I am trying to be charitable, so I do not intend to throw around words like lazy, or cowardly. But is it just me or are a lot of pastors gullible?
The ongoing issue at hand is the “deconstructors.” as I just said this is an ongoing issue, so obviously growing that The Gospel Coalition actually got it’s act together and published front and center a very good very clear article on the subject, which every pastor should read. Part of what makes it so good is its willingness to cut through the emotional drivel that gets spewed out as a distraction. Which brings me back to my original question, are pastors today just gullible?
I realize this is something of a hobby horse of mine, right up there is music ministers, but like the four chord worship chimps the problem persists. And let us be specific, the problem is not so much the deconstructors themselves, it is the mealy mouthed milquetoast response to them. It is becoming increasingly obvious that those who are deconstructing are overwhelmingly deconverting. They hold onto the language of deconstructing to either avoid confrontation or to try and guilt concessions (which will then be used against the rube*). They are lying, and they lie to cover their lies. When is the church going to stop falling for this ruse?
I suspect that a good amount is bound up in that these are people that are near and dear. I get no one wants to concede that a person they love is going to hell, esp. after that person did all the right things for a season. On a darker side, I wonder if some churches just don’t want to see their rolls shrink be purging most of the youth ministry after their first year of college, hope springs eternal or some such thinking.
But since we are people of, “the Truth” then it is beyond time that we concede that:
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” 1 John 2:19
One of the obvious tells that a deconstructor is lying is how painfully obvious their ruse is. Inevitably they have some grievance against the church. They were offended or are offended on behalf of some nebulous aggrieved minority. The words cruelty, trauma, or abuse start flying like mosquitos on a warm summers evening. And the point is to draw the entire institution into question, all of it, nuance is anathema. It is always an all or nothing proposition, and the conclusion is either total surrender to the person threatening to leave or that they will take their ball and bat and go home. The sins of the church are always first and foremost, and it can never be questioned why the sins or desired sins of the deconstructor might be relevant.
That is the game, and by this point we know the rules. So why then do pastors keep falling over themselves to play along? Again are we just dealing with a generation that is exceptionally gullible?
At some point the objection of one very real exception is raised. And I will not deny that exceptions exist. The dark night of the soul is a real thing. But most people are not going through it. Or as it was pointed out when “seekers” were a thing, real seekers will find Christ in his word and submit to him, not the other way around.
It may have been J. Budziszewski that did this, but when he had a young person come back from a semester at college and begin expressing doubts about their faith. He never assumed some atheist teacher was cleverly eroding the faith, he just asked, “What is her/his name you are dating?” 90% + of the time that was it. They wanted sex, and upbringing in the church was keeping them from it. They were not a saint wrestling with the big questions, they just wanted to sin.
I have thoughts on what lead so such anemic faith that is could be blown over shortly after the onset of puberty. And there are things that can be done better to buttress the next generation. But there is also no use crying over spilled milk and to continue the mushy emotional response that follows from the mushy emotional gospel that has been taught is clearly not the way forward. At some point it should be accepted that they will either stay or they will leave. Their mind was made up some time ago and everyones time is just being wasted. It is not good for their souls to continue to pretend, to lie to them, that they are christians. No one deconverts, you are either unconverted or you repent and are converted. That is all. It is time for us, for pastors, to call their bluff.
And it should come as no surprise that calling their bluff simply means to tell them to repent and be converted. The masters of this skill, the physicians of the soul, who knew this practice well were the Puritans. Part of this problem has been the evangelical churches failure to read our Puritans** Deconstructors are not a new phenomenon. The Church of England in the days of the Puritans had the same problem of people who grew up in the church and yet were as far from God as possible, all while looking pious. Richard Baxter called on Puritan clergy to meet with these people and prove to them that they were unsaved and needed Christ:
“Let them that have taken the most pains in public, examine their people, and try wether many of them are not not nearly as ignorant and careless as if they had never heard the gospel. For my part, I study to speak as plainly and movingly as I can… and yet I frequently meet with those who have been my hearers eight or ten years, who know not wether Christ be God or man, and wonder when I tell them the history of his birth and life and death as if they had never heard it before… But most of them have an underground trust in Christ, hoping that he will pardon, justify, and save them, while the world hath their hearts, and they live to the flesh. And this trust they take for justifying faith. – Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor
The most common objection from pastors is that the puritans were too harsh, again this is ignorance and a failure to be familiar. The Puritans were honest, I fear many pastors today are liars that calmly and gently lead a soul to damnation with gentle and pleasing words and tones. Their deconstructors are like the protagonist of Bunyan’s Life and Death of Mr. Badman. Who like a lamb, peacefully and quietly slipped into hell. Yes deconstructors hate truth, because it blows the gaff, in doing this they reveal they hate Christ who is the truth. But perhaps, as I said at the top, these pastors are simply gullible.
Either way, a rigorous study of those who have dealt with this disease before and know the cure would be in order.
A final thought, grace and truth are not mutually exclusive, Christ was filled with both. That did not stop him from being aggressively firm from time to time (to put it mildly). Bunyan called sinners to repent in the strongest way possible, and his call was “Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.” This is grace and truth at work. Spurgeon reminds us that the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay. If we are Calvinists, we fear no man. God is sovereign, He will save who He will. It is our job to be faithful, to the Truth that is the Way and the Life. He has everything in hand. It is unloving to perpetuate a lie, and encourage people to extend their time in the far country, they should be brought to their senses.
In short, don’t be gullible, don’t give noble lies, call their bluff, and invite them to come and welcome to Jesus Christ.
*Ex. “You are right the Southern Baptist Convention was founded on slavery” response, “I just can’t worship with people that won’t repent of slavery.” And this is bull, if anyone has groveled over this issue ad infinitum it is the SBC (Thanks Russel Moore).
**Or the failure of the young restless and reformed was to not closely read the Puritans.