The Word “Evangelical” is Becoming a Derision

How do evangelicals explain their inexcusable reticence in denouncing Trump’s disgraceful reaction to the  racist assault on Charlottesville? The evangelical brand has virtually no currency in the eyes of most who care about morality and intellectual integrity, and is now in danger of becoming a derision.

Forget that the word evangelical no longer evokes any spiritual metaphors or anything of the divine, or of righteousness, or any of the virtues; it has become a symbol of spiritual, moral and intellectual hypocrisy. The word conjures up a self-serving people who are now seen as fact-averse, tolerant of hate, and compassionless. Recent polling reveals that when people hear the word evangelical they think of politics. For the church, it is the worst-case scenario. Yet, it did not have to come to this. 

Evangelicals did not get into this mess by accident or by a series of unfortunate events. They made a calculated decision to let the evangelicalists drive their chariot over the cliff for the sake of political expediency, and that against every biblical, moral and intellectual caution. Of course, evangelicalists are those who self-describe as evangelicals but for whom true evangelical values, Christian integrity, and biblical morality are merely sinecures for their worldly ambitions and political causes. Evangelicalists like Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Paula White and others of their ilk have adulterated the word of God and their Christian leadership. Their purpose is not to let Christ be seen that “all men be drawn to him.” 

For the evangelicalist, political activism and whatever it inheres – lying, prevarication, obfuscation, deceitfulness, etc. – takes precedence over preaching the Gospel, sound doctrine and godly conduct. For example, admitting that Trump was the antithesis of all that was moral and good, one evangelicalist writing an opinion piece in the Christian Post, urged evangelicals to vote for Trump in spite of a godly conscience to do otherwise, because the love of country is more important. 

There is another who claimed, using scripture, that it is a moral duty – amounting to a divine command – to choose one evil over another. Thankfully, there were enough knowledge of God and scripture by a vocal few who pointed out the spiritual danger of such rank eisegesis, thus prompting a withdrawal of that thesis. However, the mindset that rationalizes bad behavior and encourages abandoning longstanding morality for immediate gratification on the basis that it serves a good purpose is highly problematic for the church. 

Still, another presented Dietrich Bonhoeffer as an example to follow. That is saying it is acceptable to do the wrong thing for a good cause. What is so dangerous about that suggestion is that it subjugates God and his righteousness to our standards of right and wrong. We are often presented with moral dilemmas for which there seem no good choices as far as life and death is concerned. But it just seems that way; it that does not mean the options are only bad ones.

In each example, there is both moral and intellectual hypocrisy. First the moral hypocrisy. In elevating political activism above the Great Commission, evangelicalists preach a high morality while engaging in and approving those who practice and promote the most immoral deeds. In elevating the love of country above a godly conscience, evangelicalists preach the kingdom of God but promote the kingdom of Satan. Evangelicalists berate “liberals” for their lack of a moral compass while giving their blessings to other evangelicals to abandon their moral tradition for political causes.

The intellectual hypocrisy is used to justify the moral hypocrisy. What Bonhoeffer did is not to be regarded as prescriptive for Christians in such situations. The argument used in its favor is of the same kind employed by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. It confuses in the mind of the deceived, the clear command given by God. The appeal of the Bonhoeffer argument is that his decision saved lives. Who can argue with that? But its spiritual weakness is that it denies the power of God. Remember the scripture, “having a form of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5)?

Those promoting such options ought to know that personal actions, regardless of outcome, if ungodly means are employed, are never approved by God. It is a hard place to be for a Christian to face moral dilemmas such as life and death decisions, but it is never acceptable to choose the wrong in order to gain a desirable outcome. Who is the person that believes God would ever provide a way out that includes doing wrong, or that he ever leads us to do wrong in any situation? The problem is with us. We choose to do the wrong, and even if we escape with our lives, it is still wrong.

Bonhoeffer saved lives, but he did not do it God’s way. He did it his way, and for that he has to answer to God. In Numbers 20, Moses struck the rock and water came out to quench the thirst of the people as God wanted, but he did not do it God’s way, and failed to enter the Promised Land. The Hebrew Boys stood firm in the face of death and maintained their integrity, and God turned up for them in the “midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3). Do we doubt that God will do the same for us, or are we lacking in such faith? No doubt it is the latter. For we cannot explain in any other way the acceptance of doing wrong to further the good.

With the current mess in the White House, the silence of the evangelicalists highlights their moral and intellectual hypocrisy. The previous administration occupying the White House got no reprieve from the voices and pens of its evangelicalist critics. Now, with the most immoral, corrupt, and inhumane administration in power, their voices and pens seek to distract by invoking equivalencies in a shameless demonstration of political partisanship at the expense of honesty and truth. Surely, evangelicals do not want to continue to say that character does not matter? They must be aware by now that they were played by a man whose only cause is himself. They must sense by now that their Faustian bargain will only bring further reproach.

Erick Erickson, conservative editor of the Resurgent, wrote in the Saturday 5/20/2017 Washington Post, “Watergate may have turned Charles Colson from hatchet man to pastor, but the defense of President Trump is turning a lot of pastors into hatchet men. Few people come away from Trump’s orbit without compromising their characters.”

Unfortunately, the once bold voices that dared to stand against the evangelicalists during the election season, have been subdued like craven minions not daring to utter a word. They are called evangelicals, once proud defenders of the Gospel and truth; once custodians of all that is moral and good and godly; once defenders of decency and decorum; once the voices of hope and salvation. Yes, the word evangelical once stood for something good and respectable; something that pointed to righteousness, hope and salvation; something that pointed to the Lord. Now, a derision.

What if You Do Not Get What You Pray For?

If you have ever prayed for something and were disappointed that it did not come when you expected it, or not at all, then you may have pondered through your doubts whether faith in Christ isn’t merely a state of mind with no causal influence, and that we are really at the mercy of a dispassionate fate.

It would seem that whatever concerns us the most, must surely be of concern to God. And if we are overcome with anxiety about our most urgent cares, why wouldn’t God grant our petition? What if our most urgent care is a matter of life and death?

Think, you are the sole breadwinner for your young family including infants; or you are the sole caretaker of your aging and physically challenged parents. Perhaps you are the custodian of a disabled sibling. In any event, there are those who depend totally on you for their care, wellbeing and survival.

Now think, you are staring in the face of a gun being held by someone intent on killing you. Is God obligated to deliver you from death at your request? What would be going through your mind?

We do not often think about our Christian walk in such stark terms.  Indeed, it would be an ugly sight if Christians go about weighed down by such thoughts – it would make Christianity truly unattractive, and reflect poorly on our Lord who gives us, not mere hope, but a lively hope at that (1 Pet. 1:3). However, it is necessary at times to recognize that our disappointments are for a purpose – His purpose – and to reflect upon what that means.

We are challenged because we are inwardly focused. Paul said that to live is to live for Christ (Phil. 1:21). That means the whole purpose of his living was to do the will of the Lord. As he explained in his letter to the Philippians, everything else about himself was regarded as worthless garbage (Phil. 3:7-9). Paul was focused on the Lord and not himself.

Back to that killing thing. I was impressed by an account of a Christian staring down the barrel of a gun being held by Muslim man intent on killing him. It appeared in the Christian Post on August 30, 2017, in an article about what made many Muslims turn to Christianity. Read it here.

There was an Islamic State terrorist who killed Christians but was having dreams of “a man in white” telling him “You are killing my people.” The article gave this remarkable account:

“The fighter said just before he killed one Christian, the man said, ‘I know you will kill me, but I give to you my Bible.’ The Christian was killed and this IS fighter actually took the Bible and began to read it. In another dream, Jesus asked him to follow Him, and he was now asking to become a follower of Christ and to be discipled.”

Notice two things. First, the Christian obviously fulfilled a purpose for which he was called. It is doubtful that at the point of his conversion he ever imagined that he would die at the hand of a terrorist. Yet in his last moments he was focused on sharing the Gospel, and not on saving his own life. In his death he literally saved the life of a sinner. He lived for Christ, and will certainly gain in death.

Second, unknown to the martyred saint, the Lord was calling that terrorist to faith. This Christian was a vessel fit for the Master’s use, and would be the conduit through which the man would be presented with the word of life. Who knows, if he was more concerned about his life than the cause of Christ, the terrorist might not have turned from darkness to the light of God’s salvation.

We have an attitude problem

Paul learned to live with and without the stuff we consider necessary to make life palatable (Phil. 4:11-13). He was contented with what the Lord provided. He found peace and contentment in serving the Lord. We become disappointed with God – even though we are mostly lying to ourselves and say that we are just disappointed in not getting what we desire – and turn to our own devices to get what we want.

I know, we are often told that it is okay to be angry if God does not always give us what we desire. We are told that it is natural, only human. After all, “there is a time for every season under the sun.” But let us be both careful and frank about this.

Be careful not to make an excuse for intemperance. Sometimes we get angry simply because we do not get our way, and we cannot tolerate denial. And to be frank, the urgency of our petitions often times simply reflect our emotional state of mind. By that I mean we convince ourselves that unless we fulfill certain desires our lives will be meaningless, or we will suffer some irreplaceable loss. Then we become angry (James 4:1-3), and our anger becomes a rebuke of God because we think he should have granted us anyway.

Unfortunately, we have been made to believe that because we are joint heirs with Jesus; that because we are children of the King, our Christian walk should manifest royalty. That is why we get angry. We think we are not getting what we deserve – we feel entitled.

Try something radical

How about praising God for not giving us what we request of him? Really. I bet you have never seen anyone, even a congregation singing and praising the Lord for denying their prayer for healing and deliverance! Yet Paul teaches, “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).

All circumstances… This means we ought to give him thanks even for our disappointments. Ought to give thanks at the death of a loved one? Ought we to give thanks when our bodies are racked with pain and ravaged by disease? Ought we to give thanks when we call out to him for help from the depths of our distress and can find no relief? Ought we to give thanks when we are staring death in the face? That is a really hard thing, but he said all circumstances. And we ask ourselves, does he have a purpose for this? If we ask Job, the answer is, yes.

Two final things. First, we must thank him all circumstances because he is God. He only does what is right and good, and good for us (Rom. 8:28). No matter how dire and unpleasant the circumstance, as Joseph learned after the fact, God means it for our good (Gen. 50:20).

Second, God will never allow us to be tested beyond our ability to overcome (1 Cor. 10:13). We are tried in various ways to make more like Christ, so we can rejoice in it (James 1:2-4). Adversity strengthens our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7). Furthermore, it is God’s testimony of us that we will maintain our integrity. Just as he testified, “Have you considered my servant Job?” (Job 1:8), God will boast about us in the face of our adversary. As we endure faithfully with grateful hearts, we will lift up Christ, and by our lives lead men to him.

When God denies your prayer requests, it is because he has something better for you. You just cannot see it yet.

A verse and refrain from Daniel W. Whittle’s wonderful hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed,” addresses our despair and our hope:

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.

But “I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

So, the next time that you do not get what you pray for, pause a moment and then give God thanks. Worship and praise him with all your heart, because he is worthy and does all things well.