Monday, November 15, 2010

The Second Great Evangelical Meltdown - Part II

The False Picture:
Unmasking “Postmodernism”

The Meltdown Series:
This article is the second in a series about ongoing sea changes in Evangelicalism today. The series utilizes Scripture and church history in an attempt to clarify those issues that are tending to weaken, break down, and misdirect Evangelicalism. Even though the effects are obvious, the forces behind these changes are not.

"My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments." Colossians 2:2–4


The last article in this series laid a basic groundwork for understanding the current state of Evangelicalism. Many Christian leaders are saying that the crisis in Evangelicalism is the rising up of a new factor called postmodernism. This postmodern challenge is the reason they give for why the Church has to change and become more like the world. This article addresses that view and shows how it really misses the mark.

Pop Postmodernism

Nowadays the concept of “postmodernism” is in the air. It’s become almost a mantra to say something like “We’re entering a new period of culture surpassingly different from anything that came before.” Everyone talks about it, but any attempt to define it is an exercise in futility because postmodernism as a movement actually opposes definition. It’s like trying to define the indefinable (or trying to describe a doughnut hole)—yet ironically scholars use the term all the time.

Many intellectuals and some church leaders are saying that a word like “truth” that is supposed to apply in all times and in all ways is basically a way of thinking that is a product of the Enlightenment.(i) I intend to show that this is a distortion of the Bible and of history.

In actual fact, the concept of postmodernism is a faddish way of thinking and a kind of cartoon picture of history—a Marxist cartoon.

Here’s why.

First of all, the hidden heart of the concept of postmodernism is Marxism, which has always had a materialistic-historical focus that evaluates history on the basis of economics, technology, and class struggle. This will become clear as I explain the idea and influence of deconstructionism a little later.

Second, postmoderns say that all learning and knowledge are culture-bound. They describe the Enlightenment period as focused upon Rationalism,(ii) where abstract universal terms like “mankind,” “freedom,” etc. were used to explain reality. Postmoderns assume that these terms have a built-in limitation because they supposedly refer to everyone rather than to specific cultures, classes, groups, etc. Thus they think there could be no such thing as a universal guilt or salvation because that doesn’t take into account the individual or separate groups. But these abstract terms were not just products of the Enlightenment for the Bible used such terms over seventeen hundred years before the Enlightenment: “God is love.” “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” “The fool says in his heart there is no God.”

Third, postmodernists believe that twentieth century churches, and especially Protestant churches, adopted the Enlightenment emphasis upon technical and linear thinking. One of the ways postmodernists say that this occurred was through a focus upon systematic theology and the idea of the inerrancy of Scripture. But, again, this is a distortion of history, first of all, because the emphasis on systematic theology among Protestants started in the sixteenth century and not in the twentieth. And, second, because the belief in the inerrancy of Scripture goes all the way back to Christ.

Fourth, postmoderns claim that this Enlightenment (or modernist) worldview began breaking down in the twentieth century. According to postmoderns, the breakdown of modernism came from many places: Einstein’s theories of relativity; the vast increase in the knowledge of and contact with other cultures; the worldwide Web; the growing revulsion of younger people for the consumer society; the rebellion of the Sixties and the rise of the counterculture, and so on. Young people became more “hip,” rejecting modernism while their parents continued to accept it. They focused instead on the organic v. the mechanical; they yearned for communities and turned away from the mega-churches to smaller, highly relational church communities. They turned away from evangelism and missionary work to the false “missional” idea of finding Christ in all cultures. Postmodern Christian thinking generally dismisses the doctrines of Heaven and Hell and focuses instead upon living life here and now as the most important aspect of Christianity.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying that all this is true; I’m just saying this is how postmoderns analyze the historical situation. Bear with me as I explain how this postmodern view of reality is really inaccurate and acts to deceive people into viewing the struggles of modern Christians in a worldly and unhistorical light rather than in a biblical light. Today we are seeing the results of this worldly thinking that the Church is accepting, but many Christian scholars and church leaders do not see the underlying deception and worldly assumptions that are, as the Bible says, trying to squeeze them into their shape. Working on these assumptions, people like Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, and others are saying that the Church must become postmodern to appeal to these new postmodern, mainly young, Christians.

The following two sections on political correctness and deconstructionism show in some detail the Marxist character of these false teachings.

Political Correctness

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

Political correctness is a major factor in our society today that reveals the tyrannical influence of postmodernism with its underlying Marxist philosophy. If you work, for instance, in social services, in government, in education, or in any number of fields, you will undoubtedly find that you must speak a certain way or you will be attacked—you might even lose your job. For example, it is politically incorrect to view homosexual relationships negatively. Example from life: An office worker brings in a shirt proclaiming the joys of the homosexual lifestyle. A Christian in the office objects and is called on the carpet for her protest even though she wouldn’t be allowed to wear a tee shirt proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord. She might even have to take “sensitivity training.” This extends even to the kindergarten level where children have been forced not to share Jesus in their drawings or even allowed to use words like “mother” and “father.” This is especially rampant in California. Thousands of similar examples exist today.

This practice derives from totalitarian countries where the government seeks control not only of the way people act, but of the way they talk and think. It is a tool of totalitarianism (think the book 1984), and, sad to say, our government is tending to support this practice under the guise of being fair and tolerant. It often requires using words as euphemisms to diminish the power of the word, for example, “terminating a fetus” instead of killing a baby.

Deconstructionism and the Bible

“Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” Galatians 1:7–8

Probably most people wouldn’t be interested in learning about postmodernism. And even less about a word like deconstructionism. (No, it doesn’t have anything to do with the building industry.) The reason that understanding these terms is important for the Christian in the pew is that this is what seminaries and graduate schools are teaching your church leaders. And it is affecting your life in ways you can’t imagine.

One example is the role of niche music in the church, such as hip-hop. Rick Warren boldly declared how he went around their neighborhood and asked people what kind of music they liked and then he had that in his new church. In other words, the congregation and their felt needs created the teaching and worship strategies.

Some churches de-emphasize preaching because, they say, although it would be fine for people during the 1850s to the 1950s, it “doesn’t work” for “postmoderns” because it’s built on “another culture.” Another example is the way Brian McLaren talks about the blood atonement. He says it only makes sense in the context of Roman-occupied Judea. The acceptance of homosexuality by many churches is yet another example. A teaching exists that in Bible times people needed big families so they condemned homosexuals who didn’t have children. Thus, in that cultural context homosexuality was bad. But in this age, the Church has to drop its biblical attitude because we’re in a “new cultural context” of population overgrowth that makes homosexuality “acceptable.”

Enough said.

Deconstructionism involves a philosophy and techniques borrowed to a great extent from Marxist thinking.

The term deconstruction was coined in the late 19th century, and it really means to dismantle or to destroy a structure. As applied to a literary work, the process is fiercely critical, intent upon destroying the author’s meaning and replacing it with something entirely different.(iii) In academia it means to take apart a work of literature or a history or some kind of academic work to find out what it’s supposedly “really” saying. And what it’s really saying usually turns out to be something to do with Marxism. This process is not new. It began in the 1700s with the attack on the Bible as the Word of God.

Many scholars in the 18th century, especially in Germany and France, used this acidic process of analysis to supposedly discover the “original intent” of manuscripts, but it really was a method of trying to destroy belief in the Bible as truth. This led to the rise of liberal Biblical scholarship in the form of a method called “Higher Criticism”(iv)—a process clearly seen today in the “Jesus Seminar,” which totally misuses and ignores the Bible. Proponents of this “Higher Criticism” came up with the following “assured results”: Four different people wrote the book of Isaiah, and four or five different people—and certainly not Moses—wrote the first five books of the Bible. Daniel could not have written the book of Daniel, and Paul could not have written First and Second Timothy.(v)

The end result of this method is a famine of the Word and chaos.

My article, “Recovering the Scandal of Liberalism: Disdaining the Cross,” shows deconstructionism in action as “Evangelical” scholars launched a full-scale attack on the Gospel and the Bible at a popular pastors conference at Fuller Seminary in 2004, using a technique of devaluing Scripture that theological liberalism borrowed from Marxism. Writing in accordance with liberal political correctness (including the viewpoint of “Christian” feminism), they claimed that the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement gives people the impression that Jesus’ death on the Cross was some kind of “divine child abuse” by God the Father. They made sociology the touchstone of truth instead of the Word of God. They approached Scripture as if it is just historical writing full of errors and prejudice and not divinely inspired.

Unfortunately, most mainline seminaries today have adopted these methods.

This same process of deconstructionism—or destruction—is happening right now not only in our society but particularly among what used to be Bible-believing churches. Brian McLaren provides one of the most vivid examples. His stated goal is to “change everything.” And he uses this same kind of destructive analysis that developed in Germany to undermine the Bible in order to claim that Jesus didn’t come to give personal salvation, that He was a social revolutionary, and that somehow this is much closer to the truth than orthodox theology. This may not be terribly surprising in the worldly culture, but it’s tragic to see its growing influence among Christians and especially among those who call themselves Evangelical Christians.

Stripping off the Mask of Postmodern Rhetoric

Keep in mind that postmodernism is really just a philosophy. It’s not an objective analysis of history; it’s a philosophy of history seen through a particular lens. It’s a spin on history whose driving purpose is the acceptance of the Marxist worldview. For instance, it is fairly clear that the Civil War had to do with the problem of slavery. A Marxist would say though that it was really a class struggle where the Northern capitalists tried to eliminate the competition of the Southern system of slavery so they could further exploit the workers in the North, and that it had nothing to do with freeing the slaves or treating them like human beings. In the same way, the original postmodernists reduced everything to economic motives.

By now it should be clear that the word “postmodern” does not effectively describe what is going on. It’s rather like a mirage. It gives one impression, but when you get close to it, you can see there are many different things happening than what the label actually describes. It’s important to understand this because false teachers like Brian McLaren are using this label and approach to truth to say that this is why the Church must change in response to the changes in our culture; it must be relevant.

That word relevant was also extremely important in justifying unbiblical changes to the Church during the First Great Evangelical Meltdown. At that time, critics said the Church had to change because of the development of science and developing criticism of the Bible. In our time, critics say that the Church must change because the culture has changed—culture meaning the way people view art, life, politics, marriage, etc.

Actually, what people are calling postmodernism today is really a resurgence of a historical movement called Romanticism with a different label. (Elsewhere I’ve written extensively on the rising tide of Romanticism in our time. See the list in the footnote.(vi)

What is Romanticism?

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries there was an upheaval of Romantic fervor combined with a revolutionary spirit, a love of art and poetry, and a love of rebellion, which flaunted the established morals and elevated the artists, writers, and poets as the true revolutionaries and the leading edge of a movement toward liberation. People felt like they needed liberation from both aristocratic society and church authority, which often supported the aristocrats. It was also a rebellion against moral restraint and indulgence in unmarried pagan sexuality, much as the Sixties was in our time. The Romantic Movement developed in opposition to the Rationalism of the Enlightenment by focusing on dreams, intuition, visions, fantasy, nature, mythology, fairy tales, the elevation of folk culture, and a love of paganism.

Thus, Romanticism sounds exactly like what postmodernist thinkers are calling postmodernism today. Understanding Romanticism is difficult, and it’s hard to find another term to substitute for it. A good description is “an exaltation of imagination and feeling as vehicles, or even the greatest vehicles, of truth.” Future articles in this series will provide many examples in our times of the resurgence of Romantic thought and life and show how greatly it is affecting modern society and the modern Evangelical Church.

This article emphasized that, in spite of much contemporary Christian activity and commitment of resources, the Church’s response to postmodernism is flaccid and ineffective. Why? Because the Church was already compromised.

The next article in the Meltdown Series will discuss the reasons involved.


(i) The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment) is the era in Western philosophy and intellectual, scientific and cultural life, centered upon the eighteenth century, in which reason was advocated as the primary source for legitimacy and authority…. The ‘Enlightenment’ was not a single movement or school of thought, for these philosophies were often mutually contradictory or divergent. The Enlightenment was less a set of ideas than it was a set of values. At its core was a critical questioning of traditional institutions, customs, and morals, and a strong belief in rationality and science." It was also a period of the strong rejection of the authority of the Bible.
(ii) Rationalism is the view that reason is the controlling factor in knowing truth. In other words, human thinking is more important than Scriptural revelation.
(iii) Go here for details. Go here for a list of sites that define deconstructionism.
(iv) Jan Markell’s Olive Tree Ministries website has a 10/5/09 article called “Red Letter Christians: Neo-Marxism in the Church.” Vee, commenting about this article in his blog entry by the same name dated 10/9/09, says, “And don’t think that this is not a political Christianity…During the latter part of the nineteenth century virtually all cardinal doctrines of the faith were challenged or denied by the growing liberalism (derived mostly from German Rationalism and Higher Criticism) which was threatening the Evangelical church. From the Godhead to the necessity for salvation to the existence of hell to the atonement to the inspiration of Scripture to the meaning of the gospel, every doctrine held precious by the Evangelical community was gutted of biblical meaning and infused with ideas fitting the times.”
(v) A few references: Daniel in the Critics' Den: Historical Evidence for the Authenticity of the Book of Daniel by Josh McDowell (1979, Campus Crusade for Christ). Also see The Battle for the Bible by Dr. Harold Lindsell (1978, Zondervan). Gerhard Maier wrote extensively on the Historical-Critical method.
(vi) We could fill this article with citations, but we are only trying to paint the big picture here. Because we have written extensively on Romanticism already, we refer you to the following:
“’Christian’ Romanticism, the Inklings, and the Elevation of Mythology”

“Children of the Inklings: Emergent ‘Christian’ Fiction”
“Wonderments—Strange Situations in the Modern Church”

“Mythology and the Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism”
“Tares in Protestantism: Rosicrucianism and Evangelicalism”
“The Hidden Triumph of Imaginative or Romantic Religion”
“Mere Anglicanism”

“Emerging from the Emerging Church”
“Getting an Inkling About Romantic Christianity”
"Romantic 'Christianity', the Inklings, and the Elevation of Myth"

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Second Great Evangelical Meltdown

Introducing The Meltdown Series:
This article is the first in a series about ongoing sea changes in Evangelicalism today. The series will utilize Scripture and church history in an attempt to clarify those issues that are tending to weaken, break down, and misdirect Evangelicalism. Even though the effects are obvious, the forces behind these changes are not.

Part I


The First Great Evangelical Meltdown

Many Christians today believe that Evangelicalism is becoming stronger and more influential due to the popularity of such high profile preachers as Billy Graham and Rick Warren—some even include Robert Schuller. These leaders are capturing headlines and talking about their influence in the White House and in Congress. Mega-churches are springing up with thousands of attendees, giving the impression of a kind of revival.

But such appearances are illusory.

From a biblical and historical point of view, it might rather be said that Evangelicalism is actually weakening and collapsing in the United States in a manner equivalent to a meltdown. And this meltdown is only equaled by another meltdown that took place in the early part of the 20th century called the “Liberal (or Modernist) / Fundamentalist controversy.” I will discuss this first meltdown in a few minutes for understanding it is very important in grasping what is occurring in the Church today.

Our present age uses the word Evangelicalism in many ways. I use the term to refer to a historical movement that had its roots in the 16th century Reformation and that gained great power during the 18th century revival in England and America, known in America as the First Great Awakening and in England as the Evangelical Revival. That type of Evangelicalism manifested two basic qualities:

(1) An enormous emphasis on the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—that Christ died to save sinners, and that this is the basic message of Christianity and of the Bible; and

(2) The certitude that the Bible is the very Word of God and that it is the greatest authority in and over the Church.

These Evangelicals accepted and embraced the historical creeds—the Nicean Creed, the Apostles Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. They did not see themselves as something new, but they harkened back to the roots of the Apostolic Church and differentiated themselves from Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

The Evangelical spirit in the United States has had a lot of ups and downs. One of the high points was the First Great Awakening, just mentioned. There was also a Second Great Awakening just before the Civil War, but it was much more of a mixture due to the introduction of the idea that human beings could generate revival by their own works. It was very clear that the First Great Awakening came by God alone, but it was not so clear in the Second Great Awakening who people believed was really in charge.

This next section is necessary to provide the groundwork for understanding the Second Great Evangelical Meltdown.

The First Great Evangelical Meltdown:

The Liberal (or Modernist) / Fundamentalist Controversy

What I call the First Great Evangelical Meltdown occurred in the early 1900s in contrast to the First Great Awakening in the 1700s. It was widely accepted in the early 1900s that Evangelical and Reformed thinkers and preachers were promoting the true Gospel. They also had strong intellectual backing through schools like Princeton Theological Seminary, which was considered a bastion of Evangelical orthodoxy. However, heretical and unbiblical views of Christianity began entering the Church around that time, especially through the seminaries and universities. These assaults focused particularly on the authority of the Bible.

The two main assaults were, first, a philosophy of naturalistic science that claimed the biblical picture of the origin of the universe was an archaic myth and that science trumped the Bible; and, second, an attack on the Bible itself that came mainly from German theological schools steeped in Enlightenment Rationalism and German Romanticism (more about that later). These schools claimed that they could tell what was “really true” in the Bible and what was “myth.” One of the “myths” that they claimed was just superstitious thinking was the Resurrection of Christ. They also taught that Moses didn’t write the first five books of the Old Testament. These heresies took the American seminaries and universities by storm, and later the denominations. Unfortunately, the churches were vulnerable partly because they wanted to be academically “relevant” to “modern people.”

Another factor that contributed to the First Great Meltdown was the rise of the social gospel around the beginning of the 20th century.

Promoters of the social gospel assumed that the biblical Gospel wasn’t really true because “of course Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead.” Therefore, the only thing left for people who wanted to affect society was to do good, because of course Christ talked about being helpful to the poor and the sick, the alienated, and so forth. And since there was no longer a Gospel of grace and salvation to believe in, they said that what we have left is the social gospel: “Go into all the world and do social good works.” In other words, “deeds not creeds.” Many came to see this as the mission of the Church. The world missionary movement that had flourished just before this controversy arose changed its basic focus from bringing the Gospel to the nations to going to the nations “recognizing” that the “hidden Christ in all nations” was already there. This became the theology of the World Council of Churches.

This truth gap in the mission of the Church left a big hole, and into that hole poured Marxist thinking, which agreed with liberal theology that all that mattered was to “do good to people.” The Marxists believed that capitalism was the great cause of suffering, war, and poverty, and as the liberal theologians gradually embraced Marxism, the Marxists were happy to use the churches for their own purposes. During this process, almost every mainline church either capitulated or split due to the terrible conflict. The groups called Fundamentalist united on the fundamental truths of Scripture that the liberal churches denied (more about that below). The liberal churches focused on the social gospel and gradually turned away more and more from biblical preaching, teaching, and eventually even from biblical morality. In many circles psychological methods replaced biblical sanctification in the search for the transformation of the inner man.

This situation has continued up through today and, if anything, is snowballing. The mainline churches are continuing in their liberalism and are moving more and more towards Marxism. The Fundamentalist churches are now moving more and more into the syncretism that they abhorred during the first Great Meltdown. In addition, the following influences in Evangelicalism are very strong:
  • The marriage of psychology and mysticism;
  • Compromises with Roman Catholicism in the political arena;
  • The popularity and spread of the spiritual formation / contemplative prayer movement and Romanticism; and
  • Literary apologetics and an undiscerning embrace of culture, especially through the popularity and influence of such writers as C. S. Lewis and the Inklings and the compromising Anglican style.
We will discuss these elements more in later sections.

What is fundamentalism? Understanding the word fundamentalism can be very confusing because the first manifestation of Christian fundamentalism was basically a movement uniting Evangelical churches in their stance against liberalism. A document called The Fundamentals promoted five basic biblical truths that defined the movement: the inerrancy of Scripture, Christ's virgin birth, the Substitutionary Atonement of Christ, Christ's bodily Resurrection, and the historicity of Christ's miracles.

The coalition included Reformed as well as dispensational theologies, and though they had theological differences they were united on the need to stem the tide of liberalism (Modernism). However, after the famous Scopes “Monkey” Trial (1925), a lot of the Reformed churches withdrew and the coalition broke down. Thus, what became Christian Fundamentalism as we know it today basically changed to reflect certain characteristics of dispensational thinking that were more central to dispensationalism than to early Fundamentalism.

The term fundamentalism has been misused in the media to mean “fanatical,” but originally Fundamentalism was a movement of conservative Evangelicalism. Until recently the conservative-fundamentalist element formed the main group of Evangelicals. The current movement though does not necessarily represent all of conservative Evangelicalism. For example, the Missouri Synod, a body of conservative Lutherans, agrees with all the basics of The Fundamentals, but they are not considered Fundamentalists today because they are not dispensational.

Basically, then, Evangelicalism became broken and fragmented, which is its condition today.

This, then, in very broad brushstrokes, is what I mean by the First Great Evangelical Meltdown. This first meltdown allowed for the flourishing of what I call the Second Great Evangelical Meltdown—a situation that is occurring all around us right now and that coming articles will discuss.


The next part of this series will focus on The Pied Piper of False Freedom and Clarifying the “Postmodern” Rhetoric. And then we will move into looking at the Second Great Evangelical Meltdown—what I see happening today in the churches and among Evangelical leadership as they attempt to deal with the increasing floods of compromise and deception.

I welcome your comments.

Recommended Resources
1. Machen, J. Gresham. 1923. Christianity and Liberalism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
2. Marsden, Charles. 1980. Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism 1870–1925. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Note: Marsden has prejudices about Fundamentalism that sometimes come through in his work.
3. Packer, J. I. 1958. Fundamentalism and the Word of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What would it take to get you to go to church?

We got this response from a friend in southern California who is weary of looking for a church.

Stop with the ridiculous gimmickery, first and foremost. It only makes our faith appear superficial, trite, and totally lacking in life-transforming power.

Pastor, be a man of prayer! Elevate the Holy Scriptures once again and PREACH from them! Give it to us straight, challenge us to follow Christ without reserve, make it hard for us to NOT be convicted every time we come through those doors. Be kindly toward those of us who are struggling, but cause the blatant hypocrites, the lukewarm, and the unbelieving to squirm until they either leave and make room for the serious-minded disciples, or until they break and repent under the Holy Spirit's heavy hand of conviction. Stop caring if the Word of God offends people, and stop acting as if God needs you to apologize for His more "unflattering" attributes.

I don't care what the pastor looks like. I couldn't care less if he is considered hip or or if he's a total geek. I don't care if he's old or young, whether he wears a Hawaiian shirt or a suit and tie. As long as he understands the nature of his high calling, which is first and foremost to FEED THE SHEEP, not entertain the goats, as the saying goes. I'm not against humor in the right context, either, but pastors need to stop thinking that they've got to be stand-up comedians.

Seriously, if you were having a spiritual crisis and you needed to have a few of your more troubling questions answered before you surrendered your life to Christ, would you feel comfortable seeking answers from some buffoon who just made holy Messiah--the One who holds the keys to death and hell in His hands--sound like an everyday surfer dude in his sermon? Is THAT Jesus the one who is going to save me? Or would you call upon that same man to come to your bedside if you were dying of some incurable disease and you desperately wanted to get right with God? It's such a mockery, and I'm so sick to death of it.

I plead with God nearly on a daily basis for Him to have mercy on His American Church, to not leave us as sheep without shepherds, but to raise up many more courageous men of God who will preach the Gospel faithfully and who will not tolerate heresy in their churches.

I am so inspired by our Christian brothers and sisters overseas who are living out the book of Acts on a daily basis, literally risking their lives to bring the Gospel to the lost. Teach us to live THAT way, Mr. Preacher Man. All or nothing.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Book Contract Signed!

Great news!

We just signed a contract with Lighthouse Trails Publishing to publish our novel The Glittering Web, which is about spiritual deception. We're very pleased to be associated with this publisher that is fighting so hard to stand for biblical truth in this age of deception.

Have you checked out their research website?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wonderments-- Strange Situations in the Modern Church

Some questions continually perplex me about the modern church.

There is as much warfare going on today as when the Church in the early 1900s broke up into liberalism and conservatism, turning many of the major denominations into shrinking mausoleums. Yet it seems like the vast majority of today’s leadership in evangelical and Reformed churches is blind to or unconcerned with some of the basic issues radically shaping our culture, Christian adults, and especially our children.

It's vitally important that the leadership in evangelical and Reformed circles face the spiritual situation and repent of the compromising spirit that has prevailed. If the leadership approves, the people follow.


1. Why is it that every church we encounter has some strong connection with or promotion of the works of C. S. Lewis? We've run into this phenomenon in numerous churches, new and old, contemporary and traditional, Reform and liberal, in a wide variety of denominations across the United States, not to mention in seminaries and Bible schools.

2. Hardly any evangelical Christian nowadays seems to question the benefit of indulging in mythological/fantasy thinking. Why? Fifty or sixty years ago, this type of thinking would have been anathema to most biblical churches.

3. Why are so many children raised in Christian families given, or are read to from, The Lord of the Rings and The Narnia Stories without any precautions or preparation for the very vivid paganism and occultism in them?

4. Why are Christian schools and universities promoting these works? Even very conservative schools.

5. While there are parts in Lewis's work that are totally pagan, such as the Great Dance that features Bacchus, Silenus, and other grossly pagan characters, there is never a word of warning to children, or adults, that there might be something wrong--and even dangerous--going on here. There seems to be an assumption that pagan mythology is totally harmless to modern children. Some Christians even argue that Harry Potter is harmless and actually beneficial for teaching Christian doctrine to children.

6. Why have I seen no concern about the lengthy passage in Lewis's book, Surprised by Joy, which many people have read, where he defends pedophilia? I quote: "If those of us who have known a school like Wyvern [which he attended as a youth] dare to speak the truth, we would have to say that pederasty, however great and evil in itself, was in that time and place the only foothold and cranny left for certain good things" (p. 105).

7. Why do Christians seem to overlook Lewis's promotion of Bacchus, Silenus and bacchanalian feasts? Bacchus was the mythological god of drunkenness and orgies. Berit Kjos has written an excellent in-depth article about this called "Narnia - Part 4 - A book review of Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis 'Awakening Narnia with Bacchanalian Feasts" (May 11, 2008). See also "Blending Truth and Myth" by Berit Kjos (the other 3 parts of the series).

8. There is a strong connection between embracing Lewis's works and a lot of modern cultural thinking by Christians who want to embrace the culture, such as psychology, literature, cinematography, the emergent church movement, etc. Lewis was an artistic and literary intellectual. Why are evangelicals so enamored of this type of lifestyle? What makes many of them blind to the bad aspects of these cultural phenomena?

9. Why is it so widely assumed that C. S. Lewis was such a wonderful Christian when he actually promoted paganism? It's never questioned. (Or, if it is questioned, it's rationalized away: See It's kind of like, if C. S. Lewis does it, it can't be wrong. And even if he does it in excess, it still can't be wrong.

10. Why do some staunch Calvinists view G. K. Chesterton as a wise man? He had nothing but contempt for Calvinists and thought of Reformed life and theology as a perversion of a "healthy medieval" (i.e., Roman Catholic) way of life.

Why do so few seem to be noticing--or caring about--these issues?

Partial Answers

Anglicanism. There is a tremendous influence coming through Anglicanism, especially through the Inklings and through such well-known, highly respected Anglican intellectuals as:

  • Os Guinness, a founder of the Veritas Forum, which features a combination of biblical and anti-biblical teachers, united only by their respect for academia;
  • John Stott, probably the major figure leading the worldwide ecumenical movement that is trying to combine all sorts of contrary theological viewpoints in a syncretistic manner;
  • J. I. Packer, a man known for endorsing almost anything, who combines a strange mixture of solid biblical theology with an openness to very weird, anti-biblical teachings and lifestyles;
  • James Huston, founder of Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. and of the C. S. Lewis Institute, as well as a major promoter of the spiritual formation / contemplative prayer movement;
  • Chuck Colson (who claims his conversion came after reading Mere Christianity). Many of Colson's teachings are laced with Lewis's influence and modeled after Lewis's apologetics and ecumenicalism, which attempts to dismiss the importance of the Reformation and blur its lines with Roman Catholicism. Some of Colson's associates also manifest these qualities.
  • Nancy Pearcey is one of those associates. (See earlier blog entry on Colson and Pearcey.)

Schools and Ministries

Just about every major Christian college, seminary or graduate school, as well as many major Christian ministries, are drenched with Lewis. To mention a few: Wheaton College, Regent College in Vancouver, B.C., Fuller Theological Seminary, Westminster Seminary in California. Other groups include the Association of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE), The White Horse Inn, the Christian Research Institute (Walter Martin, founder) and especially Gretchen Passantino, the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, World Magazine, etc. All of these are connected with John Warwick Montgomery, who is probably the A, No. 1 living Lewis apologist. The original Bob Jones of the fundamentalist Bob Jones University was very enthusiastic about C.S. Lewis. And we heard from a student there that they are uncritically positive about his works and carry his books.

The hard thing is finding a Christian institution or ministry that isn’t in favor of Lewis. The fundamentalist Baptists seem to be the only major group I know of who aren’t enraptured with this image of Lewis. If you search the Internet, you will find just about only one or two apologetics ministries that don’t favor Lewis.


All of the above is intimately connected with what is called Neo-evangelicalism, a great sea-change in traditional evangelicalism that occurred around 1950, though the roots of the change existed before then. Neo-evangelicalism has so transformed the face of traditional evangelicalism that it’s hardly recognizable today.

Traditional evangelicals: Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Charles Spurgeon, and Dwight Moody.

Neo-evangelicals: Billy Graham, John Stott, J.I. Packer, John Warwick Montgomery, Robert Schuller

Heirs of neo-evangelicals (basically those with the market-driven church / emergent church philosophies): Brian MacLaren, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, Rob Bell, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels.

Only two major figures among 20th century traditional evangelicals were critical of C. S. Lewis. Those were Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Dr. Cornelius Van Til.

In conclusion, there is still a lot of mystery about the enormous, uncritical acceptance of the works of C. S. Lewis and the other Inklings by Christians.

There’s no doubt that C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were world-class writers, but why should the content of their writings be so uncritically accepted when they have so much in them that should disturb a discerning Christian? Even secular people can see it, while many Christians are blind to it.


Why don’t you let me hear from you out there?

What do you think about these questions and issues?