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The church capitulating to culture?
February 23, 2004
By David Roach
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. talks about how postmodernism is infiltrating evangelicalism on CBN’s “Newswatch” Feb. 10. Mohler based his discussion on a recent weblog he wrote on Alan Wolfe’s book, The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live our Faith.
Evangelical Christians increasingly are accommodating themselves to secular culture at the expense of their distinct Christian wit-ness, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a national television audience Feb. 10 and 11.
Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, appeared on CBN’s “Newswatch” to discuss a recent weblog in which he discussed sociologist Alan Wolfe’s book, The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live our Faith. According to Wolfe, American evangelicalism has accommodated itself to postmodern culture and is no longer a threat to secular America.
“We really are too much at peace with the culture,” Mohler said. “Without realizing it, we have accepted too much of the worldview of a secularized culture around us. Our moral lives, our family lives, our marriages and even what we say about the Gospel is oftentimes far too friendly to the culture, far [too] accommodated to what our neighbors want to hear and what we’re afraid they might oppose.”
Responding to a question from CBN anchor Lee Webb, Mohler said that many Christians inadvertently compromise the Gospel when they attempt to avoid politically incorrect subjects with unbelievers.
“I think it comes down to a mentality where people say, ‘If I can just reach people where they are, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to preach to them the Gospel and present to them the harder issues of the Scriptures,’” he said.
“We’ve taken lifestyle issues and we’ve made them paramount over the truth issues of the Gospel, and the inevitable result is that many people think that Christianity is just something like a lifestyle option rather than a transformed community of those who are saved by grace.”
An antidote to the accom-modationist impulse is biblical preaching that emphasizes the centrality of the Gospel for all of life, Mohler said.
“Sermons ought to be clearly biblical,” he said. “They ought to be expository. The preacher’s task is to take the Word of God, to preach it, to explain it and to apply it to life.
“... It’s like the Apostle Paul said to Timothy. We are to take the whole counsel of God, preach and teach the whole counsel of God, and we are far too satisfied in the shallow end of the pool. We need to get into the deeper water because that deeper water produces healthy disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The large number of evangelicals who frequently switch churches points to a de-emphasis on doctrine and an inappropriate emphasis on less important issues, Mohler said.
Attending a doctrinally diverse variety of churches over a short time period suggests that a person is “choosing churches not on the basis of truth claims and doctrine, but simply on ... cultural issues,” he said. “... It probably suggests that something other than ... issues of truth is driving this kind of search for a congregation.
“It’s church shopping, and ... church is just too important to be reduced to a consumer choice,” Mohler said.
In contrast to the consumerist tendencies of popular Christianity, churches have a responsibility to teach believers that the Gospel should govern every aspect of life, he said.
Mohler pointed out that church discipline is an important tool for holding believers to God’s standards and guarding against accommodation to postmodern culture.
“In the church, church discipline is not just a way of dealing with wrong behavior. It’s a way of holding each other accountable to the holiness to which God has called us,” he said.
“When it comes to the issue of church discipline, we have allowed the American ideal of private space to become far too influential. ... [T]he Bible doesn’t give us a whole list of rights of privacy. As a matter of fact, the Bible is very intrusive. And the early church lived together, accountable to each other for the way they maintained their marriages and the way they raised their children, and we ought to live that way right now.”
Mohler concluded that Wolfe’s analysis serves as a “wake-up call from outside the church,” which should cause evangelicals to examine themselves.
“The treatment is very clear,” Mohler said. “We need to go back to the Word of God. We must embrace the fullness of Christian truth. We need to live as a community of light. We need to recover the moral witness of the church. ...
“Wolfe says to his fellow secularists, ‘Those evangelicals aren’t too dangerous.’ ... [O]ur hope has to be that ... we would start to look a little more dangerous.”