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Why I am still here

January 22, 2014

I have two friends who call themselves “former evangelicals.”  One has abandoned the Christian faith altogether, the other has moved to a liturgical, mainline church and calls himself a “progressive” Christian.  We remain friends, although both can’t imagine how I can nod my head in agreement with some of their criticism of evangelicalism and still remain in an evangelical church.

It is no secret that a significant number of young evangelicals are leaving the church.  While the numbers and implications are debated there can be little doubt that my “dump the faith” friend has lots of company.  Just a few days ago I read an article that implies that my newly progressive friend is not alone either.  Just what is going on here and why?

While it is obvious that there is no one answer to that question it bothers me that so many evangelicals seem unwilling to examine themselves and ask if we may be main contributors to the problem.  I once heard David Jeremiah say “The only common factor in all your troubles is you.”  That has stuck in my head for years.  We evangelicals are seldom willing to consider that option.

We say that those who leave are not willing to hear the truth, or not willing to submit to God, or not willing to give up their sinful lifestyle.  In our kinder moments we shake our heads and say they are confused and tell them we will pray for them.  More often we say that shunning them until they repent is the “biblical” way to deal with them.

As I said before, there are many factors in these decisions to leave, sometimes even within one person, but there is one story I hear over and over again.  In our evangelical desire to prove our faith is both reasonable and rational we have in many cases defined our faith in terms of intellectual assent to a series of propositions.  We take a series of issues and tag them with the title “a biblical worldview.”  The list of issues may vary but for the most part you see the same ones over and over.

–              Young earth creationism.

–              Penal substitution atonement.

–              A biblical view of sexuality.

–              A biblical view of marriage.

–              A biblical view of politics.

The list could go on but you get the idea.  We create images we are confident is “what the Bible says” and if you differ, disagree or doubt there is something wrong with you.  We are immune to asking if our images are at all practical.

For example, we might say that being a good Christian wife means being some quiet, submissive woman who delights in a beautifully decorated home where she can greet her husband with homemade meals when he comes home from his 9-5 job as a way of cheerfully reverencing his leadership.  Where does that leave thousands of Christian refugees in South Sudan or Syria?  Where does it leave the poor family with two minimum wage jobs trying to break even?  Where does it leave the wife of an abusive alcoholic?

Worse yet, we can end up considering groups of people who disagree with us as uniform monolithic enemies.  Or trying to find ways to make them act the way we think they should act and end up driving them further away from Jesus.

So why am I still here?   In part, it is because I agree with Peter in John 6:68.  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”  I am crazy in love with the Jesus I see in the Gospels.  I am convinced that His overwhelming grace is always available, even for us self-righteous Pharisees who are convinced we know what the kingdom of heaven is really all about.   All I need is the humility to accept it on God’s terms, instead of my own.

But I am also convinced that nobody yearns to know God, and be known by Him, more than evangelicals.   Yes, we can wander off into deep theological weeds in our quest and perhaps my friends are right, perhaps we are there now.  But I can’t shake the conviction that God is nowhere near done with us and there are surprising days ahead.

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From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. I like your article.

    I look to Mark 9:38-50 when I see people in other denominations. John is seemingly correct in Mark 9:38. If you were alive around 30 AD or so, the absolute BEST church to belong to was the one that Jesus was the Pastor of, right? [Although I don’t think he was a pastor of an evangelical church, I think his church was fundamental 🙂 ] If you went anywhere else you were at best going to the second-best church. Those people John spoke to should have gone to a different church.

    Jesus though disagreed in John’s approach.

    I believe very strongly in following correct doctrine. But I try to be careful judging my friends who go to “wrong” churches. I’m not their master.

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