How Evangelicals Sold Out To Politics And Lost Their Kids In The Process

Religion on February 4th, 2014 3 Comments

I had an “aha” moment reading Eastern Orthodox theology the other day. Ok, so here’s a thesis (it’s just a thesis and I’m sure someone else has pointed to these things before): it’s doubtful that evangelicalism will ever have another Carl-Henry-era “center” again. In it’s desire for centralizing structural/cultural power, the Carl Henry-era/CT evangelicalism, with Calvinists, Arminians, Reformed and Dispensational working together, went from gathering various denominational communions fighting against theological liberalism to fighting primarily against social & political liberalism in the 1970s & 1980s. Evangelicalism allowed herself to be co-opted by suburban conservative Reagan/Bush era deistic God and country political operatives who used evangelical leader’s influence for votes & promised (fleeting) legislative and executive branch access and influence in return. That never happened. In other words, evangelical leaders sold their churches out for politics in the 1970s through the early 1990s and lost their kids in the process.

The result is that by the 1990s, evangelicalism had become the religious dimension of political/social community and had lost entire generations of Gen X and Millennials by 2010. Evangelicalism was a 1980s/1990s political/social community that adopted a suburban politically conservative posture toward those on welfare, low-income whites, inner-city blacks and Latinos, instead of one driven by the sacraments. A political/social community that wanted good, socially & politically conservative kids, and so on. But their children longed for intimacy (in a culture of divorce & constant moving from neighborhood to neighbor chasing the American dream) and community so they left to go be a part of some version of emergent church–McLaren/Bell/Driscoll–in order to experience community around the Lord’s Supper, Christian tradition (ancient/future), religious experience, worship, mystery, “brokenness,” vulnerability, and so on. Their kids wanted connection, their parents wanted to win the “culture war.”

By 2000, many evangelical “leaders” realized the misdirection an attempted a course correction. Too late. This has not worked because of the influence of non-denominationalism, celebrity Christianity, theological tribalism, etc. There is no longer a space where Arminians and Calvinists share a common theological enemy. In the end, this is a story of how evangelicalism lost Gen Xers and Millennials between 1990 & 2010 by lusting after political influence. “The Gospel” is not enough of a common mission because even that word is defined according to theological preferences. What’s next? I’m not sure but I’m pretty convinced that as long evangelicals do not have a common enemy (this is basic social psychology 101) don’t expect their to be an Arminian, Calvinist, Reformed, Lutheran, Dispensational, Pentecostal, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, non-denominational, etc. theologically conservative “center” in the near future if ever. Again, this is just a thesis. Thoughts?

Ebony Exodus Project: So, Who Cares About Black Women?

Religion on January 12th, 2014 4 Comments

This video was painfully hard to watch. WOW. Really hard. This is a project (explained also in a book) describing why it is that black women are increasingly walking away from Christianity (esp. word-of-faith type churches). It was hard to listen to Candance’s story. These are the stories that mainstream evangelicalism is ignorant of because black women are basically invisible in those circle. Additionally, these women are generally too conservative for mainline churches to have a platform there as well. They are, then, left to the anti-intellectual word-of-faith movement leaving them without sufficient categories to navigate the broad brokenness of shalom.

To make matters worse, when black men leave the black church and move into evangelical circles they are often inadvertently discipled away from caring about the needs of black women, or desiring their company, leaving many black women on an island alone. These are black women who often suffer the twin burdens of gender and race making them, according to the data, the least desired of all women in America. Her interview also provides some perspective as to why I prefer Christian counseling models like “Christian Psychology Model” (Covenant Seminary) and the “Christian Integration Model” (Reformed Theological Seminary, Gordon-Conwell, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, etc.) over and against the “Biblical Counseling” model.

So, then, what’s the consequence of paying no attention to the unique needs of black women? Let’s call it the “Ebony Exodus Project.”

Links: Tim Keller explains the 4 different models of Christian counseling here. The book The Ebony Exodus Project.

Pope Francis Is Exposing The Idol Of Politics Among The Religious Left And Progressive Evangelicals

Education on December 16th, 2013 No Comments

Pope Francis is exposing people. After completing the 84-page single-spaced document, this one truth is clarified about Evangelii gaudium: anyone who immediately celebrated the document’s critique of an atheistic libertarian understanding of the role of free markets does not understand Christianity and/or revealed that for progressive Christians political ideology drives their understanding of Christianity. For example, those who shared and re-shared the “Business Insider” drivel about the condemnation of capitalism exposed that their Christianity is syncretize with political ideology.

Here’s why I say this: only 3% of the entire document is about economic concerns (I counted). The focus of the document revolves around the need for increased evangelism and apologetics, spreading of his understanding of the Gospel, increasing Bible teaching in local parishes, more Bible-centered preaching, catechizing children in the faith, and paying attention to the poor.

The 97% did not make the headlines and is not what went viral–but the 3% did. Don’t believe the hype. Progressive Christians are just as idolatrously driven by political ideological as syncretistic conservatives. The headlines about this document should have been about what it means that the Catholic church is mobilizing to launch in international program centered on evangelism. Instead we’re talking about 9 paragraphs out of 288. What does this tell us?

King’s College Students At Poverty Cure NYC Film Festival, Dec. 12th

Religion on December 13th, 2013 No Comments

Does your Christianity begin with Gen 1 & 2 or Gen 3?

Religion on August 8th, 2013 1 Comment

I explain over at The Acton Institute.

Beginning with Gen 1 & 2: God is redeeming people and creation.

Beginning with Gen 3: God is only burdened by the salvation of individuals for the this life and the one to come.

Which are you are why?

What’s So ‘Evangelical’ About Rachel Held Evans?

Religion on August 3rd, 2013 1 Comment

The short answer: nothing. Here’s the moral of the RHE story: the best way to read her is through the lens of Mainline Protestantism. Nothing she writes is anything we haven’t heard from Carter Heyward. Nothing.

Rachel Held Evans’ follow-up to her recent CNN post about Millennials should finally settle the issue of where she stands along the Protestant Evangelical/Protestant Mainline spectrum. When reading “Why Millennials Need The Church” if there is something we should all be on it is that the fact Rachel Held Evans should not be considered an evangelical or even “post-evangelical.” Perhaps simply a “no evangelical.” This is perfectly fine, by the way. You don’t have to be an evangelical in order to be a Christian but, as I mentioned before, the media and many of her followers wrongly believe that she embraces the worldview of the broad evangelical tribe in the United States or the United Kingdom.

I have just a few short, unassorted, random observations from Evans’ latest:

(1) RHE seems extremely confused and unknowledgeable about the what makes the church “the” church:

For example, the Lutherans (a.k.a., the original evangelicals) describe the what the church is as an institution that administers the “means of grace.”

These means of grace are the Word of the Gospel, in every form in which it is brought to man, and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and of the Lord’s Supper. The Word of the gospel promises and applies the grace of God, works faith and thus regenerates man, and gives the Holy Ghost, Acts 20:24; Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23; Gal. 3:2. Baptism, too, is applied for the remission of sins and is therefore a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5. Likewise the object of the Lord’s Supper, that is, of the ministration of the body and blood of Christ, is none other than the communication and sealing of the forgiveness of sins, as the words declare: “Given for you,” and: “Shed for you for the remission of sins,” Luke 22:19, 20; Matt. 26:28, and “This cup is the New Testament in My blood,” 1 Cor. 11:23; Jer. 31:31-34 (“New Covenant”).

Evans makes no mention of the need for the Gospel when describing why Millennials need the church, which is really odd.

(2) The World Council of Churches describes Baptism this way: “baptism Christians, men, women or children, become part of the church, i.e. of the people of God.”

Evans: “baptism drags us – sometimes kicking and screaming as infants – into the large, dysfunctional and beautiful family of the church.”

Evangelical Wesleyans describe Baptism this way: “We believe that water baptism is a sacrament of the church, commanded by our Lord and administered to believers. It is a symbol of the new covenant of grace and signifies acceptance of the benefits of the atonement of Jesus Christ. By means of this sacrament, believers declare their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.”

(3) Confession

In the tradition of Protestant evangelicalism confession is not mentioned without an emphasis on repentance.

Evans relates confession to accountability which is one aspect but it is also, historically speaking, distinct from repentance. Again, the Lutherans (the original evangelicals) introduce us to the distinction between confession and repentance, and the relationship between the two, in two separate articles of the Augsburg Confession.

The call to repentance is how Jesus framea one of the central reasons why he came.

(4) Communion

Evans defines communion (the Lord’s Supper) as: “the significance of remembering Jesus through eating bread and drinking wine.” While the Zwinglian understanding is still alive in many circles, for many evangelicals communion is more than mere remembrance. For example, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 97, connects the Lord’s Supper to repentance:

“Q. 97. What is required for the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper? A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves

These are types of themes that have classically been a part of Protestant Evangelicalism but you will not hear emphasized in Protestant mainline churches nor, by extension, in Evans. There are good reasons for that. Her comments about healing, leadership, etc. are parts of various denominational distinctives in terms of emphasis but she fails to give a vision for what it’s all for. Now, I understand that it’s just a short blog post on CNN but my guess is that an evangelical Lutheran or Wesleyan would have written it much differently.

If you think I’m going too far, read the doctrinal beliefs of the United Church of Christ(UCC), one of the oldest mainline denominations in America, and then go back an read what Rachel Held Evans writes over at CNN.

Perhaps the most painful part of Evans (very non-evangelical) way of thinking about why Millennials need the church is the call to glorify God. Evans’ list of why Millennials “need” the church remains, at the end of the day, individualistic and consumeristic. It seems to be more about the needs of Millennials and the benefits of Christ’s church rather than the ancient call to live a life to glorify the Triune God.

Again, it’s ok for Evans to critique conservative evangelicals. It’s no biggie. I do it all the time. Lots of those outside of the evangelical world do so. It just seems that it’s time for Evans, and others, to be honest about their mainline Protestant 1970s theological ethos that has no real interest in aligning herself with the promotion of the beliefs of classical evangelical churches. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why anyone finds her credible. Carter Heyward already showed us what this looks like I’m not sure what Evan’s neo-Heywardism is particularly adding.

The 3 Best Books On Environmental Stewardship

Environment on July 30th, 2013 2 Comments

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, by Janine Benyus

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability–Designing for Abundance, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

The Vocation of The Intellectual: James Sire Explains What I Do For A Living

Religion on July 29th, 2013 1 Comment

For most of my career, people who work for churches and Christian ministries have never understood what it is I actually do for a living as an academic and research fellow. James Sire, however, gets it. I wish I could put the following quote as a disclaimer in everything I write so that those who work in ministries and in the church world understand why I do what I do. Here are his profound words:

An intellectual is one who loves ideas, is dedicated to clarifying them, developing them, criticizing them, turning them over and over, seeing their implications, stacking them atop one another, arranging them, sitting silent while new ideas pop up and old ones seem to rearrange themselves, playing with them, punning with their terminology, laughing at them, watching them clash, picking up the pieces, starting over, judging them, withholding judgment about them, changing them, bringing them into contact with their counterparts in other systems of thought, inviting them to dine and have a ball but also suiting them for service in workaday life. A Christian intellectual is all of the above to the glory of God.” -James Sire, Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling

Forging Men For The Kingdom: Legacy Conference 2013 Slides

Masculinity, Religion on July 25th, 2013 No Comments

Track: Manhood
[Thursday, 10:15am-12:15pm]
Forging Men for the Mission of the Kingdom
-Anthony Bradley (@DrAntBradley)

This workshop unpacks the biblical themes in stages of development from being a boy to becoming a God-made, Jesus-conformed man. We will explore God’s design for developing men during the following stages: initiation and transformation, determination, the consolidation men as warriors, kings, and artists, the development of men as lovers, leadership development, and men as community sages. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which wounds and spiritual warfare can sabotage what God intends for men of the Kingdom along the way.

The Power Point slides: ForgingMen.Legacy.Summer2013

POTUS is right about the black experience

Politics on July 20th, 2013 2 Comments

President Obama is right in his reminding America what it means to be black in America. I spent several years being called the “N” word and racially slurred by Calvinists and some in the PCA. You can read about my experience here.

Like the President said, “those sets of experiences informs” how we talk about race. He is 100% correct.

I was recently in the midwest at a conference in a 5-star hotel (wearing a suit, BTW) and I walked up to an elevator with a blonde, white woman. When the elevator doors open to go up I walked on the elevator alone. She just stood there. I even stood there and held the door for a second. Then I was remind of regular watching of women in NYC clutch their purses when I walk by. It is what it is.