Monday, June 3, 2019

On Bearing A False Witness Or In Defence Of Evangelicals

We went to church yesterday. We often do, on Sundays:) And, we got a guest preacher. Nothing strange about it, either, since our own preacher only works part-time. The sermon was good. Like really, really good. It's not always the case with visiting pastors. Sometimes you come out of the church and think along the lines that you hope never to see the guy again. OK, I'm exaggerating, but you get my point.

The real temptation lies in the fact that once you've heard a couple of sermons like this, you start thinking that may be, the whole church thinks along the same lines and you are just an outlier. You start wondering whether you belong...

And then you get to hear a different perspective and you suddenly realise, that even in a more or less traditional denomination, there will be a variety of opinions and one or even two or three preachers don't represent everybody. And that we don't have to agree on every single thing to worship together.

Of course, it's even more true when we talk about Christians in general, or Evangelicals or Catholics. There is like one billion Catholics in the whole world, and they can't all have exactly same opinions on everything and even the underlying doctrines will probably be explained differently in different countries and situations. There are also many, many millions of Evangelicals and they aren't all alike!

Some fully deserve the name of evangellyfish, while others are really fine, upstanding Christians. Even in more liberal churches, there still will be some people who are saved, while in the more conservative ones there will be an amount of wolves in sheep's clothing. Yet, there is this unfortunate tendency on the internet to take some controversial figure with a vaguely Evangelical background and then extrapolate that every single Evangelical thinks the same! 

Evangelicals, btw, are  such an easy target precisely because the meaning of the word is so broad and vague. Unlike Catholics, or strict Reformed churches, they often don't have a clearly defined doctrine. Pentecostals and Independent Fundamental Baptists both could call themselves Evangelicals. We could be speaking about some mega-TV church providing endless entertainment and little besides that or a strict rural Southern Baptist community. To add to the confusion, some Lutherans and Reformed folks call themselves Evangelicals, too.

We know that the Catholic Church has problems with child abuse. How fair would it be to state that because one (some) priest(s) engaged in abuse, it means that ALL the Catholics support it? Well, it's the same with the Evangelicals. Just because one or even some celebrity pastors preach some nonsense or even false doctrine on the TV, it hardly means that each and every person calling themselves Evangelicals agrees or that ALL churches which have  "Evangelical" in their name, are corrupted. Well, some undoubtedly are, while other aren't.

Now I don't at all have any problems with criticising them on some of their teachings, like Rapture or other things. I just don't like blanket statements which I see so often nowadays in  certain corners of the internet. Sometimes it borders on giving false witness, imo, which should be a warning sign for any professing Christian that those criticisms aren't genuine and aren't made in good faith.

I'll give you one example so that you know what I mean. Evangelicals are often attacked for their "pedestalising" of women which I would more or less agree with. The tendency is present, but is it really their fault or that of the broad American society? They are also accused of being too soft on women who divorce their husbands claiming some vague "abuse". The funny thing is that their progressive opponents often accuse them of being too harsh on women and teaching them to stay in abusive marriages. (Well, I guess you just can't please everyone).

For instance, the critics claim, Evangelicals and "Conservative" and even "Traditional" Christians in general (have you noticed how the goalposts get moved yet further?) support divorce for viewing p0rn. They then will pull out some obscure statement and parade it as the ultimate proof that EVERY SINGLE ONE Evangelical AND a Conservative Christian agrees. Well, I've done a quick Google search on the subject of "P0rnography and divorce" and the first three results which came out disprove it.

Pure Life Ministries states:

Given the biblical insights into the intended permanency of marriage, I feel it is my first obligation as a biblical counselor to encourage perseverance and offer hope to any wife who’s dealing with her husband’s sexual sin. Even if the Bible offers a way out, that doesn’t make divorce the best option for every person in every circumstance. 

When Jesus condoned divorce for reasons of sexual immorality, I believe He was referring to those who were in ongoing, unrepentant fornication with another person. Furthermore, He said Moses only permitted divorce due to the hardness of our hearts, but reiterated that from the beginning it was not so...

 Many biblical scholars have concluded that the Scriptures do support divorce in a situation when a spouse is in unrepentant sexual sin, including pornography. However, others say this conclusion is not at all clear. Regardless, I would still encourage you to make sure this is how God is leading you, and also to remember that He really does hate divorce.

Christian Life Resources says that There is the reality in a world of sin that none of us are without sin (John 8:7; Romans 3:23). If we are looking for formulistic justification for divorce, and all of our hearts can be read, could our spouses find justification to divorce us?

And a Southern Baptist  pastor  offers a similar take: Divorce is always a last resort, and thus we should not immediately commend divorce because a person engages in pornography, especially if the use is singular or even occasional. We must immediately say, from the perspective of wisdom, that any use of pornography is egregious and heinous; there are no excuses for looking at pornography. At the same time, we don’t want to say that any use of pornography justifies divorce.

All three sources are rather evasive on the topic, saying that there could be some situations when divorce would be permitted but they hardly sound enthusiastic about this option. So, their position could be viewed in a charitable light (they are trying to walk a thin line between the reality of the 21st century liberal America and the Scriptures), or in an uncharitable light (They are really man-haters and love divorce).

So why am I writing all this? Because I sincerely believe that this attack isn't only on Evangelicals (I'm not one of them), but on the Christians in general, and it uses  really existing social problems like feminism, divorce etc, to make Christians distrust any form of organised religion and further drive a wedge between men and women. Just because some preacher out there is an ***hole, it doesn't mean that you should never go to church again. Not All Preachers Are Like That! And not all the churches, either.

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