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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Arrival of the Evangelical Left

Poster Boys and Liberal Theologians

Mark Tooley of The Weekly Standard wrote an article on Donald Miller of Blue Like Jazz fame. In case you’re not one of the Emergent church movement’s “initiated,” Blue Like Jazz is The Shack lite. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but it is truly a pitiful apologetic for the Christian faith. What rubs salt in the wound is the fact that Campus Crusade for Christ spent a ton of money placing copies of BLJ in the packets for incoming freshmen on college campuses.

Great! That’s just what we need. A lion’s share of these kids are just coming out of public schools (Note to parents: Send your kids to Caesar and you will get Romans back! And, please, spare me the totally specious “They’re there to be salt and light” fiasco.) and now they’re being thrown to liberal tenured ideologues and instead of something truly solid, the freshmen are given more fluff. But I digress.

In case you missed the invocation at the 2008 Democratic Convention, it was delivered by Miller, who also actively campaigned for Mr. O’Bama. Some might be asking themselves why a Christian would actively campaign for a man who has a 100% approval rating from Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and every other pro-abortion group on the planet. That’s a good question. Miller’s reply, according to Tooley’s article went like this: “Barack is the only candidate willing to talk about his faith in Jesus.” It must be nice to be on a first name basis with the President. It still remains a mystery to some of us how Mr. O’Bama could sit for twenty years under the preaching of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and not know that the man is an advocate of the kind of “liberation theology” that liberates no one because it is Marxist. Rev. Wright parrots James Cone and Gustavo Gutierrez. It is also a bit of an enigma why the President has not found time to attend worship since his inauguration. He must be too busy talking about his faith. As a matter of fact, those of us on the Right—as well as those on the Left—would be hard pressed to indicate when Mr. O’Bama has made serious reference to his faith since being in office.

Miller’s further explanation stated that he supported Barack “because he is my Christian brother and other Christians are rejecting him.” I’m not certain what that is supposed to mean, but there are others who claim to be Christians that I think are all wet and are basically biblically illiterate. Names like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy come to mind. Oh yeah, I almost forgot George Bush’s statement about Muslims being saved. Add him to the list.

One of Miller’s big hang ups with conservatives is that they are/were parrots for the GOP. Well, that’s not good. Seriously. One has to wonder if being a parrot for the Left is any better or more acceptable though. On a more mundane note (Miller and his ilk find crass language cutting edge), Miller complains that Republicans “did not give a crap about the causes of Christ.” And does Miller want us now to believe that Democrats do? They must be using a kind of reverse logic, because a huge number of those who vote Democrat do not attend church at all. One might conclude from this fact that Democrats care little about the causes of Christ either. Admittedly, some do, but certainly Miller’s accusation is just as true—if not more true—about the Democrats as it is the Republicans.

Miller seems impervious to his own internal contradictions. Here’s a case in point: He quipped, “I just felt like in order to be part of the family, I had to think George W. Bush was Jesus.” Right. Most of us in the conservative camp have that one figured out. We’re just waiting for those who voted for O’Bama to discover that he’s really not the Messiah. There’s a point where Miller and I agree: our dislike of the politics of John McCain. It was embarrassing that McCain was the best the Republican Party could trot out. There were a number of us who believed that there was a viable candidate in the last race and it was Sarah Palin. The manner in which the Left vilified her gave me the impression that she was good. She wasn’t a socialist, was for closed borders to protect our security, was pro-life, pro-death penalty, a fiscal conservative, a good shot, pro-Second Amendment, and was almost as pretty as Janet Reno, Madeline Albright, Cindy Sheehan, and Helen Thomas. She stood by her pregnant daughter, her youngest son, and her husband.

But young church-goers are less enchanted with Republicans and more in favor of the ideas and ideologies of the Democrats. Are we surprised? Where to begin? Let me start with mom and dad, who happily were pleased to be entertained to death at what passed as “worship,” never thinking that Johnnie and Mary just might need a little catechism to help them understand the Word of God. Dad and mom did little or nothing at home during the week, thereby passing no spiritual legacy on to themselves or their family. These same biblically illiterate young people, who were Ignatius the Youth Leader knockoffs or had Mr. Tattoo or Mr. Slime as their leaders, heard lots of “Christian Rock,” but what they received as a biblical worldview was non-existent. Are we surprised that their spiritual brains are mush? Really, what do we expect?

Back in the day, 1545 to be exact, John Calvin wrote this to the reader of his new Geneva Catechism: “What we set before you, therefore, is nothing else than the use of things which from ancient times were observed among Christians, and which has never been neglected except when the Church has been wholly corrupted.” What the old 500-year-old boy was saying is that the norm in the Church was not “programs” and “entertainment,” but rather catechizing the congregation. There is a clear reference to the Roman Catholic Church and its failure to teach and equip its members, but there is a broader, stinging accusation leveled at our modern evangelical churches as well. In Calvin’s view, a “corrupt” church is one that does not preach, teach, and equip its people, starting with the young children.

This is not what Miller has in mind, though. He now attends a “socially conscious church in Seattle.” Ah! There are the magic words: socially conscious. Of course, any student of history and of the Reformation will tell you that the Reformers were very socially conscious and had scriptural reasons why they were that way. The early Puritans built universities (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and a host of others), hospitals, orphanages, as well as providing for the poor and needy. So exactly what kind of social consciousness is Miller talking about? In all likelihood, it’s the Social Gospel nonsense of Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, and other Emergent church movement gurus. Reading Wallis’s and McLaren’s “ethics” books, you have to laugh and wonder if anyone takes the slipshod or non-existent exegesis they pretend to do seriously. Apparently, Miller does.

But Miller is a notch above the rest of us. He wants to reach the post-modernist. In fact, Miller believes that the Emergent church is “trying to transcend polemics and speak to post-modernity.” Really? What’s the message? Let me put this in a contemporary context. I just returned from the 37th General Assembly of my church affiliation. Part of the assembly was spent discussing the issue of deaconesses. It was proffered that we need to address the culture and manifest that we are not Neo-Neanderthals. You mean we’re not? Anyway, does the PCA really and truly think that the Neo-Barbaric, Neo-Pagan society is going to think we’re doing good work if we have deaconesses? If I were a Neo-Barbarian, I’d want to know why the PCA doesn’t have women Elders and Pastors. Deaconesses are small (feminine) potatoes. Miller doesn’t get it that there will be very little that will appease the Neo-Barbarian except full and complete capitulation, and the Emergent church movement has a good leg up on that already. McLaren, Wallis, and the other non-leader leaders are willing to jettison fundamental Christian doctrines for their less that veiled universalism.

In our next installment, we’ll go into Miller’s assessment of abortion and same-sex marriage. The Evangelical Left is more than a little ambivalent on these issues and are more than willing to minimize them. For anyone to make such an assertion is a clear example that their biblical discernment is in the toilet. I will demonstrate that in point of fact Miller and others like him land with both feet firmly implanted in liberal theology, the Social Gospel, and a full-orbed embracing of the views of the Left—sometimes the far left. It is disconcerting that there are so few with biblical discernment and maturity these days, but what do we expect?



Blogger Susan said...

My reading this morning was Isaiah 3. Verse 12 jumped out at me in regard to this post. Actually, most of chapter 3 and 4 is a sober warning for us today.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Mr. Light said...

I am constantly vexed and perplexed by how many of my Christian friends and acquaintances are reading books like “the Shack” and “Blue Like Jazz.” Some of them have been in the evangelical world their whole lives, yet they have no idea what’s so wrong with these books. And it causes me to worry- if they can’t see that these books are full of false teaching, then they must be ignorant of true teaching, and if they are ignorant of true teaching, then I fear they haven’t really grasped and believed the Gospel at all. And if that is true they are in an awful state; not only are they unsaved, but they are deluded into thinking that they are. Is this chain of reasoning flawed?

6:25 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Dear Mr. Light,
I might suggest that the very fact that they cannot "see" is precisely because they have been in evangelical churches.

9:40 AM  
Blogger ScottO said...

Dr. Gleason,

What are we seeing in the PCA right now? It appears to me we are seeing a replay of the modernist controversy of the early 20th century in the PCUSA play out in the PCA. We had one of the leaders in the North American Mission Board try to rally our congregation on the need for women leadership in the church as a mission need during a mission conference at our church. (By the way he did this under the guise that he was doing it under the table so to speak.) This way the PCA can bring in churches being shuttered by the PCUSA (as it continues its free fall in membership) and work the doctrinal issues out with these churches later. I was stunned along with some of the other congregants. We are seeing full fledged attacks and infiltrations by liberals throughout the PCA based on what I am reading and hearing. Dr. Machen proves to be prescient nearly 100 years later even for splinter groups from the PCUSA such as the PCA. I find it ironic that members of the NAMB would advocate bringing in PCUSA churches that membership is dwindling and maintain the same doctrinal beliefs and/or disregard for the Westminster Confession that they had before which will ensure that the numbers will keep dwindling and the financial drain will be shifted to the PCA.

In addition, what are your thoughts on Tim Kellers PCA church giving classes in centering prayer and contemplative prayer by a woman to congregants of either sex. The doctrinal disregard on so many levels is stunning. To me this needs to be denounced loudly and forcefully by the PCA especially since it is being done in church that has such a high profile.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

7:25 AM  
Blogger West Coast PCA said...

Interesting, Redeemer. I'm just curious to know what a "prayer rope" is?

7:52 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Tim is a very interesting read. We were classmates at Gordon-Conwell. What disturbed me most of all at the PCA's GA in Orlando was Tim's sleight of hand in getting around both Scripture and the BCO.
In the Wednesday evening "debate," Ligon's approach was to give the pertinent biblical texts, say why he thought Tim's exegesis was faulty, and then to give a summary of what the BCO says.
Tim's response was a quintessential postmodern answer: I hold to the BCO too, but let me tell you what works for us at Redeemer.
I've talked to Tim and Kathy about the contemplative prayer thing, when Tim wrote a blurb for one of our classmates' books. She's a pastor somewhere in New England. Even thought Tim's recommendation was glowing, he and his wife claim to know nothing of breath or contemplative prayer, let alone prayer labyrinths. One can only wonder why someone would write a recommendation for such a book then.
Tim has disregarded the BCO for a long time. He is considered a "golden boy" in the PCA. It will be very interesting to see what happens next year at GA.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

It just gets worse and worse all the time. Who cares what Scripture says. I can imagine some of these guys standing before the throne of Christ and saying, "Oh yeah? Says you!"

11:50 AM  
Blogger ScottO said...

One would think us Presbos would have learned our lessons on exalting "Golden Boys" from New York. Their track record has not been so stellar throughout church history.

I listened to the Duncan-Keller debate across the weekend and have a few observations from a PCA layman's perspective.

1. Dr. Keller stated that he did know where his mercy ministry would be without having and recognizing women deaconess'. This is precisely the point and should have been pointed out to him and all in attendance. The presupposition that he is working from is that the ministry would be inadequate without the deaconess' as a named and integral part. But since he does not know what his mercy ministry would be without the deaconess' could it be not just as possible that it would be greater if Redeemer's ministry was in accord with the Scripture, WC and BCO. In other words Dr. Keller and those in his camp do not even entertain the thought that he/they are hampering God's ministry by their methods.

2. Dr. Keller used some fallacious argumentation to try to minimize his opponent(s). He played (even though it was in a jovial manner) to his being older than Dr. Duncan which in fact in and of itself does not prove the need for deaconess'. I see this as a case of "argumentum ad verecundiam". I am older and have evolved to higher level of knowledge therefore I am the expert, e.g. "ipse dixit". Which I might add is very emergent of Dr. Keller. I could waste your time pointing out some other fallacies but you get the point.

3. Dr. Keller stated in his opening remarks that he does not like conflict but that is belied by his actions. He chooses to pay lip service to the WC and the BCO and march to his own beat at Redeemer but he sees know problem stirring conflict up within his denomination. If he really eschewed conflict he would conduct Redeemer within the confines of the Scriptures, WC and the BCO. Then he would work through the required channels to make any changes to the BCO which he feels are outside Scripture and/or WC. His actions are the same as a man who speaks meekly and conciliatory to his squad and platoon all the while pulling the pin on the hand grenade and tossing it into the rest of the platoon. Again very emergent of him to show his love to whom he chooses while everyone else either joins him or ducks and covers.

4. In the question and answer session Dr. Keller stated outright that if he was in a denomination that ordained women deacons that he would do it. This is a very telling statement. The study committee request is not the end game what these factions want is ordained women deacons (among other things) not un-ordained women deacons.

5. Lastly the level of polity and congeniality will be the downfall of the PCA if they do not man-up as you say. It is all fine and well to argue vehemently for your point and go out to dinner afterward. Dr. Duncan is making a tactical error assuming that his collegiality will be repaid by those on the other side of these issues. They are going to go for blood hence the reoccurring nature of their overtures. As happened in the past with the Auburn Affiliation they will keep at these things and inserting those that agree with them until the battles are won by them and lost by us. I would also say that Dr. Duncan's statement that there is more that he agrees with Dr. Keller on then they disagree on the same could be said between Dr. Duncan and the pope, Schuller or any number of heretics of today or throughout church history. It is what you disagree on that is important. Often there is fine line between orthodoxy and heresy and it would be good if the those arguing for orthodoxy remember that fact. We do not have to be mean and ugly but we do need to be forceful with our arguments and not be accommodating.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

I agree with all you say. You hit a home run!

10:32 PM  

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