Nicholas Kristoff on evangelicals' street cred...

(Tim) The oped piece by Nicholas Kristoff in today's Times argues that liberals should cut evangelicals some slack on the compassion scale, recognizing they do a lot of what even secularists would recognize as good deeds. It takes him by surprise, but really it shouldn't. The Western world is living off the capital of godly men and women who, from the love of Jesus Christ, have loved their neighbor and done what is necessary to help him. AIDS patients and orphans, slaves, Jews under the Third Reich, disenfranchised black Americans, prisoners, the sick, small children working and dying as chimney sweeps, the hungry ad thirsty, the unborn...

But of course, not the unborn. Never ever the unborn.

This is the reason David and I bring these little ones up so often. Yes, there are many who pay lip service to the unborn, claiming to be opposed to abortion, personally, but to think it's a states rights issue. Or a religious issue: "While I'm personally opposed to abortion and think the fewer of them we have, the better; still, every child should be a wanted child and our Supreme Court has declared it's a woman's right to choose."

The unborn never quite make the cut as legitimate victims needing the protection of the civil magistrate. Lots of professed concern, but nothing approximating Righteous Job's snatching them from the jaws of the wicked...

Who cares about these little ones Jesus told us make up the Kingdom of Heaven? Where is our horror at contemplating the coming judgment of those who have offered their children to Molech, but also those who have pretended not to notice and therefore share their blame?

But hey, it's not cool to oppose abortion. No interviews in New York magazine for that one. No puff pieces in byFaith. No "Daniel" awards for standing outside abortuaries with Roman Catholics clickity-clacking through their rosaries. Offering life and hope and love to mothers intending to murder their daughters in the next hour or so isn't something anyone's going to commend, least of all the Times' Kristoff.

Kristoff lets slip the disdain of intellectuals for such compassion and mercy and Christian faith in his piece with a glancing reference to those "who seem obsessed with gays and fetuses."

No, not "seem" Mr. Kristoff. It's a fact. Christians are "obsessed with fetuses." We can't get them off our minds. We're like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church of the Third Reich who themselves were obsessed with the millions of Jews being led to the slaughter. William Wilberforce obsessed with slaves. Christians are obsessed with opposing the heartless man-pleasers who, for the sake of temporal peace, are willing to connive at the sexual perversion that leaves souls in bondage to Satan--and dying.

Kristoff cites a study showing that "among churchgoers ages 16 to 29, the descriptions most associated with Christianity were 'antihomosexual,' 'judgmental,' 'too involved in politics,' and 'hypocritical.'"

Well, there you have it: if Christians want better approval ratings; if they want to be seen as authentic and relevant; they'll give up their being "obsessed with gays and fetuses," they'll stop being "too involved in politics, and they'll leave off their "sanctimony."

Is there an echo in this room?

Mr. Kristoff has written some wonderful pieces, but this one isn't. Preaching repentance and seeking justice have always been the work of Christians following our Master who said both "I was hungry and you fed me" and "All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...."

Heavenly Father, please give us love for our neighbors. We are so fat and complacent and lazy and loveless. Make us like Righteous Job and the Apostles Peter and Paul and John. Conform us to the Image of Your Son, our Lord. Amen.

Comments

Tim, no, I think the echo chamber is inside your head. Please pass along to your brother, with love of course, that I have not systematically opposed the chuch as church speaking about abortion. What I have said is that every Sunday, in public worship, the church speaks to the nations and preaches God's moral law, which includes the sixtth commandment. But now you guys are adding Pharisaical requirements about how that public proclamation to the nations has to be done -- directly to the magistrate, at the abortion clinic, ect. So the proclamation of God's law publicly each Sunday is insufficient. And for good measure, you add that it is cowardly. At least the Pharisees were not intent on proving their manhood.

I was reading this via RSS just now, and I read the words, " who are" instead of ". We are" in the prayer at the end. It really confused me for a second there. I had to come and comment, but now I have to respond to another comment, too.

Dear Mr. Hart,

Calling pastors and elders to be faithful to address the sins of our country publicly and privately is not being pharisaical. It is being biblical.

Paul said, "You yourselves know... how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:20-21

Notice that he did it both publicly and from house to house, and that he did not just address those who were already in the church, but also the heathen. And what, may I ask, do you think he was calling them to repent of, when he addressed the Greeks privately in their houses? Might it have been the sins common to their time and country?

I for one, hear an echo.

I'm preaching a sermon this morning on Acts 4:15-22. Peter and John are commanded to no longer speak or teach (possibly meant to cover both public and private addresses) in the name of Jesus any longer. "But Peter and John answered and said to them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.'"

I have been meditating this morning on what things cause us and our congregations to stop (or never start) speaking. What a delightfully easy thing to fall into your trap. But the truth is that it is not sufficient for me to go to church once a week and proclaim God's law. You know in your heart that it is indeed insufficient. And if I agreed with you, it would be entirely out of my cowardice. Fear of man rather than God is the primary reason that we are unwilling to speak like Peter and John and Paul.

Mr. Hart, this text applies on so many levels. Here you have the civil authority commanding the apostles to stop preaching repentance to the people. What you are advocating is the equivalent of Peter and John responding with, "Let's make a compromise."

-Joseph

I am amazed at your ability to take any issue and use it as a veiled attempt to criticize brothers in the Lord. We all know who you refer to with your sarcastic pot-shot references to NY mag and byFaith. You make a good point in your post about defending the cause of the unborn, but you cake it in so much vitriol that you make it harder to swallow than it should be.

Just make your point and move on! There's no need to attack people in the process. Because maybe, just maybe, these brothers that you think are so heretical and so horrible for the church are actually fighting for some of the same things you are fighting for, they just don't get any publicity for it. Maybe you guys are on the same team, you just attack certain issues from different angles. Still attacking, mind you, just from different angles.

Just a thought.

. . . So says "m.t." who tosses his own attack into the mix while hiding under the cloak of anonymity.

Joseph,

That very passage is the one that has been rattling around in my head these past couple of weeks as I watch the activity on the blog here. I wish I were there with you to worship this morning!

Kamilla

P.S. Anyone interested in finding out the numbers behind, "Who Really Cares?" could do worse than reading Arthur C. Brooks' book by that name.

It is sad that these discussions have produced far too much heat and not very much light.

I'm m.t. The anonymity was an accident. And I did not mean for my words to be an "attack", as you say. Instead I intended to offer a response to the tone of presumption that clouded an otherwise important encouragement to not shy away from defending the cause of the unborn.

Funny thing is that Clark disappeared long ago and from what I've read he's rather more unreasonable. Perhaps he wisely concluded he'd be best off avoiding discussion except where he can control the agenda.

"Because maybe, just maybe, these brothers that you think are so heretical and so horrible for the church are actually fighting for some of the same things you are fighting for..."

I haven't heard Tim refer to Keller as an heretic ever. Never publicly or privately. I've heard Tim refer to him as a brother he wish would repent of a grievous compromise that is at the center of Satan's present attack on the church (i.e. the doctrine of man/sexuality). You presume too much, Matthew. Where's the charity of Matthew 18? I assume you have sent him an e-mail privately, right? I assume you lead by example. Right? Or do I presume too much?

Dear Brothers,

Matthew has been commendable in his dealings with me privately, and I'm grateful for him. But also for your clarification, Michael, that I've never called Tim Keller a heretic. Postmoderns think faulting a man for aiding and abetting a heresy, and accusing him of being a heretic, are the same thing.

They're not.

Also, I never thought I was hiding anything by using the names of New York and byFaith and World magazines without speaking of Tim Keller, explicitly. Fact is, in the mention of these magazines, it was the nature of mass marketing I was dealing with--not the men who've received the recent corollary to William Randolph Hearts' "puff (Billy) Graham" order he gave to his journalists in LA sixty-five years ago.

Love,

Matthew,

Thank you.

Kamilla

Grrr, just tried to read the Kristoff piece and couldn't make myself get through it all in one go. I'll just say the man isn't very familiar with Evangelicalism, is he? He needs to read Brooks and Allen Hertzke's, "Freeing God's Children" if he thinks *we* are just now getting around to acknowledging being pro-life is about more than abortion.

Of course, Tim, you're right about it *never* being about abortion for some.

Kamilla

Joseph, how do you know when you've preached enough?

David Gray, maybe Scott Clark is smarter than I am and knows how limited the returns will be here. Or maybe he's out picketing at a Mormon Temple.

>David Gray, maybe Scott Clark is smarter than I am and knows how limited the returns will be here. Or maybe he's out picketing at a Mormon Temple.

Or we might conclude from previous efforts that he's busy with Brady Bunch reruns...

>>Joseph, how do you know when you've preached enough?

When he has ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Mick, double negatives don't seem unfriendly to you, but they sure confuse me. :)

Daryl, I agree with Mick. But more importantly, the question isn't how you know you've "preached enough". A better question to ask would be, "How do I know if I've even begun the work of preaching?"

Any concrete answer I gave to your question would have been labeled as legalism, so I'm going to answer my question instead. :)

Let's assume for a second that you can be a man following in the footsteps of Peter, John and Paul in the pulpit Sunday morning, and that calling people to repentance outside of the church isn't necessary. (I don't believe this, but let's just be hypothetical.) You've stated that you think abortion should be preached against in the context of the 6th commandment. Agreed. But should abortion also be addressed when preaching on Job, or the Israelites' constant turning to Molech, or James 1:27 (pure & undefiled religion...visit orphans & widows), Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.”

If so, you will know when you have begun to preach, if you are at least calling your congregation to do what you don't want to do--picket at the abortuary. If preaching on those texts doesn't lead some in our churches to snatch the helpless from the jaws of the wicked, something is wrong with the preaching.

1 John 3:17-19 “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him”

2 kingdom theology doesn't end with the preaching of the Word being limited to the church building, only affecting those within the walls. That's where it starts. The outcome can only be that those who we are preaching to take it and apply it to their lives in the same ways we do. Let us make sure we are not leading a congregation that will ask in surprised shock,

Matthew 25:44-46 "‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.””

If our theology protects us (as preachers) from being required to preach to those outside of the church, do you think our congregations will magically think that they are required to care for those outside of the church? Our preaching must call our congregations to oppose abortion in the public sphere. They don't have the luxury of thinking that they can obey the commands of God within the church, and not worry about them outside of the church. They don't live inside the church like we do. They live in the world. If they don't oppose abortion in the world, they aren't opposing it anywhere. It's a sad thought to think of the surprise that the goats will have on that day of judgment. Let us warn our congregations now, so that they won't be surprised then.

-Joseph

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