I had an “epiphany moment” over the weekend that for a short time led me to a view that all my fellow Evangelicals were wrong and if such is in fact the case, then so is Evangelicalism and Christianity.
Let me explain but first let’s define what an Evangelical is. According to David Bebbington, whose views on the subject are widely accepted, and while this allows for a degree of latitude, the main qualifications which are to be used, when defining evangelical convictions and attitudes, are:
- Biblicism: a particular regard for the Bible (e.g. all essential spiritual truth is to be found in its pages)
- Crucicentrism: a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross
- Conversionism: the belief that human beings need to be converted
- Activism: the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort
Obviously, evangelicalism is not everyone’s cup of tea, but here I speak to those who claim to be Evangelical or are at least interested in the connotations behind some of the certainties and concerns raised. I have noted in recent years that some of the consensus I observed among Evangelical Christians, even including among the Plymouth Brethren types I often associated with, have now gone. Issues like Brexit, Trump, Covid, Race, Climate Change and LBGT rights have seen to that, and that is before we get to the bigger question of what is the essential Gospel message that we should be sharing, both in word and deed. I should add: I try not to identify with any particular faction within evangelicalism and when it comes to my community activism, I am happy to associate with both Liberals and Catholics. As for Christian fellowship, I associate with, seek to encourage and am encouraged by all and sundry who love the Lord. I try not to follow any big name preacher, but the two that have got closest in recent years are J.I.Packer and David Pawson, who both died last year. Going back to my weekend epiphany moment, it was following listening to two preachers, who I don’t always agree with yet have something worth saying and a message that is worth noting: John MacArthur and Jacob Prasch. I then posted the following on my Facebook page and tagged in friends:
“One of the signs of the times and we are living in the last days is that people, including sincere (real) Christians, are going to be deceived. In my own town, many Christian evangelical leaders have gone woke or if they haven’t gone woke but still sucked in by today’s official narrative like take the Corona jab, follow all the “lockdown nonsense” and believe what they are told by mainstream media and the societal elite. Some from either camp have dismissed, sidelined and patronised those of us “conspiracy theorists” who have the temerity to challenge the official narrative. Even the anti-wokers often get it wrong by failing to practically respond to some of the social justice concerns that get the woke brigade so het up. While I am encouraged by the likes of Dutch Sheets, Mario Murillo and Hank Kunnerman, who I respect as political prophets, they all appear on a channel owned by and seem to defer to Kenneth Copeland, who I regard as a prosperity preacher (teaching I can never endorse). Moreover, if John MacArthur is correct (and bless him, he has fought the good fight for sound Bible exegesis and resisting government tyranny), it gets worse – Copeland preaches a heresy that in the day would have got him excommunicated and worse by people we regard as heroes of the faith. Jacob Prasch is one of the most knowledgeable Bible teachers and understander of the times I can name. He also understands God’s heart for Israel and how this relates to Bible prophecy. He calls out John MacArthur for his dodgy eschatology and worse, as well as the political prophets who he clearly does not go along with, along with a wide range of, respected by many, Christian movers and shakers. Actually, I might later reflect sharing these thoughts on a public forum is not such a good idea and might be forgiven for thinking “beam me up Scottie”, for who can I believe? But I end here, and will tag some friends who have yet to defriend me, who I know have strong feelings on some of the above, because they have said as much on my page. SHALOM!”
What did hit me, and is why I posted as I did, is that different sections of the Church (and I am taking about genuine believers only here) are taking acrimonious swipes at one another (and it seems the enemy’s divide and rule strategy is paying off) and we seem a long way from “that they may be One” part of Jesus’ John 17 prayer being answered. I can’t speak for those generations other than my own (although I am a keen student of church history and from what I can make out suspect it has ever been thus) of course. It has certainly meant, in my case, I often walk a lonely path and, since being “red pilled” and getting old, I am finding myself increasingly not caring – which can be both a good and a bad thing! I can qualify this with some personal testimony. I was converted aged 15 through the Plymouth Brethren. I joined a PB church and my church association has been mainly PB and Coleman Street Chapel, Southend. While PBs of the more traditional ilk were not over sympathetic with those not in their stable, many who I associated with were. Until we closed because of declining numbers etc., a few years back, I was an elder for 25 years in the same PB assembly instrumental in my conversion. I now worship with a Grace (Strict) Baptist fellowship. It could be said I have gone from PB to SB and on the way associated with several church groupings, mainly at the non-charismatic, low end of the market. Without exception, all these fellowships I have been associated with ministry wise, may be described as “Evangelical”, according to Bebbington’s definition. I have also been associated with various ecumenical initiatives.
While the above “rant” may be cause for pessimism and be seen to be an endorsement of those who have given up on church, that is far from my intention. On the contrary, I believe having Christian fellowship is essential and there is no such thing as the perfect church, and if there was you should leave it so not to spoil it. But I do have some sympathy for those who claim they have seen more examples of authentic Christianity, of the Evangelical flavour, going into the pub than coming out of a church, although having been round the block, so to speak, the people who I admire most are those who practice those very things Evangelicals claim to be certain about. Jesus did predict in these last days the very elect would be taken in by deception and scripture repeatedly exhorts us to earnestly contend for the faith, without fear of or favour to anyone, other than the Lord God Almighty. Speaking personally, I am finding I have had to do a lot of repenting to do concerning my own grumpiness etc. I have come round to concurring with the answer to the question that was posed by the great twentieth century sage, G.K.Chesterton, concluding it was he who needed to change.
I do not endorse Evangelicalism or any other “ism”, other than evangelism and baptism. Rather than look within or around, we should be looking unto (and following) Jesus. We must recognize there is much we do not understand although one day we will.
Let me end with three final thoughts … firstly, my mantra for these past several years has been TRUTH. But it comes at a price that few, including Evangelicals, wish to pay (which is another reason for my disillusionment btw). But if we follow the one who gave His life to uphold the truth then cowardice is wholly unacceptable. Moreover, Evangelicals of all people must take seriously the words of Jesus that those who purport to follow Him must first take up the Cross. We should be those who seek, live and proclaim truth which sets us free.
This blog has provided a personal perspective and is part of my own spiritual journey. It is one fellow evangelicals, who may be wiser and more holy than me, may NOT share (some have already told me that is so), although some DO and a few may even be on the verge of despair, and to them I say: you are NOT alone. One word of ancient wisdom is in the meme above and is attributed to St. Augustine, although who said it does not matter as longs as we take it on board.
Finally, there are two profound sayings of Jesus about love and unity, which should affect how we are to proceed from henceforth. It is worth pondering that while the outlook may look gloomy, the words of Jesus will come to pass. There is much we can hold onto, not least we serve a faithful God. We are not called to be a people of disillusionment, even if that is our natural and realistic inclination, but rather we are called to be people of hope, who follow Jesus.