First, I want to answer a few questions and respond to a couple of remarks that have come up in comments. These are in random order.
Let's see... I need a heading:
Assorted pleas, rebuttals, statements of self-vindication, a few insults, and other off-the-cuff reactions to the Barbarian hordes and home-school moms who frequent my blog:
- EdwardsFan asks: "no one just joins the blogosphere with a blog so fancy pantsy. I've tried and tried . . . lament . . . and still can't figure out this template stuff. Who's helping you on the side Phil? " No one is helping me yet. But I have been able to take advantage of many years' experience of barely cobbling together webpages. I used that meager knowledge to cut through the Gordian knot of blogdesign mystery and tweak one of the templates I found at Blogspot.com. But the whole thing still just barely makes sense to me. The graphics I likewise do by myself, usually hurriedly. Those with skilled eyes for design will notice that I have very limited artistic and design capability, so I've tried to keep it very simple and functional. My only goal is to look better than Triablogue.
- Kim said, "I'm sorry if our dictionaries frighten you. Would slide rulers be less daunting?" Not really. The thought of suffering the wrath of a home-school mom, not merely her weaponry, is what terrifies me.
- To all who comment: Please remember the rulesespecially the rule about Christian civility. And please don't use my comments as a forum to debate issues that arise in other contexts. If you're disturbed with something Fred Butler posted on his blog, leave a comment there. If you're angry about something that was posted at the Boar's Head, leave a comment there. Oh, wait. Scratch that. If the BHT guys annoy you, join the club. But you'll have to start your own blog to answer them. Don't import fights from other forums into my blogcomments. We have enough to fight about here already.
- Scott Nichols thinks we should just leave the fads alone and see what becomes of them. He writes: "I've always taken the Gamaliel approach to these things." Well, see this. Also, it seems to me that any one of Paul's commands in Titus 1:9; 2 Timothy 3:5; and 2 Timothy 4:2-5 would trump Gamaliel's advice when it comes to the issue of dealing with creeping worldliness and doctrinal decline in the church.
- Jonathan Felt asks, What does it take for something to be "downright destructive to the core distinctives of evangelical doctrine"? How does one 'destroy' doctrine in the first place? Well, it's not the doctrine that is destroyed, of course, but the evangelical distinctivesi.e., the evangelical commitment to certain biblical truths that are fundamental and essential. When in order to increase their clout and visibility evangelicals move the boundaries of their movement so that even non-Trinitarians (T. D. Jakes, or Phillips, Craig, and Dean) are counted as "evangelicals"; when evangelicals link up in spiritual campaigns with members of sects and denominations where justification by faith in Christ alone is flatly denied; or when they count among their closest friends and allies religious leaders who deny essential doctrinesthey have sacrificed evangelical distinctives for political expediency.
Jonathan further asks, "If I decide to team up with someone on a legislative initiative, how does it follow that my core evangelical distinctives are in danger of being destroyed?" It depends, of course, on how much of your message or your testimony you have to stifle in order to "team up." If your allies are Jewish and you hold back from declaring the exclusivity of Christ in order to hold your coalition together; or if your allies are Roman Catholic and you carefully avoid any discussion of sola fide or sola Scripturathen you are sacrificing your distinctives for a lesser cause than the proclamation of the gospel. It happens all the time.
Jonathan then opines: "It looks to me like the culture war stuff is the odd man out in your list, since by definition it does threaten people's comfort zone, rebukes people's sin, and so on." Perhaps, but it does so very selectively, focusing on what is peripheral, not what is central. And that is the point. The pattern has been that those who invest the most in "the culture war stuff" are often the last ones to press the actual claims of the gospel, declare the truth of redemption through Christ's atoning work, proclaim the exclusivity of Christ, and preach the full and unadulterated gospel. They become obsessed with issues like getting prayer back in schools, ignoring the fact that any prayer ever sanctioned by the American government would have to be a prayer that implicitly denies Christ's rightful lordship.
Face it: the evangelical thrust for political activism has (historically, not just theoretically) had an ecumenical tendency. That's what I mean when I say culture wars undermine evangelical distinctives.
By the way, if you want to see this principle in action, tune into "Focus on the Family" for six months and keep a record of how many times the gospel is clearly affirmed on that broadcast, compared to the number times you are exhorted to write your senator or participate in this or that boycott, campaign, or protest. Or ask yourself how Jerry Falwell got to be so friendly with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and why, when they appear together, Falwell often (but not even always) confronts Jackson's political ideas, but he (almost?) never challenges his false theology.
I'll have much more to say about this issue in the coming weeks. It's one that is very important to me, because I was up to my eyebrows in conservative political activism before I became a Christian. I had many friends and political allies who, as it turns out, were Christians all along and ought to have realized that I did not know the Lord. But not one of them ever spoke to me about Christ or tried to give me the gospel message. I am convinced that the kind of political activism they were involved with is incompatible with the true calling and priorities of the gospel ministry.
And the rationale for mobilizing the church to political activism is extremely muddy and without any clear biblical warrant. Even Steve Hays has not been very convincing on this issue.
- Several commenters echoed the request of Puritanicoal: "It would be great if you would devote a day or two blogtificating on what the everyday Christian should do when their Sunday School class decides to go through the latest Fad-Driven Sludge or a friend recommends reading the latest Freudian psychoBABEL they bought in the local Christian bookstore." Stay tuned. (And if I forget to do this, remind me in a couple of weeks.)
- Tyler Wallick says, "I'm not sure I can define what isn't timeless truth - if something does not stand the test of time, was it ever really true?" No, but notice that the contrast I made was between "timeless truth [and] passing fashions." Truth versus fashion, not "timeless truth" versus "temporary truth." Truth by definition is timeless.
- Mike Russell thinks "all the blogspotting and gimmicky things" at PyroManiac are "quite faddish."
Ouch. You talkin' 'bout my graphics? What is it with all the people who hate the graphics? Should I go to THIS kind of thing as a blogformat? Maybe I could get Steve Hays to design the blog layout for me.
Seriously, mere popularityeven temporary popularitydoesn't define what is wrong with faddism. The error of the fad mentality I'm describing is that it uses popularity and fashion as gauges and yardsticks for measuring truth. If you catch me doing that, slap me around. No, on second thought, just shoot me. Until then, humor me while I make my blog suit my own aesthetic preferences, and if you seriously suspect that I'm driven chiefly by a motive to court people's favor, I have a list of postmodernists, theonomists, charismatics, Arminians, drunken group-bloggers, Harry Potter-haters, Rick Warren aficionados, and home-school moms to whom I'll refer you for a more objective opinion.
(By the way, if I inject a note of humor or post what you call "frivolous posts," it's not designed for anyone's benefit but mine. I'm not trying to tickle other people's earsand oddly enough, until now, no one has ever suggested my style of humor serves such a purpose. Sorry if you don't like it. Lots of people don't. But my approach to writing a weblog is more like journaling than journalism. If you don't like it, you don't have to read over my shoulder.)
- Steve Camp said, "I believe biblically (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 2 Cor. 2:17; 1 Tim. 6:1-6; 3 John 5-9) that anything less than that kind of "dramatic action" is just more evangelical spin and politics." Fundamentalist.
- Steve commented: "Advertising is marketing. Unless the advertising is done in poor taste or is pushy, we don't have any problem with such, do we?" (By the way, Steve had several interesting observations. You ought to read his comment.) No, I don't object to marketing per se. What I have objected to is a market-driven approach to ministry, where every aspect of our message and the style of its expression is filtered through a marketing plan designed to appeal to "felt needs," opinion polls, special-interest groups and whatnot. Market-driven ministry and marketing aren't necessarily the same thing. I will have more to say about this in future posts, but all my posts are too long as it is.
- Brian Adams at "Christendom Blogosis" thinks my attitude toward secularism is too lax.
- Frank Martens dared me to answer a question. So I did.
- Adrian Warnock recalls his meeting with me in London on July 7, punctuated by the terrorist attacks. Neither of us had much time that day to blog about our meeting, but his account is absolutely correct: we talked about the stealth tacticsterrorist maneuversbeing used by people at the fringes of evangelicalism to confuse young Christians about the gospel message and the meaning of the atonement. Adrian notes that the atonement controversy needs to be addressed with rigor and passion. He is right. I intend to make that a topic in some future blogposts.
- Peter Bogert reminds us that in contrast to all the fads, God's Word endures forever.
- Keith Plummer was disturbed.
- Carla Rolfe asks, "Does this make me look faddy?"
- Eddie at "reformatus sum" marvels that Bruce Wilkinson fell from the radar faster than you can pray the prayer of Jabez.
- Laura at "Words Behind Me" makes a good point: It's much easier to be a critic than to offer solutions. And the solutions are never as quick and easy as the schemes that create the problems in the first place.
- William Dicks is amazed (as I am) that people who deny the Trinity are so widely accepted by evangelicals.
- Brian at "Doctrine, Theology And All That Jazz" doesn't think the term evangelical is worth keeping.
- Eric Rung notes that the slow encroachment of heresy has made evangelicals oblivious to what is happening around them.