The Will to Power: The Milieu in Contemporary Evangelical Hermeneutics

by | Dec 1, 2018 | Adult Christian Learning | 1 comment

The landscape in modern evangelical hermeneutics and the subsequent theology it produces has many tentacles. Commenting on this situation, Craig Carter writes, Many of those who embraced the fad of poststructuralism over the past fifty years have now simply given up on truth and are left with the logical end point of modernity: the will to power.This fits quite nicely with the evangelical semi-pelagian notion of libertarian freedom and its skewed focus on the free-will of man to the neglect and subjugation of God’s will. The evangelical cowboy has seemingly lassoed the will of God and hog-tied it with enlightenment, post-Christian methods. What is so incredibly disturbing is that few pastors are doing much to correct the situation. Some are interested in empires and kingdoms. Others don’t think it matters. Still others know it matters but just haven’t found the courage. The same is true in the seminaries, fed by churches that are made up of funding resources who demand a certain position on the notions of God and man. Specifically, absolute, libertarian free-will must remain on the throne come hell or high water. And whatever god it is that these seminaries teach future pastors about, he had best be the kind of god that can fit that paradigm or else the funding disappears, and we are back to that irrelevant church without a voice in a culture that desperately needs the church’s voice. The problem with the current situation is that the voice that is now coming from the church is so mimicking the culture that it is hardly distinct from other voices in the culture, and for that reason, it is hardly relevant. 

The path to cultural relevance for the churches only runs through the divine revelation of Scripture and its offensive portrait of the dismal condition of humankind. The scripture’s description of the human condition could not be more unflattering than it is, and its presentation of the absolute, perfectly holy, Triune God of Scripture could not be more demanding, less flexible, or any more foreign to the idolatrous situation in which we find ourselves. God is intolerant toward that which it not like himself. God isn’t cool with the millions of babies being murdered. God isn’t understanding toward those who engage in or desire to engage in unnatural and perverse forms of sex. God isn’t flexible when it comes to his design for leadership in the churches. God created man to be male and woman to be female. He does not wink at those who given him the middle finger. God demands repentance now, today, immediately, or else. God is not going to change himself or his message so that unrepentant God-hating sinners will find his method and his person less offensive. Modern evangelical hermeneutics have driven the churches onto this ground of this god and this version of a gospel. The ground is quicksand, the god that most evangelicals worship does even exist. And the gospel that most evangelicals embrace isn’t a gospel at all, let alone the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation. I have said that this culture would surely crucify Christ all over again if given the opportunity. But it is worse than that. The churches would crucify him too. Make no mistake about it! The God revealed in Scripture is nothing like the god that most evangelical churches are accustomed to hearing about Sunday after Sunday. 

Carter points out that the reading of texts has become little more than a will to power. And in evangelicalism as of late, this is surely the case. A number of hermeneutical approaches are being employed to justify racism, feminism, homosexuality, and egregious rebellion against the civil authorities. Carter writes,Ironically, the poststructuralists often think they are critiquing the will to power of others, but actually they embody it themselves; their critique can be based on nothing more than their personal dislike of certain manifestations of power (colonialism, racism, sexism, etc,.). They are emotivists with a persecution complex who tend to become caricatures of what they critique.[Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition] This is precisely what is taking place today. The biggest target is conservative white men. They are called out as racists by many of the African American churches, misogynists by most women, homophobes by the homosexuals, and a host of other names too long to mention. What is so disturbing about this repugnant behavior is that it has found its way into the churches by way of aggressive and passive leaders so that some weak-minded silly people are actually repenting for being white. The claims coming from this mentality range from hiring female pastors to making sure melanin is a criterion for hiring pastors to considering the melanin makeup of the authors in your personal library. The thinking is not just far removed from Christian thinking and praxis, it is irrational from top to bottom. There is literally no making any sense of it. And yet, smart people are flocking to it like moths to the midnight lamp. This is the kind of thinking that openly criticizes the morality of civil leaders while celebrating men like Martin Luther King, Jr. as leading Christians in the cause for Christ all the while he was openly known to be a philanderer, a gambler, and a drunk, not to mention a heretic. 

The truth is that many evangelical pastors, check that, most evangelical pastors are highly influenced by the philosophical naturalismproduced by enlightenment thinking. While they do not necessarily rule out predictive prophecy per se, or the supernatural, the impact of this thinking is littered throughout their hermeneutic. For example, take the free-will debate and how this one understanding of man impacts soteriology within a denomination like the SBC. Most pastors and those who follow them, begin with an insistence on a very particular understanding of the human will. Craig Carter comments, “To summarize, the basic problem is that, within modernity, human freedom and divine freedom are viewed as competing with each other.”This is why most modern Christians are extreme Arminians. It is why the most popular understanding of what it means to be a Christian is one that locates the process of becoming a Christian in the autonomous human will. It is a free-will decision for one to become a Christian. This contradicts Christ’s own understanding and claim clearly expressed in John 6:65: “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” And again, in John 10:26, “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. The reason they did not believe was because they were not his sheep. This modernistic, enlightenment version of Christianity reduces it to the same category as any other religion. You become a Christian the same way a Muslim becomes a Muslim: an act of the autonomous human will. In this scheme, all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different.

This is why we see movements within Christianity to unite all the various branches of the Christian religion and even the attempt by some to join with cults like Mormonism and even partner with Islam and others. Our differences are only superficial. This explains why Catholicism is now being embraced by so many supposed protestants. The modern view of the human will is a dominant component of contemporary worldviews. Ask most women if it is God’s will for them to remain in a marriage that is unsatisfying or, in her opinion, emotionally abusive because her husband rarely tells her he loves her or because he sometimes speaks down to her. She will respond that it is not! Her opinion is that God’s will must line up with her will. Her will is her own happiness. God does not will her unhappiness. Therefore, God does not will that she remain in such a marriage. She is free to divorce according to this line of reasoning. And recently, many foolish SBC leaders fell victim to this utterly ridiculous and fallacious kind of thinking. The reason is seen in how they view human nature. There is no reasoning with the #MeToo movement. The moment you say that a woman cannot pastor, or that a woman must submit to her husband even if he is not the perfect example of what a husband is supposed to be, you have violated the sacred idol of contemporary society: the absolute autonomous freedom of the human will. Ask any African American Christian if God willed slavery and listen carefully to the response. Modern evangelicals seem to think that it was perfectly acceptable for God to permit the oppressive tyranny of first-century Rome along with the torture of minority groups and Christians, but for some reason, he would neverdo that today…not their God! Never!

If you do not believe me, look for any of the social justice types like Russell Moore, Thabiti Anyabwili, Matt Chandler, Kyle Howard, J.D. Greear, and a host of others. Read how they talk about these issues and take note of the utter lack of solid biblical exegesis. They have replaced the role of biblical exegesis with the will to power. If you dare to stand up for the historical Christian principle that rules out divorce except for reasons of unrepentant adultery, you are harpooned as insensitive, uncaring, and a misogynist. You see, that isn’t an argument. What thatis, is the same method employed by the inquisition, yet without the physical injuries. We have witnessed this harsh and brutal mentality on full display within Christian circles ourselves. Paige Patterson is a perfect example. And there are others. The same is true regarding these other issues. The idea of critical race theory is another example. The proponents of this movement have no biblical grounds from which to launch their attacks or upon which to defend their position. Not only that, they evidence isn’t even evidence. There is no tangible evidence of systemic racism in American society. The laws have done a great job to level the playing field. But situations like the Michael Brown incident are latched onto as if they are proof that systemic racism is alive and well. What is alive is racism. Foolish human beings do make snap judgments about people based of the silly criteria of ethnicity, melanin, and others. Unlike the myth of systemic racism, actual racism is something the church can do something about when it is discovered with her ranks. It’s called church discipline. But it would be quite hypocritical to discipline the racist for his or her racism when you haven’t bothered to discipline any of the couples who have separated and divorced without biblical ground. So, there is that.

The churches are busy following and mimicking the world. Rather than paying attention to Scripture and fencing the Christian community, the churches have almost fully embraced enlightenment thinking and applied those principles to the many issues that Christians in every culture must face. And in their attempt to remain credible, to remain relevant, the churches have lost their credibility and they are becoming more and more irrelevant by the day. If this is the direction of evangelicalism, then it is true: evangelical Christianity is becoming fundamentally the same as every other religion in the world and only superficially different.

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