Why I Walked Away from Evangelicalism

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Why I Walked Away from Evangelicalism

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Very interesting

As one who has traversed nearly the same path -- only going the other direction -- there is much I could say. I can't possibly take time to dissect these articles, but it would be fun to talk with this guy. There is probably an awful lot we agree on.
For me, the road from Lutheranism (WELS) to Evangelicalism (BTW, in Europe these are synonyms) and Fundamentalism involved a "bridge," if you will -- the media preaching of two Presbyterians, namely D. James Kennedy and Bruce Dunn. (Dunn was also a strong dispensationalist.)
I felt like I had taken the road "full circle" when I took theology in seminary from Dr. Myron Houghton -- who has his Th.D. from Concordia Seminary (LC-MS). From that point, I have felt a much greater capacity to put the puzzle pieces back together to form the "map."
I know that some Baptists think that Lutherans cannot possibly be saved or that all Lutherans form one big anarthrous blob of a denomination. Though I left the Lutheran church of my own accord, I will forever be grateful for what I learned there -- particularly the hundreds of Bible passages I had to memorize word-for-word in my old-school Lutheran grade school.

The views I express are purely my own. However, I am happy to promote the great ministries with which I work: I minister for www.SermonAudio.com/Whitcomb. I do freelance writing for www.RegularBaptistPress.org. I speak through www.IMISOS.org.

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I share almost every one of

I share almost every one of his criticism of evangelicalism (especially in the second post) and extend his criticisms to include fundamentalism. However, I would not land in the Lutheran denomination - at least, the vast majority of it.

formerly known as Coach C

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Confessional Protestants

"Confessional" Christianity - Catholic, Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran - is on the rise. I'd like to think that's because these historic movements, by plugging into their true catholic heritage, have inherent vitality. I believe, though, that this resurgence is fueled partly by societal shifts. It is common, in a period of disenchantment and perhaps decadence, when present roads seem to lead to dead ends, to search for new beginnings in half-forgotten passageways. Some of the initial enthusiasm will no doubt burn out, as many discover that the answers they seek are not there either. However, as a confessionally Reformed Christian, I think a good number will stick and find something to inspire future Christianity.

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Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

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I agree. A lack of any

I agree.

A lack of any coherent confession is one of the problems with fundamentalism and the wider evangelicalism. Evangelicalism is really an offshoot of the more secular romanticism and transcendentalism where the only real common thread is "experience" and not doctrine.

formerly known as Coach C

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The problem with this guy is

The problem with this guy is that he's looking for the perfect church. I agree with his criticisms, but I can think of of at least 5 churches in my area of which I know those problems aren't predominant. He'll eventually find problems with the Lutheran church he is in and he will leave it--good riddance!

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Perfect Church?

Is he? That's possible. He may just be impossible to please. Perhaps he focuses on the negative. He could have a critical temperament. But that doesn't have to be the case. Maybe he just has criteria that very few churches meet. I do think that his connection to Lutheranism is tenuous. It seems like it's his rebound girl.

When I think about it, though, I would not be comfortable attending long-term very many churches in the US. Probably less than 1%. How about you?

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Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

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yakking about love

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Lack of Love—though I generally refused doggedly to believe that the Evangelicals in my circle were of the abusive sort, I could never quite deny the very pronounced lack of love among believers.

I have been pondering lately Eph. 3--being filled to all the fulness of God (very intriguing statement), and how that is 1. in the context of the church, and 2. is largely associated with Christ's love-----I think being filled with God will largely express itself through Christlike love.

Recently (past yr or 2), our church went through a time where several of the main movers were hostile and angry toward each other. It reminds me of these verses:

Quote:
I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? (1Co 3:2-3)
So the growth of that love and fulness of God is the cure for our strifes, jealousies, and immaturity. And we have to move into it as a church body ("to know with all the saints what is the height and depth . . ." Eph. 3).

God's been taking me on this journey of learning to become a more connected part of our church, to stop being so introverted (I have more of the introverted gifts) and stop judging people and reach out to people. Like, some idea of what to do for someone will come to mind and at the same time God will remind me of "love" as expressing His fulness. Some interesting stories coming about . . . How will God transform us as we begin to more and more express His love? It's what I want for our church.

Anyway, . . . it's something I've been praying about lately and thinking about for a long time. Not sure if lack of love is systemic to evangelicalism b/c I have nothing to compare evangelicalism with . . . But I think it's actually more a lack of grace and (hence) acceptance that leads to the lack of love. In our more rigid churches, "love" is shown, but only to acceptable people in "acceptable" ways, if that can be called love. But other churches are pretty gracious.

Fascinating article.

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LCMS

Having grown up in the Missouri Synod, and later as an adult coming to faith by hearing and accepting the Gospel, by way of a Baptist church, I can understand some of what the author is seeing and saying. Before my salvation, I was banking on my infant baptism as my means to someday enter Heaven, one piece of the sacramental theology spoken of in the article.

Unsettling to me was how, when I asked the Lutheran pastor from my youth, now a theologian and writer inside the LCMS, the question of salvation was answered. He and I were discussing hermeneutics. I was told that different people at different ages get saved differently, specifically, infants/children through baptism, adults by acceptance of Christ personally. Yet their official church statements do not similarly distinguish this difference. Thus, to him, baptism saves, but not all the time and not for everyone. I'll have to dig up the old e-mail sometime.

Rock-solid guy, though, with a heart to serve the Lord, and continues to do so. Recently he stated to me what seems to be the new mantra of the LCMS: "many Lutherans are not Lutheran", as he urges a movement back to more of their original traditions. From what I know, the LCMS seems to even stand apart from the rest of Lutheranism, especially morally. And I have no doubt this author found a group of really nice people in his LCMS church.

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ChrisS wrote: I was told that

ChrisS wrote:
I was told that different people at different ages get saved differently, specifically, infants/children through baptism, adults by acceptance of Christ personally....Thus, to him, baptism saves, but not all the time and not for everyone.

Rock-solid guy, though, with a heart to serve the Lord, and continues to do so.

Chris,

I have never been able to reconcile these two perspectives. Can you help me understand? It has always appeared to me that the basic Lutheran position held to some form of baptismal regeneration as you have stated here. If so, how can we see its leaders as anything but false teachers preaching a false gospel? I know many people who take the position of your second statement, that the Missouri Synod is still solidly evangelical. I just cannot understand how point A and point B can coincide. Thanks.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Points A and B

I can't say that I can help you understand, because I don't, either. Sorry if I gave the impression of defense of the LCMS position. My point was more on my specific friend, I have a hard time hearing him and not believing he is saved, and yet I know what he teaches about baptismal regeneration, and on that point, yes, he is certainly presenting a false gospel, and I grew up being taught these falsities. He eagerly states his life is about Christ, and to watch him, I would say that I agree, it seems heartless to say otherwise. Yet he and my relatives will answer me on salvation that "they cannot remember not being saved", and so thus they feel they are. It ends up in a discussion where we both sound like we are saying the same thing and we are not. In summary, I know the frustration in seeing some Lutherans speak on the Gospel and actively try to live it out, and still wondering about their true salvation. And I was specifically taught in my confirmation years that works do not save, distancing them from some other Lutheran denominations.

And I still keep a copy of my Luther's Small Catechism handy to affirm what they say they believe, and how it does not wash with Scripture.

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Points Of Concern

As I read the article, I agreed with each of the points of concern the leaver of evangelicalism noted. As a fundamentalist Baptist pastor, I have systematically warned our people of these trends and worked to keep us focused on Biblical exposition and a presentation of the gospel that permeates all we do and are. In my circle of acquaintances, I have found a large number of strong fundamentalists who are working to keep their ministries Biblical and authentic.

Dick Dayton

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Faith and Baptismal Regeneration

From the outset, let's just acknowledge that any talk about justification by faith has to center around Luther. It makes no sense, historically speaking, to set Lutheran doctrine and justification by faith in opposition.

Remember, according to Lutheran doctrine, people can lose their salvation, by not persevering in faith. So, in the end, it is the presence of faith in Christ at the time of death that ultimately determines a person's destiny.

The issue at hand is where faith begins. According to Lutherans, God monergistically imparts faith to an infant through baptism. So, as the child grows, it's not so much that he begins believing, but that he keeps the faith delivered to him in his baptism. So, Lutheran theology, insofar as it deals with those who grew up in the church, resists decisionism and crisis conversion experiences.

Reformed theology believes something similar, but doesn't tie the point of regeneration to the time of baptism.

WCF 28.6 wrote:
The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.

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Unhappy in Heaven???

I wonder if he would find fault with every church, sooner or later?
He keeps making references to the Church teaching his 10 year old son the gospel, this should be his job, not the church's. (he had 10 yrs of Bible training)
I could not help be feel a critical spirit through the whole article. I agree with all the problems he found in those churches. My advice... Spend enough time in one Church, loving the members and demonstrating a faithfulness to the Word, so that correction can gradually be brought. We can not run from our problems... till we compromise doctrine (Lutheranism).
The Bride of Christ is a beautiful Bride, she's not some hideous thing like you are describing. She maybe ignorant in some areas, and have much room to grow, but don't tell me she has retreated within the confines of the liturgy of a (for the most part liberal) denomination. With his knowledge of the Word of God he should have been an asset to one of these church's.
This same mind set is why preachers hop from church to church looking for the "right one." I married the "right one" 15 years ago, she was and is perfect for me. We have changed much over the years, we were very ignorant and inconsiderate at times. Had many disappointments, even arguments. But I haven't given up on her yet, and my wife is still loving me too. If we would love the Church we would be able to over look some of her flaws, we would see her true beauty. Then through the process of time those flaws will work themselves out. (in both parties, that is)
I have had people come in the church with a "grocery list of items to check off" before they are willing to come back. We are not perfect, nor are the people that come here. But there are two parties in a relationship. They must cooperate to make it work.

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Baptismal regeneration

Charlie wrote:
From the outset, let's just acknowledge that any talk about justification by faith has to center around Luther. It makes no sense, historically speaking, to set Lutheran doctrine and justification by faith in opposition.

Remember, according to Lutheran doctrine, people can lose their salvation, by not persevering in faith. So, in the end, it is the presence of faith in Christ at the time of death that ultimately determines a person's destiny.

Charlie has summed this up well. I will just try to make the subject even more clear for those who have absolutely no grounding in Lutheran theology.

No confessional Lutheran believes in salvation by works -- including baptism. The Lutheran teaching is that faith is received THROUGH the sacrament of baptism. While I do not believe this, if you understand it correctly it makes it much easier to understand how a real Lutheran can truly be saved if they are trusting in Christ.

As Dr. Houghton says, the issue for a Lutheran is -- have you received the gift (the gospel) or are you trusting in the wrapping on the gift (your baptism)?

[Before we get puffed up, let's remember that Baptists can just as easily face the same types of issues around things like praying the sinner's prayer, walking an aisle, etc. ]

Confessional Lutherans are so strong on grace and faith alone, in fact, that they can over-correct and almost rule out the possibility of someone hearing the gospel and trusting in Christ -- fearing that such a crisis decision could become a human work.

FWIW, most Baptists are about as good at explaining the Lutheran view of baptism and soteriology as Lutherans would be at drawing a chart of the 70th week of Daniel. ;)

The views I express are purely my own. However, I am happy to promote the great ministries with which I work: I minister for www.SermonAudio.com/Whitcomb. I do freelance writing for www.RegularBaptistPress.org. I speak through www.IMISOS.org.

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Exactly

Paul J. Scharf ][quote=Charlie wrote:
As Dr. Houghton says, the issue for a Lutheran is -- have you received the gift (the gospel) or are you trusting in the wrapping on the gift (your baptism)?

Yes, that was me before accepting the gift. I was never taught the difference or distinction.

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Fascinating...but how does it fit Biblically and historically?

The writer's declaration , "I did not find a single church..." is truly plausible and fascinating for us to consider in the 21st century. But how does it juxtapose with the 1st century, and therefore Biblical understanding? My ministry colleague, Frank Hamrick, leaves next week for an exhausting itinerary visiting some (certainly not all) of the locations where the Apostle Paul planted churches. They will travel in a 9 passenger van. New Testament era believers had no such vehicle to traverse the roads of Asia Minor and Grecian Peninsula, nor the theological, ideological or sociological issues of their day. Perhaps that is why Paul wrote so passionately, and with Biblical authority, about the issues mentioned.

Gerry Carlson

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The writer, I believe, is

The writer, I believe, is writing in mid-stream in his process, hence you are given a glimpse of it before he comes to final conclusions (though he did conclude with joining the LCMS but the matter as a whole is yet finalized in his mind). He has some reconciliation to do with his observations, the facts of what he experiences, his thoughts and the priorities of Scripture.

I agree wholly with his list. And I do believe there are less rather than more congregations which fit the higher end of the desires he expressed.

But...what I do believe is that at some point he will come to understand that a Christian must, at some time, settle on a teacher and its assembly and accept that even in ideal circumstances it will have its short comings.

I, myself, could, in good conscience, attend and/or join (and have) a Lutheran church (LCMS WELS or equivalent by any other name), a Southern Baptist church, an Independent Baptist church, a MacArthurite church, no local assembly but receive teaching at a distance, or a Presbyterian church just to name a few. It does not mean I would be willing to do so with any Lutheran SB, IB, Mac or Presb. church, however their body of teaching itself does not rule out whether I could or could not attend and/or join. Each individual congregation must be investigated. It is true that within some denominations or sects there are more issues and so it is less likely I would be part of one than another but still it does not rule them out. My suspicion is that because the LCMS has a history and current profile of serious theological articulation, this meets a very primary concern or need for the writer where he is willing to accept disagreement in other areas.

And I suspect that if some of these other congregations appeared in his mind to have reflected a higher approach toward theology as he sought, he would have accepted some of their liabilities. Their lack (in his mind) of theological perspicuity aggravated what he may have normally accepted. And this lack of theological perspicuity, critical thinking skills and independent judgment skills is sorely present in many, if not most, of our congregations IMO.

But...he will discover that even in his LCMS church, while it has many benefits it has the same politics, the same goats, the same weak sheep, the same LCMS kool aid drinkers and some, that is some, members interested in regular discipleship and so on. It may have enough advantages to Evangelicalism that it will continue to capture him.

But like many of us who appreciate Lutheranism, he may come face to face with having to function in a congregation where he simply cannot swallow sacramental regeneration or the belief one can lose their salvation. He may find he simply has to keep his lip buttoned on such matters or very carefully dialog on the matter (unless he becomes convinced otherwise). Most likely his greatest fellowship will come with other believers who have also immigrated to the LCMS as born again believers from the lackings of Evangelicalsim and less with those who will proclaim some sacramental qualification for their salvation.

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For the last several years,

For the last several years, my kids have attended a LCMS school. In fact, now my wife teaches at one. We were very leary, but have been happy with it. It is a good school, but we teach alot of Bible at home and there are some lessons that my wife skips over in the Bible ciurriculum.

We were having a discussion recently with one our Lutheran friends. We were discussing the problems of baptismal regeneration. I learned was said above. Then the wife said to me, "see I think the way you veiw faith and repentance is a work." It was an interesting discussion.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

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Tourists

Ditto Pastor Harold and Bro. Guggenheim.

I get the feeling sometimes that many attend church with a 'tourist' attitude. They don't intend to ever get involved, but stand back, enjoy the sites, and move on when they've seen it all or someone steps on their toes.

My dh and I are becoming more and more 'local' church oriented. Find a decent church close to where you live, and endeavor to bring something to that church, instead of spending months and years kicking the tires. Like most things, church is what you put into it. Too many sponges drain the life out of a church.

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Spiritual "Consumerism"?

Even among the responses, there seems to be a lot of the "what's in it for me" attitude.
The point is not to find what is in it for us, but how we can be used of God to serve Him and others. It is a reflection of the "consumerism" that has permeated our society. Both the writer and the responders are in many cases giving their feelings about churches, etc.
I was also raised in LCMS, which I found to be spiritually bankrupt. Once I was saved, I came to Baptist distinctives on my own. I don't base what church I go to on how I feel about it or what is in it for me. It is more a matter of obedience. While I'm doing that, it's my job to make that profitable for God and His people. It's not the church's responsibility to do it for me.
Are we all just about "church shopping and church hopping", or do we really believe something?

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Not clear

Steve Newman wrote:
I don't base what church I go to on how I feel about it or what is in it for me. It is more a matter of obedience. While I'm doing that, it's my job to make that profitable for God and His people. It's not the church's responsibility to do it for me.
Are we all just about "church shopping and church hopping", or do we really believe something?

I don't quite understand what you're saying here. Let's say you move into a new town with a dozen evangelical churches within a 20-minute driving distance. How does "obedience" direct you to which church you should attend?

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Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

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It doesn't tell me which one I should go to, but....

It doesn't tell me I should up and leave if I'm not getting all I want.

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Steve Newman wrote: Even

Steve Newman wrote:
Even among the responses, there seems to be a lot of the "what's in it for me" attitude.
The point is not to find what is in it for us, but how we can be used of God to serve Him and others.
In part a believer must look for a place that has his or her spiritual interests in mind so some degree of inquiry which pertain to one's self regarding spiritual welfare and benefit must be part of why a person considers an assembly.

To state that the point is in searching for a church is "how can we be used of God to serve Him and others" as if this is to be the overriding principle is to ignore the other equally valid elements of finding an appropriate teacher and ministry to which to belong. Otherwise you should be able to walk into any organization calling itself a church and prosper spiritually with no complaint.

Of course you know that isn't true, is it? Just as you noted, in your opinion the LCMS you belonged to was inadequate. So this myopic judgment of sorts is harsh with respect to the true needs of a believer when he or she considers an assembly. They must ask, "Is the teaching beneficial?" "Are the policies consistently applied?" "Do they practice what they claim to believe?".

I still do not believe the writer is demanding ideal circumstances, rather he is as I said, in mid-stream, and we are getting a peak into a process that has not been concluded. But he must, as all believers, find an assembly that he can determine will provide spiritual benefit enough to feed him and care for him as one of God's sheep that he may indeed serve and this is his biblical right and in fact, expectation. And if we are not having our spiritual needs met by way of sound teaching and practice then all our serving in the world will not make up for poor spiritual nutrition. Believers needs both, a place where they may serve and a place where they may attain and sustain spiritual health so that they may serve.

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some uncomfortable thoughts?

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
To state that the point is in searching for a church is "how can we be used of God to serve Him and others" as if this is to be the overriding principle is to ignore the other equally valid elements of finding an appropriate teacher and ministry to which to belong. Otherwise you should be able to walk into any organization calling itself a church and prosper spiritually with no complaint.
that's a good perspective.

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
They must ask, "Is the teaching beneficial?" "Are the policies consistently applied?" "Do they practice what they claim to believe?".
I would refine those perhaps a little. Like, "Are the policies thoughtfully applied?"

My BIL is like this man. they spent years going from church to church. he even considered becoming greek orthodox b/c he wanted the liturgy . . .

Also, and this is sort of tangential, I was thinking about, about your comment on the teaching being beneficial. . . . There's a church in town that has really become MacArthurish in the heavy expositional preaching. so some of our church members were really pushing that our pastors start preaching that way . . . And my husband actually refuses to preach that way! He does not see that style as beneficial to our body as a whole. Our church is very, I don't know, just different, extremely evangelistic and perhaps more of a hospital-type church? or just people in extremely different levels and spiritual backgrounds? So while he does read very deeply (Luther, Augustine) and preach on challenging subjects, like Romans, he specifically does it in a very simple way.

I got to thinking, the churches like MacArthur --there's such an emphasis on TEACHING the Word, teaching, teaching, teaching . . . do you think it's possible that, like the gift of tongues in Corinthians was the idealized gift, that teaching becomes the glorifed gift in these churches? . . .

Think about that for a while, b/c I think good teaching is essential (although what I mean by good teaching might not mean what it means to MacArthur, kwim?) I don't know, I have just been thinking that it's possible. And it becomes hard for the teacher to ever be seen as wrong. I went to a heavy-emphasis-on-teaching church in greenville, and while I learned a lot from the pastor, I have since seen some things in his teachings that now I see as faulty or wrong. Whereas, at the time, the teacher was so important, I would never have thought to question what he was saying . . .

I don't mean to be at all disrespectful either. i have great respect for him and for his church. And we sure are all wrong at times in waht we teach. but it's easier to be wrong and for others to see it or question it when it's not the glorified gift? . . . It's just something I have pondered now that I'm thinking about how the spiritual gifts work out in the church ... (I have more questions about that, but on to open that in another thread.)

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My perspective

I've often marveled that people who are amazingly individualistic eventually find solace in a congregation where individualism bears no weight. I have seen people whine and complain about some picky detail in one church where their voice can be heard (a small church) and then join and remain in a large church where the problem is even more extant.

WELS or MO Synod Lutheranism has its good points, but these churches are not noted to cater. Bet this guy will put up with stuff from his new church he would have condemned in his old ones.

Remember Franky Schaeffer? I remember thinking when the Orthodox church in Russia was persecuting evangelical churches after the USSR dissolved, "Schaeffer will put up with this in the Orthodox Church because he has no voice. He would never have put up with this behavior and hypocrisy from an evangelical church." Now the rules are different.

Kind of like a bratty kid is really wanting an authority to bear down upon them for security reasons, so the chronically discontent gravitate (finally) toward an organization that is unwavering and unaffected by their whining. Kids respond to the security of firmness and sometimes adults do as well. At least in many cases.

"The Midrash Detective"