The Likely Influence of AI on Christianity, and How We Resist

Evan McClanahan

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As is wont to happen with technology, it develops exponentially and at an accelerating rate. Thanks a lot, Moore’s Law! Hence, “all of a sudden” and “out of the blue” come advancements that have been in the works for years. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is obviously making spectacular gains and invading everyday spaces. Everything from chatbots to drones equipped with facial recognition technology is employing AI and unless we live on a farm off the grid, we won’t be escaping it.

The ubiquity of AI will no doubt accelerate our lives moving more into digital “spaces” and out of real spaces. And because the Christian church is nothing if not an in-person community, there can be no question that AI will challenge the Church on many fronts. On what fronts, in particular?

1. Perhaps the silliest example, but one I just cannot brush off, is the real possibility that sermons will be written by ChatGPT or a similar program. Why not? Think of all the time that will save! In truth, sermons are already being ghost-written and plagiarized. No less than a past leader of the Southern Baptist Convention was caught giving sermons that included anecdotes that could not have come from his own life. What was discovered was basically a sermon-sharing service, presumably at least written by human beings. Now, pastors can save the subscription fee and have ChatGPT produce an equally mediocre product. 

In case you are wondering, this would be a betrayal of the vocation of pastor. Pastors are to engage with the biblical text and place it in the immediate context of the people listening. That means the month, the city, the culture milieu, etc. Even if ChatGPT can produce better derivative content than a human pastor who is only an average thinker and writer, part of being a pastor is loving people enough to strive to bring God’s Word to their flock. If he can’t be bothered to do that, and such a habit was ever discovered, it would be a morale killer for the already burdened people of God.

I hope this is a laugh-off suggestion. But I have a feeling Large Language Model (LLM) AI will be producing a lot of Christian content in the years to come. Can the Spirit of God will  use it? Will He? I’m extremely doubtful. 

2. A major motivation for attending church is to learn. Indeed, Adult classes and sermons often convey interesting and important information, presumably by an expert in his/her field who has studied the scriptures or history of languages for many years. While Google can point to web pages that may or may not answer a question we have about faith, what if a LLM chatbot can produce an adequate answer on the spot? Expertise, and the sacrifices made to achieve it, will practically vanish in the world of AI.

At most, a spiritual leader will still be able to offer value judgements and non-derivative points-of-view that will bless a Christian community. They can provide pastoral care and preside at services. They will likely disagree with content generated by a godless AI. And they can provide leadership in an era of soft or hard persecution. But for those who only view the Church as a transactional community where information is received, an AI god will suffice. 

3. As chatbots become more lifelike, might they replace real community altogether? No doubt. Consider these suicidal men whose romantic chatbot stopped sexting with them all of a sudden! Rather than hearing the challenging word about your shortcomings before a holy God, a chatbot can and will cater to your every narcissistic need. As the wave of affirmation and love – albeit only from a lifelike robot – washes over an entire generation, will a substantial number have the force of will to get out of bed in the morning and support a local congregation? The question answers itself. 

The many chatbots that allow you to keep in touch with your dead loved ones offers you supernatural experiences as well. All of this AI will be derivative, borrowing from past experiences, and I suspect that, in time, will lead them to feel fake and unsatisfying more quickly than their developers anticipate. But will our standards simply lower to what is good enough? Will we just eat the thin AI gruel force fed to us and choose that artificial world, derivative quality and all? I suspect many of us will, which will accelerate the decline of the visible church. 

4. The even bigger picture is the way AI both possesses a worldview and will then shape the worldview of the users. As we hear more about AI being regulated by beliefs about “fairness” or any value for that matter, it is critical to ask, “by what standard?” “Whose values?” I mean, when it creates a laudatory essay about a global warming proponent but refuses to create a laudatory essay about fossil fuels, it is obvious there is a worldview behind AI. Of course there is! Because AI is derivative of its programming and their worldview is impossible to hide. 

So in sum, I would say that AI will 1) create bland and derivative Christian content; 2) become more of a personal companion, which cuts to the heart of church community; 3) will become a source of unlimited information which makes information centers like churches less valuable; and 4) will promote a godless worldview in the way it provides information and therefore lead to more godlessness.

The answer to all of that is at least for Christians to be aware of this and remove themselves from AI’s influence and warn others about it. If the only thing churches continue to talk about is how to “have your best life now,” they will have no defense against AI that promises to help you get there even faster. This is something the Church must address in the same way it addresses other false promises and worldviews. The sooner, the better. 

And there is good news! Those who resist AI will, in the end, be far better off. For AI may be able to steal our imaginative work and proceed to create incredible art, music or even films, but it is ultimately derivative and an escape from reality. In the end, it will leave the user frustrated, lonely, angry, or as we are already seeing, suicidal. It will be one of many “I told you so” moments for the Church at large but that is a hallow victory. My hope, at least, is that we resist the AI invasion in the first place. 

Are We Living Through a Period of God’s Judgment? 

Evan McClanahan

As I write this essay, I am looking out my window at a peaceful neighborhood. It is hard to imagine that anything is wrong with the world. The weather is perfect, the leaves are falling, and my neighbors seem happy and employed. The dogs are being walked, yards are being mowed, and students are attending their neighborhood school. There is so much to be thankful for!

It is only by watching the news or opening my Internet browser’s window to the world that I realize how much is wrong. The markets may collapse, some drag queens are performing at a church, the government is spending more money than they have, and war is ongoing. 

So, which version of reality is the right one? The one I see with my own eyes, right outside my window, or the one news anchors and pundits insist is critically important, life-altering, and end times-inducing? Well, maybe it is a bit of both. There have been moments in history when everything seemed to be ideal, only to see a few tumultuous events change everything overnight.

A while back I read In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, a look at 1933 Berlin through the eyes of the American Ambassador to Germany. 1930s Berlin was experiencing tension to be sure, but it was also arguably the peak of civilization. From high culture to technology to civic beauty, Berlin was an incredible city in a progressive nation. And yet, a few SA and SS guards can change all of that very quickly. And they did. Twelve years later, Berlin was an ash heap and would be divided by its famous wall for 45 years. 

No, we do not live in the era of SA and SS troops, though the word “Nazi” is thrown around in every direction with absurd frequency. And yet, a peaceful present doesn’t ensure a peaceful future. 

As a Christian, my outlook on our national life is quite simple. When we experience peace and prosperity, it is because God is blessing us. But God certainly possesses the sovereign right to judge us at any time. And when we incur God’s judgement, even those of us who have striven to be faithful will be caught up in it.

What is the threshold of rebellion that we will pass that would invite God’s judgement? A few years ago, I was listening to a Christian radio station. A listener called in, very concerned about an abortion bill being debated at the time, and said, “I tell you what, we have killed 60 million babies with abortion in this country. If we don’t stop this right now, God is going to judge us!” 

Well, first of all, I don’t think God is counting the atrocities with a specific number in mind, some tipping point where the 100 millionth time an evil is committed, God, in all His holiness finally says, “Okay, that’s it! I can’t take it anymore!” They all grieve Him. And if there is some cutoff period, we will never know what it is.

But more to the point, 60 million abortions already is a judgment against our nation. That is 120 million parent’s hearts more sorrowful. 60 million lives never lived. 60 million talented people taken from our nation. 60 million families not formed or lessened. 60 million fewer Little Leaguers, inventors, homebuilders, tradesmen and women, church members, and Trick-or-Treaters. Do we not see how that absence is a judgment? 

Likewise, if our attitude is, “God is going to judge us for all of the perversion,” why would it take God so long? Has this not been going on, you know, for a while? The perversion we see is the judgment. Fire and brimstone is not God’s only method of letting us know He is not pleased. In Romans 1, Paul writes a terrifying line about God giving men over to dishonorable passions for their idolatry. So God simply letting us have what we want is in itself a kind of judgment! Perhaps the worst kind of all. 

One could go on with unbiblical economic policies that merit God’s judgment, unbiblical political force that merits God’s judgement, or unbiblical family trends that merit God’s judgement. In the Church alone, how much compromise has there been on God’s Word? How many unfaithful priests and pastors? How much apathy and lethargy for a harvest that is full? 

So there is no question that we deserve God’s judgement. The real questions for us are, “Are we living through a period of God’s judgement, and how will we respond when such judgment occurs?” Well, I have already indicated that we are living through God’s judgement now. The evidence is everywhere. And yet, I expect to feel the pangs of God’s judgement even more as we stray further from God’s Law. In God’s World, only one Truth is possible. So there is no conceivable way straying from that Truth can end well. It could be that with disaster on the brink, enough of us will wake up, experience Spiritual revival, and avert God’s wrath. There is precedent for that in the Bible. See Jonah’s ministry to Ninevah. 

But shy of such a revival, God’s judgment can be a terrifying ordeal, and we seem to have completely forgotten that. In the scriptures, here are just a few examples of what a nation under God’s judgment looks like. 

Wilderness. The original judgment from God is Israel’s forty years in the wilderness due to their lack of confidence in God.

Children sacrificed to false gods. Even the wise Solomon participated in sacrificing children to Moloch: “Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.” The pagan gods were not neutral. They were demons that required the blood of children, a practice the one, true God strictly forbids. 

Open promiscuity and lewdness. Judges 19 tells a Sodom and Gomorah-esque tale of what happens to a nation when there is no king (including God) and men “do what is right in their own eyes.” It is open villainy, sexual deviancy, and murder. Rampant crime, disrespect for life, and no justice for aggrieved parties is the norm when God leaves us to our own devices. 

Occupation by a foreign country. Isaiah and Jeremiah both warn of Assyrian and Babylonian (respectively) invasions unless Israel repents. They did not and sure enough, both empires either took Israelites into exile or occupied the land. Religious practices were corrupted and pagan sacrifices were normalized.

Warfare and military losses. When God blesses Israel, they win in battle. When He does not, they lose. See the Israelites loss to the Amorites in Joshua 7. 

Enslavement. With the Babylonian exile, Israelites became servants to that empire until they were finally allowed to return home and rebuild Jerusalem. See the book of Daniel. 

Being alone and surrounded by hostility, mockery, and imprisonment. The 11th chapter of Hebrews is often called the “Hall of Faith” chapter, for it recounts the perilous times in which faithful men of God lived and ministered and their suffering as a result. Many psalm indicate the same. 

Indeed, there is no greater example of what God’s judgement looks like than the death of Jesus Christ himself. The cross is God’s judgment on the world. It is God saying that the only way mankind’s evil can be forgiven is through the perfect life and death and resurrection of Jesus. 

How then shall we live? First, we prepare. That might mean setting aside provisions, protecting your assets, and getting to know your neighbors better. Second, we work to stave off God’s judgement. That means we do basic church work of worshiping, praying, and evangelizing. Third, don’t panic. We often have a bad habit of interpreting events in the worst possible light. Even God’s judgment can and will pass and there are often brighter days ahead…precisely because we learn our lesson! And fourth, we rebuild. We must stay faithful no matter the circumstances for God is not only our God during good times. It will be our responsibility to rebuild a society based on God’s Law when the judgment has abated. So we can’t lose our faith in the meantime! 

Of course, maybe my anxiety about God’s judgement is just that, anxiety. Perhaps, 60 years from now, my grandchildren will be looking out their windows at a peaceful world, wondering what all the fuss was about. I hope so. One thing is for sure: if and when God’s judgement comes in an even more obvious manner, we will have earned it. Might we spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our neighbors so they will instead turn to God and live! 

In a Small Church, Every Person Matters

Evan McClanahan

I am a big believer in the small church. Not just the Church in general, which, of course, holds the answers to life’s most important questions. But the small church, in particular. In fact, I think the small church is pretty much the way that church was supposed to be. While big churches can offer some wonderful programs and have more resources to host big events, famous speakers, and more niche ministries, small churches have closer ties, a more familial atmosphere, and less of an institutional feeling.

Calling them “institutional” is not an insult. Pastors of large churches will tell you that they need to become better managers with better understanding of institutional thinking and processes than small church pastors. Their staffs, ministries, and even sermons will change in a large church environment. Most pastors of large churches will spend their time with the staff, or even the executive staff, rather than the parishioners. That is a necessity of the demands of an institution.

Small churches are more like families. Eccentricities are highlighted. Spats are not hidden. And while the stress of running an institution is not felt, the stress of maintaining as a small church is often more acute. Budgets are tight. Small crowds make people nervous. Especially in the wake of 2020, where church attendance was halted, small churches are feeling the pinch. 

In 2019, more churches closed than opened, and that was before Covid’s dampening. Since then, churches have seen fewer people and less giving. In Harris County, church attendance is down (or was as of a year ago) 22%. Over half of Americans never or seldom attend church and only 22% attend weekly. For the first time, well, ever, less than half of those in England call themselves “Christian.” Those are all quite sobering statistics! 

Which is all to say that you really matter! As a member of First Lutheran, I want you to know that you are so very important to the life and future of First Lutheran. If you ever encounter existential dread, if you ever wonder if you matter, if you ever doubt your contribution, if you ever feel unimportant…I assure you that you are a vital part of your congregation! 

In a small church, every person really matters. When you are present, it makes a difference. When you are gone, you are missed. (By the way, if you are out of town on a Sunday, try to visit a small church. They will appreciate the encouragement!) Every act of service, every dollar given, every time you commune, every time you attend even the social events…they all matter. They are all important. 

Now, I understand that not everyone is called to or appreciates that kind of pressure. Large churches offer a lot more anonymity and less personal commitment. If you attend a few times a year or can’t make it to the social events, there is still enough others who will. But for those who want to be known by name and who want to be sure that the life they are living and the time they are giving matters, hey, there is no doubt of that reality in a small church. 

I wrote about this a few years back here, so pardon me if I am being repetitive. But I just wanted to say again that I am incredibly thankful for all who can attend. Please keep it up! 

The Rise and Fall of Fanboy Christianity 

Evan McClanahan

I am angry. I have just finished listening to a a podcast that was ubiquitous among clergy in 2021, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. It took me a while to get to it as I was trying to resist the train wreck nature of it all. Alas, I succumbed. The podcast tells the story of a very hot property, a church called Mars Hill in Seattle, Washington. The church is named after Paul’s debate with the Athenians at the Areopagus (the Latin version being “Mars Hill”) in Acts 17. 

Mars Hill’s controversial pastor, Mark Driscoll, seemed too good to be true: he was a great teacher and preacher, his conservative church in liberal Seattle was booming, and he was getting the most coveted demographic of all back to church: men in their 20s and 30s. It turns out, though, that he was too good to be true. Almost overnight, a church with thousands of members, fifteen locations, and the biggest name to come out of Generation X, closed its doors. Plagued by scandals and awash in revelations that were previously  buried, Mars Hill could not bear the weight of its past sins.

So why am I angry? Why should I care? After listening to all of the sad tales of the members and staff, and considering the way it was presented by Christianity Today, I am reminded that we just cannot help ourselves when it comes to chasing the shiny new thing. And it makes me sick. It occurs to me that there have been some wise, prudent, and faithful men and women who, through the centuries, have discovered some “best practices” when it comes to church planting and maintenance. And yet, we will throw all of that away if a man can gather a crowd. That is shameful and dangerous. 

Perhaps those churches that have developed those best practices are kind of stale and boring at times. Lutherans come to mind. And certainly, even wonderful traditions don’t always keep congregations, pastors, and denominations from straying or lurching into apostasy. But to those who have been terribly wounded by a spiritually abusive leader, who lied and yelled and plagiarized his way to the top, there is a part of me that wants to say, “You know, someone empowered this guy. Sometimes sat back as he broke the rules. And someone – or a group of someones – was unwilling to be content with the wisdom of previous generations.” And when good people do those sorts of things, this is what happens. 

Since I’m sure most of you have not listened to the podcast, I will try to only speak in generalities. But to lay just enough groundwork: Mars Hill was founded in 1996 and closed its doors in 2014. Her lead pastor was known for a particularly masculine approach to ministry and he frequently challenged young men to take on the responsibilities of manhood. He routinely crossed the line for what was appropriate to say in sermons, and while some of his biblical preaching I’m sure was just fine, his crassness and paternalism were way out of bounds. 

I was familiar with the rise and fall of Mars Hill long before the 2021 podcast. I listened to a number of discernment podcasts that were dubious of the growth of Mars HIll and the antics of its pastor. They delighted in pointing out his egomaniacal and destructive actions while they called people to stop chasing celebrities and trust in Christ. Still, the podcast goes into a lot of detail and interviews a lot of people who were there. And it was all far worse than I could have imagined. 

Not because Mark Driscoll was a mere 1-talent man or because he was always wrong. Quite the contrary. Indeed, the podcast would have benefited from some better theological reflection that defends some of Driscoll’s views and critiques of the late 1990’s church. But CT is too leftist for that kind of assessment, so the whole tenor of the podcast is one of weeping regret, the very kind of sentiment that gave rise to Mars Hill in the first place. 

Driscoll could have been a great gift to the church if his character had been shepherded by a structure and mentors and used for good. But he lacked grace and balance. He also lacked boundaries. Not unlike full-on cult leaders, he pushed and pulled everyone in his orbit, using and abusing people like sherpas while he climbed to the top of the mountain. By the end, he forgot that he was supposed to preach Christ and not himself. But by the time the monster was out of the cage, he had a megachurch and a media empire that was the goose that laid the golden eggs. By then, he was untouchable. The only way off that train was to wait for it to crash. 

And that is what is so maddening. How frustrating it can be to labor with modesty, in a careful structure, adhering to a liturgy precisely to avoid these kinds of pitfalls, only to see immature men be lauded as saviors of the Church. How frustrating it is to refuse to appeal to man’s baser instincts only to see those who do attract crowds. How frustrating it is to try to do everything right by Christ, trusting in the process and the Word, only to see those who care not a wit about the rules build up, deceive, and then destroy souls. 

And without wanting to blame the victims – for the staff and membership of Mars Hill are clearly made out to be victims in the podcast – those who insist on worshiping celebrities rather than Christ really do have themselves to blame. Jesus warns us about false prophets and Paul clearly lays out the standards for elders and deacons. But that was ignored in the bright light of a 10-talent man. Should we really blame a toxic egomaniac for gathering a following by any means necessary? I don’t. I blame those who followed him, so bored and discontent as they were with God’s plainly-taught Word. 

And even if this is a story you don’t know, I assure you it impacts you. For every time one of these celebrity pastors rises and falls, he brings down more than just his own church. He brings distrust to the whole of the Christian Church. He confirms the bias that we are all hypocrites. He feeds the fires of ecclesiastical discontent. And in the past several years, many of these pastors have fallen, due to financial indiscretion, staff abuse, addiction, or sexual impropriety. Here’s a list of just a few: Perry Noble, Ravi Zacharias, James McDonald, Bill Hybels, Carl Lentz, and Brian Houston. And that is just the past 5 or so years. 

To those of you who attend and support a faithful congregation, even if is boring and routine at times, thank you. Thank you for not demanding the danger of a celebrity, of not needing the edge of acceptability to constantly be pushed. Thank you for being content with God’s Word being carefully, even if imperfectly, considered in our current context. Thank you for not demanding your pastor to become “the next” fill-in-the-blank superstar. 

Your faithfulness ensures that those congregations that have the patience and wisdom to preach the Word “in season and out” wil endure. No, we may never build an empire and our books may never (fraudulently) end upon the New York Times bestseller list. But we won’t crash and burn tomorrow, either, making unbelievers of past fans and proving the scoffers right.

To all Christians in the meantime, please be mindful. Be aware of megalomaniacs who find their way into pulpits. The moment they refuse accountability, move on. Recent history tells us it will only get worse. 

Sermon for Pentecost 17, Luke 17:5-10

Pastor Evan McClanahan

Many thanks to Pastor Richard Johnson for filling in for me very last minute after a positive Covid test meant I should stay home on Sunday. I did prepare a sermon earlier in the week, however, and may as well share it here. It shares many of the same themes as Pastor Johnson’s excellent sermon.

Our short reading from Luke 17 this morning really contains two different teachings. A reading that also included the first four verses of chapter 17 would contain three teachings. Sometimes, the Gospel authors record a story or parable about Jesus in great detail. But sometimes, the teachings of Jesus are gathered as collections of pithy statements. This is one such collection.

So, if one tried to find a unified theme to tie them all together, one would have a hard time. The first four verses deal with the reality of sin and the penalty for leading someone into sin. The next few verses speak of the faith needed to forgive the sins of others. And the final verses speak to the reality of our being servants of God and our call to duty.

Perhaps if there is one theme that is common in all of these verses, it is freedom. And that’s a good thing because freedom is one of our favorite topics. We love little more than being told that we have it, that we were born for it, that it is a God-given right. Many a time I have argued that because we are made in God’s image, we can rightly defend political and economic freedom for ourselves.

The only problem is that this text is not about our freedom, but our lack of it. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Yes, we can make a strong case for the freedom of the human person, situated in civilization among a collection of believers and unbelievers alike. But everything Jesus says in Luke 17 is “in-house.” It is for those who follow Jesus. It is directed to his disciples. He is setting the standards and he is not merely making suggestions.

His first command does not quite make it into our reading, but it is probably familiar to you. If your brother sins and repents, forgive him seven times. (Elsewhere Jesus says to Peter to forgive seventy-seven times!) The disciples immediately recognize just how difficult this will be, so they ask Jesus for more faith. Faith, indeed, is what they will need to forgive so many times. In a world defined only by power and/or money – which I would argue the non-Christian world is – this notion of forgiving so often is beyond radical. The disciples rightly perceive it as impossible.

And they are not wrong. On our own, forgiveness like this would be impossible. Sometimes, perhaps all the time, forgiveness requires supernatural intervention. And Jesus admits as much. The allusion to the mulberry tree is that such a tree was known to have very deep roots. For it to be uprooted and moved to the sea would have been unimaginable. And that is the point. The kind of life to which the disciple is called is unimaginable without the Spirit of God.

That is why church is not a time of self-empowerment, but Spiritual succor. Church is when we come battered and bruised, convinced that we just can’t or don’t want to do this anymore. And in Word and Sacrament a powerful and loving God comes to us and says, “Yes you can.” With even a little faith, trees can be uprooted, and you can forgive as you have been forgiven.

No, the disciples of Christ do not come into the possession of telepathy. This is not about the movement of distant, foreign objects. No, that is actually quite easy compared to this kind of forgiveness. This is about putting Christ first in such a radical way that even your rightful hurts, your justified grudges, vanish when compared to the glory and mercy of God. That is even more of a miracle that a tree being planted into the sea.

But Jesus isn’t done speaking about our loss of freedom. Jesus tells a parable about a servant who, after a very long and hard and hot day of plowing and shepherding, is told to come inside and serve the master dinner. Jesus puts his hearers in the place of the master, using rhetoric to illustrate how silly it would be to have a servant and invite him to recline while you still have every right to be served.

So, no the servant’s work is not yet done, even if he has been working in the field for you all day. He, even in the evening, indeed, until the very end of the day, must work for the master. And even after all of that honorable hard work, the servant should not expect a “Thank you” from his master. Rather, he will merely receive his food and drink having done his duty.

Well, if the Babylon Bee parody videos about Millennials applying for jobs are accurate at all, we are, as a culture, very far from this description of doing one’s duty. In this video, the applicant intends to roll into work at 10 am, have a gourmet coffee bar and other perks at her disposal, leave early after doing about 2 hours of work, and get paid in abundance for the favor she provided.

Indeed, our culture is all about conferred value, not expected duty. Merely by existing, we believe we are owed the good life. And that is why we are foolish, as Christians, to think that without a radical humility taking hold of these entitled generations, they will want to have anything to do with a man who describes your life as one of service and duty. While our bodies may mature into an adult form, our souls can remain infantile forever. It is children who rebel against well-meaning parents with chants of “I don’t want to!” Or “You can’t make me!” If we dare say such things to God, then we are only proving that while we be grow taller or rounder, we remain petulant children.

Indeed, one of the things most often observed about Queen Elizabeth II was her understanding at a young age that her life would be about duty. While she didn’t labor in fields, she did labor under the constant scrutiny of her country and, she believed, God. It was almost like when she was buried, the commentators understood that what had also died was that sense of duty, too. For even though we cherish it from afar, we don’t have the will anymore to live up to that standard. It is not said, but it seems to be assumed, that her own children and some of her grandchildren – not to mention in-laws – do not share her sense of duty. She was a token of a past era, an era we want back in the abstract, but we aren’t willing to work hard enough to bring it back.

Yes, the only group of people who even may still possess this sense of duty to our monarchial God are Christians. Heck, it is right there in the first commandments of each table of the Law! The first commandment is to have no other Gods. The fourth commandment is to honor father and mother. So, I hate to be the bearer of bad news – but do I, really?! – but we are people of duty in a sea of entitlement.

Well, with all of that said, surely those words will have scared off even the most hopeful unbeliever, peering into our door to see what the Christians are up to. “Duty?! No thanks. Maybe next time!” And yet, this collection of Jesus’ pithy teachings ought to be set in the context of the whole story of Jesus. For Jesus himself served the Father as a willing Son, doing his duty which surely did not benefit Him, but you.

Yes, you are the recipient by faith through grace of our Lord’s perfect life and death on a cross. You are indeed an unworthy slave, but one who nonetheless can claim God’s grace and mercy for yourself through faith in Christ. You will not be saved by your duty, but by the duty perfectly performed by Jesus Christ, the duty of a sinless life and a sacrificial death. This is the master to whom we will come home to, late in the days of our life, having willfully and joyfully done our duty…a master who himself did not shy from dying for you that you might life forever, from becoming sin that you might be sinless, and from being hated by the world that you might live now in hope. If such a master is not worthy of our joyful duty, who is? Amen.

The Average Evangelical Is Far Less Evil Than You Think

An example of terribly misunderstanding the “average Evangelical.”

This week in Houston, an evicted tenant set an apartment complex on fire and then killed three residents as they sought escape. According to the CDC, “1 in 5 people in the U.S. had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) [in 2018].” And those who are supposed to be economic experts have embraced such foolhardy monetary policy that we will be enjoying stagflation for months, if not years, to come. I present these simply as examples of sin in a sinful world, easily avoidable sins at that. If only biblical prescriptions were followed…

But I am regularly told that the worst of all sinners, the least redeemable in our society, is the average Evangelical. They, after all, want to control other people and tell them what to do with their bodies. They disagree with the sexual revolution. They are judgmental and mean. Yes, it is they who are the problem! 

I suppose I can’t blame the non-Evangelical world for coming to that conclusion. Evangelicals are often known by their own media and news stories that, by definition, highlight the grossest, richest, and most extreme versions of Evangelicalism. After all, such Evangelicals are often the only ones proud enough to promote and rich enough to afford the airtime. I know there are hundreds of reports offered before and after elections by NPR and PBS who remind us Evangelicals tilted this or that election towards a dastardly conservative candidate. And on social media, there are, I’m sure, many who call themselves “Evangelicals” who misbehave in spectacular fashion, dragging all of us down to their gutter with them. 

So I, being an average Evangelical, wish to try to describe what an average Evangelical is actually like. (Much of this applies to faithful Roman Catholics as well. I’m only writing to what I know best.) I must do this, you see, because most Evangelicals will not do this for themselves. They will not defend themselves or draw attention to themselves. They will often practice the virtue of modesty; indeed that virtue is just built-in to how they see the world. And as many choose not to engage on social media, you won’t know what they are like unless you actually, you know, get to know them

But in case that requires too much work, I’ll make it real easy. For starters, as I said, most Evangelicals are modest. If you bothered to just read the New Testament (not to mention the Old), you cannot escape the constant teaching towards humility. The average Evangelical knows his choice is to be a Christian or to be arrogant. They won’t think much of themselves. Their clothing will be the mom jeans and dad sneakers of lore. They won’t wear designer clothes or drive expensive cars. They will leave in modest homes. 

And yet, they aren’t cheap. Indeed, most Evangelicals are charitable. Many tithe their income out of their own free will, but if they don’t tithe, they routinely hand over hundreds or thousands of dollars every month to promote the Gospel and other good causes. They give more on average than the non-religious. Per Philanthropy Roundtable: “Research by the Lilly School at Indiana University found Americans with any religious affiliation made average annual charitable donations of $1,590, versus $695 for those with no religious affiliation.”

The average Evangelical gives of themselves, too. They spend hours of their week in service of their church or other civic institutions. They may be involved in politics or little league or they may tend the community swimming pool or they may be the accountant for the HOA. The world is built on small, local not-for-profit institutions and I guarantee you that Evangelicals in their midst. For example, Pew found that “among Americans who attend services weekly and pray daily, 45 percent had done volunteer work during the previous week. Among all other Americans, only 27 percent had volunteered somewhere.” 

While Evangelicals do possess strong convictions (as we all do), I find that most of them are kind to a fault. That is, most are, in my experience, kind to the point of naïveté. Evangelicals are often more afraid of God’s judgement in dealing with a beggar than they are the beggar. We actually have to teach Christians to stop being so generous to beggars as it only perpetuates the cycle of poverty and/or drug dependance. While most Evangelicals have strong feelings on moral issues, the truth is that few of them would want to argue the point. And even if you lived a lifestyle that they totally opposed, most would still be kind to you. 

Most Evangelicals are patriotic, too. That used to be a good thing and, yes, it is true that there are some silly examples of Christian flag waving. Still, while Evangelicals works towards and in God’s Kingdom, they usually love their country and believe its best days are ahead. 

That is because Evangelicals are more optimistic and hopeful than the average bear. For example, “51% of practicing Christians stated they felt ‘optimistic about the future’ compared with 34 % (no faith) 37% (other faith).” Of course they are! They have a resurrection to look forward to! That is why many evangelicals are steady Eddies in their psychological outlook and demeanor. 

Now, it is true, that Evangelicals have strong feelings about social issues of our day. They vote accordingly and may engage in other kinds of activism accordingly. But since when is this a crime? Is not the purple-haired defender of abortion not equally passionate? 

The issue isn’t passion, but autonomy. The key difference between the Christian and the secularist is that the Christian believes these bodies are God’s and they are to be used for His pleasure and purposes. The autonomous person believes these bodies are ours and they are for our purpose and pleasure. There is no doubt that those views are irreconcilable, and therefore conflict will result. Therefore, the Evangelical is not a wild-eyed crazy who insists on telling everyone what to do with their bodies, but actually a defender of the body of the unborn, just as he or she would speak for all victims of crime. 

If you want to know what an average Evangelical is like, attend church, you know, once a decade. They will be far more boring and kind than you could ever imagine. But pinning our societies problems on them is the epitome of misplaced anger. The average Evangelical is a pillar of the community, truly salt, light, and leaven in a world that often seems out of control. 

Two Small – but Meaningful – Changes Coming to Our Liturgy

If you grew up Lutheran, or if you have been a member for long enough to be pretty familiar with the liturgy, then you know that our repeated words and actions have a cadence and ring to them. And you know that any change to that cadence will be noticed. It might even be awkward because we are so used to things as they are. One can imagine fumbling over words, (“Oh yeah, we are saying it this way now”) and giggles as we say the wrong thing at the wrong time. In the grand scheme of things, these are gnat-sized problems in a land of camels. 

But, words do communicate truths we claim to hold and I think two words in particular are not quite right in the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW). So I’m going to propose two changes. The first is in the Apostles’ Creed and the second is in the Words of Institution. The Apostles’ Creed, of course, we speak together. The Words of Institution are only spoken by the pastor, but they are no doubt followed closely by the congregation, so a change will be noticed. 

The change to the Apostles’ Creed I’m proposing is actually already mentioned as an option. It has to do with the line, “he descended to hell.” The LBW already includes the option, “to the dead” for “hell.” When I was a kid, I saw the asterisk, and I saw the optional line and I thought, “Oh, they put that option in for those who don’t like to say the word ‘hell’. Well, I’m not afraid to say it!” 

But actually, this particular line is a reference only to two texts and they are both debated. Here is 1 Peter 3:18-20 and Ephesians 4:8-9, both from the ESV. These are descriptions of what Jesus did after his crucifixion but before his bodily resurrection was discovered. Whether Jesus went to these places in his resurrected body or via spiritual existence only is unknown. But let me put the texts here before we go any further:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

Therefore it says,“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?) (Ephesians 4:8-9)

So, why did Jesus “descend”? The conventional thinking is that for all who lived and died before Jesus, Jesus went to the place of the dead (“Sheol” in Hebrew and “Hades” in Greek) to preach to them them that they may no longer be ignorant of God’s plan of salvation. And apparently his preaching worked because Ephesians says he “lead a host of captives” out! 

But did he go to “hell”? Well, this is the crux of the issue in the Apostles’ Creed. In general, I believe that heaven and hell are not yet fully realized because Jesus has not come again to judge the living and the dead. But there are places mentioned in the New Testament where I do believe people go upon death, namely Hades and Paradise. Jesus references Hades when he speaks of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man and he speaks of Paradise when he says to the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Some argue that Paradise and Heaven are the same place, and perhaps they are. But I don’t think so. Heaven and hell, properly speaking, are where we will all go at the time of judgement, when the sheep and the goats are separated.

Now, this journey to the underworld by Jesus will raise questions about how he traveled there. Did he do so as a spirit only or as a body and spirit? If you say he only went spiritually, then you get into the very nature of a person, any human person. Is a person a body and a soul, or can they exist apart from their body? (I think a complete person is a body and soul, but I do believe we can and will exist apart from our bodies upon our death as we await the resurrection.) If we say he went bodily, then that might change the timeline of what we tend to think about the resurrection. We tend to think Jesus was bodily resurrected on the third day, but if he went to the world of the dead in the flesh, then perhaps his resurrection took place earlier and it was only on the third day that his empty tomb was discovered.

I believe Jesus went to the place of the dead spiritually, and not bodily. God rested on the seventh day of creation as an act of blessing and consecrating what He had accomplished. “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:4, ESV) The death of Jesus ushered in the new creation and I believe that Saturday, his dead body mirrors the sabbath rest of God, consecrating the new creation. There is a symmetry I just can’t ignore, and remember that that Saturday was the only 24-hour period that Jesus was dead.

All of that said, in the Creed, I believe it is more correct to say that Jesus descended “to the dead.” And yes, this does have ramifications for how we understand the afterlife. For example, I do not say at funerals that someone is “in heaven” with Jesus. I will say they are “in Christ,” as Paul does. I believe those saved by Jesus are in Paradise upon their death, and when Jesus judges the world, they will enter the gates of a fully-realized heaven. Those to be damned are not in hell, but in Hades or Sheol. These are the kinds of realities we will better understand if we confess that even Jesus did not enter hell itself, but rather the place of the dead.

The second thing we say that merits consideration is, “He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people.’” The only problem with that is that Jesus did not say that. I did write an article about this when I was considering changing this language so for a more detailed read, go here. The fact of the matter is that those who assembled the LBW seemed to be uncomfortable with language that would suggest that Jesus died for “many” but not “all.” You may recall that one of our classic disagreements with our Calvinist friends is the “extent of the atonement”, i.e. whether Jesus died for all or for the elect. This seems to be building the Lutheran answer to the question into the liturgy.

But wherever one’s tradition comes down on that question, there are just no texts – in any translation I can find – where Jesus says those words. Using the most literal translation available (LEB), this is what the Bible says: 

Matthew 26:27-28
“…Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Mark 14:24-25
And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you that I will never drink of the fruit of the vine any longer until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

As I point out in the previous article, previous Lutherans hymnals all say “many” and the Greek word used (pollon) is always used to mean “many” and not “all.” These are the kinds of innovations that should be rejected. And even if the theology is defensible ultimately, it is not what the text says and those Lutherans were wrong to change it.

With all of that said – and I will offer reminders during the announcements – we will say that Jesus descended “to the dead” when we confess the Apostles’ Creed and I will say, quoting Jesus, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.” This essay is an explanation as to why and a reminder that it’s okay if we fumble over ourselves a bit as we make this adjustment.

It’s Time for Christians to Ignore the High Road

Evan McClanahan

In general, Christians agree that they should take the high road. It is the kind, civilized, and moral thing to do. We are to be peacemakers who should not look for opportunities to quarrel and just as our Lord went to the cross without complaint, so, too, should we suffer for doing what is right. This suffering is the path forward to personal holiness and, often, social change as well. Yes, when faced with the choices of getting into the muck and fighting dirty and rising above and being the bigger person, Christians almost always believe they should stay out of the mud. While they may lose the fight, they will have honored their Lord. 

I have already hinted at several teachings that would lead Christians to take the high road, but there are plenty more. Jesus tells his followers to turn the other cheek if slapped and to walk an extra mile if forced to walk one. He tells Peter that if he is to live by the sword, he will die by the sword. And he tells his disciples to think little of themselves, seeking not the honored seats but assuming nothing so others can honor you. It is impossible to miss the culture-forming teaching that Jesus offers: his followers are not to draw attention to themselves, but to honor Christ with their lives. 

In general, this can produce a wonderful, peaceful society, and, by and large, it has. It can also make Christians compliant. Maybe even too compliant. Because there is another side to the call to take the high road and that is the refusal to compromise our obedience to our God. For example, we are to “obey God rather than men” and post-New Testament era Christians remained faithful by not offering a pinch of incense of Ceasar, thus not admitting that “Caesar is Lord.” 

So, yes, take the high road. Also, there are limits. You have to know when going along with what those in power say is the right path is actually one you just cannot go down. And that will be hard because you will be guilted, shamed, and cajoled if you do not follow the popular path. Your history of taking the high road will be used against you and if you have not taught yourself to think clearly and critically about the issues of the day, your good intentions regarding the high road will be used against you. You will find yourself a pawn for the other side, and here you were, thinking the whole time, you were just doing what you were supposed to do.

So let’s put some meat on these bones. Let’s take an issue like poverty. Everyone is against poverty, right? But in the name of fighting poverty, governments can do some really dumb things with your tax dollars. Like waste them. So long as poverty exists anywhere, then there will always be Christians who believe that virtually anything and everything should be done to end it. “Hey, you aren’t going to oppose this $5 trillion spending bill that will give money to poor people? What kind of Christian would that make you?” 

But here is where Christians need to ignore this pretend high road. When a nation spends money it doesn’t have, that leads to social instability, inflation, and unease about the future. Christians should oppose debt-spending, even if it means saying something unpopular.

Or how about racism. Surely, no Christian would deny that racism exists in the way we are told it exists, and to what extent? Here again, the easy road to take, this perceived high road, would be above reproach because they would be agreeing with the conventional narrative. But what if agreeing with that actually leads to worse race relations in the long run and plays a role in accusing many of racism? I think that is closer to our reality. 

As we, apparently, face a redefinition of gender, again it will be pushed as the high road. “Surely you don’t want to do damage to people by denying them to identify with any gender?” In the name of doing good, pressure will be brought to bear onto Christians to go along with these changes. And while taking the high road is the usual Christian position, here we must say, “No. The world does not get to determine which road is high or not, because it lacks the standards to do so in the first place.” 

The pressure to conform is how the world will attempt to use Christian charity to get Christians to abandon their principles. It’s peer pressure among adults. It is how a decidedly non-Christian group of would-be rulers will try to get Christians to stand down. With a combination of perceived inevitability and “high road” rhetoric, the pressure will be heavy to get on board with new re-writing society along very different principles. Christians need to learn to say “No.” We won’t let the world determine the way forward, especially as they do so on such obviously un-Christian footing.

Theology Feels Like a Luxury These Days

Evan McClanahan

I know that theology matters. Really, I do. I know that what you believe shapes your actions and how you see the future. There are consequences to beliefs and there are horrible consequences to beliefs that are in opposition to reality. 

For example, since God exists, atheism is a false belief, and while to a person it does not always portent horrible immediate consequences, eventually atheism produces disastrous results for cultures and societies. Or the exalted view of what is now called “Scientism” will produce equally dire results as expert scientists leave their lane and enter into the world of morality, philosophy, or policy. In the words of Philosopher Tom Sorell, “Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture.” 

Scientism really has its roots in Modernism, or the basic belief that scientific knowledge alone can solve the world’s problems and answer our most perplexing questions. The aim of Modernism was to end the world being hostage to superstition and blind faith as it had been for, well, forever. Modernism may have offered some interesting architecture, but it fails as a worldview. Supernaturalism is a part of reality. Naturalism – or the belief that matter is all there is or ever was – has no legitimate defense because science can only answers questions limited to the natural world using a methodological process. 

With scientism and atheism (which often go together, of course) serving as two examples of false beliefs that have far-reaching consequences, I want to re-affirm that what we believe theologically really does matter. And because it matters, theological debates, disagreements, excommunications, and even wars have been the result of theological disagreement. And not even on the “big” issues of God’s existence or the Trinity. No, fellowship is cut off over disagreements about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the nature of the atonement, and more. 

Heck, even as I wrote those words, I am tempted to defend my understanding of all of those issues for I really do think they are important. But all of those topics really feel like luxuries these days. Perhaps I am letting the world’s events dictate my thinking too heavily, but it feels like we are in the midst of massive paradigm shifts all around: the Afghanistan debacle will have long-time fallout as our enemies will be empowered and our allies must be concerned; Covid and its mutations are not under control and the controversy about how to deal with it is only just beginning; public institutions (the media, public schools, the government) have sunk even lower in our minds, and there already wasn’t much room at the bottom; and the U.S. dollar continues to lose import the world over which could trigger a financial crisis the likes of which we have never seen. And as I said in a sermon recently, that is on top of our ongoing fights against the horrors of abortion, the redefinition of marriage and gender, and a racial reckoning that never seems to end (!). 

In the midst of all of that, what is the role of theology? Should we even worry about these historic ideas from scripture that both define us and divide us? Or do we hit the pause button and fight the fights of today because their emergent nature demands our attention? Is it a dereliction of duty to talk theology in seasons of intense change or to avoid theology in those seasons? 

Well, I will say that if theology matters at all, it should say something to the moment we are in. And that means the Church should speak to the moment we are in as well, only being careful to get beneath the politics (i.e. get to the heart of the true motivations) of any one issue and see the larger issue at hand. So yes, I can imagine the discourse of your average congregation being less abstractly theological or less about our little quarks as Lutherans or Presbyterians or Methodists and being more like, “Hey things are changing fast and this is what the Church has to say about it.” 

Without reaching for obvious hyperbole, imagine being a Lutheran pastor in 1930s Germany. I own – and have read much of this period – Bonhoeffer’s complete works, so it isn’t hard to get a sense of what it was like. It was a time of rapid change and government exertion that did not allow for the usual theological discourse. The Church had to act; it had to say something about what was going on. Meat had to be put on the bones of “love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” At some point, application kicks in and theological debates are shelved or limited for a few decades. 

Then, during times of relative peace and prosperity, you can debate again the nuances of our shared faith. For example, we tend to think of, say, the 1950s and 1990s as relatively peaceful. Look up, for example, what the major headlines of any day in 1994 were. It was, all in all, a pretty mild year. During days such as those, we can argue about egalitarianism or election. Even issues that critical feels, well, almost out of place. 

And yet, even when we are tempted to leave theology behind, we need to remember that theology shapes the future. All beliefs are theological beliefs, because every belief you hold assumes your views about the nature of reality. And if God exists or if you believe in false gods or if you think you are a god, then that will impact what you believe in the future. And what you – and others – believe, will shape the world in which you live. So as hard as it may be, we still need to put the newspaper (or the virtual newspaper) down from time and time and just exegete Biblical passages, review our confessions, and continue to teach our children the basic truths of Christianity. 

To stop teaching theology and Bible would definitely give way to the future that the enemies of Christianity desire. Indeed, it could easily be argued that the reason we are in the situation we are in today is because the Church stopped teaching good theology in those peaceful decades and we stopped forming future leaders in the right way. 

So yes, somedays theology feels like a luxury. But if we want to avoid those days in the future, it is a present necessity.

Four Ways Wokeism is Incompatible with Christianity

Evan McClanahan

The ideas of the French Revolution live on.

Well, I’ll be honest. I really do not want to write this article. I would rather do a light devotion on a biblical passage or talk about an immediate concern at the Church. But, for my own clarity of thought, and so you know exactly where I am coming from, I felt the need to lay out a case as to why a “woke” ideology is incompatible with Christian theology. “Woke” is clearly not a passing fad, but a way of seeing the world that is the default standard for Hollywood, the academy, corporate America, the media, and a healthy minority of regular, everyday Americans. And as I see that way of seeing the world coming into conflict with a Christian way of seeing the world, I wanted to lay out the differences.

I should define some terms. As you know, “woke” is a reference to one becoming aware of all manner of historical justices, and then usually committing oneself to the cause of righting those wrongs. The term seems to reference past racial sins and their continuing effects more than anything else, but “woke” can be a bit of a grab bag in which other concerns can be added. Probably next on the list would be LGBT concerns with the “T” getting the bulk of the attention these days. Phrases like “systemic racism,” “white supremacy,” and movements like “defund the police” have become conventional thinking in light of the woke movement. 

And certainly, every Christian should be both aware of and ashamed of a past which does include Christians using the Bible to justify slavery and segregation. Of course, the Bible can be and has been used to justify almost anything in the wrong hands, and the Bible was also used to justify the abolition of slavery and the end of segregation. So a growing awareness and recognition of historical racism, sexual oppression, and/or police-state evils is not a bad thing. 

The disagreement comes in what we do next. Do we use our Christian theology to address those past sins and maintain a moral framework around other issues in the “woke” grab bag? Or we do throw Christianity off as a legitimate option for help because, actually, Christianity has contributed or even caused all of the past evils to begin with. As strange as it might seem for us to believe that anyone would really believe that, they do. And it is not historically unprecedented. Any number of national movements that were utopian in nature (basically a whole variety of socialist dream states) have had to argue that the bonds of the past must be erased to start fresh and “get it right this time.” 

The French Revolution was nothing short of a proto-marxist movement that sought to erase history and start all over. Gone was the 7-day week and instituted instead was the 10-day week. Guillotines murdered priests and nobility by the thousands. Notre Dame became a Humanist temple. The revolutionaries will always have the advantage of historical wrongs to point to (because what else would you expect from a sinful humanity with all of history as a backdrop?) as they make promises they can’t keep. 

So here are four ways in which “wokeism” – to the extent that phrase applies to each of these ideas – is incompatible with Christianity. These are not ideas that can snuggle up to Christianity and work together for some undefinable common good. Because they will employ different yardsticks for what the common good even is or how to achieve it, a choice will have to be made. And because those under 40 are dramatically influenced by the institutions mentioned above – you know, the ones that have all become woke – Christianity will either become an ardently defended worldview or will be seen as the cause of our problems. 

1. Charges of “white supremacy” and “systemic racism” may be rhetorically brilliant, but they are at odds with biblical understandings of guilt and innocence. To be woke means you have come to accept that America is defined by the sin of slavery above all else, and it is through the prism of slavery that all of American history is to be understood. American whites have benefited from that racism and that is the reason for such disparate inequalities and inequities in our society. 

Certainly, there have been historic wrongs specifically tied to race in America. But is white supremacy the default position of every white person in America, and is denying that reality for oneself actually proof that one is a white supremacist? No. The bottom line is that we are to judge racists and racism the same across all racial lines and we are to assume the best about our neighbor until we see otherwise. Anything less is just un-Christian as it paints with far too broad a brush to avoid bearing false witness. And Christianity offers an historic and biblical path forward even in the wake of ethnic conflict. Constant recrimination about sins that the current generation has not perpetuated will only foster conflict. Christianity has the ability to actually broker peace. 

2. Transgenderism makes a mockery of biology, logic, and faith. It is amazing that the moment someone claims to be the other gender, we all are asked to walk in lockstep and agree. But transgenderism is simply impossible on a Christian worldview and a denial that God made us either male or female. Gender is a part of who we are in our totality and in the details. It is in our genes, our DNA, our bone structure, muscle mass, and of course, ability to procreate. We do not possess the right to determine our gender any more than we can determine our ethnicity, and we do not posses the right to tell God that He is wrong. As “dead-naming” legislation becomes a thing and as parents are losing the right not to transform their children, you will have to choose between the woke transgender revolution or the biblical teaching on gender, no matter the consequences. 

3. De-stabalizing civic protection is not loving your neighbor. The “defund the police” movement seems to have already run its course given its massive unpopularity. And yet it is a window into the woke soul. At the heart of the woke movement is a profoundly un-Christian anthropology. Christians believe we are sinful by nature and need a savior. That not only constrains our behavior, but it makes all the sense in the world to endorse systems that constrain sin (police, a justice system, laws, etc.) But non-Christians often assume we are good by nature and can build a perfect world if left to our own devices. That will lead to more common calls for the destabilization of institutions like the police, and that will only lead to more victimization of the oppressed who rely on police protection. 

4. Two wrongs do not make a right. The subject of reparations for past injustices is obviously controversial, but it is not defensible in a practical or moral sense. Biblically, we are responsible for our own wrongs, not the wrongs of others in our ethnic category in the past. And if you want to see how remaking a country using the lens of equity works out, look at what is happening to South Africa. Rather than moving forward, that country is degenerating into anarchy. Slavery and segregation were wrong. So is punishing those and rewarding those who had nothing to do with those institutions. 

I write this because wokeism really does represent an entirely different way of seeing the world. To evangelize the woke, we first need to understand that it isn’t just the end results (as listed above) that we differ on. We differ on our understanding of nature and realty and God’s existence and our need to be obedient to Him. In the end, wokeism is just another form of rebellion against the way God has ordered and ordained the world. But it is nothing less than that. These are not just political differences. These are differences that have their origin in seeing the world in light or God’s presence or His absence. So beware of adopting this language in the name of Christianity, for what is incompatible at the outset is incompatible later, too.