With the appeal of Donald Trump in 2016 and Bernie Sanders in 2020 (which may turn out to be the political equivalent of Dave and Busters), some political commentators have observed that Democratic and Republican leaders have not served the American voters well. Party elites continued to play by old rules of analysis and missed the effects of economic and cultural changes on the electorate. The same point could well be made about leaders of the PCA — leaders, that is, who emerged as such through the platforms created by big evangelicalism.
Tim Keller and Bryan Chapell have emerged as pastors whose assessment of the church and its relationship to the world matters. Like E. F. Hutton, when they speak, people listen.
But why? When it comes to assessments of the culture and what Christians should do in response, consider the following. Remember in 2015 when during what was approaching peak intersectionality awareness, Chapell identified pluralism as the major challenge facing the PCA:
If we do not see pluralism for the enemy it is, then we will not make appropriate alliances, link arms for necessary purposes, or allocate resources and align priorities for the greater ends required. If we do not recognize how seductive pluralism will be for all of us (and all we love) with its promises of societal approval and acceptance, then we will not embrace the means, manner, and message that will communicate the true beauty of grace that is the power of the Gospel.
Without clear identification of the external enemy’s magnitude, the dynamics of a largely homogenous social and doctrinal association will only make us less patient with our differences. We will also become increasingly insensitive to how much we need one another to maintain a voice for Christ in an increasingly pluralistic culture.
Right now our eyes are not focused on pluralism as our greatest enemy. We are more focused on what others in our ranks are doing or not doing. Debates about charismatic gifts are unlikely to divide us. Discussions about the role of women will continue to marginalize us but probably will not break us. Dealing with changing sexual mores may drive our youth away but will probably not divide us. All these issues are secondary to the challenges of pluralism.
Two years later, in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, Keller corrected course. Uniting in response to a perceived enemy — looking for denominational cooperation — is part of what produced evangelical support for Trump:
In a book published earlier this year, “In Search of Ancient Roots: The Christian Past and the Evangelical Identity Crisis,” the historian Kenneth J. Stewart makes the case that the evangelical impulse in Christianity has been with us for centuries, taking on many different forms and bearing many different names, while maintaining substantially similar core beliefs. Many have analyzed the weaknesses of the current iteration of this movement. The desire by mid-twentieth-century leaders to foster more widespread coöperation between evangelicals and downplay denominational differences cut believers off from the past, some religion scholars have found. The result was an emphasis on personal experience rather than life in a church with historical memory. This has made present-day evangelicals more vulnerable to political movements that appeal to their self-interest, even in contradiction to Biblical teachings, for example, about welcoming the immigrant and lifting up the poor.
The lesson appears to be that a broad interdenominational cooperation by post-World War II evangelicals made born-again Protestants more political and less ecclesiastical.
It is at the very least, advice with a mixed message and could raise questions about the capacities of pastors to assess culture and society.
It is also a tad ironic for Keller to critique downplaying denominational differences when City-to-City is hardly a program of the PCA’s Mission to North America or Mission to the World.
4 thoughts on “Do Senior Christian Market Church Leaders Talk?”
Ah, yes, E.F. Hutton–a nostalgic moment. Did you know there was also W.E. Hutton? Were things clearer for churches back then? Different macro managers–more in the old/mainline. But macro managers just the same.
How does one battle against pluralism? Burn the heretics? What is the alternative really? It seems to me that better then raging against the culture, we would be better served by our pastors to learn to live as a pilgrims and strangers.
Would those who so fear pluralism have been the ones to have made the revision to WCF 23 on the magistrate and say that “it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever…?” Seems like it takes a positive view of pluralism to even begin thinking like this, at least politically.
And aren’t those who seem to fear pluralism also those who like to point our the greatness of America being its religious freedom, etc.? Or, speaking of Trump, that’s really just code for how America does or should give cover to Christian religionists but when it comes to others fudging is kosher?
I think he means, “If we do not see The World for the enemy it is…” as in, “The world, the flesh and the Devil.”
Pluralism is a great idea but it’s not what we have. We have multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is an enemy of pluralism.