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Spiritual AIDS

By Bill Lockwood

religion, articles, christianity

Tony Evans, "pastor" of the 2,500-member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, was the chaplain of the Dallas Cowboys football team during the Landry years. Currently he serves in his 10th year as chaplain for the Dallas Mavericks basketball squad. In an interview with The Daily Oklahoman Evans reflected that "the church, which God designed to function as an immune system in society, has a case of 'spiritual AIDS.'" He continues: "The reason we are decaying as a Culture is the immune system his shut down. ... We can't fight back" (Jan. 1, 1993).

Flow Evans would spell this out in detail I am not certain, but I do know that he is correct in his general assessment. The inward, ethical decay of our Western culture is a reality agreed upon by most careful observers that I have read, Christian or not. Society seems to be on a steep decline plunging into a morass of an immoral wasteland.

One might think that the church of our Lord Jesus Christ would find it increasingly necessary to point out the Rock in this weary wilderness which alone issues forth living waters. But it seems otherwise. Rather, the church itself is being radically reshaped on various fronts by a troop of "chop-shoppers" who busy themselves trying to re-cast our preaching so that it primarily addresses the social issues of the day. This bumper-brand of theology is known as the social gospel, the product of a union between socialism and modernism (James Bales, Modernism, Trojan Horse in the Church, pp. 88-89). Its unholy offspring would rather share self-esteem psychotherapy or goals on "liberating children from sexism" from the pulpit rather than upholding truth as it is in Jesus.

Social Gospel

Roots of the social gospel trace back to Walter Rauschenbusch. Rauschenbusch was an American Baptist minister from Rochester Theological Seminary who, on his way to Germany in 1891, visited England to discover more about the Fabian Socialists in which he had become interested. The Fabians, organized in 1884, were an English socialist educational institution connected with the British Labor Party. They, of course, advocated socialism as an economic theory and despised American capitalism. George Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb, and novelist H.G. Wells were some of the most prominent members. Rauschenbusch formed a life-long friendship with Sidney Webb who, in turn, became his tutor of socialist agendas.

Rauschenbusch is said to be the first man to "Christianize" and "evolutionize" socialism, which had been so violently revolutionary (James Bales, The Martin Luther King Story, pp. 37-38). his work in 1907, Christianity and the Social Crisis, heavily influenced such leaders as Harry Emerson Fosdick, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Martin Luther King, Jr. King read Rauschenbusch in 1948 and became fascinated with the "social gospel." At any rate, Rauschenbusch's ideas helped re-mold religion in America.

In 1908 he participated in the founding of the Federal Council of Churches. This hybrid later became one of the parent societies of the infamous National Council of Churches, which is more a voice for a one world government than the propagation of the principles of the Prince of Peace.

The Changing Pulpit

The American pulpit, be it denominational or not, at one time was outspoken in defense of common decency. Not today. Howard Clinebell, the author of the text, Pastoral Care and Counseling, which I used at Harding Graduate University in Memphis, is a sample of why that is no longer the case. Clinebell insists upon non-judgmental preaching. Instead, the church should be baptized into one large "Lifelong Wholeness Center" (p. 209) by relieving the mental load of the guilty through "acceptance." Clinebell thinks demands to renounce sin with the traditional thunderclaps of Moses and Elijah is a misunderstanding of our role. Top priorities for this brand new breed of pioneer pedagogues range from "liberating children from society's sexism" (p. 293) and releasing women from bondage of a male-dominated world (p. 337) to sermonettes on the environment (p. 212). Awareness of the nuke arms-race (pp. 166-67), destigmatizing days (p. 276), and world hunger (p. 166) also should be in a clergyman's repertoire. One of Clinebell's chief concerns is for us to recognize that the roles of male and female in the church are entirely a cultural model.

Effect

Unfortunately, this type of skewed thinking has gradually become coiled around not a few programs in the churches of Christ. Even now, as I write, the February 1993 Christian Chronicle, in an interview with Doug Foster, characterizes itself as middle-of-the road, while they, on a continual basis, favorably promote and advertise purveyors of this devilish nonsense about the roles of men and women. Indeed! We must learn to mellow ourselves and meticulously avoid dogmatism on almost every innovation and issue. Of course, there is an exception here. If you need to boil over a little dogmatic irritation against those who oppose this stinking mush, just go ahead. We conservatives just need to learn to shut up when we receive an edict from Abilene or Pepperdine professorships. The popular party prattle is that "traditional roles of men and women in the worship assembly are merely cultural." The right-wing radicals just must learn to be more sensitive!

As congregations are being siphoned off into this newfangled faddishness, I think Tony Evans' words will haunt us. The disease is sin. The cure is the Gospel, of Christ - unmixed with popular error. And, the Gospel, like it or not, makes just a few demands upon us, one of which is to renounce the way of the world. This theme will, in direct proportion to the consistency and fervency with which it is pressed, turn many away. It is not a message riddled with doses of ecology theology, equal rights for women agendas, or even a worship designed to make every sinner "feel good" about himself But without the strong doctrinal dose, our immunity to malady is broken down. Spiritual AIDS. Protected from nothing. Accepting of everything.

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Published July 1993