Friday, January 12, 2007

Proof, Please [SK]

Note: The following was posted earlier before the LTI Blog was accidentally deleted on December 22. We're reposting it as a foundation for future discussion.

James Spurgeon claims that Evangelicals are spending too much effort reforming culture and not enough preaching the Gospel. He writes:

Here's a test question: for what was Paul known in the city of Corinth? What was the thrust of his mission? If it is true that we are known by our fruit, then why is it we are known by the world today more as political activists than as gospel heralds? I think you know why.
In that same post, Spurgeon quotes favorably from Phillip Yancey:

Once Christians were ignored or scorned; now they are courted by every savvy politician. Evangelicals especially are identified with a certain political stance, so much so that the news media use the terms “evangelical” and “religious right” interchangeably. When I ask a stranger, “What is an evangelical Christian?” I get an answer something like this: “Someone who supports family values and opposes homosexual rights and abortion.”

This trend troubles me because the gospel of Jesus was not primarily a political platform. The issues that confront Christians in a secular society must be faced and addressed and legislated, and a democracy gives Christians every right to express themselves. But we dare not invest so much in the kingdom of this world that we neglect our main task of introducing people to a different kind of kingdom, one based solely on God’s grace and forgiveness. Passing laws to enforce morality serves a necessary function, to dam up evil, but it never solves human problems. If a century from now all that historians can say about evangelicals in the 1990s is that they stood for family values, then we will have failed the mission Jesus gave us to accomplish: to communicate God’s reconciling love to sinners. - Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, Zondervan, 1995, pp. 246-247
Question: How does it follow from the fact that unchurched people think of Evangelicals as "political" that Evangelicals are spending too much effort focused on Washington? True, it's very cliche to claim that E's are spending more time on abortion, etc., than they are on the gospel, but Mr. Spurgeon presents no proof for his claim whatsoever.

In short, I'm curious how he knows that it's true.

I'll have more to say about this later, but for now, Evangelicals, like Catholics, are defined largely by a hostile liberal media that want's them out of politics altogether. Mr. Spurgeon does not factor that into his assertion. (John MacArthur is sometimes characterized as a fundmamentalist preacher who denies modern science--but I hardly think that's a fair way to sum up his ministry.)

Nor does Spurgeon present any evidence to show:

1. that Evangelicals as a whole are spending more money on political campaigns than they are on world missions and evangelism
2. that Evangelicals as a whole are spending more time lobbying their Congressmen than sharing Christ with friends at work
3. that Evangelicals as a whole are talking with their friends more about George W. Bush than they are Jesus Christ
4. that a majority of Evangelicals are politically savvy enough to know how a bill gets introduced in Congress and how to either defeat it or affirm it with coordinated lobbying efforts
5. that a majority of Evangelicals could tell you the current political state of affairs on key issues like abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and cloning (for example, what does Roe v. Wade and it's companion case Doe v. Bolton really say? What are the two competing cloning bills before Congress for the last three years and how do they differ?)
6. that a majority of Evangelicals could convey the moral logic of the pro-life position to friends and neighbors
7. that a majority of Evangelicals could name their Congressman, two federal Senators, State Senator, and State Representative.
8. that a majority of Evangelicals actually vote in most elections
9. that even 1 percent of Evangelical churches with 500 members or more are equipping their people to persuasively defend a pro-life worldview in the secular marketplace of ideas

And that's just for starters. Without some data on those basic questions, it's far from obvious that Evangelicals are spending too much time and effort on politics--unless, of course, you judge the entire movement by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Spurgeon is a fine writer and perhaps he's right about all this--but we really do need to see some evidence.

1 comment:

  1. I'm curious too because I see evangelicals succumbing to the staw man problems identified by creative writers and embracing the false idea that to be heavenly minded one has to be of no earthly good - or useless. Knowing Jesus Christ, and consequently true reality, ought to make Christians of greater benefit to the world around (salt and light), not useless artifacts that are waiting for a life raft from above. In this regard, the rise of a post-modern philosophy and the culture of death is a much stronger indictment against the modern evangelical church than the assertion that too much time is spent fighting abortion.


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