Occam’s Razor and the Perpetuity of Evangelical Scandal

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Steve Newman's picture

I don't see a point to judging their salvation. I don't see how that is helpful in this discussion.

Obviously, the author does not believe the answer is that "Christians still sin".

Darrell Post's picture

I liked the article. The author is arguing well beyond "Christians still sin."  Look again at the main points:

1. Actual Believers will understand, confess, and defend the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. Actual Believers will decisively reject all counterfeit gospels

3. Actual Believers, while not morally perfect, will care about holiness and will strive to live according to God’s commands.

Number 3 addresses the question of believers still sinning. True Christians are not morally perfect. But when someone claims to be a true Christian and yet the pattern of their life expresses a fuzzy gospel understanding, acceptability of counterfeit gospels and then they set out to live strangely free of God's standards of holiness, then it makes more sense to understand the person to be an unbeliever, regardless the label he wears. That is the point of the article, and I thought it a good point.

Steve Newman's picture

Listen, before I box myself in with oversimplifications, let me say this. I support the idea advanced by Dr. Hauser, that there are indeed "carnal Christians". May I add, there are tons of them! In fact, we're all capable of being one.

Now that does not preclude the fact of false teachers, and particularly unsaved false teachers, being in abundance. I wish the author would have approached it from this way. Jesus certainly indicates that the true and the false will not be distinguished from each other until the correct time (the wheat and the tares). Also, there are certainly Scriptures for believing that true believers may incorrectly believe false doctrines (like the whole book of I Corinthians!) and have sinful practices.  I believe, and see an honest danger, in Christians going around trying to tell us who is saved and who is not.


Bert Perry's picture

I share Steve's reluctance to accuse prominent pastors of being unbelievers, but a very tenable middle position is to say that many are at least living a very carnal lifestyle, and you're going to get more than one hint to pick up on it.  For example, Furtick lives in a 16000 square foot home worth $1.78 million, apparently, and his infamous "God broke the law" flat out ignores Matthew 5:17.  If i were so motivated and had the time, I would bet that I'd be able to find a string of places where Furtick is ignoring the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3.    Driscoll is certainly an example of this as well, as is his buddy James MacDonald.

Now you can talk around a couple of these, but when you start to see a pattern, you're either getting into "need for intensive interaction with Matthew 18:15-19" territory or "maybe this person isn't really a believer" territory.   And having found a number of people I thought were believers coming to Christ years later, I think it's imperative we wrap our minds around what the Bible tells us--that sitting in a pew does not make a person a sheep.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Steve Newman's picture

And why not the emphasis on "false teacher"? This is a very clear NT emphasis. We don't want to appear like the "discernment blog" witch hunters?

I agree that Furtick might not be saved. But I don't think I ought to be part of the "fruit inspectors" determining whether someone is saved or not. I see more and more sheep in the pew becoming more and more judgmental about whether the people around them are saved or not, and their criteria is often flawed. Do we really want to encourage that type of behavior?


Bert Perry's picture


Steve; I would slightly refine what you've said about "fruit inspectors."  Specifically, 1 Timothy 3 and other passages spell out what is acceptable behavior for a pastor, and other passages spell out what we ought to expect of believers.  All too often, it's not the same as our personal lists of dos and don'ts.  So our task is to become better "fruit inspectors" in terms of the Biblical criteria--figuring out which fruit is fresh and which is rotten--but stop inspecting the fruit according to criteria not spelled out in Scripture--throwing out the red delicious but retaining the Cortlands, as it were.

To build on the word picture, we've all too often got a barrel full of rotten Cortlands and a pile of beautiful red delicious totally wasted in the compost pile.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

My interpretation of the article differs.  I think he argues that some top-named ministers are saying some ridiculous things, and the fact that this is tolerated suggests a shallow evangelicalism.

I do not understand the author to say that each of the speakers mentioned is unsaved, per se (although connecting the dots to those who seriously distort the Gospel could lead a reader in that direction). 

I understand him to say the problem is general — we have a shallow evangelicalism that wanders to the edges of error.  The reason for the shallowness, in general, is that many professing evangelicalism are not truly regenerate.

This is different than separating the wheat from the tares on our own.  It is, rather, looking at a large group average and saying, “the average is low because some people have flunked.” He is suggesting that there are more tares among the wheat than there used to be, and this lackluster defense of Gospel truth evidences the same.

I think many of us believe this in a general way,  don’t we?  Or am I being too generous to the author's intent?

"The Midrash Detective"

Darrell Post's picture

Bert and Steve,

Again, I think you may be missing the point of the article. The author's point wasn't specifically to call out Furtick as an unbeliever, but to raise the question in broader terms. "Evangelicalism" has little meaning any longer. The term has become so broad that it no longer is an effective label where one might presume all under it's banner are safely children of God. His point relates to the sanity it brings us to stop living in a fantasy where we have to keep calling people brothers because they wear a label, when most of the way they live and the pronouncements they make, scream 'unbeliever.'



TylerR's picture


That is how I interpreted the article, as well.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Darrell--exactly what did I write which would flat out contradict what you commented at 11:18 am?   The only point of any significant disagreement I have is in simply jumping to call someone an unbeliever--that would seem to be contradicted by the very existence of the Matthew 18 church discipline/reconciliation process.  

And yes, I would agree that "evangelical" doesn't always mean much--hence my call to sort the fruit according to Biblical standards, not just our own.  So I'm not completely seeing the contradictions here that you suggest exist.  And for that matter, the author does all but describe Furtick as either extremely worldly or even an unbeliever.  He's not blatant about it, but it's there.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Darrell Post's picture

Bert, you seemed to be joining Steve in expressing reluctance to call prominent pastors unbelievers. And then you spent time talking about carnality and being better fruit inspectors. I am not discarding what you are saying, just saying that those things were not the thrust of the linked article. I was replying that it was more an article on the evangelical movement and how it is now watered down to the point where we must conclude that the movement as a whole has an increasing percentage of unbelievers within it. That it is no longer safe to make assumptions about those who wear the label. Others have sounded similar alarms, and if I recall correctly some of your posts here, you have sounded similar alarms as well. So perhaps we are on the same page, sorry if I mis-characterized your comments.



Paul Henebury's picture

The author made good points.  I too think many evangelicals do not know the gospel and are unsaved. He did not claim to know whether these celebs were saved.  However, there is something rotten in Denmark.  Everyone sees it.  

The one area which needs to be considered is the awful state of preaching in the churches in general.  People are not being fed, and so it becomes very difficult to tell the "carnal" Christians from the world.  Christians are capable of aping the world - especially when they are served up pragmatic slosh instead of biblical exposition.  

A little grumble.  The author claims rejection of the 4th commandment for the Church is on very questionable grounds. Well, that is a theological judgment stemming from I believe are shaky theological grounds.  But that's just me. 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Bert Perry's picture

Darrell, as I believe Paul's comment makes very clear, failing to name the tree by its fruit goes hand in hand with a general incompetence on the part of churches to see who is,and is not, in the flock, versus merely in the fold.  Don't you think?  I cannot point to one without ipso facto pointing to the other. 

The only thing I think I've really added is a bit of caution to give the accused unbeliever--or accused carnal Christian--the grace of the possibility that a person isn't flat out unbelieving, but is rather simply in deep sin.  And yes, you are absolutely correct that I've warned about the apparent incompetence of many churches to differentiate between authentic and false doctrines and behavior.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Maybe this is the best way to put it: We all agree that Jesus taught the Parable of the Wheat and Tares.  In time, I think, we lost the real meaning, namely, that the Tares are not the liberals, the Papists, or the cults. We tended to view evangelicals as the wheat and other groups as the tares. But the idea of the parable is the resemblance and intertwining of wheat and tares.

What we must conclude is that either (A) there are now more tares with evangelicalism, evidenced by the burgeoning  ignorance and shallowness or (B) there have always been a similar ratio of wheat to tares, it is now just becoming more evident.  When the leaders appear more shallow and  the congregations are okay with that, that's a bad sign (the point of the article).

I can see Bert's point, though, where it could appear he is connecting shallow episodes from the list of preachers he cites and then saying a lot of evangelicals are not saved.  It is a step away from saying those leaders are unsaved, but I don't think the author is actually making that step. Yet I cannot be sure that he is not. Bert, it could leave other readers wondering, too. Inferences are tricky things.. The way you took it might differ from the way most of us took it, but it is a viable interpretation.


"The Midrash Detective"