Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Coming Evangelical Division

There is an evangelical division coming! This division has wide ranging consequences and can influence everything from ecclesiology to fundamental doctrines of the Scriptures. It is a division that  can wreck havoc with how churches evangelize and grow and receive new members. It is a new division in the sense that the modern church has not seen it take this shape and form ever. What is this division? It is the division between those who follow the Scriptures concerning the homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues and those who "accommodate" the Bible to include members of the LGBT community into their churches and ministries.

"Accommodation" of the Scriptures is quite serious. It is where theological modernism finds its roots since it plays with direct teachings of the Bible and makes them appear not so direct and plain and applicable. It "enculturates" the teachings of the Bible in these sexual and marriage issues and relegates them to the past or roots them in ancient controversies and challenges to Christian moral teaching. Thus, Paul's very plain warnings against homosexual behavior in Romans 1 are re-read and to be understood in a context of sexual license in the ancient Near East. It is the same thing in the Old Testament when homosexuality is outrightly condemned. Only here the rebuttal comes in many "accepted" evangelical forms--"that's the OT and does not apply to us today," or "that is just for the Jewish people a long time ago," or "the love and teachings of Jesus have eliminated and overcome such harsh teaching." So, homosexuality is fine as long as people "love" one another and why not same sex unions, since Jesus did not really ban them.

The other not-so-Bible based side of this accommodation comes from well-meaning, seeker oriented churches who are trying to attract and capture the unchurched, especially the younger unchurched. Since post-modern people make up their own rules of interpretation and truth, we can apply that to the Bible and it's passages on marriage and sexual orientation. We can accept them "as they are" and HOPE that they, in time, "come around" to embrace biblical Christianity, whatever that may mean. After all, we need to love them for Jesus' sake, and love knows no criticism when it comes to church attendance, church participation and even ministry. We don't want to offend people. We want people to like us and our ministries. This kind of thinking follows the pattern of "light," topically based sermons, geared to the modern, younger mindset. It is always non-judgmental, non-defining, and non-controversial. It tends to be positive, uplifting, easy to follow and relevant to today's millennials. Old concepts and terms like "sin," and "wrath" and "hell" and "judgment" and a slew of others are avoided at all costs.

The excuse used, of course, is that the modern mindset can't or won't understand or pay any attention to biblical terms and teaching. So, we need to "update" the Bible and its teachings to "accommodate" this new generation and their thinking. Many of these churches are large, overflowing with crowds of people mostly illiterate in Bible knowledge. But that's o.k. We will hopefully "get to that" in small groups and classes. Really?? I have yet to see that happen widely and pervasively.

The other side will be those evangelicals who take Scripture and its interpretation and proclamation seriously. These churches and ministries preach and teach the Scriptures, usually in an expositional fashion, seeking to explain and apply passages of the Bible to the modern mindset. Actually, there are some large churches around who practice this manner of ministry. The Bible declares that one man plus one woman equals marriage and that is for a lifetime. Homosexuality is not merely looked down upon but preached against and LGBT people, while welcome, are told honestly and upfront where the church and its teaching stand. Rather than trying to deceive or trick people into the church, these ministries seek to counsel and work with homosexuals so that they forsake that practice and mindset. While many charge these ministries as being harsh and irrelevant, they practice tough love and true biblical understanding and application.

These churches differ from the former often in language, style of teaching, core values and concepts and goals and ministry vision. They, too, want to reach the post-modern, younger, unchurched generation, but with revealed truth and light from the Word of God rigorously taught and applied and lived out in discipleship.

On which side of the divide will you fall?