In Part I, I discussed Brian McLaren’s point that the Christian right has left a bad taste in many people’s mouths. In this post, I discuss another point he made – that Christianity must change to be effective in a post-modern, post-Falwell world.
Regarding the challenge of change, I wholeheartedly agree that we must
improve and expand our approch to transforming our society into a more loving and just place. There are definite dangers in not changing, but their are also shoals ahead as we try to change.
1. Change should mean broadening our scope, but not abandoning traditionally important issues.
One of the sadder recent events in evangelicalism was the brief stint of Joel Hunter as president of the Christian Coalition. He wanted to add concern for the environment and the poor to the list of issues the CC works on, but they would not have it. They wanted to stick to the social issues of the family and abortion.
Thankfully, there are conservative Christian environmentalists and those working with the poor. But we should NOT take the approach of many on the “Christian Left” who are unconcerned about abortion, gay marriage, promiscuity, and ineffective, inefficient government entitlement programs.
2. Approaches to issues should be biblical and scientific
If we are going to start working harder to help the poor and be good stewards of the environment, we need to embrace a biblical solution. One of the many reasons, for instance, that Christians have resisted preserving the environment is because this work has been traditionally associated with leftist politics, which have been traditionally anti-business, and in some cases like that of DDT, so alarmist and pro-environment that they end up being anti-people!
We need to do what Newt Gingrich has long been advocating – scientific environmentalism rather than the “hysterical, radical, and inaccurate” environmentalism that has characterized the leftist approach. Same goes for helping the poor. Big social programs that are wasteful, easily abused, that encourage dependency on the government, and that ignore the biblical principle of personal responsibility are not Christian, even if the desired end of helping the poor is. This goes not only for welfare, but for healthcare.
3. We must address the questions of the post-modern seeker, but also be true to how God addresses human nature, which has not changed with modern philosophies.
One of the good things (TM) about the Emergent Church movement is that, out of genuine concern for people under 30 who find traditional church inadequate in answering their post-modern questions, they have changed their approach, been more approachable, more conversational, and less tied to traditionalism and traditional means of community and communication.
However, some things about mankind don’t change. Sometimes we need to hear the gospel plainly preached, not delivered in a philosophical treatise. Plain preaching goes around the unredeemed mind of man, which is often captive to “philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men,
according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to
Christ.” (Colossians 2:8). When we appeal directly to the conscience, holding out truth as something to be accepted because it is true, not because we like or understand it, we often change the hearts of men who have spent lifetimes building up mental resistance to the gospel.
There is a place for putting the truths into forms that modern man can digest, and answering sincere philosophic and reasonable questions regarding the faith. But some men are so hardened in their thinking, that an appeal to the mind is useless, and an appeal to the soul with plain truth is needed. And this approach will always be needed, because the nature of man, and the deceptive nature of sin, and God’s methods (“go and preach the gospel”) are unchanging in this aspect.
We can always do better, and we should acknowledge our faults in order to get better. But we should NOT abandon righteous causes like protecting the unborn and the family, nor should we adopt non-biblical views of the poor or the environment as we take responsibility for solving the issues around these.
And we need to remember, that in adopting new means of communicating to the modern and post-modern world, we should not abandon the simple preaching of the gospel, which reaches around the strongholds of the mind (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) to the soul and conscience of man.