13 December 2015

Evangelical Rejections of Sola Scriptura, Guns and the Loss of Gospel Ethics


This indictment all too well demonstrates the bankruptcy of American Evangelical claims regarding authority. To their shame, this secular author calls out and rightly identifies figures such as Falwell Jr. and DeMint as rejecting Scripture as their doctrinal foundation. He's right in arguing they have utterly abandoned it and in fact did so long ago. This article more or less restricts the conversation to violence, retaliation and guns, but the cancer which infects American Evangelicalism is in fact terminal and has metastasised to almost every aspect of doctrine, thought and action.

They have succumbed to a philosophical system. Dominionism represents a syncretism between the theology of Scripture and a comprehensive philosophy of power. It is a sanctified version of the philosophy behind the Babel project in the days after the Flood.

Dominionism generates a metaphysical grid and creates its own epistemology. If these deviations weren't enough, it's most striking contrast with Scripture is in the realm of ethics and Falwell's statements make this all too clear. In no way does he represent Christian doctrine or its moral imperatives. White becomes black and black become white.

These men have lost their way and rather than build the spiritual Kingdom of Christ, they are instead labouring to undermine and supplant it.

It's pretty bad when a secular publication is able to make a simple appeal to Scripture that more or less decimates their position.

Both Liberty University and the Heritage Foundation could be called the Houses of Ichabod except for one thing. The glory was never there to begin with. Both of these projects have from the outset committed themselves to an evil course and now it would appear (ironically in Romans 1 fashion) that they are being handed over to debased minds and perverse judgment.

Well do I remember the troubling dilemmas of the Dominionist mindset that seeks to build a philosophical-theological system based on the Epistles... and is greatly troubled with the ethical imperatives of Christ Himself. Like the theological liberals they rightly reject, they too fall into dichotomizing the Apostolic narratives and injunctions with the testimony of Christ Himself as revealed in the Gospels.

I recall thinking that Christ's example must not be fully applicable, it must have been something exclusive to the role and office of Saviour, something we are not called to emulate. Consequently many of Christ's words and deeds are not viewed as prescriptive and applicable but instead as almost esoteric and idealized eschatological proclamations, ideas that are nice to think about but aren't meant to be seriously entertained in This Present Age.

In fact, upon re-reading and further study of the New Testament it became very clear, that Christ's example is precisely what we are meant to follow. We are called to bear witness, suffer and die to self... possibly even in the literal sense if that is God's Providential calling for our lives. We are to live as those whose citizenship is not of this earth, those who expectation is rooted in the Coming of Jesus Christ. We are to live as those who know all too well that this world and its works are as grass that will wither, elements that will burn with fervent heat.

For some who embrace a strict Law-Gospel hermeneutic the very notion is troubling. The latent antinomianism of that system becomes most apparent when interacting with Christ's imperatives in the Gospels. It's problematic enough when exegeting the Epistles but its reductionist grid is exposed as an extra-Biblical imposition when it all but decimates the very nature of faith while dissecting the words of Christ. But this is in keeping with the Protestant and Evangelical tendency to reject fiducia as the central element of saving faith. Mere notitia and assensus are able to accommodate their sense of piety and definitions of sanctification. This couldn't be made more clear in Falwell and DeMint's statements. The Saving Faith of Scripture is not a concept they seem to be familiar with.

Fiducia, the idea of trust and thus a qualitative change or condition of life is most prominently displayed in the examples and elaboration of Hebrews 11. The Latin terms are perhaps not even that helpful but they help to delineate the different emphases that are placed on the concept. Most Evangelicals have more or less restricted themselves to knowledge and assent (notitia et assensus). Because fiducia is a bit more nebulous and empirically non verifiable as well as restrictive, it has all but been left behind. Interestingly another essential term that of repentance (gr. metanoia) has also been either all but eliminated or reduced to a mere 'change of mind'. While its etymology suggests this definition and it technically is sufficient, this simplistic rendering fails to do full justice to the nature of the concept as a doctrine. Repentance implies mortification and regeneration a true change of life, mindset and way of understanding. Regeneration has been reduced to a one-time experience rather than a course of life and outworking of the Spirit's indwelling.

Faith, Repentance and Regeneration are all terms that Evangelicalism has redefined. They have reduced these terms to accommodate Social Christianity and the ability to increase their numbers. If these concepts and doctrines were preached faithfully and in accord with Scripture the results would be nothing short of profound. Conflict would ensue followed by mass defection. The worldly Christianity of Falwell and DeMint have no time for Christ or His calling to take up the cross.

I do take exception to one point the author made with regard to contemporary political issues. He argues that when we confront issues upon which the Scripture is silent then we are to employ logic, history, science and common sense.

I can appreciate his point but all these considerations must be absolutely subordinated to Scripture and if that means that practically speaking there is no solution, then so be it. If we as Christians are forced to disentangle ourselves from an aspect of culture or are forced into a position of non-conformity and suffering results, then that's what we're called to do.

Our task is not to create socio-political solutions to the world's problems. Frankly, they are irresolvable and any notion that claims otherwise represents deviations from both Biblical anthropology as well as the clear ethical imperatives rooted in the Scripture's eschatological message. Christ's return is this world's only hope. Only then will the consequences of sin be eradicated, though for most of the world this will mean a fiery doom.

When worldliness is embraced, along with ethics of retaliation, unbiblical notions like 'personal rights' and power are embraced, then you can be certain that terms like faith, repentance and regeneration will also be affected. It's pretty clearly demonstrated in this video.

This thirty-three minute documentary displays many of these tendencies. It demonstrates the confusion between Biblical authority and worldly philosophy in the form of Americanism. We see an abandonment of Scripture as an authority in the realm of evangelism and worship. This is exemplified in both what they're doing with guns and the ideas that surround them but also with their truncated watered down Gospel message.

This video briefly touches on the June 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. While I am not encouraged by the general tenor and trajectory of most forms of African-American Evangelicalism either, it was touching to see the idea of forgiveness v. retaliation as something clearly understood. I would have liked to have heard mention of the fact that since we are forgiven sinners worthy of death, we ought to forgive, but perhaps that notion is there as well. I will continue to hope so.

Whether the majority of the people in this video are actually followers of Jesus Christ is something the Lord determines and not I. Yet, I do believe the Harlot imagery in Revelation is suggestive of not just a world system or a pagan cultural power but it is specifically referring to a form of Apostate Christianity. It is this Apostasy that we are told to come out from and reject (Rev 18.4). Maybe some of these people are believers. Just because they throw the word 'Biblical' in front of everything say is less than convincing. The fruit they are generating is not just rotten but wholly toxic. That said, the Lord can save whom He wills.

Nevertheless, we are called to reject this Harlot-Babylon form of Christianity and denounce it. We can show great compassion toward individuals and work to reach them but we must never be part of these congregations that are worshipping at the altars of idols, calling good, evil and evil, good.