The Trouble with Transformation
Can Evangelicals Have Their Cake and Eat it Too?
When we first posted the previous article about Lou Giglio and the Passion 2013 we didn’t know that ensuing events would put him in the national spotlight for another reason. He withdrew from praying the benediction ceremony for President Obama’s Inaugural after it was discovered that he delivered a sermon in the 1990s saying that homosexual behavior was a sin. In today’s political climate, a sermon like this is a huge, politically incorrect faux pas.
Interestingly enough, some evangelicals apparently hoped that Giglio’s high-profile stance against human trafficking would endear him to the world. Being against human trafficking is a popular cause – after all, who can be FOR it? Other similar social causes are also hoped to be the ticket to popularity and political correctness – causes such as “build shelters for the homeless, or help eradicate disease in Third World nations.” Who can be against such lofty goals? Yes, these social objectives are viewed as the new mission of the church – a New Evangelical “missional” and “transformational” church committed to the necessity of maintaining acceptability to the world.
But with the Giglio affair things went wrong. Suddenly a bigtime leader doing mega-popular things – like sponsoring huge entertainment-based youth rallies, courting contemplative meditation, and working towards a global goal of eradicating slavery – was, ‘er, UNpopular.
Uh-oh… Things aren’t supposed to happen like this. This isn’t part of the New Evangelical equation. Neoevangelicals believe they can have their cake and eat it, too. They believe that social action will endear them to the world. And if they toss in a few gospelish-sounding tidbits, no one will mind. Right?
Not quite! One commentary referred to the “irreducible offense of the gospel, even among advocates of tolerance and diversity.” Which then leads to the obvious question – just how “irreducible” is the New Evangelical gospel? It has sometimes been accused of serving up a lot of theological hot air and boiled-down biblical blather.
There is a problem with this “irreducible offense” mentality among neoevangelicals. First, isn’t this sheer naivete? Do leaders honestly think if they reduce the Gospel to the least offensive, lowest common denominator that they then will be accepted and tolerated by the world?! As one pastor asked:
“Amidst the confusing Louie Giglio canonization, did you seriously think a Christian worldview was going to accepted by unbelieving pagans?... The unbelieving pagan world will never accept genuine Christian beliefs founded upon the Word of God. Jesus already told you in John 15:18-19”
The Gospel Coalition, writing about the Giglio incident, acknowledged that
For the past several decades voices inside and outside the church have said that Christians have hurt our witness by focusing on issues that challenge individualistic sexual permissiveness. They say that if we would only focus on actions that show how much we love our neighbor, actions like ending human trafficking, we would be welcomed in the public square. But as the Giglio incident reveals, no amount of good works can atone for committing the secular sin of subscribing to the biblical view of sexuality.
But it has become sadly apparent that Lou Giglio is no longer addressing homosexuality.
It's not even enough to stop talking about the issue. As Giglio says in his statement, "Clearly, speaking on [homosexuality] has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years." But for the sexual liberationists, both secular and religious, it is not enough to have stopped talking about an issue decades ago. Anyone who has ever spoken about the issue---or at least has not recanted from believing what God says about homosexuality---is to be treated as a bigot.
Note: Lou Giglio’s new stance is still not enough to gain respectability in the world’s eyes. Even compromising by saying this topic “has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years” hasn’t helped him. He isn't able to have his cake and eat it too. He's not getting a free pass from those who oppose the Gospel.
The Problems with "Irreducible Offense"
What is the lesson here? Does boiling the Gospel down into the most basic “irreducible offense” mean that it is no longer necessary to preach about sexual sins? This compromise is just the tip of the neoevangelical iceberg. Buried just barely below the surface are the new tenets of the faith, whitewashed and dolled-up. The Neoevangelical socially-acceptable neo-gospel is based on the following underlying assumptions –
- Won’t preaching against SIN be an antagonistic stance that will alienate those you are trying to “woo” to the Gospel?
- Doesn’t talking about “sin” rebuff folks so that they won’t want to stick around and hear the rest of what you have to say?
- Shouldn’t sexual sin be something only brought up long after the preacher has persuaded a “convert” to pray a 10-second mini-prayer to accept a nebulous feel-good sort of Jesus fellow who just wants to love everybody?
- Shouldn’t we all just be spiffing and polishing the gospel message so that it presents the best possible attractional image to a world that wants instant gratification?
- Isn’t our New Accommodational Gospel just the sort of thing that appeals to everyone while yet in their sins? Does anyone really NEED to repent? Isn’t that sort of negative message passé?
- Shouldn’t our new community service gospel focus be “missional” enough to change cultures without needing to talk about all that controversial sin stuff?
Obviously, these questions are faulty. But this is the troublesome face of New Evangelicalism. Indeed! This is the whole problem with an evangelical church that is star-crazed for its own institutional self-esteem!
Neoevangelicalism has been dexterously bending itself over backwards for decades, trying to get the world to like it. It has employed state-of-the-art entertainment devices (as evidenced by Lou Giglio’s Passion events). It has embraced the latest psycho-social technologies, marketing gimmicks, and public relations methods – all in an attempt to garner widespread acceptance while gaining new “converts.” The Attractional Megachurch uses every possible titillating tactic to enhance its garbled gospel of happy feelings, prosperity, political power, destiny and glamour.
Furthermore, Neoevangelicalism has industriously worked on “how we can effectively love our neighbor without appearing fuddy-duddy.” Clever strategy – being against things that everyone else is also against – causes such as human trafficking, malaria, poverty, etc. – Whooptie-Doo! We have a class act “mission” now! Joining popular causes doesn't carry the stigma that the Gospel carries.
But at what price? When the Gospel of Salvation is minimized and watered down to a mere “irreducible offense” then what gospel is actually being preached? A lukewarm, touchy-feely, “Jesus loves you,” smiley-faced gospel? It certainly isn’t the Gospel of Salvation that preaches the truth about ALL human sin and God's grace. Especially politically incorrect sins. Even sins that the culture-at-large no longer considers to be a sin. It takes real COURAGE to preach about those sins that no one wants to hear about anymore.
Which raises a key question: Which old Bible sins have been deleted from the postmodern Canon of Neoevangelicalism in order to accommodate new currents, trends, fads and mores? Is the church leading the world, or is the world leading the church?
Well, these days it looks more like the world is leading the church! As evidence, simply review Lou Giglio’s comment that "Clearly, speaking on homosexuality has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years." Which gospel is being watered down? The Gospel of Salvation, which promises hope and deliverance from a life of sexual sin? The shed blood of Jesus on the cross that cleanses ALL our iniquities? Or the gospel of the pop culture, which preaches “Do your own thing, God loves you, smile, and, by the way, come join our crusade to eradicate ____ (fill in the blank with a popular feel-good cause).”
The “new gospel” of the Neoevangelicals calls for “significant engagement in civic life.” This is the “new mission.” But this emphasis on “civic life” raises a significant question: “How far should this go?” Clearly, Lou Giglio, very engaged in civil life, didn’t go far enough to pander to the politically correct crowd. But on the other hand, he also didn’t respond by standing firmly on a Gospel of Salvation message that promises true freedom from sin. The middle ground of tolerance for diversity enables fence-sitters to straddle both a Gospel message and a new gospel message. This might fool people in both camps for awhile…. But watch the tension stretch…. Which side will win out in the end? Eventually one must “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” (Joshua 24:15b)
Note: Lou Giglio’s silence on the issue of homosexuality is a stand too. It is a stand for nothingness. No Gospel message is heard. In contrast, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16)
The Problems with the Cultural Mandate
Just how far will the neoevangelical church compromise in order to gain social acceptance in the world – especially while it is intently focused on building its kingdom on earth via its so-called “Cultural Mandate”?
What is getting “transformed”? The church or society? At what cost is the church pedaling its doctrine of “influence” over the seven mountains (“spheres”) of culture? What happens to a church continually accommodating itself to the world, profaning itself to gain social approval and acceptance, popularity, financial backing and political clout? What kind of world is the Neoevangelical church “transforming” into? As we have written previously,
There is currently a bait and switch going on in neo-evangelical circles. When evangelicals hear the word “transformation” bandied about, they assume it is a biblical word from Romans 12:2.... When evangelicals hear the phrase “church transformation” they may think of the paradigm shift in liturgy, worship styles, music, mega-churches, etc. In reality, “transformation” is substantial and deep, intent on re-forging the very foundations of Protestantism, western civilization, and ultimately the governance of the entire earth. While lip service is being paid to the traditional definitions you read about above, in reality the word “transformation” now indicates a societal, cultural and global revolution.
As we explained in a recent post “Postmodern Infiltration,” when the neoevangelical movement was originally created by Dr. Ockenga and others, their goal was “a repudiation of separatism and the summons to social involvement.” The neoevangelical worldview determined
to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas of life….
The New Evangelicalism has changed its strategy from one of separation to one of infiltration.
Thus, the avoidance of the doctrine of separation has resulted in a “strategy” in which the engaging in “the theological dialogue of the day” has resulted in a love of the world. In fact, evangelical leaders have stated this very clearly in the recent past:
The church is distinguished by her gospel message, her sacred ordinances, her discipline, her great mission, and, above all, by her love for God, and by her members’ love for one another and for the world. [emphasis added]
This brings to mind a Bible verse: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) A critic of this statement above has asked:
How is the church's "great mission" defined? Church history offers many different conceptions and practices of what that "great mission" should be? If we take the original neo-Evangelical formulation of the Lausanne movement as a guide, is it really true that social activism and church planting ("preaching of God’s word") are on an even footing and equally fulfill the mission of the church? How should we, "above all," show our love for God by our love for the world?
Indeed! Isn't it true that delivering the hope of the Gospel message to a lost and needy world, one sinful person at a time, is the way to truly demonstrate love to them?
We can’t have it both ways. We can't have our cake and eat it too. We can’t be loved by the world, and accommodate ourselves to the world, and still preach the full Gospel of Salvation that addresses man's need for a Savior. It just doesn’t work that way. The Gospel is an offence.
because it knew Him not.”
(1 John 3:1)
but because ye are not of the world,
but I have chosen you out of the world,
therefore the world hateth you.”
save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by Whom the world is crucified unto me,
and I unto the world.”
it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it;
but now murderers.
Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:
Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves:
every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards.”
1. Graphic image is classified as "Semi-Satire," and jointly developed by Apprising Ministries and the Discernment Research Group. First posted at “WHAT WAS LOUIE GIGLIO THINKING?” http://apprising.org/2013/01/11/what-was-louie-giglio-thinking/. See the many Herescope posts that covered Rick Warren and his Global P.E.A.C.E. plan, which exemplifies the issues being talked about in this current post, e.g. http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/02/networking-peace.html and http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/01/bill-gates-fund-rick-warren.html.
2. Berit Kjos, "An Evangelical Manifesto for an Interfaith World: Uncompromising Christians are not welcome!" June 3, 2008, http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/evangelical-manifesto.htm. We quoted this previously at http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/03/covenant-for-civility.html
3. C. Peter Wagner was one of the architects of the whole Cultural Mandate movement from its inception. See his history of the Cultural Mandate posted as part of an article from his book at, "Let's Take Dominion Now!" Emphases added. This is still posted at one of Os Hillman’s websites, http://www.intheworkplace.com/apps/articles/?articleid=22902&columnid=1935. (Os Hillman is one of the arthitects of the 7 mountains of Dominion.)
4. "Lou Giglio, the Intolerant Left and the Irreducible Offense of the Gospel," 1/11/13, http://blog.speakupmovement.org/university/freedom-of-religion/louie-giglio-the-intolerant-left-and-the-irreducible-offense-of-the-gospel/
6. Pastor Ken Silva, tweets, 1/11/13. https://twitter.com/RealKenSilva/status/289881924313444352 and https://twitter.com/RealKenSilva/status/289863568181051392
7. “Pastor Disinvited from Giving Inaugural Prayer Because of Sermon on Homosexuality.” 1/10/13, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/01/10/pastor-disinvited-from-giving-inaugural-prayer-because-of-sermon-on-homosexuality/
9. See, for example, this close-to-the-truth satire: http://apprising.org/2012/05/29/the-attractional-megachurch-bible/
11. This quote is pulled directly from Dr. Martin Erdmann's analysis, “The Gospel Coalition’s Hodge Podge,” 7/3/07, http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/07/gospel-coalitions-hodge-podge.html
12. For a more thorough understanding of the context, read: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2012/12/postmodern-infiltration.html. Dr. Ockenga made this statement in the Foreword to Dr. Harold Lindsell’s book The Battle for the Bible (1976). Emphasis added.
13. Lynn & Sarah Leslie, "What is Transformation?" http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/sarah-leslie/transformation.htm
14. Ibid, Emphasis added.
15. Ibid. Quoted from an earlier press release dated December 8, 1957 issued by Dr. Ockenga. Emphasis added.
16. This is a quote from the Gospel Coalition statement that Dr. Erdmann is analyzing in his article “The Gospel Coalition’s Hodge Podge,” 7/3/07, http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/07/gospel-coalitions-hodge-podge.html.
17. Dr. Martin Erdmann, Ibid. For more information, see the Herescope article, “The ‘Cultural Mandate,’ http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/07/cultural-mandate.html
18. It was precisely this Gospel of Salvation that saved such a sinful wretch as this author back in 1971. No gimmicks, no extravaganzas, no light shows, no fancy marketing techniques. Just a humble Gospel presentation in a dormitory hallway to a very promiscuous and ungodly sinner.