This movement is made up of both Arminians and New Calvinists who have bought into elements of Moltmann’s hermeneutic as well. There is still, at its core, an attractional aim. These leaders want the church to remain relevant, even credible in the eyes of the culture. They want to the church to remain a viable option for American and western society. But they realize that contemporary society has shifted its moral foundation at a speed far too great for us to measure. And that shift has left these men flat-footed so to speak. These men, men like Russell Moore, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, David Platt, J.D. Greear, Leighton Flowers, Thabiti Anyabwile, and others have ushered in a new perspective that some are now calling, liberal evangelicalism.
There is a strong socialist and even Marxist element in this movement in that it emphasizes the greed and corruption of capitalism while minimizing its strengths and virtues. I recognize that capitalism does little to subdue greed. But subduing greed is the work of the Holy Spirit, not political policy. And here is where the problem enters. It is not the calling or mission of the church, contra Moltmann, to subdue godless societies and transform them into theocracies of sorts. This is not ancient Israel, nor should it be. Nevertheless, men like Moore and Keller are continuing to employ exactly the kind of hermeneutic that leads one to believe that the structure of ancient Israel is universally to be applied by the church to the respective pollical systems wherever she is found. Such thinking is theologically untenable and completely inconsistent with the clearest of teachings in the New Testament.
This movement is closely related to a Marxist outlook in that it promotes group segmentation and victimization mentality. It prefers a democratic rather than a republic model and will crush the minority dissenters. In fact, as one observes the manner in which society crushes opponents without any consideration of facts, arguments, proofs, etc., if they bother looking, they will notice the same strategies and tactics at work in the church. For example, criticize the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, and you are labelled a racist. Disagree that statues of civil war heroes should be removed, and you are a white bigot. No argument. No reasoning. Just labels and marginalization. Disagree with the #MeToo movement and you are a misogynist. Insist that the church respect the laws on immigration and you are unloving and callous. I could go on and on. The reason these tactics are employed in the churches by these leaders is NOT because they can be grounded in Scripture or even church history. No, the reason these tactics are employed is because the churches along with their leaders care about how society perceives them. They care because they want the church to continue to be relevant and their theology is so convoluted that they have bought into the idea that that relevance is only extended by society. And so, if the churches are to be relevant, they must embrace the morality of society or be dismissed as antiquated, ignorant, and even immoral.
At its core, this latest movement like those gone before it, aspires to be viewed as credible, respectable, honorable, and attractive to pop-culture. It joins hands to criticize the king because that is what pop-culture does and demands. It seeks to find middle ground on homosexuality and gender dysphoria by smuggling in same-sex attraction as if it is perfectly natural and unavoidable. This popular trend sides with the radical feminists and virtue signals at every opportunity wanting to appear as taking the right positions on just the right issues. It openly criticizes law enforcement in its attempt to distance itself from white privilege and be seen as acknowledging systemic racism. If you think the churches that follow this model have labored long and hard to arrive at these positions by way of intense biblical exegesis, you are sadly mistaken.
Russell Moore on immigration, adoption and politics is far removed from Matthew, Luke, Paul and Peter as they wrote to the ancient church living under the tyranny of the Roman empire. If Moore isn’t busy pretending that the church ought to be imposing the Israelite theocracy on American policy and the churches, he is busy disregarding Paul and Peter’s mandates that Christians must submit to the civil authorities and honor the civil leaders. But again, the approach Moore takes is not only reflective of his politics which seem to me to be quite difficult to harmonize with a sound interpretation of Scripture, but there is also a hint of attraction in Moore’s ideas. Attempting to side with the liberal majority on social issues like immigration, taking up hostile positions against the “unpopular” president, etc. The teachings of Scripture on matters such as this are pretty clear. The United States is not in covenant with God like Israel was. In fact, NT teaching indicates that the secular government has God’s full authority to establish and enforce its own laws just as Rome did. Moreover, Christians have an obligation to respect and obey these laws so long as they do not force the Christian to break God’s law.
Thabiti Anyabwile has made some of the most ungodly and outrageous statements on racism that anyone professing Christ could make. He wants to attract African Americans to the Christian community. That is hard to do in a culture that now takes the view that Christianity is too white. This sort of thinking is repugnant and has place in the churches. But in an effort to make Christianity more attractive, more appealing to a particular audience, we celebrate men who deserve disdain and ridicule, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. At least from a theological perspective, this is the case. But notto celebrate King is sacrilege to many African Americans. King’s teachings and lifestyle get the political wink and nod by these liberal evangelicalsall in an attempt to remain attractive to that community as well as society at large because that is what society at large demands.
Even men like Matt Chandler have been engulfed by and have come to embrace the false narrative of white privilege. In fact, he did so to the point of expressing harmful comments and attitudes toward LEO in his own community. I guess it’s what happens when you want to be hip and viewed by everyone else in just the right positions in order to be on board with the latest trends. Chandler knows that if he cuts against the grain, as do others, they will surely be marginalized and ignored by the cool kids of the SBC and evangelicalism. And heaven knows that would be too much for some of these men to bear.
JD Greear, the SBC president himself, has so redefined complementarianism that it is unrecognizable. And the silly kissy-face that went on between Greear, Beth Moore, and Russell Moore was an act that most of us could have surely done without. But again, in order to please the mob of feminism that is sweeping through the churches at present day, these men did what men with little courage and conviction do: they caved. They left their theological convictions in the dust in preference for something far more attractive in the here and now. Think about it. In our culture, what kind of criticism does one experience for saying that God chose men to be the leaders of their homes and of his church, not women! No, women cannot pastor. They cannot preach. They cannot teach men. Just the idea raises the scorn and indignation of this society
We are living in an age with men of valor, men like R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur are fading off the scene. The Lord is taking them home. Who will be the men of valor who stand firm on the truth and take their place. It will be the unknowns, that’s who. The path to being a well-known, world-renown preacher has been effectively cordoned off by the liberal evangelicalcrowd. They are the ones with the microphone, the money, and means to keep others out. This is their playground now. And they are going to serve up just what the people want. The church will embrace the morality of pagan society or her voice will be silenced. The problem is, when the church embraces the morality of pagan society, her voice is in fact silenced. She does, in fact, become irrelevant.
Unbelievers are not seeking God, nor are they neutral concerning divine truth. All of these movements and components have one core aim in mind: attraction. Each position appeals to certain major issues that these men want to ensure we are taking just the right position on. The goal is to make Christianity attractive to society. These leaders criticize the president, advocate for open borders in the name of loving the alien, scream about white privilege and make race a central issue of the gospel, advocate for hiring pastors based on melanin content, wink at the #MeToo movement because of the sheer volume of women behind it, and finally, have softened the tone on homosexuality in the same of same-sex attraction being morally neutral so long as it isn’t acted on. Why? Evangelicals are very concerned with society’s perception of them. This is why men refused to sign the Statement on Social Justice. It supposed created the perception racism on the part of those who signed it. We don’t want others to thing “x” about us, so we won’t do “y.”
The entire point of this post is to demonstrate that the liberal evangelical movement with its political demands on Trump, its racist white privilege-racial reconciliation message, its feminist men bowing down to feminist women, its homosexual embrace through same-sex attraction is nothing more than the next phase of the attractional model. From purpose-driven to seeker-sensitive to emergent to the young-restless reformed to now liberal evangelicalism, the common denominator is the worship of self. It is a man-centered, self-serving, self-loving Christianity that has no appetite for truth because truth offends.
I solemnly charge youin the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in seasonandout of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wantingto have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:1-5)