09 March 2016

Blind Guides of the American Evangelical Apostasy

NPR's Morning Edition ran a recent story about Evangelical support for Donald Trump. Albert Mohler made a few comments in which he expressed shock and disappointment that so many Evangelicals would flock to a man like Trump who has led a life that is largely at odds with the values they hold.

Of course I would add that the same could be said for Evangelical support of Ronald Reagan in 1980. In fact it was Reagan's status as a divorcee that likely contributed to the 'softening' of the Evangelical position on the issue of divorce. These contradictions are the result of the Church engaging in politics, something few Evangelical leaders seem to consider or understand.

Jerry Falwell Jr. has chosen to support Trump and endorse him. Falwell even argues that Trump is a Christian. This is despite the fact that Trump is very open about the fact that he has nothing to repent of and no occasion to ask forgiveness. With Trump it's not a matter of trying to make a judgment call about the state of his heart and whether he trusts (fiducia) in Christ. No, his mouth very plainly proclaims that he rejects the basic construct of the Gospel message. He doesn't even seem to have knowledge (notitia) of the facts of the Gospel, let alone assent (assensus) to it. Even by the watered down criteria of Saving Faith that is one of the hallmarks of Evangelicalism, Trump falls short.

In his case it's objectively clear that his claim to being a Christian must be rejected.

This man is not a Christian. I'll refrain from commenting on Norman Vincent Peale but Trump's statements regarding him are telling.

And yet Falwell insists Trump is a believer. He's seen Trump with his family, he's created jobs etc... This is what makes a Christian? That says a lot more about Falwell Jr. and the Dominionist concept of the Gospel than it does about Trump. Falwell's statements are almost unbelievable but it should be no great surprise from a man that thinks the Christian task is 'teach Muslims a lesson' by 'end'ing them. Capitalism, Militarism and Gun Culture are the marks of Falwell's piety, his gospel, the criteria of his antithesis.

We also might ask about Trump's family? Which one? I guess all of these people have forgotten the tabloid scandals surrounding Marla Maples (wife #2) and Trump's life in general.

Dominionism in redefining Christianity in terms of the culture has confused some of the basic questions... for example, what is a Christian?

Dominionism has created a new type of Christian answerable to another gospel, one that will happily incorporate Roman Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists and now someone like Donald Trump.

It is clear Falwell Jr. is himself rather confused about muddled about the Gospel and the Kingdom and his statements both past and present expose a basic unfamiliarity with the Scriptures. Or to put it another way, he just doesn't quite understand the message. He seems to think godliness is gain... a means and will to power. 1 Timothy 6 applies both to Trump and to Falwell.

'Render unto Caesar' was not about voting for the right president or even voting at all. It was about paying taxes, obedience to law and the antithesis between Caesar and Christ. That 'wall' of antithesis, that juxtaposition of God and Caesar is what separates the Church, the covenant people from the world. Falwell's father Jerry Sr. sought to make the world and specifically America into the Church but instead as is painfully clear with his son, the Church has been made into the world.

Falwell's right about one thing. The president doesn't have to be a mature Christian. In fact anyone who understands anything about the American political system will quickly realise that it is impossible for a Christian to attain the office. No one can even approach it without having already compromised their faith. In Romans 12-13 Paul specifically contrasts the Christian's posture and conduct with that of the state. It's a necessary restraint but it and its goals are wholly different than those of the Church.

In this NPR piece, Russell Moore proclaims he has decided to stop calling himself an Evangelical. I think it's pretty clear the term became meaningless long ago. The definition of Evangelical has grown so nebulous that at this point it has to be defined in sociological terms rather than theological ones. And yet even that task is somewhat difficult. Once again the influence of Dominionism has played no small role in this degradation.

Again I recommend Iain Murray's 'Evangelicalism Divided' published back in 2000. He traces the growth of the movement both in America and in the Church of England and does a fairly decent job in exposing some of its core problems, the nature of its failures, its spiritual influence and fruits. Murray justly condemns the movement. While I cannot endorse his confessional Presbyterianism his assessment is for the most part sound.

Murray's revivalistic notion of Kingdom advancement preserves him from the grossest or perhaps harshest forms of Sacralism and the basic premise of Dominion Theology. Yet, his commitment to Christendom blinds him to the real nature of the cancer that produced Evangelicalism (which he condemns) and Western Imperialism/the British Empire (which he celebrates).

The book is one that I have read and re-read since its publication. Despite its shortcomings I think it one of the most important books to be published in the last thirty years.

Mohler begrudgingly admits that the 'true evangelical block' is in fact not as large as everyone believed. The fact that so many are supporting Trump demonstrates that these multitudes do not grasp the 'true evangelical' gospel or its ethics.

Mohler is just now realising this? I shook my head in disbelief when I heard him say it. Once again the statement tells a lot more about Mohler than it does Evangelicals as a whole.

For one that's supposedly 'engaging the culture' and is considered an intellectual in the movement that statement demonstrates more than a little ivory tower isolation and a real blindness with regard to what is actually going on in the culture and the Church at large.

When you venture out into the culture one doesn't have to look very hard to realise that Christianity is almost non-existent. And what does exist is largely a veneer. Sure there are churches on many a corner, there are radio stations etc... But then you go out and meet actual professing Christians and you find something very different. You find a few that you sense are real, that can give a basic elaboration of the faith, but for the most part I find a lot of people paying lip service and yet they lead lives... well, pretty much like Donald Trump.

They are worldlings that go to church, and in many cases calling what they attend 'church' is being charitable. If confronted with a church that preaches and teaches the Word I'm afraid the vast majority of these folks would want little or nothing to do with Christianity.

Evangelicalism has all too often focused on people being 'respectable' and avoiding taboos. A good middle-class person is viewed as moral. The Scriptures are far more penetrating in their definition and assessment of the Christian life. While Christians must obviously avoid fornication and adultery, murder and blasphemy, the Sacralist and Dominionist forms of Christianity have all but baptised a host of social behaviours such as theft, false witness and covetousness. Dominionism legitimates the culture and makes culture an end. You can't build a culture with Biblical values. The Bible nowhere suggests we are to do this. Dominionism is a compromise, a synthesis with the world and in seeking power and security many Biblical ethics are left behind. Someone like Mohler may walk around Louisville, Kentucky or some city in the Bible Belt and 'feel' like he's in a Christian culture, but when the concept itself is exposed as erroneous where does that leave him let alone his perceptions?

When I experience the same setting and weigh the culture vis-à-vis the Bible I feel like a stranger in a strange land, a pilgrim wandering through a dark country. And nowhere do I 'feel' this more than when visiting most churches on a Sunday morning. I feel like a Waldensian living in the 12th century European Christendom, a temple to Antichrist, one surrounded by a pernicious and false form of Christianity.

I'm not saying people can't repent. I'm not saying people are going to lead perfect sinless lives. God knows the wickedness in my own heart. And yet, I don't flaunt my sin and make excuses for it. I'm aware of it and it pains me. These are not people that just need to be brought up to speed. They're not aware of their sin because they are not under conviction. They don't care.

Mohler laments the woeful lack of Bible knowledge in the culture and specifically in the Church. The statistics tell a lot and I would imagine we've all encountered such people, professing even church going Christians completely ignorant of what the Bible teaches... because they've never actually bothered to read it. Others might read it but they never study it, ponder it and it's clearly not part of their lives.

Do you know why so many Christians when surveyed know nothing about the Bible? It's because they're not Christians and the churches they go to are (for the most part) not churches. They're not interested and I will repeat the contention that if they were actually taught the Word they (broadly speaking) would reject it and revolt. They're not interested. I've seen it on many occasions. I've met so many 'nice' Christian people that live pagan lives and believe me they grow very hostile when they're actually confronted with the Word. Their problem isn't ignorance. The problem is the Church and leaders like the Falwells who have sold 'another gospel' that is little more than an expression of Christo-Americanism. It's a synthesis of a watered-down Christianity with American Right-wing politics.

Mohler is just now "having to face the fact that, evidently, theologically-defined - defined by commitment to core evangelical values - there aren't so many millions of us as we thought."

If these men are the leaders of the Evangelical movement, then no wonder. They are evidently blind leaders of the blind.

Moore argues that Christianity has 'been a vibrant force against racism'.

Is that so?

There have always been Christians, Biblical Christians that have rejected racism and yet the descendants of Magisterial Protestantism (which would include Mohler and Moore) cannot be counted among them. Is this revisionism on their part or yet another case of total blindness?

Evangelicals largely opposed Martin Luther King. Moore is old enough. Does he not remember? I sure do. The hostility continued through the 1980s and beyond. The Christians that supported King and Civil Rights were for the most part theological liberals and liberal Catholics. It's a sad fact and a point of shame to conservative Protestants that for the most part they actively opposed racial integration. Does Moore not remember the genesis of the Christian School movement? The revisionist narrative makes it all about evolution and school prayer. Those misguided notions played a part to be sure but a huge factor was racial integration and busing. The Moral Majority was spurred on as much by the IRS and Bob Jones University as it was by any issue like abortion.

While I still cannot 'endorse' King I can soundly denounce racism, segregation and the legacy of Protestant Christendom in this regard.

While I do not endorse the non-Christian and even politically correct views of the author, this piece from The Nation provides a decent summary of Falwell's shameful pedigree and legacy with regard to race. Falwell was right to condemn homosexuality but his manner in doing so was not rooted in a zeal for the Gospel but was an expression of political power, veiled threat and has proven harmful to the testimony of the Gospel.

Protestantism played no small role in promoting racial policies from the British Empire in Africa and Asia, Apartheid South Africa and the American policy toward black slaves and indigenous peoples. The spiritual impetus behind Manifest Destiny and even the Spanish-American War were tied to Protestant Millennialism (a Dominionist Eschatology). It degenerated into (or perhaps provided a cover for) naked Imperialism which cannot be separated from racism. The basic moral premise of Imperialism, the theft of lands and the murder of those who try to defend them cannot be divorced from a theology of racial superiority.

Moore is wrong and the statement reflects either a great degree of ignorance, dishonesty, or both.

Trump has been referred to as the 'Frankenstein Monster' of the Right and I think the assessment is accurate and illustrative. Despite the protestations of the Republican Establishment I don't think Trump's repugnant views are really that extreme, at least not in the context of the American Right. He's evil to be sure but his views largely reflect and resonate with the values of many people on the street and many sitting in the pews. For years, violence, racism, nationalism, militarism and covetousness have been promoted and all but equated with Christian values. Evangelical leaders like Mohler and Moore will deny this but I will continue to insist this point and this case is not hard to make. The seeds planted in the 1980s and 1990s have borne fruit and it's putrid. The Christian-Right has played no small role in creating a populace willing to embrace someone like Trump.

Moore's own comments on race and the Confederate flag may place him in a different category than the mainstream but like Mohler apparently that different category is little more than an ivory tower dreamland totally detached from the Evangelical Street. As one who often listens to Mohler's 'The Briefing' this is all too clear. His assessments of economics and geopolitics are equally misinformed but unlike his take on Evangelicalism he has not yet come close to realising it.

If these are the leaders and intellectuals of the movement then indeed it is under Judgment. These men who labour to save Biblical Christianity in America are in fact the chief agents of its destruction.

I know such blatant criticism is 'out of bounds' to many and the few that have read this far will likely be offended. For every hundred that are put off, if even one person can be reached, challenged and provoked to re-think these issues, then I am content. The situation is dire and the time for niceties is long past. We are at war but it's not the Culture War of the Christian Right. It's a Spiritual War and the enemies are within... not within America, within the Church itself. They are not only the Theological Liberals and the false teachers of Prosperity but the leaders of the Christian Right. In some ways they are the most dangerous of all because their counterfeit is closest to the real thing.

From the standpoint of the Church, Trump isn't the story. The story is that millions of professing Christians are supporting him. Trump is easy to dissect and explain. He's utterly lost. He is the quintessential worldling, a Cain, Lamech or Saul. But the fact that so many Christians support him, that should make everyone stop and consider the state of the Church and revisit what brought Evangelicalism to this point. I blame the leaders of the movement. This is the telos of their teaching whether they see it or not. Their shallow pseudo-intellectualism has blinded them to the implications of their teaching and the application of their ideas.

Moore and Mohler's statements regarding Evangelicals and race bear this out.

Here's the NPR story:


  1. They've had their chance to repent. But have they? On the contrary. Evangelical support for Trump is higher than ever.


  2. In response to Charlottesville - I heard Huckabee declare that Trump is no racist. He's been a public figure for decades and no one has accused him of racism.

    Huckabee forgets (maybe on purpose) the Central Park Five. A case so terrible Ken Burns made a movie about it. Trump in the eyes of many was the instigator, feeding the fire of public outcry.

    Contrary to Huckabee Trump has at least, at least, a 30 year record of racism.

    So much for Christian integrity and leadership. Thanks Huckabee for your lies and producing a daughter who abandons her family to serve King Slime. Well done.