Posts Tagged ‘evangelicals’


Is Orthodoxy Causing Young Evangelicals to Flee the Faith?

Today I’ve got a post up at the CNN Belief Blog, debunking the narrative that holding fast to the truth is causing evangelicals to leave the Church:

Yes, it is true that Christians should be known more for what they are for than what they are against.

But if you move past the rhetoric, you’ll find that it is often not aggrieved ex-evangelicals who are founding and leading charitable organizations, but the stubbornly orthodox. Faithful Christians are not the only ones in the trenches, relieving human need – but they make up a large percentage.All over the world, you will find faithful followers of Christ adopting orphaned children, rescuing girls from trafficking, feeding the poor, digging wells and volunteering in disaster relief.

My own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, operates one of the world’s largest relief operations while holding fast to its theological commitments. And some of the world’s most effective ministries to the poor and marginalized were started by and continue to operate according to evangelical Christian beliefs. They live in the tension of the New Testament, which calls believers to both faithfulness and charity.In fact, the most effective agents of hope in this world likely don’t have Twitter accounts, have never blogged and might never have even uttered the words, “social justice.”

And yet silently, quietly, patiently they serve the least of these, not because they first jettisoned their quaint notions of orthodoxy, but because they held them tighter.

Read the whole thing here:


5 Attitudes for Christians in a Political Season

So another Presidential campaign season is upon us and Christians are engaged at all levels and on both sides of most debates. As a recovering political junkie, I realize how easily my time, my energy, my attitudes can get sucked into the life force of Presidential politics. So here are a few attitudes that we might consider as we engage:

1) An Attitude of Prayerfulness for the Politicians (1 Timothy 2:2)

This is hardest to do and least obeyed command when it comes to our political leaders. Its easier to fire off a nasty email/tweet/Facebook post/blog instead of actually committing to daily prayer for our leaders, whether we agree with them or not. I must admit that I’m consistently having to repent of this disobedience.

We should pray for President Obama and his wife and children during a grueling season. We should pray for the Republican opponent and his family during a grueling season. We should pray for Congressman and Governors and Mayors and local school board officials, etc. And we should not just pray with a grudging, “These guys are idiots, boy do they need prayer” mentality, but genuinely pray with concern for their well-being.

2) An Attitude of Humility (James 4:6)

Politics feeds sharp debate among people who disagree on issues. These are deeply held beliefs. On certain issues, we feel, genuinely, that we are right and must stand up. But we can and should do that with humility. We’re not right on every single argument. We don’t know everything. Despite how we talk, we probably wouldn’t do better than the guys in office. We’re sinners like they are. And God loves them as much as He loves us. So as we engage, let’s try to avoid the kind of chest-beating rhetoric that tempts those who seek power.

3) An Attitude of Faith (2 Timothy 1:7)

Let’s be honest. Much of what drives elections is fear. Both sides gin up fear about the other side. All you have to do is read some of the mailers you get. “Did you know that my opponent was in favor of ___ or was supported by ___ or hangs out with ___? Vote for me. I don’t do that.” Politics is not so much about the good qualities of the candiate, its about “driving up the negatives” of the other guy. Fear also drives much of the programming on cable news programs and talk radio.

That’s not to belittle or dismiss the real fears we might have. There is evil in the world. There are concerns about our nation and about the world. But Christians can’t and shouldn’t be driven by fear, but by confidence in the sovereignty of God. Christians should live with an eye to the next world, Heaven. That doesn’t mean we should ignore injustice or do nothing, but we shouldn’t be driven by fear, but by mission.

4) An Attitude of Love (Ephesians 4:15)

It’s all too tempting to engage politics and check our Christianity at the door. We justify snarkiness and insults and half-truths and gossip about folks with whom we disagree. We justify it because “we’re on the right side.” But even if we are on the right side of an issue, that doesn’t give us the right to treat our enemies with disdain. I’m amazed at the stuff Christians post on Facebook about people with whom they disagree. This isn’t right. We can be stand firm in our beliefs and still show respect. Jesus’s ministry was all about the balance of grace and truth (John 1:14). In fact, I think we gain an audience when we demonstrate clear, logical, fair, reasoned arguments, rather than falling prey to the nasty rhetoric that passes for political dialog these days.

5) An Attitude of Justice (Micah 6:8)

What should drive our political engagement is the mission of God. This means we should be discerning about issues we engage, rather than accepting the entire matrix of issues offered by “our side.” Christians should fight for justice, whether that’s defending the unborn, defending the poor, defending righteousness. We may differ on solutions, etc, but we should be more engaged in issues than personalities. Sometimes we approach politics like we do American Idol. We grew to love our favorite personality and defend them to the death, at the expense of the issues. Or we oppose a politician to the death, dismissing the areas where they may be good on some issues. Perhaps Christians should take a more ala carte approach, speaking out on a few important issues and voting accordingly.

In Summary: Above all, Christians must first remember that they are Christians, that even in the rough-and-tumble arena of politics, we represent Christ.


Friday Five: Matthew Lee Anderson


Matthew Lee Anderson is the founder of the popular blog Mere Orthodoxy as well as the author of  Earthen Vessels, Why Our Body Matters to Our Faith   He was featured in Christianity Today’s Who’s Next column in December of 2009.  Matthew sits on the editorial board of The City, and has been quoted on, in the Wall Street Journal, and by the Associated Press.  He is a frequent contributor to publications such as First Things, Christianity Today, and The Gospel Coalition. He is a Perpetual Member of the Torrey Honors Institute and a graduate from Biola University (2004).

You’re part of a wave of young evangelical intellectuals. Scholars like Mark Noll have lamented the lack of evangelical scholarship in the past, but do you sense a new renaissance in evangelical intellectual pursuits? 

I hope so, but it’s very difficult to tell these sorts of things with anything approaching accuracy.  I know we have made incredible advances in a number of disciplines, particularly philosophy, psychology and sociology.  And I keep running into really intelligent Ph.D. candidates in political philosophy, which gives me hope for the future.  But if we are experiencing a renaissance, it will only be because of the work of Noll and others in the generation previous.  They were the true trailblazers, and my generation is simply lucky to stand on their shoulders.

In your famous paper, “The New Evangelical Scandal“, published in The City, you cautioned young evangelicals who tend to dismiss everything they learned from their parent’s generation. Why is this tendency so dangerous? 

“Famous” is probably overstating it, but it was a fun piece to write!  I think when the default mode of cultural engagement is that our parents were wrong and we’re out to fix it, we risk inoculating ourselves against any form of self-criticism.  Myopia breeds only more myopia:  if we don’t have the vision to see both the good and the bad of what we’ve inherited, we’ll never learn to truly see both the good and the bad of what we’re contributing.  Chesterton once wrote something to the effect that love is blind–it’s bound, and because it’s bound, it sees more clearly than anything else.  I think the same sort of thing is true of our cultural engagement: if we recognize the ways in which our lives our bound up in our parents, for both good and ill, we’ll see ourselves and the world more clearly and act more effectively in it.

Earthen Vessels is a thorough treatment of the intersection of the human body and faith. What inspired you to write this book? 

A moment of insanity!  Seriously, I have been ruminating on issues related to the body for a decade.  I first realized that there were depths when I listened to a lecture on Plato by John Mark Reynolds.  I also happened to be binging on the Apostle Paul and reading Dallas Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines  The result was the realization that the Incarnation changes everything, and that the problem that Christianity solved in the ancient world (which is pretty close to the problem it solves today) is the problem of the body.

Why do evangelicals need a more robust theology of the body? 

For lots of reasons, not least of which is that it will help chasten the tacit secularism that many evangelicals have unwittingly adopted.  Secularism isn’t always and everywhere bad, but it’s impossible to sift properly without pre-existing theological categories that will filter things out.  Seeing how the Gospel shapes (and doesn’t shape) bodies is imperative for living in a world that has reduced the body to a question, and evangelicals are currently woefully equipped to do that.  Developing a more robust theology of the body will help us know what shape our practices should take, see how those practices will affect our bodies, and help us resist and affirm the counter-practices of the world with greater wisdom and discernment.  If it’s not my book, it has to be someone else.  And I’ll sell their book as much (if not moreso) than I’ve tried to sell mine.

Lastly, I appreciate the lack of straw men in your writing. You really aim to present both sides of an argument fairly in a way I don’t often see even in people whose arguments I agre with. Has this always been a feature of your writing? 

Well, that’s very kind of you to say.  I don’t know if it’s always been a feature of my writing, but I’ve always tried to make it one.  It’s a practice I take very seriously.  My motivation has two sides to it.  On the one hand, I want to be charitable to people, to represent them at their best because that’s what I want for my own work.  But on the other hand, if we’re going to ultimately disagree on something, I want to really disagree–fairly, honestly, out in the open, and preferably over a good meal that you’re buying.  It’s no fun having arguments when one side has been misrepresented:  it’s a lot more fun when the disagreement’s over the substance of things, and that’s always the level to which I’m trying to reach.


Evangelicalism’s Changing Heart on Immigration – Patheos Column

Today Patheos is featuring a my column, cowritten with my friend Matthew Soerens of World Relief on the changing attitudes toward immigration among evangelicals:

The conventional wisdom among pundits and journalists holds that immigration is a key to winning over the evangelicals who dominate the Republican presidential nominating process in the early states. This is why the GOP candidates continue to jockey to see who sounds more restrictionist.

But this thinking fails to capture a growing sense in the larger evangelical world that the problem of illegal immigration must be handled with care, not because of electoral sympathies, but because of a changing sense of mission in the church.

You can read the entire column here: Evangelicalism’s Changing Heart on Immigration.


Friday Five: Joe Carter

Joe Carter is one of the most articulate evangelical voices on the intersection of church, culture, and politics. Joe founded Evangelical Outpost in 2005. He is the web editor for First Things and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A fifteen-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously served as the managing editor for the online magazine Culture11 and The East Texas Tr

ibune. Joe has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and

as a director of communications for both the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communication.1) You’ve served in a variety of capacities in the conservative movement. What is your impression of the movement as it stands today? 
The first thing that should be said about the conservative movement is that there is no conservative “movement.” The term movement implies that a there is cohesive group that is in agreement about moving toward specific political goals. While individuals aligned with conservatism tend to agree on a general set of principles, they often have radically differing views on where those lead. For example, social conservatives and libertarians are generally lumped together under the rubric of the “conservative movement, yet both groups differ on issues such as same-sex marriage.

The reality is that conservatism is comprised of numerous small movements, some that are flourishing and others that are stagnating. This inevitably leads to internal tensions since established conservative groups, politicians, and media are all fighting for the same attention and donor funding. When specific grassroots sub-movements begins to gain popularity, activists of all stripes try to co-opt it for their own purposes.

A prime example is the Tea Party movement in 2008-2010. Despite the fact that polls and surveys showed that it was largely a subset of the “religious right” movement, libertarians tried to claim it as their own. The media latched onto that spurious impression and tried to create a narrative that conservatives were ready to abandon social issues. Of course that was never true. Most grassroots conservatives are full-spectrum conservatives who don’t make sharp distinction between economic, social, and national security conservatism. This is why I’m optimistic about the long-term prospects about conservatism, despite the problems within the “movement.”

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Do Christians Rely Too Much on Statistical Research?

With a title like that, I’m sure to stir up some controversy. But lately I’ve been reading through Bradley Wright‘s magnificent book, Why Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites and Other Lies You’ve Been Told. In this book, Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut and an evangelical Christian, looks at major polling data on evangelicals and debunks many of the myths we’ve come to believe. Among them is the well-worn warning, “Christianity will be dead in a generation.” This is a common premise in a lot of well-meaning books and seminars. The idea is that we’re doing church all wrong and if we don’t get our act together, we’ll lose all of our kids to the world. And there are estimates ranging from 70-80% of young evangelicals will walk away from the faith.

Wright looks at every major poll that supposedly predicts this, compares them to historical trends, and says, “Not so fast.” In fact, the rate of dropout may be consistent with history and may even suggest that today’s young evangelicals are more solid in their faith and get serious about their faith once they get older and have children, etc. I’m not going to analyze all the data here. I’m not a sociologist. But all of this has had me thinking about our reliance, in the evangelical church, on research.

I’m not necessarily poo-pooing research as an effective tool, but it seems we have become so dependent on it. And it seems we only use research that makes Christians look bad. We like spouting facts and figures that tell us the Church is doing poorly, America is in decline, and younger generations are less pious and more worldly. We seem to do this because we feel it will scare us or motivate us into being more earnest in our evangelism/discipleship/child-training. But is this the best approach?

It seems to me that we employ fear as a motivator. And it works well. If you scare enough people to the problem, they will buy you’re proposed solution. Its an effective marketing tool. I can’t tell you how many times a week some Christian company selling a product begins with some scary statistic, trying to motivate me toward some action. And Christians buy in. So as a result, we’re scare of the rising Muslim population, we’re scared of Hollywood, we’re scared of our own incompetence at raising another generation of Christians. If you’re conservative, you’re scared of the emergent movement (which is largely fading). If you’re progressive, you’re scared of the rigid folks who believe in orthodoxy. If you’re conservative politically, you’re convinced Obama is some version of the anti-Christ whose actions are ushering in the 2nd Coming. If you’re liberal politically, you think the tea party is a bunch of angry anarchists.

This fear works well. It sells books, packs conferences, moves products. And I’m not implying that those who produce the stuff have a selfish motive of selling stuff. I think many are well-meaning and their ministries serve a valid purpose. But I wonder if Christians should be motivated by fear. Or, should we be motivated by faithfulness? In other words, do we really need to cite questionable stats to motivate us to do what Christ has already told us we should do? Shouldn’t we obey the Great Commission to evangelize and disciple and teach simply because we have been bought with a price and we are now servants of the One who redeemed us? 

Why do we need a scary poll from Barna to get us started? And, has our research-intensive emphasis subtly led us into a man-focused, results-oriented approach to the Christian life, eliminating God’s sovereign rule over all of life? Yes, the next generation might reject Christ. But maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll pursue Christ with more fervor than past generations. And, isn’t God in charge? Doesn’t His Spirit reign in the Church?

Sometimes I wonder, sarcastically, What did the early church do without all of this cutting edge research? The answer, of course, is that they did quite well. Empowered by the Spirit, they simply lived out the gospel every day. And they turned the world upside-down.

Should we bury our heads in the sand and not pay attention to rising threats? No, we shouldn’t. But at the same time, let’s not manipulate statistics and create a false sense of alarm simply to force people to do what Christ has already commanded us to do. Let’s be motivated by love for Christ and not fear. And let’s stop having to change everything every ten years because of new, questionable research. Yes, the Church is clumsy at times. Yes, pastors often don’t preach as clear as they should. Yes, parents should parent better and often fail. But, there is a God above whose grace flows in those areas where we fail. And ultimately, His Kingdom will come, despite our failures.

How are we going to convert people to Christianity if we’re so self-loathing, anyways? Nobody wants to join a losing team. At least I don’t. We may be flawed, fallen, and inept at times. But Jesus isn’t any of those and it us upon “this rock” that God’s Church is built.


Friday Five Interview: Eric Metaxas (Repost)


Eric Metaxas / Photo by James Allen Walker

Our family is taking some needed vacation time, so I’m posting some classic Friday Five interviews. This interview with Eric Metaxas posted on March 11, 2011. It was the most popular interview on my blog so far. Eric is extremely candid in talking about the process of writing Bonhoeffer and defending his work against critics:

Eric Metaxas penned one of the most celebrated books of 2010, a thorough and grippingbiography of German pastor, Deitrich Bonheoffer. It’s a powerful book that is a must-read for serious Christian leaders, with life lessons spilling out of the pages of Bonheoffer’s highly courageous life.

Metaxas is also the other of several other books, most notably a widely acclaimed biography of William Wilberforce. His writing and career are eclectic—having written for Chuck ColsonVeggie Tales, as well as The New York Times, First Things, and Christianity Today. He is also the author of several children’s books, a noted humorist, and the founder of the Socrates in the City lectures. He appears on places like CNN and NPR as a cultural critic.

I am grateful Eric took time to chat with me for today’s Friday Five:

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Friday Five Interview – Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner

Today I’m highly honored to have two distinguished men stop by the blog for this very special Friday Five interview. We’re less than two weeks before the midterm elections and so thoughtful people of faith on both sides of the political divide will go to the polls and help shape their government. So I thought I’d bring a little perspective to bear from two men who have been in the arena.

Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner are both veterans of Washington, D.C. and most recently the Bush White House. They recently released a fantastic new book, City of Man, published by Moody Publishers. You can read my review here.

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