The Hole in Our Holiness


Since I’ve lamented the emergence of “The Grace Boys” and criticized the antinomian leanings of some younger evangelicals like Tullian Tchividjian (Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church) and Mark Galli (Christianity Today), it’s with a great sense of relief and gratification that I’ve encountered Kevin DeYoung’s The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness, a winsome but uncompromising book championing the Biblical requirement of practical holiness and progressive sanctification amid a depraved world and worldly church: “The hole in our holiness is that we don’t really care much about it” (p. 10). DeYoung is no moralist: he highlights in bold colors salvation by grace though faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ by which our Lord’s righteousness is imputed to our account.  He rightly wants to go on, however, to remind his readers that a gospel that doesn’t lead to holiness is not the Biblical Gospel.  DeYoung knows that law isn’t a dirty word, and that if we delight in God’s indicatives (what He has done for us) while skirting His imperatives (how we must respond to what He’s done for us), we don’t understand the Gospel (pp. 52–61). The book is not scholarly and is much more pastoral and conversational, but it’s chock full of sound Biblical argument and is all the more effective for its directness and simplicity.

Comparative old-timers like me disturbed by the new (old) breed of grace-loving but law-avoiding evangelical youngsters relish youth ministers like DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, who carry forward the torch of a glowing grace that leads to white-hot holiness.

May their tribe increase.


Liberal Evangelicalism (Part 6): Liberal Politics

As liberalism entered the 20th century, it developed aggressively socialist sympathies.  This shouldn’t surprise us. Those years were the heyday of socialist (and Marxist) giddiness in the West, and an operative tenet of liberalism  is reconfiguring the Christian Faith to make it conform to the temper of the contemporary world.  It was trendy to be socialist, so liberals were trendily socialist.

The ideational engine behind this liberal socialism soon became known as the “social gospel,” championed by American theologian Walter Rauschenbusch.  In his A Theology for the Social Gospel (1917), he writes (p. 143) that a truly Christian social order

involves the redemption of society from political autocracies and economic oligarchies [he means what we term corporations or “big business”]…. The highest expression of love is the free surrender of what is truly our own, life, property, and rights…. This involves the redemption of society from private property in the natural resources of the earth, and from any condition of industry which makes monopoly profits possible.

We should understand that by “free surrender” Rauschenbusch did not mean voluntary charity: he meant state-coerced wealth redistribution.  (It’s unclear how “free” accurately describes such coercion.)

Although it’s hard on the surface to find a necessary relation between theological and political liberalism (the noted evangelical John Warwick Montgomery once claimed to be a theological conservative but political liberal), it’s even harder to find theological liberals with adamant conservative political convictions. In philosophical language, the relation between theological and political liberalism may not be causal, but it’s apparently correlative.

Of course, political liberalism isn’t merely about economic socialism; it supports abortion rights, gay rights, same-sex-marriage, cultural pluralism and so on.  This is just what theological liberalism supports.

It’s also what liberal evangelicals (generally) support. Tony Campolo, for example, well-known elder liberal evangelical statesman, is an enthusiastic supporter of coerced income distribution — and quite willing to be known as a liberal evangelical.  This means that Campolo, putative pacifist, is a supporter of state-sponsored violence to fulfill his dream of income equality (if you don’t believe that taxation involves violence, try not paying your taxes for 10 years).

Daniel Kirk, Fuller Seminary faculty, in discussing the recent amendment in North Carolina that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, declared that “Christians not only have the freedom to stand against it, but are conscience-bound to vote against it [emphasis supplied]” since “people will stand to lose medical coverage, hospital visitation rights, rights of inheritance and the like.” This position deftly — and outrageously— unites two essential politically liberal tents: (1) support for homosexual marriage and (2) support for coercive wealth redistribution.

Let me posit that this mad dash to political liberalism is possible (among other reasons) because liberal evangelicals have given up full Biblical authority. If you don’t believe that, think of this: No liberal evangelical champions Biblical inerrancy (can you name one?). And I ask: do you know of any champions of Biblical inerrancy that endorse homosexual marriage and radically increased taxation for income redistribution?

Finally: Do you believe these facts are merely coincidental?


Liberal Evangelicalism (Part 5): Inerrancy Must Go

An indispensable tenet of liberalism is getting rid of the Bible as God’s infallible (i.e., inerrant) Word. Liberalism is all about adjusting the Faith to the temper of the times, and you can’t do that if you stick to the full inerrancy of the Bible amid the fluctuations of history and culture. The whole point of affirming orthodox bibliology (one’s view of the Bible) is to recognize the unchanging Word of God as it confronts human changeability. Therefore, Biblical authority is subversive of liberalism, and no liberal has ever embraced inerrancy. To do that would doom the liberal program from the start.

It is a mistake often made by literate but naive observers to assume that since liberals enthrone science, it was the increase of 19th century historic and scientific evidence that eroded confidence in orthodox bibliology. In fact, nearly the opposite was actually the case. Liberals had already resituated the center of religious authority in human experience, and when the historic and scientific advances came along, liberals were only too eager to enlist them as proof that the Bible could no longer be trusted as God’s inerrant Word (see Dillenberger and Welch, p. 197). Liberals wanted to believe that the Bible is not infallible and cannot be an objective authority. Their abandonment of infallibility wasn’t a dispassionate, objective assessment, but was deeply “faith-based.” It was presuppositional, that is, when they ditched infallibility, they were simply acting in accord with their worldview.

The liberal evangelicals are little different. For example, a younger evangelical, Daniel Kirk, New Testament specialist at Fuller Seminary in Menlo Park, writes:

Christians will interpret history differently from non-Christians. We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.

We believe that Jesus did miracles, fed thousands, walked on water.

But we don’t have to believe that Quirinius was governor with authority over Judea while Herod was still alive, or that the census that he took about ten years after Herod died occurred ten years earlier.

Why, pray tell, not? The same Bible that teaches Jesus rose from the dead teaches that Quirinius governed Judea during Herod’s lifetime. Dr. Kirk manages this interpretive double-dealing by introducing an epistemic (view of knowledge) duality:

The former questions [like the resurrection] are questions of faith. The latter questions [like what political figures reigned and when] are questions of historical record. The Bible we actually have contains a number of geopolitical statements that do not line up with what we know from historical sources that had access to better records.

In other words, the Bible isn’t inerrant.

This duality was quite popular among opponents of Biblical inerrancy during the “Battle for the Bible” in the 70’s and 80’s (Dan Fuller, of Fuller Seminary, even held it in the old Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society in the late 60’s). His point was that the Bible is indeed infallible, bit it’s only infallible in theological matters — which can be known only by faith, not historical or scientific matters — which can be known only by observation. The Bible is infallible when it tells us that Jesus loves us, but it might just be wrong when it tells us precisely when Quirinius ruled. And, after all, when Quirinius ruled doesn’t matter much anyway. This assertion doesn’t need to be infallible.

This is a particularly lame rationale for denying Biblical infallibility.

First, nobody in the Bible would have dreamed of talking this way. Can you imagine Jesus or Paul or John or Peter or James saying or implying, “The Hebrew Scriptures are God’s Word and therefore they are true; but they are only certainly true when they talk about things that can’t be verified. Everything else is fair game for error.”

Second, on many issues there can be no clear distinction between matters of non-verifiable faith and theology on the one hand and matters of verifiable history and science on the other. Jesus’ resurrection is a case in point. Our Lord’s resurrection is a theological truth whose validity rests, at least partly, on its historical factuality (1 Cor. 15). To say that the resurrection can be true theologically even if Jesus didn’t actually rise from the tomb on the third day (which many liberals do in fact say) is, for Paul and other primitive Christians, to utter pure poppycock.

So the rationale for denying Biblical infallibility that some liberal evangelicals offer lays the groundwork for gutting the very essence of the Christian Faith, which is inescapably historical, no matter how sincere they may be in wanting to rescue the Bible from scientific and historical scrutiny.

Once you get rid of inerrancy, you just never know where your faith will end up.


Rest Areas on the Highway to Hell

Most of us have heard the morality tale of the frog that leapt from the boiling pot when tossed in but allowed himself to be placed in a pot of cool water over a stove and boiled slowly to death.  Myth or not, it describes the pernicious deceptiveness of apostasy.  The unwary, foolish young man mentioned in Proverbs 7 allowed himself to be enticed by a harlot.  He did not begin his ultimately fatal odyssey by considering the end of the apostate road he’s chosen (“the chambers of death,” v. 27).  But little by little the harlot led him to his spiritual doom:

Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, Till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, He did not know it [would cost] his life (vv. 22–23)

The same is true of theological apostasy. The theologians and ministers toying with diabolically situated accommodationist doctrines rarely think all the way to the end — when their lives and ministries are destroyed — and when their evil doctrines have ripped the Faith from the minds and hearts of young, impressionable students.

When theologians toy with limiting Biblical infallibility to the “core teachings” of the Bible, positing that in historical issues (like the historicity of Adam) it may be in error, they may think they are making the Bible more palatable to modern skeptics (as that prototypical liberal Friedrich Schleiermacher did in On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers), in reality they are only ambling further along the primrose path of apostasy until in the end not even the “core teachings” survive their acidic unbelief.  Even if they themselves don’t quite travel to that diabolical destination, their students and church members likely will.

When pastors give up on Christ’s substitutionary atonement because it reflects a God angry at sinful mankind (and, after all, God is all about man’s comfort level, isn’t He?), they will, if consistent, never end with eviscerating the Bible’s incontrovertible teaching about substitutionary atonement.  No, they must then tamper with the Fall, with salvation by grace through faith, and with the very character of God. In the end, they serve a new, and false, god.  This is the history of Protestant (and post-Vatican II) liberalism.  It’s gradually becoming alive and well in evangelicalism.

Accommodationist doctrines (like Biblical errancy, exclusively exemplary views of the atonement, and mythical and non-literal views of creation and Adam and Eve) are simply opening gambits in a protracted game that Satan always wins, concluding in man’s moral destruction.

They are (to switch metaphors) rest areas on the highway to Hell.

Moral: Don’t start on the highway.  Never leap into the pot.


Judgment or Revival?

Western culture is in dire — that is to say, depraved — straits.  But we’ve been in dire straits before. As recently as 70 years ago, fascism and National Socialism were engulfing Europe while England stood nearly alone in opposition and America quibbled about what role to play (or not). A massive world war shattered liberal illusions of the inevitable progress of humanity (just as it had in 1914), but during and after the war, God sent a sweeping revival (imperfect, to be sure, but genuine nonetheless) that characterized what has been labeled The Greatest Generation.  That generation is old and dying, and with it the lessons of 1935–1960; but God’s truth is not old and dying, and if His people called by His name will humble themselves and pray and seek His face and forsake their evil ways, He will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron. 7:14). Today’s cultural evils are pervasive — euthanasia, pornography, radical feminism, machismo, covenant-breaking, materialism, Darwinism, fornication, multiculturalism, religious pluralism, homosexuality, chemical addictions, socialism, libertinism, and on and on)

Whether God unleashes judgment or revival depends on the response of His people.