Should We Take a ‘Winsome Approach’ to Culture? Christians Debate If Tim Keller’s ‘Moment Has Passed’

"Regarding French’s point that Christians are to love our enemies at all times, Dreher agrees that we are, but says, 'Loving one’s enemies does not mean that one should close one’s eyes to the fact that they are enemies, and wish to do us serious harm.' And while it is true, Dreher says, that politics should not shape our faith, we must not be afraid to take a political stand." - C.Leaders

Related: David French A Critique of Tim Keller Reveals the Moral Devolution of the New Christian Right and American Reformer Tim Keller, Abortion, and Politics

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Ed Vasicek's picture

Good thoughtful article, but understated.

I think the whole approach of New Evangelicalism, while perhaps promising in its day, is irrelevant today. Trying to impress them with our credentials or intellectual quality means nothing.  If we don't embrace LGBTQ, we are bigots and narrow-minded haters. Period. No matter how compassionate we are.  It is an entirely new reset, except perhaps with the elderly who still respect Christian values and Christians.

It is time for serious Christians to regroup around doctrinal truth and devotion to Jesus Christ.  We also need to be careful that we do not earn justified criticism.  We give way too much ammunition to the enemy.  I Peter 4:15-16:

But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Unfortunately we have, by and large, failed to impress on both counts:  our credentials do not persuade (if we have them) and our lives -- which is is what should persuade -- are often not well-ordered under the Lordship of Christ.  Filling the void is glitz, music, art, revivalism, end time obsession, politics, returning to liturgies, and fads. We just can't seem to keep it simple.

"The Midrash Detective"

T Howard's picture

I'm once again reminded of what Ignatius wrote in his letter to the Romans: "Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the world."

I hope the days of cultural Christianity and cultural appeasement are coming to an end. I don't think the solution to the issues of our day is political. I think the solution is personal holiness and faithfulness to God's Word. That will involve a level of sacrifice and even cross-bearing that American Christianity hasn't had to experience yet.

Joel Shaffer's picture

I find it interesting how conservative Christians are redefining words such as “Winsome” or “Empathy” as they adjust their posture to fight a culture war in America.  A winsome approach does not = wanting the secular culture’s approval. It’s actually about faithfully living out an exile posture in a post-Christian society as God’s people (I Peter) while faithfully proclaiming Jesus and the whole counsel of God.  I’m old enough to remember this same false argument being used against conservative evangelical/Neo-evangelical Carl Henry 30-40 years ago by church leaders in the baptist fundamentalist environment that I grew up with. And then I actually read  almost every work of Carl Henry and realized he wasn’t attempting to get approval from the non-believing world! It was the fallacy of assuming motive which for some Fundamentalists led to the sin of slander. 

What’s ironic is that, as an exec. Director of a faith-based nonprofit supported by conservative evangelical Christians, I could bring way more financial support for UTM if I abandoned “winsomeness” and became a cultural warrior for the far-right.  As the passionate person that I am, I could write angry fundraising letters and post ranting youtube videos about how CRT is undermining our neighborhood public schools or how Democrat-controlled cities are the main reason that cities are filled with so much poverty, violence, and decay. Or that the progressive elite class wants us conservatives to shut up and obey so that they can implement their Marxist or socialist engineering experiment— linking these diatribes to UTM’s mission of breaking the fatherless cycle in urban communities.  If I denied the existence of systemic racism, claimed that poverty was almost always the fault of the individual, or that the term social justice is actually socialism in disguise.  Or if I stopped using the phrase “womb-to-the-tomb” to describe my pro-life ethic for a much less “woke” pro-life phrase or if I extolled the virtues of today’s secularized colorblindness by whitewashing Dr. MLK’s life and message and insisted on not talking about racial issues so much. The money would flow like a river into the bank account of UTM. Of course, I’d be sacrificing my integrity and Biblical convictions to cozy up to conservative political power. Nope.  The real temptation for conservative evangelical “winsome” folks like me is to actually seek the approval of the conservative cultural warriors.  Way more churches and conservative Christians in my circles would line up to support our work. 

By the way, I’ve already been canceled by segments of social-cultural warriors on the left for the past 20 or so years. I’ve been publicly called a “misogynist piece of s**t” due to my pro-life convictions. Several friends that I went to college with along with former students of mine (when I taught at Cornerstone U) no longer have anything to do with me because I hold to a Biblical sexual ethic of “welcoming but not affirming” posture towards the LGBTQ community. I’ve even been publicly called a “white slave master” by one of my former neighbors a few years ago after I publicly shared how rioting hurts black businesses long-term.  And while I’ve not been canceled for having a “winsome” posture by those on the Christian conservative right, I’ve been falsely labeled at times as a leftist, a marxist, a socialist, a cultural marxist, and a critical race theorist, which is laughable because UTM depends so much on the free-market enterprise system to help liberate the fatherless from poverty as we teach business and help them start their own businesses so that they can make a living to take care of their families as part of their discipleship.

Being “Winsome” as famous conservative evangelical Christians have such as Tim Keller, Russell Moore, and Beth Moore cost them much more than what they'd gained if they would’ve towed the line as typical politically conservative Christians fighting the culture war.  Beth Moore’s Living Proof is a small shell of what it was 10-20 years ago. While Russell Moore is a public theologian at Christianity Today whose readership is around 260,000, when Moore was in the good graces of the SBC as the president of ERLC, he had access to 14.5 million Southern Baptists. Their books aren’t nearly as popular and their writings won’t be in demand by Christian publishers the way they were 10 years ago. 10-20 years ago, Keller was the star of the PCA denomination. Nowadays, not so much. Half of his denomination has turned on him.  Also, Keller’s public views as a complimentarian who believes abortion is evil and him having a “welcoming, but affirming” posture towards the LGBTQ has always been anathema to those in progressive metro areas such as NYC. Christian conservatives such as Woods from First Things are waking up to the fact that Tim Keller and other “winsome” folks have always known, because we’ve been experiencing it our entire ministry lives : That the world will hate us.