Are White Evangelicals Guilty Of Assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr?

Five Easter BabiesI’ve spent all week trying to articulate how Christians should respond to racism. I’m not certain I’ve done the greatest job of handling this topic. Most of the time, I’ve felt as if I was trying to put pantyhose on an octopus.  As I remarked Monday, writing on racial issues as a white woman pretty much sets me up for accusations of racism, white privilege and any other invectives liberals might care to hurl my direction.

So I worked hard at my attempts to acknowledge that American blacks have suffered mistreatment. That mistreatment sometimes affects their perception, causing them to cast unfair judgments such as when the young man in the nursing home bit my head off for calling him “boy.” I continued by arguing that I am grieved and embarrassed because of actions that my great-great-grandfather and my grandmother took, but that God doesn’t hold me responsible for their sins.

I’ll add today that, regardless of Thabiti Anyabwile’s demand that white evangelicals repent of our complicity in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (please, I was only 14 at the time!), such demands are unbiblical and unnecessarily divisive. It both puzzles and saddens me that Anyabwile, a prominent figure in Reformed circles, would write something so opposed to the foundations of the Protestant Reformation.

In requiring that white evangelicals repent of our parents’ and grandparents’ supposed participation in King’s assassination, Anyabwile seems to ignore basic Gospel teaching. Those evangelicals who are truly saved (and my regular readers know that many evangelicals are false converts) have experienced complete forgiveness at the cross.

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. ~~Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV)

Certainly, we must daily confess and repent of sins we commit after the Lord saves us, but Jesus paid the penalty even for those. If we’ve engaged in racist attitudes and/or behaviors, by all means we should repent! You can be sure I’ll never call a young black male “boy” again!

Yet even in our sorrow over sin, we mustn’t wallow in guilt.  Continual penance looks back to Roman Catholicism and its endless efforts to remain in a state of grace. Worse, repenting for the sins of ancestors, grandparents and parents for their roles in slavery, Jim Crow laws and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. seems all too reminiscent of buying Indulgences to free loved ones from Purgatory.

Has Anyabwile forgotten that we can’t atone for our own sins, much less the sins of our parents and grandparents?  If so, he has forgotten why the Reformation happened in the first place! I would hope that he would go back into church history and brush up on Martin Luther and the 95 thesis.

And as long as he is studying history, I suggest that he think about Martin Luther King’s Dream  Speech. Rather than holding white evangelicals accountable for King’s assassination, perhaps he should see us as individuals. Perhaps he should judge us, not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our individual characters.

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How To Combat Spiritual Erosion In 21st Century Churches

ancient-church-01Between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017, I devoted almost every Tuesday to blogging about the Protestant Reformation. Since October 31, I’ve said little about the matter, largely because the 500th anniversary had passed and everyone has moved on to other topics.

Admittedly, in a culture that finds history boring, trying to write a weekly column about 16th Century church history left me frustrated and exhausted. The release from the year-long project emancipated me to write whatever I felt like writing on Tuesdays, and I thoroughly enjoyed my sudden freedom from researching the various aspects of the period and its implications. Also, it was nice attracting more readers on Tuesdays.

But I wonder, now that October 31, 2017 has passed and we’ve found new bandwagons to jump on, if anyone really gained an appreciation for the Reformation. Have we learned to value the Scriptures that plunged so many Reformers into martyrdom? Have we understood why we must reject the teachings of Roman Catholicism in favor of returning to the Word of God? In short, have all the celebrations in 2017 meant much to evangelicals?

This morning I picked up the September/October 2017 issue of Modern Reformation magazine, which prompted my thinking about the Protestant Reformation. While I have no desire to revert to weekly blog posts about the Reformation, I realized that I shouldn’t abandon the topic either. Many of the problems in 21st evangelicalism, I believe, stem from ignorance of and indifference to the Reformation.

Specifically, present-day evangelicals tend to downplay the importance of doctrine, claiming that doctrine destroys unity. Well, it does — Martin Luther would be the first to tell you that! However, do Christians cherish unity over and above God’s Word? Luther didn’t. He entered the Diet of Worms fully expecting to face execution because he couldn’t bend Scripture to accommodate Rome’s extrabiblical teachings. He, along with other Reformers throughout Europe and England, demonstrated that doctrine mustn’t ever be jettisoned simply to keep the peace.

I’m under no illusions that any of the Reformers were perfect. Luther, in later years, developed ghastly anti-semeticism that, 400 years afterwards, Adolph Hitler further distorted and exploited. Obviously,  we can’t place even the most heroic Reformers on pedestals. Only Christ deserves such adulation!

But I strongly believe that we need to both understand and emulate their devotion to Biblical doctrine, even if our devotion divides us from professing Christians who mix God’s Word with human religion. We look back to the Protestant Reformation, not as history geeks, but as its progeny. Its great lessons promise protection against the false teaching that could once again remove the Gospel from the visible church.

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The Unusual American Tolerance Of Christian Values

ConstitutionIf you take the Bible seriously, people have most likely branded you as a narrow-minded bigot. That accusation hurts, doesn’t it? After all,  we live in a culture that celebrates the tolerance of sin and false religion, but is markedly intolerant of Biblical Christianity. Astonishingly, many American Christians are surprised by this animosity. They forget that Jesus told His disciples point blank that the world would reject us because it rejects Him.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~~John 15:18-19 (ESV)

To understand why American Christians struggle with the current hostility towards Christianity, we should briefly look back on our history. New England was first settled by Puritans, who sought to establish a land that held to Biblical precepts. 150 years later, people already deviated from Puritan doctrine, but they continued to adhere to many Christian principles when framing our new nation. John Adams famously declared:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

The 19th Century further eroded Christianity in the United States with the advent of liberal theology and cults like Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism. Yet Americans still largely embraced Christian values and revered the Bible at least as a moral standard. Though the first half of the 20th Century brought a little more spiritual erosion, open hostility towards Christianity only gained momentum after the 1960s.

The momentum accelerated in our present century, and pretty much doubled when the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in all 50 states.  Older Christians, remembering days when America still respected Christian values to a certain extent, feel puzzled by recent challenges to religious liberties.

Although America’s Christian foundations began crumbling even before the Declaration of Independence was written, most Americans regarded Biblical principles as noble and desirable until the last decade. Therefore the open hatred of Christianity shocks us.

We’re shocked because our American experience insulates us from knowing how Biblical Christians have suffered persecution throughout history. My 2017 Tuesday posts on the Protestant Reformation give a small glimpse into some of that persecution. If we understood that Christians have been hated throughout the 2000 years since our Lord’s crucifixion, maybe we’d realize that God mercifully gave us 300 years of tolerance before allowing us to suffer for His sake.

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Saturday Sampler: February 18 — February 24

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Whether you’re a busy mom or a career woman with a demanding schedule, Bible study is probably difficult for you. Abbey Wedgeworth of Unlocking the Bible offers a workable solution with The 3-5 Method: Studying God’s Word When You’re Busy and Tired. I think you’ll like her approach.

Writing for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Cameron Cole explains Why Youth Ministry in 2018 Needs a Reformation by reminding us of the Five Solas. His insight encourages me to hope that other youth directors will latch on to his ideas and lead teenagers to solid understandings of the Gospel.

What Does it Mean to Abide in Christ? Writing on behalf of Ligonier, Sinclair Ferguson extricates the concept of abiding in Christ from the mysticism that so many evangelicals attach to it. Praise God for this simple, Biblical explanation of this frequently misunderstood idea.

SharaC has an interesting essay in Into the Foolishness of God for those of us who keep thinking life should be perfect. Picking The Weeds recalibrates our expectations gently, but firmly.

Over on Study – Grow – Know, Fred Deruvo writes an intriguing study on Colossians 1:16 called Behold Your God: The Only Creator. His study is the second installment of a series on Colossians 1:15-20, where is one of my very favorite passages in the Bible. See how Deruvo applies this verse to Christian living.

I just knew I could count on Leslie A to write something in Growing 4 Life worth sharing in Sampler. Her Learn to Discern: What is the Best Way to Share What I Am Learning? certainly doesn’t disappoint! I needed to read this piece five years ago. Thankfully, she’s written it now, and I can continue learning godly ways to communicate the truth.

Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women has a beautiful heart for pastors. Her post, A Word Fitly Spoken: 11 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor, supplies several easy ideas for letting our pastors know how deeply we appreciate their ministry. Why don’t you try one out tomorrow?

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A 2017 Retrospective You May Not Expect

Medieval TowerOnce again, presumably to increase traffic to their blogs, bloggers have been producing their Top Ten lists of their most popular articles of 2017. Once again, I’ve decided not to follow suit.

For a while this week I considered compiling a list of the five blog posts I believe were my most important this past year. Although the one I considered the most important happened to be far and away the most popular essay in the history of The Outspoken TULIP, for the most part the pieces I really wanted people to read received the lowest amount of views. If I listed them here, I doubt readers would be any more attracted to them now than they were when I originally published them.

I felt particularly disappointed that my year-long series on the Protestant Reformation didn’t interest many readers. Granted, I remained indifferent to that point in history for many years myself. In writing those articles, I guess I forgot how long it took for the Lord to wake me up to the monumental significance of what the Holy Spirit accomplished through Luther, Calvin, Tyndale and others in the 16th Century. Therefore I felt impatient with readers who didn’t share my newfound passion for the Reformation.

Since October 31, I’ve pretty much backed away from writing about the Reformation, largely because I know that people are even less interested in it now that the 500th anniversary has passed. Certainly, my posts since then have drawn more views. If I had any business sense, I’d get the hint that people want to read about discernment and longings of physically disabled women more than about old dead guys standing for the recovery of Biblical doctrine.

But if pragmatism is a major cancer in the 21st Century church, surely Christian blogs dare not practice pragmatism in determining content. I wish more people would read my Reformation posts instead of posts that they think might offer some juicy gossip.

As I’ve said before, we can learn the most about discernment through studying the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers teach us how learning and properly applying Scripture leads to true discernment. Although we might think that the Reformation, being 500 years behind us, can be tucked away with our high school history books, the truth is that we desperately need its lessons.

This week, bloggers are presenting retrospective lists looking back on 2017. And that’s entirely appropriate. But for Christians, isn’t it even more appropriate to look back to the Protestant Reformation for instruction on how to discern sound doctrine? I hope you’ll read some of the essays I wrote about the Reformation this past year (click “The Reformation” link in my Categories index). I’d much rather you read some of these articles than my Top Ten posts.

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The Boring Way To Develop Discernment

Stained Glass WindowDuring October 2017, you couldn’t go online without seeing multiple blog posts about the Protestant Reformation. Actually, some of us started writing about it much earlier, hoping to build excitement (or at least interest) among evangelicals. We did so primarily because most professing evangelicals fail to appreciate — or even understand — the differences between Protestant theology and Roman Catholicism.

Many evangelicals simply don’t care. They prefer to minimize the importance of doctrine in favor of finding common ground with Catholics.

Even deeper, many evangelicals follow the wider culture’s general disdain for history. Having suffered through a Medieval History class in college with a professor who spoke in a monotone, I do see why people believe history is boring. His class bored me, and I marveled at the history majors who constantly raved about that professor. I suspect many people assume history is boring because they’ve also endured history teachers like that.

The predominate boredom with history frustrated me as I blogged about the Protestant Reformation week after week. By October 31st, I found myself feeling relieved that the 500th anniversary had passed. I looked forward to writing on more popular topics that might attract more readers.

I  wonder if other bloggers felt the same relief. It wouldn’t surprise me.

But I think folding up the Reformation and packing it away until next October 31st might do a great disservice to the body of Christ. Instead of bowing to the prevailing indifference to church history, we need to encourage our fellow evangelicals to understand why the 16th Century Reformers (not to mention Reformers before them) risked their lives to draw people back to God’s Word.

Professing Christians have once again moved away from the Word of God. That’s why they gravitate to popular teachers like Beth Moore and Joel Osteen. Interestingly, people who consider themselves to be discerning gravitate to blogs that expose these false teachers. And, in moments of weakness, I find myself writing articles that allow me to plunk Beth Moore’s name in the title, knowing that doing so will attract readers.

I wish that those who so eagerly seek to be discerning realized that the Protestant Reformation was the greatest example of discernment in Christian history. If anyone really wants to learn principles of discernment, the Reformation definitely offers the quintessential starting place. Why? Precisely because each and every one of the Reformers went back to Scripture. Many suffered martyrdom for their insistence on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

The hoopla over the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has given way to blog posts about celebrity sex scandals, Thanksgiving and now Christmas. The pressure to convince postmodern evangelicals that the actions of a German monk in 1517 have any serious meaning as we approach 2018 has subsided, liberating us to blog about subjects that readers crave.

Except we need, more than ever, to remember the Reformation, with its passion to bring God’s people back to His Word. Maybe I won’t blog about the Reformation every week, but I will most assuredly keep it before you, praying that you’ll understand its relationship to Biblical discernment. Hopefully you’ll begin to see how the Reformers teach us to evaluate popular teachers against God’s Word.

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Saturday Sampler: November 19 — November 25

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Thanksgiving has passed, but the holiday season is just ramping up! You might want to read Michelle Lesley’s 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays for some practical evangelism ideas. I am planning on implementing #10 myself.

For an intriguing approach to Bible reading, consider Why You Should Live in the Psalms by Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another. I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll try his suggestions, but it definitely captures my interest. See what you think.

Obviously, bloggers this week focus quite a bit on Thanksgiving. Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life writes about the topic from an interesting angle in her blog post, Freezing Out Fear. It’s shorter than most of her posts, but it’s no less powerful.

The holidays can certainly bring out the best and the worst in us, can’t they? In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Melissa Krueger illustrates how A Beautiful Table and a Bitter Heart can dishonor the Lord.

Continuing her very convicting series on “acceptable” sins, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised gives us Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Selfishness. She makes points about this particularly damaging sin that I’d never considered, and her perspective might challenge you a little as well. The entire series is definitely worth your time!

We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation nearly a month ago, but let’s not suppose that we can move on to other things and forget all about it. Equip, a blog out of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, features Stephen J. Wellum’s article entitled Are the Five Solas Biblical? We all need this refresher.

Pastor Gabe Hughes examines the recent #Churchtoo campaign on Twitter that intends to indict Christian churches for allowing (if not encouraging) sexual harassment and assault. His article, #Churchtoo: Confronting Sexual Abuse in the Church…And How Not To Do It, looks at the sin of sexual abuse from a Biblical perspective rather than as a reason to discredit Christianity.

Writing for Common Slaves, Joe Reed offers an extended quotation in Doctor’s Orders: Lloyd-Jones on obsession with polemics. If you can’t get enough of “discernment ministry,” you might do well to read this one.

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