Tuesday, May 22, 2007

WHITHER THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT?

With the passing of Jerry Falwell, Alan Cooperman ponders the direction of the religious right. The new symbolic figure is Frank Page, head of the Southern Baptist Convention:
"I would not use the word 'moderate,' because in our milieu that often means liberal. But it's a shift toward a more centrist, kinder, less harsh style of leadership," Page said. "In the past, Baptists were very well known for what we're against. . . . Instead of the caricature of an angry, narrow-minded, Bible-beating preacher, we wanted someone who could speak to normal people."

With members of an older generation of evangelical leaders, including the Rev. Billy Graham, the Rev. Pat Robertson, psychologist James C. Dobson and the Rev. D. James Kennedy, ailing or nearing retirement, Page is one of many pastors and political activists tugging conservative Christians in various directions.

Others include the Rev. Rick Warren and the Rev. William Hybels, megachurch pastors who are championing the fight against AIDS in Africa. David Barton, head of a Texas-based group called WallBuilders, stumps the nation decrying the "myth" that the Constitution requires separation of church and state. The Rev. Joel Hunter of Orlando urges evangelicals to see climate change as a serious religious issue, because "our first order in the Garden was to take care of the Earth."

The problem with all of this is that these 'religious' leaders continue to turn attention to wordly rather than heavenly concerns. Yes, we live within creation, and have obligations as stewards, but our primary obligation needs to be souls saved. Of course, with the theology of many of these folks, maybe it's better to have them distracted after all.

9 comments:

Jeff @ truth-in-love.com said...

The third thing man was told to do was to name the animals. By the Right Rev. Hunter's reasoning, I wonder if he spends more time with taxonomy than Bible study.

Bill said...

The Washington Post had a similar article today, complete with of one of Hunter's congregants in a white hazmat suit sorting through trash during a recycling drive at the church (I am not making that up). Falwell and Company occasionally made themselves look like buffoons (as in the "Tinky-winky" episode--although there are numerous reasons for burning teletubbies at the stake, that probably wasn't one of them), but at least they were addressing issues actually the subject of scripture.

Alan is right, though, this shows a continued distraction of the church from its mission. Although perhaps it's just that these folks already have mastered the "weightier matters of the law", so now they can concentrate on recycling, global warming, "separation of church and state" and the other issues so important to the reelection prospects of the GOP.

Joel Hunter said...

Alan, et al,

Sorry. Can't resist. I won't write again, but...

The problem with your comments is that you are ignorant of our ministries. I say that in the literal sense not the pejorative sense.

This past weekend in my church dozens of people committed their lives to Christ with the salvation prayer and dozens more were delivered from spiritual strongholds at the altar.

You assume the false dichotomy that we must emphasize EITHER compassionate action in the world OR spiritual growth.

Jeff @ truth-in-love.com said...

There most certainly is a dichotomy. One is the divinely-ordained work of a church; the other is something (some) men think is a good idea.

Politics is not the work of the church. Business is not the work of the church. Financial advising is not the work of the church. Environmentalism, child care, even running soup kitchens - these are not the work of the church.

They may be good works that an individual Christian should involve himself in, but trying to graft them in as a work of the church is as ill-fitting as trying to graft in government's role as an avenger as a work of the church.

jdavidb said...

Joel, I'll bet "et al" are not nearly so ignorant of your works as you are of their doctrine. The author of this blog does not believe that the "salvation prayer" is the means by which people call upon the name of the Lord. Nor do I.

Meanwhile, you assume the false dichotomy that either the church must perform a "good deed" collectively, or not at all.

jdavidb said...

Hey, Joel, my problem with the church "focusing on climate change" is that the best solution is to respect God's free market (ordained when the Lord said "Thou shalt not steal"), but all the proposed solutions involve coercive government control, something a Christian is forbidden to participate in. Socialism.

Preach a Gospel that, along with God, teaches "Do not exercise rights over that which you do not own," and you'll see a world economic ecology far more equipped to deal with any such disasters, if indeed they are occurring.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I find it hard to reconcile your comment with the parable of the sheep and the goats or even the two (count them, two) great commandments. Jesus seems to call for us to do both. It seems like a question of balance, and while I've certainly seen (and left) churches that attended to social work to the detriment of the saving of souls, our Saviour seems to say pretty strongly it's possible to get it just as wrong in the opposite direction.

Leaving aside the secondary question of the particular projects (recycling vs. literal feeding and clohing?), if Jesus makes clear both are important, I don't understand the position that one is the work of the church while the other "may be good works the individual Christian should involve himself in."

Bill said...

Loving God and one's neighbor is only something that can be carried out by an individual. While the parable of the Good Samaritan (and the rest of that chapter of Luke) are really about understanding God's will, to the extent it can be applied to charity, it was an individual who aided the wounded man, not a relief agency. The point that I think Jeff is making is that the New Testament reveals the church as a body of saved believers, sanctified unto Christ, whose work in the world is to proclaim his gospel and minister to the saints. It also asks that Christians "do good unto all men, but especially those of the household of faith." Galatians 6. But these are things that can only be done by individuals. The fallacy of man's understanding of the church (first propagated by the Roman Catholic Church) is that it is an institution separate and apart from believers into which people get in order to be saved. That is the precise opposite of what is actually taught in the New Testament, where the church is a spiritual body of believers into which the Lord places his saved ones.

The "great commandments" were expressed by Jesus to individuals to instruct them in how to be saved. The kingdom is "righteouness, peace and joy in the holy spirit." Romans 14. It is not to provide relief work or any of the other good works common today. While the point is somewhat nuanced (since the church is merely the sanctified assembly of believers and it is believers who minister in good works of charity as instructed in Romans 12, Galatians 6 and elsewhere), it nonetheless is an important. The church is not an institution, is a living spiritual body of believers. It is carry out the Lord's work of proclaiming the gospel of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5) as ambassadors of Christ. While the good works you mention are certainly laudable and important in their place, they are not the marks of the church (as evidenced by the fact that muslims, pagans, cultists and athiests all are active in charitable works). Those are efforts of men and are not concerned with the entire point of Christ's gospel--"Be ye reconciled unto God." 2 Cor. 5.

Dr. Hunter and other groups like his miss the purpose of the church identified in scripture (and, his defense notwithstanding, the notion environmentalism is a work of the church is such a patent absurdity as to not require comment), which is to preach the gopsel to a lost and dying world and not allow human wisdom to draw her away from the work of her Lord and Bridegroom.

Jeff @ truth-in-love.com said...

Anonymous, in Scripture, God has ordained certain things for the church to be involved in and certain things for the Christian. While there may be some overlap, a church is not an individual Christian, nor an individual Christian a church.