In the years to come, when we all look back to review the meaning of our era, one of the central things we will remember about it all is that this was a time when so many lies came unstuck. This was the day of the big reveal. It turns out that our ruling elites lie, as I believe Lao Tzu once put it, like a rug. They lie like dead flies on a window sill. They lie like shepherd crooks on the ground after the wolves came.
And this big reveal was not limited to the pagan world—although we did see it there in its gaudiest configurations. But the same thing happened, with adjustments according to scale, when it came to the unmasking (heh) of our evangelical leadership. It turns out that they had been lying also. And the really curious thing is what they were lying about—and what they were lying about represents the prime hypocrisy. It all boils down to the fact they were lying about whether or not they were lying about it.
The lie was that evangelicals held to the fundamentals, like the fundamentalists did, but did so in a spirit of love, compassion, and winsomeness. Evangelicalism was supposed to be fundamentalism without the ‘tude.
The lie was that their driving motivation was love because, as the Jesus people taught us so fervently back in the seventies, “they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.”
But then when the wolves came, the hirelings all scattered—all we could see was heels and elbows, and all those scattered shepherd crooks on the ground. This is because the hireling “careth not” for the sheep (John 10:13). The good shepherd, by way of contrast, lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:15), and the context shows that he is one who lays down his life in a battle. And in order to be willing to lay down your life in a battle, you have to be willing to be in a battle. That would seem to follow.
So that we do not spend any time floating around in a cloud of vague generalizations, I am talking about an evangelical leadership that would not keep their churches open during the COVID hysterics, the churches that played woke footsie with all the BLM foolishness, the ecclesiastical lynchings that occurred in the name of dealing with sexual offenders (never forgetting that sometimes lynch mobs do get the right guy), the refusal of evangelical leaders to identify a demented tyranny for what it was, and the ungodly ecclesiastical pressure that was applied to wary saints to get them to take the mark of the Jab so that they could buy and sell. On this last point, they would say, perhaps, that it was not so much pressure they were bringing, but rather it was just a brotherly exhortation. But this makes me think of Ambrose Bierce’s definition of exhortation—the practice of putting the conscience of another upon the spit and roasting it to a nut brown discomfort.
Taking one thing with another, the national leadership of the evangelical movement has been lame, embarrassing, arrogant, diffident, gimpy, compromised, venal, shady, tainted, two-faced, and not to mention polished and respectable—the last two representing the heart of the problem.
Lovers, Not Fighters
The modern evangelical leadership cabal, taken as a whole, has styled themselves as lovers, not fighters. They have maintained that they held to all kinds of wholesome doctrines—inerrancy, the lot—but it cannot be said that they ever wanted to fight for any of these wholesome doctrines. Frame’s very capable treatment of Machen’s warrior children turned out to be a perfect closet for them to hide in. The silent assumption was that “holding fast to the profession of our faith without wavering” (Heb. 10:23) was one of those special commands that know how to obey themselves. So they just “held to” these doctrines (core values!) and as it happened, their grip of these doctrines had never been challenged.
That is, their grip was never challenged until it was challenged, in the blitzkrieg of nonsense that came cascading over us through the last several years. It was then that we discovered that holding to doctrines in fair weather is quite a different thing than fighting for them in a storm.
The cardinal deadly sin in the unique evangelical lexicon had become meanness, and their cardinal virtue had become niceness or, using their preferred word, winsomeness. And once that position was adopted, the only thing that was necessary for the progressives to get everybody to start waffling on any issue was to successfully cast it in terms of meanness. Denying marriage to homosexuals meant that a homosexual could not come into a hospital to visit his partner who had just a few hours left to live, and the whole thing was just so mean. If you did not attend the wedding reception for your unbelieving nephew’s sodomite ceremony, you were clearly being mean. If you preached the gospel straight, with no chaser, you were manifestly being mean.
And so it was that secularist infidels were handed the steering wheel. Like a backwards Ruth to Naomi, we said to them, where you go we will go. Your gods will become our gods, but you will have to give us a little time to mollify the donor base. They might have to be jollied along a bit.
Willingness to Fight as Actual Love
Believe it or not, a willingness to fight is one of the key indicators of love. If a man is walking with his wife downtown after dark, and they are accosted by thugs who proceed to taunt and molest the wife, let us imagine her husband standing off to the side saying anything like, “Guys, guys! This is simply unacceptable. I disapprove of this kind of behavior in the strongest possible terms. Honey, honey . . . thoughts and prayers!”
The one thing that I think we can say with some certainty is that such a husband would not have the first notion of what love means—or how love is supposed to act in a crisis. The only thing that could make such a scenario worse would be for the couple to make it home later, and for the husband to be mystified about his wife’s general coolness. “Babe! What’s wrong? Sorry your blouse got torn.”
And so how would I describe the attitude of the average conservative Christian believer today toward the top tier of our evangelical leadership? I think it would be fair to say that there is a general coolness.
An Inescapable Choice
In addition to all this dereliction, which was bad enough, our effeminate evangelical leadership has been committed, for many years now, to the task of misrepresenting those who do fight. Their line has been that such men fight because they love fighting, and that they, the sweet ones, stay out of fights because they love peace so much. But there is an inescapable binary choice here, one that is routinely overlooked.
Everybody fights, and everybody seeks peace. But with whom? What are the terms? By what standard? There is always a battle, but where is the battle line drawn up? If a seminary is in trouble, everybody might notice that certain woke types are still there, and were not squeezed out. But you can rest assured that in order for that to happen, somebody else was squeezed out. As Lenin once put it, “Who? Whom?”
Peace with what? A fight with what? And why? Dylan taught us that, regardless of what you mght think about it, you are gonna “serve somebody”—which should be made the official anthem of all those who understand the force of the inescapable concept. But it follows from this that you are also going to fight somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you are going to fight somebody.
There was more sound doctrine in Dylan’s chord progression here than in all the tears of our evangelical sob sisters combined.
The Fine Example of Schaeffer
Chesterton once summed it up our appointed task nicely: “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” And C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Anger is the fluid love bleeds when cut.” No fighting means there was no love. No anger means there was no love. If the body does not bleed when cut, that is because it is dead. Christ wept over Jerusalem, but at that very moment, in the sacred center of that doomed city, there were a bunch of tables just waiting to be flipped over.
So the charge I am bringing against our evangelical elites is not that they did not love fighting. My charge is that they did not really love at all.
Many years ago, Francis Schaeffer wrote a superb little booklet called The Mark of the Christian. That mark is love, of course, and the reason Schaeffer’s writing on the subject is so powerful is because he defined love biblically. He did not work through his reasoning the way our modern charlatans do.
This is how the modern charlatans do it. Step 1 is to say that God commands all of us to love one another. Check. Step 2 is to haul in an alien definition of love from some certified marriage therapist (himself on his third marriage), in order to proceed to Step 3, which is to fill up a cauldron with that definitional treacle, light a winsome fire under it, in order to boil our heads in the frothing and surging extract of molasses.
Here is one very sticky aspect of the treacle’s residue. Jesus’ command to love our enemies is reinterpreted to mean that we should have no enemies.
Now Schaeffer knew that all Christians would agree with him on the necessity of love, at least on paper. We all have to agree. Who could be against love? 1 Corinthians 13, man!
“We are to love all true Christians as Christ has loved us. Now immediately . . . we can just say, ‘I see! I see!’ and we can make a little flag and write on it, ‘We Love All Christians!’ You can see us trudging along with little flags—all rolled up—’We Love All Christians!’—and at the appropriate moment, we take off all the rubber bands, unzip the cover, and put it up. We wave it as we carry it along—’We Love All Christians!’ How ugly!”
Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian
The reason it is safe for us to listen to a man like Schaeffer on the need to love our enemies is that he is a man who had enemies. He was a man who made enemies. He was a fighter who attacked evangelical complacency on abortion (Whatever Happened to the Human Race?), pietistic indifference to culture (How Shall We Then Live?), evangelical compromises on objective truth and basic morality (The Great Evangelical Disaster), and a whole lot more than that. He was a reformer, a fighter, and in his time, he made a huge difference. But he made an impact because he loved his enemies, and he was willing to have those enemies.
And then, right on schedule, a bunch of the leaders who are currently selling the farm want to also claim they have been “greatly influenced” by Schaeffer’s legacy. This is always the drill. They will have little or nothing to do with the people who really are carrying on his legacy, while at the same time claiming the authority to be in charge of building the tomb of “the great prophet who lately walked among us.” Yeah, whatever. Make sure to make the whole thing nice and shiny—mausoleum, museum, and gift shop. Make sure to make it out of marble, and polish it frequently.
Never in a Million Years
In this respect Schaeffer was like the apostle Paul. He made enemies, and he loved his enemies.
If we reflect on how Paul treated his enemies, we will need to acknowledge that in this respect Paul was even more “out there” than any modern Christians. He called his enemies dogs (Phil. 3:2). He called down retribution on an enemy by name (2 Tim. 4:14). He called them false brothers (2 Cor. 11:26). And then if anyone does not love Jesus, then may God damn that guy (1 Cor. 16:22).
The Pauline peak is achieved, however, in Galatians.
“I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!”
Galatians 5:12–15 (NKJV)
Paul wishes self-castration on his adversaries from the circumcision party, and in the very next breath he tells the Galatians to love one another. He urges them to remember the second greatest commandment, which is that we should all love our neighbors as we do ourselves. He tells them not to bite and devour one another. So, get this. Verse 12 says that the self-righteous should go whole hog and mutilate themselves. Verse 13 then says that we should through love serve one another. And Paul was not a hypocrite in these matters, which means that we are hypocrites in these matters.
The sentiments of verse 12—mutatis mutandis—would never in a million years be voiced by any of our pretty boy leaders. They would simply refuse to do it. But any church leader who could not describe for us a situation in which such savage language could be used in a righteous way is thereby disqualified from lecturing any of us on what it means to love our neighbor, or what it means to not bite and devour. If you didn’t make it through verse 12, how can you teach us how to exegete vv. 13-15?
Please note that I am talking here about prophetic language in public, and not about Matt Chandler’s language in private.
One of you will say to me then, “Well, you’re not an apostle. You’re not Jesus, pal.”
And I reply, “What is your problem?”
And he says, “You are being mean. You are not being winsome. You need to love others, the way Jesus did.”
“But didn’t we just learn that we are not allowed to imitate Jesus, ‘pal?’”
A big part of the NQN season, apart from the silver bells and mistletoe, is our practice of giving away free stuff. So at the bottom of every NQN post, as in, like right here, keep your eyes peeled for the current offers, whatever they might be.
2. This November, anyone can get one free month of Canon+ with code NQNQ. This includes current monthly subscribers—but sorry, it doesn’t work for annual subscriptions. We have a lot of postmill work to do yet. If you do this, you will be able to watch my new documentary over Thanksgiving, and to do so for free. The name of the doc is “How to Save the World (in Eleven *Simple Steps).”
3. This November, current subscribers can give a year’s subscription of Canon+ for just fifty bucks—$49.99 instead of $95.88. That way you can get that pastor, friend, or enemy the Canon+ content they’ve been so wishing for.
4. And in addition to all of that, from my quaint little Mablog Shoppe, for those same days (Nov. 1-5), my little book on the economics of N.T. Wright is available for free. The title of that one is N.T. Wright Rides a Pale Horse.