Thursday, June 30, 2005

Christianity, PRIME TIME?

Christianity Today has covered the "phenom" of some evangelical leaders rise to network prominence. In a recent article, the writer of the editorial posits the following:

"So, we've been mainstreamed. Now what? First, we can thank God. Jesus Christ's unique message and values will gain a larger and more respectful hearing. Second, as noted, we really can't play the persecution card anymore. As "players," we will be criticized sharply still, but that's just part of life in America. Third, let's remember that how we got here is how we will stay here: Careful scholarship. Measured proclamations. Majoring on the majors. Grassroots organizing. Patience. Prayer. Now that we're prime-time, we don't want to start acting like American idols."

Not sure how "we" got here--but a few things that were left off the editor's list were: faithfully proclaiming the gospel of sola fide and the doctrine of imputation; preaching uncompromisingly the Word of God; calling all men to repentance; living holy in a pagan society; church discipline of sin; and worship of the one Triune God in spirit and truth. But wait, if we were doing those things, we wouldn't be mainstream at all--we'd be on "PBS."

Has CT forgotten these powerful words of our Lord Jesus? "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his Master, if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you...'" (John 15:18-20b). Doesn't sound "prime time" to me, does it to you? And what of Paul's words to timid Timothy before being beheaded by Nero: "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12). Listen, the very fact that we can no longer "play the persecution card" and that evangelicalism has been legitimized by the networks (ABS, CBS and NBS) suggests that how we got here isn't by biblical means at all.

One clarifying thought here: I am not suggesting self-made-martyr's is to be endorsed or championed. Far from it. And I do know that the Lord can give favor with unsaved people in preaching His Word and heralding His gospel. But it's the imbalance that's in question here. We can do acts of kindness and mercy that produce encouragement to us--not a problem. But if that praise is obtained absent of living and proclaiming what genuine biblical Christianity is, then isn't it just the tickling of the ears? Both deed and doctrine need to be done to His glory. Having been in CCM industry for over twenty-five years you get used to seeing everything measured by money, numbers and noteriety; rather than measured by the depth of ministry; biblical truth; and godly character. May the former not eclipse the later in our daily serving of the Lord and His creatures.

The editorial suggests that we "arrived" because of "careful scholarship." Would they consider Open Theism; New Perspectivism; Oneness Theology; ECB; ECT; pragmaticism; psychological sanctification; postmodern ecumenism, inclusivism "careful scholarship?" And what about their claim of "measured proclamations?" Translation, sounds like "playing politics with the gospel" to me.

When the world applauds and accepts what we do, it's time that we measure afresh what we are actually saying and doing. Constantine eliminated persecution for a season with the stroke of a pen by making Christianity the national religion. It has consequently been asserted that Constantine favoured Christianity merely from political motives, and he has been regarded as an enlightened despot who made use of religion only to advance his policy. He certainly cannot be acquitted of grasping ambition. Where the policy of the State required, he even could be cruel. Yet, in the aftermath, history proves that this political blending of church and state was one of the most catastrophic blows to Christianity and the gospel.

This world is not our home beloved; give me the lions any day if they must--just don't give me "prime time" watered down, pabulum based, cream of wheat, status quo, culturally processed, network friendly Christianity. Christ's gospel does not exist to gain "a larger and more respectful hearing." so that we can become "players" in the media circus. It exists to call men to repentance for the salvation of their souls and for the glory of God.

The Cross is a Radical Thing,
Steve Camp
Galatians 1:10-12


The Clinging Vine said...

Not sure how "we" got here--but a few things that were left off the editor's list were: faithfully proclaiming the gospel of sola fide and the doctrine of imputation; preaching uncompromisingly the Word of God; calling all men to repentance; living holy in a pagan society; church discipline of sin; and worship of the one Triune God in spirit and truth. But wait, if we were doing those things, we wouldn't be mainstream at all--we'd be unpopular.

That's a fact, Steve.

Good post. ;^)

loren said...

Hi Steve,

I hear what you're saying but I can't help feeling that you are correcting an imbalance by leaning a little too hard the other way.

Yes, we'll suffer persecution, but that's not necessarily the norm, nor the ultimate measure of our success. At times, Jesus increased in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52) and He was often celebrated (Mark 11:9). There were seasons in His life for each extreme.

The point is that Jesus was true to God in any situation, and from there the cards must fall where they will. So I do completely agree with your call for a biblically sound message, but when there's acceptance there's all the more reason to rejoice, not to automatically rethink ourselves and angle for some more strife next time. (I overstate this in order to make the point - no offense).

johnMark said...


I continue to appreciate your Scriptural insight on these issues. I wish you could go on maybe Mohler's show and discuss these issues. Would be very interesting.

I look forward to your posts.

In Him,

SJ Camp said...

Dear Clinging Vine, Loren and JohnMark:

As being new to the blogosphere I count it a privilege that you are investing some time at CampOnThis--I am humbled and honored.

To each of your comments:

1. thanks for "c.vine" for the encouragement to this "branch." Your prayers and are most appreciated on these issues.

2. Loren - fully agree. Let me clarify. I don't believe in self-made-martyr's. We can have favor with people in this life, but not at the expense of the cross and the Lordship of Christ (which I know you'd agree). I have been on numerous secular talk shows; and while you want to be winsome, you must also be truthful. I guess the rhetoric coming out of most evangelicals that have the privilege to be on these various shows are tall on nice and short on doctrine. I agree that a balance needs to occur. Thanks for being a faithful Berean in helping me think through these things more accurately (and hopefully biblically).

And 3. John Mark: I would love to go on Al's show if he'd have me. I do appreciate and like him very much, but I sense my disagreement on ECB (Evangelical Co-Belligerence) might have put a wedge between us for a season. But I think it would be most beneficial to have a show where an honest and biblical/theological dialogue of these political/social issues could take place. I am all for it and maybe we can pray to that end.

Yours for the Master's use,
Thank you all again.

Jeff Downs said...

Steve, glad to see you are blogging. I will get you on my list.

Perhaps you might be interested in contributing to a new Journal I am putting together. Maybe not a full article (unless you are up to it), but perhaps a review of some sort. A review of a Philips, Craig and Dean song would be really cool. Perhaps a song they sing about God, showing how deceptive it is (for the Christian community) and how we need to be on our gard.

If you have the time and desire, send me an Email.

BTW: We met when you first did a concern at Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster PA. It was when Hank Hanegraaff's book Counterfeit Revival came out. I had told you it was just released.

Denise said...

Steve I agree. Its uncanny how you and I wrote about the same issue on the same day, using John 15. GMTA. =) I am sure many biblically minded Christians are also seeing through this malarky, being reminded of what Jesus Himself said.

1 John 3: 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.

1John 2: 15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Seeking the world's approval, wallowing in it, being proud of it, announcing it to all professing Christians everywhere....that is of the world. Popularity, pleasing the lost, being liked, this is of the world. We are called to not be man-pleasers, but God-pleasers. In doing so, we will be sure to incur the wrath of the world. Jesus did (and even lost some of His "disciples" too,John 6:64-66). If we are like Him and proclaim the biblical gospel, we will incur the world's hatred just like our Master.

I think its interesting to see how the World decides just who "is" "Evangelical". See "Time" magazine's list of the top 25 "Evangelical Christians" and see for yourself: at least half of them aren't biblical Christians. Between Seeker-friendly, to a Modalist, to a Word of Faith woman pastor, these are hardly true Evangelicals. Yet the world applauds them.

This whole thing, now that I think about it, reminds me of that song by Steven Curtis Chapman, "For the Sake of the Call." In it he said the disciples knew from the start this road would not lead to fame. How sadly far from that mindset have "Christian" leaders gone. =(

Its striking to see the difference between Joel Osteen's wobbly appearance on Larry King Live, compared to John MacArthur's bold, non-compromising, and concise presentation of the gospel and biblical defense for the faith.

Thanks for your strong stand, Steve. Even when I don't always agree with you (which is rare), I so appreciate your love for the Word and your boldness! May we all die fighting on the battlefield and never retreat.