Leveraging Lunacy: How Bill Gothard Rode a Wave of Evangelical Goofiness

Recently, an old article of mine, “Trapped in the Shadow of ‘God’s Anointed’: Breaking free from an Unbiblical Concept” (MCOI Journal, Volume 8 No. 3, Fall 2002, pp. 12-15) was re-posted by the Recovering Grace (RG) web site, which is devoted to helping people break free from the spiritual bondage caused by the teachings of Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), as well as his Advanced Training Institute (ATI). The mere fact that it was republished there is a bit interesting, since the article does not mention Gothard. Nevertheless, it appears that the RG staff, who have all had involvement in Gothardism, resonated with what it said.

And so did many of those who commented on the article. One of them wrote:

Even as I type this, I have that clammy feeling of being eaten by bears or zapped with lightening [sic] for even questioning the ‘anointing of Mr. Gothard.’

The misappropriation of the biblical term “anointed” by church leaders over the past generation has produced results that do not merely border on lunacy, but are actually the embodiment of it. In most of evangelicalism the lunacy has been more subtle, its chief manifestation being authoritarian and abusive leaders who held themselves above accountability. You know: like Bill Gothard. He did not even need to use the term or refer to the concept in order to leverage the spell it had already cast over vast segments of the church. Like a surfer on a surfboard, he simply rode this example of goofy theology like a wave.

But, of course, the pro-Gothard trolls who visit the RG web site did not waste any time raising objections that the article did not refer to Gothard, and did not demonstrate that he ever claimed to be “anointed.” How, then, can it be relevant? What follows from here is the response (slightly edited) that I gave on the RG web site.

When I wrote this article some twelve years ago, I was not addressing any specific person, church, or organization, but rather I was addressing evangelicalism as a whole on a problem that is common among evangelicals in general. Even so, that does not mean that Bill Gothard was not on my mind when I wrote it.

If Gothard is not a part of evangelicalism, then I suppose you could conclude that nothing in my article applies in any way to him. But last I heard, he has been a “mover and shaker” in evangelicalism since at least the early 1970s, if not earlier. He has been written up in evangelical magazines and has been the subject of evangelical columnists since at least the mid-’70s. I have come across references to him in several evangelical books. The first book about Gothard (to my knowledge) was written by an evangelical Lutheran pastor in 1976 (Gothard, The man and His Ministry: An Evaluation, by Wilfred Bockelman). The sex scandal involving his brother rocked much of the evangelical church in the early ’80s. Given all this it seems hard to believe that he is not aware of common characteristics and tendencies of evangelicalism, since he himself is a product of evangelicalism.

The specific reason I wrote this article is that there is a tendency in wide swaths of the evangelical subculture to unbiblically elevate leaders to a level where it becomes very difficult to hold them accountable. We continue to see news stories about the fallout from this practice today. In some cases this tendency has been woven into the fabric of a given church’s or denomination’s character; it is part of the general ethos that everyone takes for granted. In other cases this idea enters churches when strong, charismatic leaders assume control. In these cases the tendency to elevate the leader has often been introduced through new teaching. In either case, tragedies (or should we say atrocities?) have ensued when savvy individuals take extreme advantage of a pervasive culture that fosters a general willingness to follow. And in many cases throughout much of the 20th century, the expression “Touch not mine anointed!” (1 Chr. 16:22; Psa. 105:15) was frequently used to defend tyrannical leaders. I, for one, remember hearing it cited in discussions about church disputes when I was a new believer back in the late 1970s. The view remains common that pastors and leaders are special “men of God,” a cut above the rest of us. And it is easy to see how such an unbiblical view of authority, promoted by a popular evangelical teacher such as Bill Gothard, and embraced by a large portion of the evangelical church, became an additional support for already-existing authoritarian leadership practices both inside and outside IBLP.

Did Gothard ever apply the words “Touch not mine anointed!” directly to himself? Not as far as I know. But that is beside the point.

For one thing, why should he? Experienced manipulators know that it’s better to have others say good things about you than to say good things about yourself. It keeps you looking both humble an heroic at the same time. The leader who surrounds himself with a crowd of well-trained sycophants not only has an unpaid PR staff, but a team of defenders ready to swing into action at the slightest sign of opposition, quoting verses like “Touch not mine anointed!” as part of their rationale, so Gothard doesn’t have to. Given what I know from firsthand experience in evangelicalism over the past 38 years, I find it difficult to believe that Gothard’s supporters have never quoted it on his behalf.

For another thing, he’s not that stupid. He surely not only knows that he would be exposing himself to well-earned charges of spiritual despotism and unflattering comparisons with Diotrephes (3 Jn. 9) if he actually went on record claiming special anointed status, but he also knows that people are more susceptible to subtle intimidation than they are to its more crude and obvious forms. When a person out-and-out claims to be anointed, he or she runs the risk of looking silly, if not a bit pathetic. It would be far easier to brush off Gothard’s direct claim to being anointed than it has been to ignore some of the things people have reported that he has actually said to them. I’m talking about things like, “Bad things have happened to people who people who have gone up against me … some have lost their businesses … some had spouses die…” Why would a spiritual despot even need to quote 1 Chr. 16:22 when he can simply evoke the fear of the consequences for supposedly breaking it in other people’s minds? And all the while he gives himself plausible deniability that he ever told anyone that he was “special” or “anointed?”

In 1983 Harold L. Busséll wrote a book called Unholy Devotion: Why Cults Lure Christians. His point for writing it was that there are certain unbiblical emphases in the evangelical subculture that make many evangelicals easy prey for cults. Many evangelicals are taught that accepting Christ and/or living according to Scripture will cause you to be ceaselessly joyful and “victorious” over sin. When some conclude that this is not to be found in their local churches, they come to believe that they have found it in a cult that is able to fake it long enough to suck them in. Other evangelicals are taught to identify all their inner feelings, impulses, and the occasional odd thought that pops into their heads with “the Lord’s leading” (often informing others about it with the words, “the Lord said to me,” instead of describing what they actually experienced), and there are cults that specialize in using that as a hook to reel in unsuspecting Christians. Still other evangelicals are taught that the only leaders worth following are those brimming with blunt, unyielding, and aggressive self-confidence and who “aren’t afraid to offend people” (translation: they are obnoxious revilers), and there are legions of cult leaders with the “spiritual gift of swagger” who act like magnets for people with this view.

Bill Gothard was able to draw people into his vortex because he was “speaking the language” of so many evangelicals who had been poorly taught about so many things, but were particularly ill-informed on the Scriptural view of authority, which is the cornerstone of his propaganda. He knew that there was a strong craving for order and authority in American evangelicalism—especially in the chaotic days of the late ’60s and early ’70s—and he took advantage of it. He built his own little kingdom, his own little spiritual empire, inside of which he harnessed evangelical attitudes, concepts, and buzz-phrases for his own ends. While he may never have directly quoted “Touch not mine anointed!” he has certainly displayed a fondness for the word “anointed” itself, and other things he has said have tended to apply the meaning of those words to himself.

I had already written several articles about Bill Gothard by the time “Trapped in the Shadow of ‘God’s Anointed’” was first published. Our book, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, was in the process of being edited and printed at the time. I was then in the process of turning my thoughts to the currents within evangelicalism that made Bill Gothard and his organization possible. The theme of “Touch not mine anointed!” has been and continues to be one of those currents, so that’s what I wrote about. But even if Gothard never explicitly said that that verse applies to him, he has certainly acted and spoken as if it did. And so have many of his followers.


Comments

Leveraging Lunacy: How Bill Gothard Rode a Wave of Evangelical Goofiness — 17 Comments

  1. Thanks for this article for the context and history.

    I had close friends stuck in Got-Hard’s Grip for decades and this is such a relief to have him finally exposed.

    Especially nauseating that a single man needed to order the details of their daily lives in their homes!

  2. Thanks, Ron. This is all helpful. It is also very enlightening to realize that I Chr. 16:22 refers to THE ENTIRE NATION as “anointed ones”!

  3. It is interesting to see evangelicalism from the outside-in, when for decades I had been inside its midst. It truly is a subculture, and I strongly suspect that the “strong craving for order and authority” is part of what leads so many to have “faith in their faith” rather than faith in God…

    …I am glad that I am now freed: though I did not want our separation some years ago, I am now glad that it happened – I am a better person, a better Christian. And I have fallen into love with Jesus – something I could not have done from within evangelicalism.

  4. When you say “evangelicalism” you paint with an incredibly wide brush. Billy Graham is an evangelical who has lead countless people to Christ, doing his best to connect them with a good local fellowship, avoiding leader pitfalls by having a wise board of directors who are not “yes men” and following their leading. I beg you all to quit saying “evangelicals” in your criticisms, because it is like saying all Whites are one thing and all Latinos are another, good or bad it is not truth because you have cast too large a net. Certainly ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God but to my mind that is the only wide brush we should use. It hurts to see the great work of God performed by humble “evangelical” servants, stained by well meaning Christians lumping them in with the few self serving “evangelicals” who crow loudly leading people astray. YES, expose these proud fools, but please use terms that identify ONLY them. Thank you.

  5. Dan,

    Thank you for your sincere and heartfelt comment. There is much in what you write that I resonate with.

    I would begin my response by letting you know that I gladly count myself as an evangelical. I am an elder at a church with the word “Evangelical” in its name. It is far from my intention to disparage evangelicalism as a whole. I do not consider myself a gadfly, nor do I appreciate it when people write things simply to be provocative, and I am not out to simply rattle people’s cages or push their buttons. So none of that figured into the reasons for selecting the title I did, or for my repeated references to evangelicals and evangelicalism in my article. I agree with you wholeheartedly that God has blessed evangelicalism with faithful preachers, teachers, evangelists, and missionaries who have produced much good fruit for His kingdom.

    On the other hand, now that I have been an evangelical for nearly four decades, I’ve observed that one of its consistent features is that it is a river with many tributaries, and some of those tributaries should have been dammed off generations ago so that they would stop polluting the main river. Did I “paint with an incredibly wide brush?” Perhaps. But the most favored conceptualization of our mutual tradition is often referred to as “Big-Tent Evangelicalism,” and that is a reality that openly invites broad-brush descriptions. Very often, therefore, an indictment of one group within evangelicalism (and Bill Gothard did not merely call himself “evangelical,” but was openly embraced and exalted by a large segment of evangelicalism), does inevitably leave at least some kind of stain on the broader movement.

    Bill Gothard did not limit his activities and influence to one particular corner or back alley of evangelicalism. At one time churches literally filled buses full of young people in order to send them to his seminars. Groups of churches formed committees all over the U.S. and beyond in order to arrange for him to hold his seminars at large auditoriums in their cities. They flocked to hear him pile legalism on top of legalism, ripping Scripture out of context, imposing obsolete Old Testament law on Christians, and spreading unbiblical ideas that would soon cause church splits and family ruptures throughout the evangelical church. And the whole time, as the tsunami of his popularity engulfed church after church, only a few brave souls stood up to him in the days before the first IBYC/IBLP sex scandal of the early 1980s demonstrated that legalism does not produce holiness. And yet even then, multitudes of evangelicals remained on his bandwagon.

    Most people who are aware of the history realize that while Gothard left a stain on evangelicalism, and that evangelicals themselves have a large share of the blame, realize that this fact does not invalidate all of evangelicalism, and the stain can be removed with proper teaching. Years ago many evangelicals began moving on to spiritual maturity, leaving Gothard’s teachings behind, and the impetus of that trend has increased in recent years. Although many still remain in bondage to the man and his ideas, he is more of a blot on our past than on our present.

    But if I take the words “evangelical” and “evangelicalism” out of the title, and make this all about Gothard and none of it about us evangelicals, then important lessons will be lost, churches and families will have suffered in vain, and we will be ripe and vulnerable for the next legalistic huckster who comes down the pike. I cannot, in good conscience, do that.

  6. Ron, Dan basically said something I was going to say, except I wanted to add one remark. Brettany, I agree with Dan that your remark was more or less connecting dots with spray paint w/respect to evangelicals. But in truth, I could care less if you think all evangelicals are as what you portrayed them as – because the One Relationship you have with Jesus is the main thing, and I rejoice with you in that!

  7. All Christians are partakers of Christ’s Anointing.
    Heidelberg Catechism Questions:
    31. Why is He called “Christ,” that is, Anointed?
    Because He is ordained of God the Father and anointed with the Holy Ghost[1] to be our chief Prophet and Teacher,[2] who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption;[3] and our only High Priest,[4] who by the one sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us, and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father;[5] and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit, and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.[6]

    [1]Heb. 1:9. [2]Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:22. [3]Jn. 1:18; 15:15. [4]Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:21.[5]Rom. 5:9-10. [6]Ps. 2:6; Lk. 1:33; Mt. 28:18; *Isa. 61:1-2; *I Pet. 2:24; *Rev. 19:16.

    32. But why are you called a Christian?

    Because by faith I am a member of Christ[1] and thus a partaker of His anointing,[2] in order that I also may confess His Name,[3] may present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him,[4] and with a free conscience may fight against sin and the devil in this life,[5] and hereafter in eternity reign with Him over all creatures.[6]

  8. Lynn, I am aware that not all evangelicals are as I described, but far, FAR too many are.

    None of us have all of God’s truth and insights, but as a whole, this group demonstrably assumes that it does (despite pious lip-service to the contrary).

    I am not speaking as an outsider, but one who was saved by Jesus and then led into the Evangelical Church by God as a young adult, and then spent the next thirty-odd years with my fellow believers there. As time went on, I became increasingly uneasy with what I have come to recognize as a subculture, which has a distinct “inside” and “outside,” that (I am convinced) is detrimental to the cause of Christ in this world…

    …When someone looks upon another human being with eyes of religious suspicion, animosity, hatred (and even worse), and sees THAT sort of behavior as God-pleasing and resists pleas from God’s Spirit and other children to reconsider, then THAT which they believe to be an integral part of their faith has actually become their idol. That is why I suggest such people has “faith in their faith” and not faith in God. Is this an absolute statement? Goodness no, nor is it a place where one inhabits in all ways and all times, BUT when an entire branch of Christ’s Body becomes more known for what they hate than for the love of Jesus, then you can be sure that this body has lifted something as god over God…

    …I had inklings of this from nearly the beginning of my walk with Jesus, and they grew through the decades, and when I faced an existential crisis (FAR more difficult for me than death), what I was told and how I was treated did not not come close to the standard of Christ’s calling: what I had seen the Evangelical Church do to (only Abba knows how many people), it was now doing to me and people God called me to love and serve (and partly *because* I was loving these people as Jesus loves)…

    …I have certainly left the Evangelical subculture as a toxic place, and that is also why many others are leaving. I am on the edge of considering still considering myself an evangelical (little-e), but even there, I may need to leave over what I am learning of Biblical scholarship…

    …Have I left Christ? No…to whom else could I go? I want to be in union with my Creator; I want to be a giver and not a taker; I want to part of what is beautiful and graceful in God’s poetic creation, all that will be re-created in our lovely Savior’s *extravagance*…I want to remain true to the one who has brought me into unusually great and even “scandalous” healing, and continues to bind and heal. I want to drink of the vine and bear God’s nourishing fruit for others, whether they pick, eat and enjoy, or whether they grind it into the ground of the soil of their hearts. I asked God to bind me to the altar so I could not run when times of doubt, fear and even terror came. I am desired, liked, appreciated and called Beloved by the only One who truly matters in the universe…to whom else would I go…who else’s touch is so gentle as to break my heart and remake it anew?

    To the god too many Evangelicals worship, I neither fear its Hell, nor am I greedy for its Heaven – BUT I belong to the Lord, my Love: an Abba who judges wisely, who holds and protects; Jesus, the one who saves me and walks with me; Spirit who indwells, teaches, corrects, assures and comforts – they promise to keep me and to re-make me into Christlikeness no matter what.

    Disclosure: I am long-time married Christian woman of transsexual experience, and our Lord moves us from wilderness to wilderness as an oasis of love, and now we are planted among God’s precious “lepers” in the transgender community who cannot see Jesus for many in the Church baring the way.

  9. Brettany,

    It should probably go without saying that if even a few evangelicals are as you have described, that would still be far too many. But the fact is, until you provide us with some kind of reliable statistics, you are not really sharing any genuine information with us on this point beyond your own anecdotal experience. You really have no basis for tarring all evangelicals with that brush.

    Every subculture has “a distinct ‘inside’ and ‘outside,'” including the transgender culture (a culture you deliberately chose, and no one chose for you, so don’t blame God for it!) that you now inhabit, so your complaint about the detriment to the cause of Christ in this world rings not only hollow, but hypocritical. I have no idea whether or not you have truly been the object of animosity or hatred from evangelicals on account of your choice. So many LGBTQ people today confuse the rejection of behavior with the rejection of the person that it is hard to know . But I agree with you that if you have been, it was wrong.

    You did not leave the evangelical subculture because, as a whole, it was toxic. Perhaps you left it because one particular segment of it was. Perhaps the professed “evangelicals” you knew were truly toxic people, and your choice brought out their toxicity. But you are not qualified to speak for all evangelicalism on this point, because I know of plenty of evangelical congregations where you would be personally welcomed, loved, and appreciated, even where your choice is rejected. But if the reason you found the evangelicals you knew to be “toxic” was because you could not get them to accept your choice, then you are simply being malicious.

    Meanwhile, I am glad to hear that you still feel a need to cling to Christ. His grace is sufficient for you, and His word is sure, no matter what your so-called “biblical scholarship” might tell you. And in His word you will find precious promises, including those you alluded to. And yet it seems that even as you allude to them, you miss their point. And because you miss their point, it is unclear that you have actually found Christ in His word. Find Him in His word, and then you will find Him in His church.

  10. There is one characteristic of evangelicals (small-e) that distinguishes them from other parts of the Church, and that is their core-belief that the Great Commission is to be carried-out by every believer in some way or another. In short: be living, vocal proclamation of The Gospel. With this in mind, an important question to consider is: how effective are we being as a Church, as individuals, in the lives of people who have not yet committed their lives to Christ? We cannot see into people’s hearts as God can; at best we can only infer an answer, but even an inference is useful and can damn or save in context.

    When non-scientists speak of “anecdotal” information, it is quite often in the context of dismissing a view they do not agree with. Controversial issues are often discussed in universal terms which cannot be proven with billions of examples any more than by a single example – framing difficult things universally is rhetorically powerful and sounds authoritative, but in the end, data is merely anecdotes-multiplied. Information, on the other hand, is what we create from from data: quantitative data (as with formal studies), and qualitative data (of which an anecdote is a primary example). Qualitative data (usually) generates the questions we see in quantitative studies, forming the justification required for the formal effort to measure, count and tabulate. Wide-ranging, formal studies are not usually conducted unless a pressing need is perceived and the cost is underwritten.

    May I suggest that few in the evangelical church have set-out to formally, qualitatively study difficult questions such as the one I presented above (which is closely related to my prior assertions)? It is my (educated) opinion that asking such questions are actively discouraged by the very same sort of power dynamics decried by the author of the article we are discussing. Until “scales” are removed from sufficient and sufficiently-positioned eyes, there will be little in the way of “convincing” statistical studies, which means that some people will feel justified in dismissing the bulk of existing “anecdotal” (or Qualitative) data. (It is interesting to note that faith must rest on “soft” qualitative data rather than on the “harder” quantitative, or even “solid” logical proof. Nobody among us has logical proof, and only people of the Old Testament time and relationship with God had anything like qualitative data on God’s existence {presented as a series of “anecdotes,” if you will}. We must content ourselves with what seems to be less, what seems to be illegitimate.)

    Nevertheless:

    The Barna Group has undertaken a formal study of how an important segment of the non-Christian world views the Church, and especially the Evangelical branch. Since it is core to evangelicals to “reach people for Jesus,” it makes sense to see how the “unreached” view us. That is what this study attempts to measure. Sadly, it is not pleasant reading, and not because the world is “naturally against God and believers” as we are routinely taught. This study is examined in the book unChristian by Kinnaman & Lyons. My prayer is that it ignites prayerful consideration and further formal study.

    Meanwhile we can conduct our own “informal” studies. Data concerning these difficult questions (and supporting my assertions above) can be had by anyone for the effort it takes to collect it, much as manna has fallen from the sky. Consider any reasonable number of examples “data-points” from any of the (far from complete) list below:

    * On any given online article concerning a controversial social and or socioeconomic topic, note and tabulate the author’s opinion, then note and tabulate the comments presented by “believers” presenting themselves in either a Christlike or un-Christlike tone/manner. This is a two-fer, maybe more! (Notice how glaringly often “saints” behave like sinners and “sinners” behave like saints.) To get you started, look at some articles about Chik-fil-a or any article that presents transgender people in a less than condemning light.

    * Church marquees – here is a “fun” one: Evangelical sound-bites writ large! I’ve read a lot of them that would make Jesus weep. Note, count, tabulate.

    * As a visitor to some Evangelical congregations, reveal yourself to be a some form of LGBT person (or even a “come-out” as a “progressive!”. Note and tabulate the reactions. Timothy Kurek, an anti-gay straight Christian posed as a gay man to see how he would be received. Even just consider doing this: do you get the “willies” and a cold pit in your stomach imagining the reaction of your friends, family, congregation, others? THAT should tell you quite a lot and maybe make my assertions above a bit more plausible.

    * Interview some Evangelical people, ask them some hard questions, THEN ask if you can quote them. Note and tabulate!

    * Read the statements of faith of some Evangelical churches. How often controversial issues (such as LGBT+ ones) are cast in the position of first importance, of salvation priority. Note and tabulate.

    * Examine the public stands taken by individual Evangelical congregations and also their overseeing organizations. Note and tabulate the ratio of “for” and “against” statements.

    * Interview some people outside the Evangelical church as the Barna Group did. Ask them what they think of when the Church is mentioned. Does it seem that Evangelicals dominate the mind-share here? Note and tabulate.

    * Specifically interview LGBT+ people and other people on the margins, asking them what they think the Church thinks of them. Note & tabulate.

    * Ask some Evangelicals what is necessary to be saved. Ask whether gays, transgender people, Democrats, pro-abortion, and communist people can be Christians. Remind them of John 6:28-29. Note and tabulate answers and reactions.

    * Ask World Vision how many Evangelicals dropped the children they had covenanted to support with FOOD and other necessities over WV’s attempt to disengage from the LGBT part of the culture war. (And the number of Evangelicals who had the unmitigated-gall to request “their” children back when WV backpedaled a day or so later.)

    * Suggest to other Evangelicals that you wish to remove yourself from the culture war. Note and tabulate the reactions. Do this with any hot-button issue from creationism vs. evolution to gays and transgender people, to women in the church, to guns, to political affiliation.

    In most of these cases (and many others), one can get an intuitive sense of the data by simply examining the language the question must be framed-in in order to make-sense to the respondent. For example, “marginal” people are marginal by definition. Who makes that determination? It is the surrounding culture, and in the USA, both Christians and non-Christians will generally assert or concede that it has been Christian influence that has delineated marginal people (and especially in recent decades). This is not a new phenomena, as the laws of the Pentateuch separated Israel from surrounding cultures, creating Jews and Gentiles {and “Gentile” is NOT a kind word!}.)

    Consider the emphasis espoused by front-line Evangelical para-church organizations and leaders: Focus on the family/Jim Daly, James Dobson (founder of FOTF), American Family Association, Franklin Graham, Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, Abiding Truth Ministries, One Million Moms, Concerned Women for America, Southern Baptist Association/Albert Mohler, Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Home School Legal Defense Association, National Organization for Marriage, Traditional Values Coalition, and most high-profile Evanglical churches and their pastors (such as Salvation Army and Calvary Chapel/Chuck Smith). These are just a few examples that come easily.

    Prayerfully draw your own conclusions as you assemble your multiplied anecdotal data into information. But I caution you: prepare to be summarily dismissed by other believers, and steel yourself against the backlash of daring to question the Evangelical subculture: you risk damaged relationship, ostracisation, slander and even excommunication. It is a toxic culture which makes inquiry dangerous.

  11. Brettany,

    Your latest comment is so filled with half truths, non sequiturs, and outright fallacies that it is difficult to know where to start. So for now I’ll simply deal with one that strikes me as being particularly naïve: the notion that we should judge evangelicals—or any professing Christians, for that matter—on the basis of what the world thinks about them. The world’s opinion in this area is only worth anything to the extent that it lines up with God’s word, which is, by default, a very unlikely prospect. As Paul wrote, “…we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24) According to this text, the Christian message—i.e., the main thing that Christians believe—is both offensive and foolish to unbelievers. You don’t need to conduct any studies to figure out that if unbelievers hate the message, they will also hate the messengers who believe that it is true. But if you profess to be a Christian and the world does not hate your message, you need to figure out how far you have departed from the message of Christ crucified.

  12. The “world’s opinion” is *EXACTLY* the point if you wish to reach people (or more accurately, be used of God’s Spirit to reach people). You cannot reach anyone who perceives you as a hater and that is how non-Christians have come to view us.

    Ron, you need to express a more thoughtful reply if you wish to be taken seriously:

    Instead of dismissing my well-considered and perfectly valid points, I challenge you to detail *EXACTLY* what you mean be everything in your statement: “Your latest comment is so filled with half truths, non sequiturs, and outright fallacies that it is difficult to know where to start.” Your replies merely serve to support my points and demonstrate the hardness of your heart. (For the benefit of our readers, it might help for you to define your terms “non sequiturs,” “fallacies” and separate what you believe to be half truth and half falsity.)

  13. Thanks for this post. I appreciate the response by C.W. Powell from the Heidelberg Catechism. It seems the older I get, the more I have come to appreciate the role of the Reformed confessions; they have so well crysralized the teaching and big picture of Scripture that they are truly valuable for safeguarding from abusers and false teachers. Confessional churches that have gone downhill have often done so because they had forgotten to really pay attention to their own confessional documents.

  14. The Evangelical part of the Church has elevated non-essentials above Christ, arguing with people instead of loving them as Jesus would and leaving any convicting that needs to be done to God’s Spirit. THIS puts a stumbling-block before pre-believers. The very attitudes that permeate this subculture ‘say’ “God hates you, and I hate you too because there is nothing and no-one worthwhile outside the context of the Church and people who are ‘saved.'” Some Evangelicals actually say this, and most I have met in over three decades believe these things at some level such that they influence how they interact with people at large. The subculture has become like a double-bind where mutually impossible requirements are placed in juxtaposition and locked together by an “authority” which will not permit the arrangement to be examined and seen for the toxic impossibility it is.

    Too many of us are worshiping an Old Testament view of God, idolizing Paul, and relegating Jesus to a figurehead position…

    …If God’s priority was judgement, then NONE of us would be here. But we know that God’s priority is love. Why? Because Jesus came, was sent to take the eternal consequences of the crap of the world and our part in it – something we could not do and survive…

    …I am not sure how to put all this better, but the “research” I proposed above will help anyone “get it” who has a a softened heat. Let us allow God to be God and not stand between people and Jesus as if we could determine God’s dinner guest-list. Please!!

  15. Brettany,

    Regarding your comment from: July 1, 2014 at 12:31 pm:

    I do not believe that the Scriptures teach that we are the ones who actually reach people. True, God uses us, but it is He Who reaches them, by His Spirit, not us. So what I can or cannot do along those lines is irrelevant.

    Nor do I believe that Scripture teaches that the ability of the Holy Spirit to reach someone is dependent on or limited by that person’s perception of me, or of evangelicals, or of all Christians. I do not believe there is a limit to the Spirit’s ability to reach anyone, nor do I believe that we Christians are the primary instrument He uses. That role is reserved for His word, the Scriptures.

    You wrote:

    Ron, you need to express a more thoughtful reply if you wish to be taken seriously:

    What I understand you to be saying here is that I need to express myself in a manner that you judge as thoughtful if my goal is to be “taken seriously” by you. But that goal is not very high on my priority list. Nor do I have time at the moment to address each and every one of your half truths, non sequiturs, and outright fallacies. If and when I have time, I will get to them.

  16. Brettany,

    Regarding your comment from July 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm:

    I believe you are slandering the evangelical church when you say it “has elevated non-essentials above Christ, arguing with people instead of loving them as Jesus would and leaving any convicting that needs to be done to God’s Spirit.” I have been in evangelicalism for about 39 years now and I’ve witnessed precisely the opposite. And if you’ve really been an evangelical for as long as you’ve claimed, then you should know that the Westboro Baptist/Fred Phelps types are a completely anomaly and that the vast majority of those who call themselves evangelicals are disgusted by them. I have never heard an evangelical tell anyone from the LGBTQ community that God “hates” them. Ever. In fact, all I’ve witnessed is evangelicals bending over backwards to affirm God’s love the LGBTQ people.

    Your view of the Old Testament presentation of God is distorted and one-sided. Here is the Old Testament view of God:

    “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

    [Exodus 34:6-7, ESV]

    God’s priority in this passage is clearly on His mercy, grace, slowness to anger, abundant steadfast love, faithfulness, and forgiveness. Those are the things emphasized first. That is the Old Testament view of God.

  17. As I have read your posts I find some areas of agreement and some areas of disagreement . Neither Ron nor I are much on sweeping universal terms on much of anything, other than those in Scripture such as “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” for example. I am aware that many (such as Bill Gothard) use or even rely on anecdotal stories to try to prove their point but we have often pointed out that anecdotal stories are not evidential and prove very little if anything. Anecdotal stories may tell us what someone does but provides no direct evidence as to why. They may demonstrate the results of certain beliefs but do nothing to prove the rightness of the beliefs.

    It is interesting to note that faith must rest on “soft” qualitative data rather than on the “harder” quantitative, or even “solid” logical proof. Nobody among us has logical proof, and only people of the Old Testament time and relationship with God had anything like qualitative data on God’s existence {presented as a series of “anecdotes,” if you will}. We must content ourselves with what seems to be less, what seems to be illegitimate.

    Having come to the faith from being an atheist I see this assertion in 2 ways. The first is that it is untrue that there is no logical proof on which faith rests. I find it reasonable, logical and evidential that God exists, that the Bible is fundamentally reliable and the resurrection is an actual event which occurred in history. Two books I would recommend on this are Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig and I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek. Second, although it is logical, reasonable to have faith, far too many Christians base their faith on feelings, assumptions and, yes, anecdotal evidence. That is something we at MCOI fight against on a regular basis. Discouraging someone from asking difficult questions may only demonstrate the weakness of one’s position or at least inability to give a reasonable answer to the question.

    * On any given online article concerning a controversial social and or socioeconomic topic, note and tabulate the author’s opinion, then note and tabulate the comments presented by “believers” presenting themselves in either a Christlike or un-Christlike tone/manner. This is a two-fer, maybe more! (Notice how glaringly often “saints” behave like sinners and “sinners” behave like saints.) To get you started, look at some articles about Chik-fil-a or any article that presents transgender people in a less than condemning light

    This, like other examples you offer cuts both ways and although it may demonstrate the fallenness of humanity within as well as outside the church. One of the owners of Chik-fil-a answers the question of marriage affirming that he believes it is male and female. Gay activists lost their mind and made an all out assault on him. It is no longer allowable to have a view which differs from the view of the Gay activists and anyone who does must be ruin out of business and destroyed to the uttermost. Now, that is not the view of all or perhaps even most Gays. I have friends that are mortified by the actions of the vocal minority as I am of the Christians who behave badly.

    I have to admit, I am scratching my head on this one:

    * Read the statements of faith of some Evangelical churches. How often controversial issues (such as LGBT+ ones) are cast in the position of first importance, of salvation priority. Note and tabulate.

    I have reads lots of Statements of Faith and they are not unlike ours at MCOI and I know of none of them which even mention “controversial issues (such as LGBT+ ones)” much less “cast in the position of first importance.” Of course, it may be that you are merely discussing this “in universal terms which cannot be proven“ and as you pointed out by “framing difficult things universally is rhetorically powerful and sounds authoritative” and although perhaps emotionally satisfying it does little in the way of supplying evidence or even addressing the issue.

    Many in the church, including pastors, do not deal with cultural issues well. Since about 1825 the church has nearly abandoned the life of the mind and replaced it with an emotionally driven faith. But Jesus did say to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The life of the mind (an hence, asking difficult questions) is a part of the life of faith and not something to be feared but to be cultivated.

    As to how people react in church to a variety of things, (Gay, LGBT, Progressive, etc.) there are lots of reasons why they may or may not act in certain ways. If it is a militant “Progressive,” they will not be very welcomed in many churches but then I am so conservative that I find it difficult to make a left turn when I drive and am unwelcomed in many churches (say, Emergent churches). Do most Evangelical churches regard the practice of homosexuality as a sexual sin? Yes. So they regard an unmarried male and female having sexual relations as a sexual sin? Yes. Would they hold both at bay due to their behavior? Yes. It doesn’t mean that they care for either person that is involved in sexual sin any less but that they cannot endorse and embrace their behavior.

    The church was born in a pagan culture. While the Apostle Paul said he would not judge those outside the church he directed the church to judge those who are inside and claiming to be believers. Biblically, believers are to abstain from sexual immorality.

    I think apologetics (making a defense) will become ever more important as time goes on. At one time we lived in a predominately Judeo/Christian culture and statements and public positions which churches took needed little explanation since most of the culture at least understood the morals and ethos from which the position came. That is less true today. It is important today to make a strong and compelling case for one’s position

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