Evangelicals Challenged to Preach Bold, Hard Truths
In a climate where dogmatism is the new heresy, many evangelicals have backed away from bold preaching while "freely imbibing" the spirit of the postmodern age, says one well-known minister.
"It seems that zeal for the essential doctrines of biblical Christianity has become virtually as unacceptable among evangelicals and post-evangelicals as it always has been in the world at large," John MacArthur writes in his newly released book, The Jesus You Can't Ignore.
The evangelical movement used to be known for two nonnegotiable theological convictions – one of them being the absolute accuracy and authority of Scripture, and the other being Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation.
But today, evangelicalism has become an "amorphous monstrosity" where practically every idea is brought to the evangelical table for discussion, MacArthur says.
"As a result, today's evangelicals seem unable to put their finger on anything that makes them truly distinctive," he laments.
Before writing his book, MacArthur – pastor of the nondenominational megachurch Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif. – read through literature representing "postevangelical" points of view. What he found was a common theme in all the books that suggested Christians need to be less militant, less aggressive, less preachy and less sure of their own convictions in order to reach unbelieving people in a postmodern culture.
But that's not the way Jesus proclaimed the Gospel message, MacArthur points out.
A far cry from the methods employed by preachers today, Jesus preached with a bold, blunt, unvarnished directness that even his disciples had a hard time listening to, the evangelical author highlights.
"His style of preaching isn't likely to generate the kind of enthusiastic arm waving and feel-good atmosphere today's Christians typically like to see at their mass meetings and outdoor music festivals," he states.
The Jesus most people tend to be familiar with, however, is the meek and mild lamb whom many learned of as a child.
"Rather than go to the Bible to get the full picture of who Jesus is, people are very content with a benign, self-satisfying view of Jesus," MacArthur told The Christian Post.
And churches are marketing a Jesus consumers would less likely resist.
To "sell Him effectively," many churches are inventing the Jesus and the Gospel message people would like, MacArthur noted.
In his new book, the long-time minister surveys the entire public ministry of Christ and reintroduces readers to Jesus – the Jesus who never shied away from conflict, never softened His message to please genteel tastes, and never suppressed any truth to accommodate someone's artificial notion of dignity.
MacArthur emphasizes that the "one class of sinners Jesus consistently dealt with sternly were the professional hypocrites, religious phonies, false teachers, and self-righteous peddler of plastic piety."
And the Pharisees were the main figures of public opposition to Jesus.
They were the religious leaders in Israel, the experts of Scripture, and the most pious. At the same time, they were among the most hypocritical and self-righteous who preferred man-made religious traditions over the Word of God.
"One modern form of Pharisaism is just the vast religious realm in which people believe that you earn your way to heaven, by your own goodness, your own morality, your own religiosity, your own self-righteousness," he explained.
Just as Jesus was "no peacemonger" when it came to hypocrisy and false teaching, defending the truth and distinguishing between sound doctrine and error should be one of the highest priorities for every Christian, the best-selling author maintains.
"Whether we like it or not, as Christians we are in a life-or-death conflict against the forces of evil and their lies. It is spiritual war," he writes.
The spiritual conflict is first and foremost a theological one – divine truth versus demonic error, he explains. The goal is the destruction of falsehoods, not people.
Many Christians today prefer conversation over conflict and common ground rather than contention. The postmodern culture has sucked the life and boldness out of the church and Christians are content with being "nice" people, MacArthur notes. And while the evangelical pastor admits it's better to be gentle than to be harsh, he stresses that avoiding conflicts is not always the right thing.
"When peaceful coexistence 'with our deepest differences' becomes priority one and conflict per se is demonized as inherently sub-Christian, any and every false religious belief can and will demand an equal voice in the 'conversation,'" he says.
"We cannot be men-pleasers and servants of Christ at the same time," he contends.
The church, he says, needs to recapture its own courage and be faithful to follow the path the Lord took.