Bleeding Hearts and Propaganda:
The world has infected the Christian church with confusion. A clear examples of this is how it has changed the way Christians think about human sexuality. We shall see that many Christian leaders have capitulated to secular arguments which have made sexual morality totally relative. Our views about adultery, fornication, and homosexuality, have been dramatically influenced.
Before we look at that evidence, perhaps I need to define some terms. I understand that terms and labels are dangerous. Every time you try to put somebody in a box, you discover exceptions to your neat little box. On the other hand, no one can deny that generalizations help us to group ideas together in an attempt to get an overview of complex issues. And, believe me, the Body of Christ is complex!
While many decry the use of labels, we all use them. Every Christian thinks of himself as more closely related to certain bodies of theology than others. Although absolute distinctions are often hard to make, generalizations often serve intelligent discussion
LIBERALS, EVANGELICALS, AND FUNDAMENTALISTS
The Christian landscape can be depicted along a line drawn horizontally across a piece of paper. At left end of the line we will write the word "Liberal," on the right end, the word "Fundamentalist." Those on the left can generally be said to hold the following beliefs, at least to some degree:
Liberals (also known as modernists) believe the world has changed dramatically since the Enlightenment. The world has changed so much, they assert, that biblical terminology and creeds are incomprehensible to people today.
For that reason, Liberals believe that theological questions cannot be resolved by an appeal to "authority alone." No questions are closed or settled (such as homosexuality). Reason, experience, and science, define truth as much as scripture. (Such as evolution). "The essence of Christianity replaces the authority of Scripture, creeds, and the Church."
Liberals are "humanistic optimists"they believe in the inherent goodness of man. They base this hopefulness in their conviction that God permeates every aspect of His Creation. They say human society is evolving into the Kingdom of God
In the middle of our line, we can write the word Evangelical. Evangelicals share with Fundamentalists a desire to preserve the essentials of Christian Faith from the encroachment of Liberal scientism. However, Evangelicals tend to view Fundamentalists as out of touch with the world we are commissioned to evangelize.
The Fundamentalists, on the right edge of our hypothetical line, take certain distinctive positions.
"Fundamentalism should be understood primarily as an attempt to protect the central doctrines or elements (fundamentals) of the Christian faith from the eroding effects of modern thought." (Such as the Virgin Birth and the bodily Resurrection of Christ).
Fundamentalism resists the encroachment of scientism into areas of faith. (For example, the theory of evolution).
Fundamentalism tends to be separatist. It tends to withdraw from the world in order to avoid contamination of biblical purity.
We often draw theological lines in reaction to perceived threats: sometimes to prevent encroachment of unorthodox ideas; sometimes to prevent a drift away from cherished positions. Sometimes our reaction is broad and violent, as in the Protestant Reformation.
Nineteenth century Liberals reacted to what they saw as an inflexible orthodoxy of the Reformers. The Liberals attempted to adapt religious ideas to modern culture and modes of thinking. As modern science arose out of the Enlightenment, Liberals brought the scientific method to bear on everything, including the Faith.
Albert Schweitzer, born in 1875 at the peak of Liberal influence, exemplified the spirit of modernism with works such as The Psychiatric Study of Jesus (in which he refuted the theory that Jesus was paranoid) and The Quest of the Historical Jesus (in which he attempted to prove that Jesus life was driven by His misdirected expectation that the Kingdom of God was imminent).
The Fundamentalist Movement of the 1920s reacted to Nineteenth century Liberalism. The horror of World War I fatigued Liberal optimism. The Fundamentalists rejected what they saw as Liberal attacks on the authority of scripture and Liberal acceptance of new science like Darwinism. Fundamentalism retreated with disdain from such Liberal intellectual pursuits as higher criticism (which treated the Bible as an ordinary book and subjected it to withering criticism).
In turn, the Evangelical Movement following World War II was, in many ways, a reaction to Fundamentalism, rejecting Fundamentalist isolationism and anti-intellectualism. Although the Evangelical Movement can legitimately claim to be a manifestation of "an evangelical spirit throughout Church history," nevertheless it is a reaction to Fundamentalism.
It is true, Evangelicals saw all the same problems with Liberalism that the Fundamentalists did. However, Evangelicals became impatient with what they perceived as the ineffective rigidity of the Fundamentalists. From World War II on, a new Evangelicalism appeared with the foundation of the National Association of Evangelicals (1942), Fuller Theological Seminary (1947), and Christianity Today (1956). Those changes were:
significant expressions of the "new evangelicalism," a term coined by Harold J. Ockenga in 1947.
The new of "neo" evangelicalism took issue with the older Fundamentalism They were too other-worldly, anti-intellectual, and unwilling to bring their faith to bear upon culture and social life.
Todays Evangelical Community is broadly based and considerable diversity exists within it. Many mainline Protestants, Catholics, Pentecostals, and Charismatics are comfortable with the label "Evangelical." The left wing of Evangelicalism spills off into Neo-orthodox/Liberal thinking. The right wing blends into Fundamentalism.
A FURTHER WORD ABOUT LABELS
I have used the terms Liberal, Evangelical, and Fundamentalist to describe theological positions. It is tempting to identify the term Liberal as used in Christian theology with the same word used in political discussions. And in a sense, theological Liberals will also usually be political liberals.
The political spectrum can also be represented by a horizontal line. On this line we will put the word "liberal" on the left end, the word "conservative" on the right end, and the word "moderate" in the middle.
Many similarities can be discovered between the term "liberal" when it is applied to politics and to religion. For example, both political and Christian liberals will tend to defend intellectual discovery over tradition. By the same token, political conservatives (if they happen to be Christian) will likely identify with Fundamentalism or Evangelicalism, rather than Christian Liberalism.
However these assumptions do not always hold up.
We must remember that all kinds of influences cause us to identify with one group or another. Often, it is difficult, if not impossible to escape our roots.
Sometimes conservative Christians who identify with Fundamentalism or Evangelicalism are also very conservative in politics, but not always.
LIBERAL EVANGELICALS AND PROPAGANDISTS
In this book I am addressing two specific areas of concern within Evangelicalism. One is the concern that some prominent Evangelical leaders are becoming contaminated with Liberal thinking. I am using the term Liberal Evangelical (LE) to describe this left-drifting trend.
As an example of what can happen when this drifting occurs, I will demonstrate that many Evangelicals have adopted Liberal thinking regarding human sexuality, particularly regarding homosexuality. I will also discuss the Liberal Evangelical drift in areas such as "social justice." This is basically a discussion of a flaw in the way some Evangelicals are processing information.
The second specific area I will take up in this book relates to the way some Evangelicals have been influenced by the world in the way they promulgate information. This idea will be taken up in section Three of this bookthe section on Propaganda.
I am using the term Liberal Evangelical to identify a movement on the left edge of the Evangelical movement"the left bank of the Evangelical stream." These Christians (and I do not doubt for a moment that they are Christians) are caught in a bind: they are clearly Evangelical, yet they view the Evangelical church as unable to accommodate new, progressive ideas, particularly in sociology and psychology.
One commentator has described a popular Liberal Evangelical, Tony Campolo, this way: "[He is] a poster person for the evangelically correct college gab circuit [who] has long been at the cutting edge of neoevangelical apostasy."
Todays new Liberal Evangelicals (LEs) think the Evangelical movement is too Fundamentalist; too narrow, too confining, and too out of touch with the world Evangelicals are trying to reach. The left wing of Evangelicalism wants to be relevant to society.
It is interesting that this movement should emerge from the American Evangelical camp at this time. (Actually, the roots of this particular movement can be traced to the 1960s). A similar movement happened within the Church of England during the early decades of this century. Here is a dictionary definition of Liberal Evangelical:
[The Liberal Evangelicals along with] evangelicals have emphasized the need for a personal relationship with God, the freedom of the Spirit, the authority of the Bible, the person of Jesus as God incarnate, the centrality of the cross, and the need for conversion. However, with liberals, they have agreed that in a world forever changed by the Enlightenment the message of Christianity must be recast. Bemoaning the decline of evangelicalism in the wider church, liberal evangelicals have seen a major reason as being a lack of sensitivity to the modern age and its thought forms.
THE IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE
Liberals and Evangelicals agree on one thing: they both want to help peoplespiritually as well as temporally. They both understand that we must minister with bread in one hand and the bread of life in the other. They know we cannot minister to a persons spiritual needs and ignore his physical hunger.
The primary difference between Liberals and Evangelicals centers in the emphasis they do or do not place on the power of conversion to answer needs. The Liberals seem to lose sight of the power of God to solve the problems of human existence. They seem to assign human progress to human effort. Evangelicals, on the other hand, suggest that people who become godly develop the ability to solve their physical problems; they suggest a correlation exists between godliness and spiritual well-being. The true Evangelical is not insensitive to the pain of the downtrodden, but he is convinced that spiritual health will always positively affect temporal health. He is not, however, convinced that solving external social problems will produce spiritual health.
In short, the Evangelical gives greater priority to the Evangelthe messageand secondary importance to social welfare programs. The Liberal is impatient with that approach. Liberals attempt to foster human well-being through the so-called "social gospel." They often view the Evangelical approach as old-fashioned and empty. Digging deeper into social action as a solution to mankinds problems however, seems to make them contemptuous for what they view as a too simplistic Evangelical approach.
Eventually, the Christian Liberal is indistinguishable from a secular Liberal. Even more disastrous, the slippery slope of Christian Liberalism often obscures true spirituality. Visit most main-line churches today and you will hear a social gospel all right, but will you hear the gospel? Will you hear the evangel? Will you hear about the true spirituality which centers in Christ as the answer for all wisdom and power in the life of the believer?
Evangelicals understand that conversion to Christ inaugurates a higher "wisdom" than anything the Enlightenment produced:
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from Godthat is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1Cor. 1:30 NIV)
The wisdom of Liberalism ultimately terminates in the slough of the New Age Movement. Many liberal churches are celebrating "spirituality," but their theology is indistinguishable from paganism.
Consider for example the 1993 Ecumenical Womens Conference held in Minneapolis in conjunction with the World Council of Churches. At that conference Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Methodist women (among others) gathered to "re-imagine a new god and a new road to salvation." Participating women chanted:
Our maker, Sophia, we are women in your image, with the hot blood of our wombs we give form to new life with the nectar between our thighs we invite a lover with our warm body fluids we remind the world of its pleasures and sensations.
ON EVERY FRONT
Doing business with the world is dangerous. The world system is as hungry to win the Church as the Church is to win the world. From the Evangelical perspective, two universes are engaged in mortal combat: the Kingdom of God vs. the Kosmosthe fallen world system under the authority of Satan. Evangelicals believe the war is one of ideas and philosophies, Truth battling Error, Good battling Evil.
On every front the philosophical war wages; it is political, social, educational, environmental, marital, and economic. It is a war of attrition: the devil attempts to wear us down and take us out, in our families, at school, and in the workplace.
The war of ideas is sophisticated: the devil doesnt come cloven-hoofed; he wears a suit and tie and is "reasonable." His goal is to entice us to evil. He is very willing to help us "do good" at first until we are weakened in our ability to discern between wisdom and foolishness, good and evil. Hence, 2,000 Christian women decide "Sophia was with God at the Creation," and she is "the tree of life to those who lay hold of her."
The Goddess Sophia, of course, is pagan nonsense. But well-packaged nonsense is no less malignant than obvious error. Bad ideas are evil no matter what their wrapper.
How is social justice different from plain old justice?
Wherever Liberals and Liberal Evangelicals congregate, you will hear the term "social justice." But what does it mean? Inevitably, to them it means they are concerned about the needs of the poor, in opposition to the Conservatives whom the Liberals think are basically greedy and unconcerned about the poor.
Ronald H. Nash, head of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky University has written a book entitled, Social Justice and the Christian Church. He observes that between 1960 and 1980 many evangelical intellectuals swung to the left to condemn political conservatism. Nash said that Liberal Evangelicals characterized the political conservative movement as "a cruel, heartless and uncaring movement totally out of step with an informed biblical view."
But Nash argues that Conservatives oppose Liberalismnot because they are unconcerned about the poorbut because they believe Liberal programs do far more to harm than good. Nash also argues that the term "social justice" has nearly become meaningless. To make that point, he quotes Antonio Martino, author of "The Myth of Social Justice:"
Social justice owes its immense popularity to its ambiguity and meaninglessness. It can be used by different people, holding quite different views, to designate a wide variety of different things.
Nash says Evangelical Liberals tend to think that since they have noble intentions towards the poor, those who disagree with their methods are less noble. Liberal ideas of social justice, Nash argues, are simply not just! He writes that Liberal Evangelicals have failed to grasp the implications of their social justice theology:
Serious questions can be raised about the evangelical liberals grasp of the complex social, political and economic foundations of justice. The liberal evangelical is often inattentive to important distinctions in the notion of justice; he fails to see how his claims draw him into an unavoidable and dangerous dependence upon a coercive state; he is blind to the fact that many of his preferred programs to help the poor end up being self-defeating.
Nash writes that a careful analysis of the Bibles teaching about justice doesnt support the Liberal Evangelicals ideas about justice or their approach to helping the poor. Liberals, he says, use the wrong tools to help the poor.
At its worst he writes, Christian Liberalism embraces Marxism (as it clearly does in "Liberation Theology"). Nash writes, "Many liberation theologians blame capitalism for the plight of the worlds poor and view socialism as the savior of the poor."
SEDUCING THE CHURCH
In the following chapters I will discuss how the Liberals have been seduced by the secular world, and how they, in turn, have carried the seduction into the more conservative Christian camps. I will look at the secular impact on the Church in the area of sexual conduct. Following that, I will discuss the Liberal influence in the area of "social justice."