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The Peculiar Evangelicals

Worship

by Dennis Pollock

In today’s political climate we often hear remarks about the “evangelical vote.” Political powerbrokers have become acutely aware of three things: 1) there are millions of evangelicals in this country 2) they tend to vote similarly on certain issues, and 3) they recognize one of their own when they see him (or her).

While the term “evangelical” is tossed about freely, few analysts bother to define what an evangelical is. Indeed many evangelicals would be hard put to define the term. One dictionary describes evangelical thus: “belonging to or designating the Christian churches that emphasize the teachings and authority of the Scriptures…” Another dictionary declares evangelical to mean: “relating to, or being a Christian church believing in the sole authority and inerrancy of the Bible, in salvation only through regeneration, and in a spiritually transformed personal life.”

A layman’s definition might be that an evangelical is one who takes the Bible seriously and personally. It is important to realize that many professing Christians are not evangelicals. Though they may attend church and think of themselves as Christians, they do not believe the Bible was literally inspired by the Holy Spirit, they rarely read it, and allow the Scriptures to have little influence upon their behavior or thinking.

Evangelicals are a different breed. The Bible plays a huge role in their lives. They attend churches that teach the Bible, preferring solid Scriptural teaching to humanistic pep talks and self-esteem boosters. They often go to weekly “home group” meetings where they study the Bible further. And they tend to read the Bible regularly at home as well. They may even listen to podcasts of their favorite preachers while they jog, and watch Christian television programs in the evenings rather than sex-saturated sit-coms. They say things like “praise the Lord” and “God is good – all the time” and can often be found wearing T-shirts with a Scripture verse or slogan proudly emblazoned on front and back.

The world looks at such people with perplexity and occasional irritation. These folks are just so… serious about their faith! A little morality and kindness is a good thing, but these people are surely taking things too far. And if you spend much time around them, they will probably ask you about your own relationship with God.

Before we go any further I have to make a confession at this point – I am one of them! So it may be difficult to be completely objective in this analysis, but at least I can perhaps share with you why we think the way we do. Let’s take a tour into the mind and lifestyle of the evangelicals. 

Politically Speaking 

Until the last generation evangelicals were quite reticent to become involved politically. Far more at home in the prayer meeting than in the political rally, they left politics to the less religious. It seemed to take a radical shift toward liberalism in the courts, and ever increasing liberal (and to their minds, godless) court decisions to awaken the sleeping giant. When televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson began to speak out forcefully in the seventies on political issues, and to urge Christians to register, vote, and make their voices known, millions of evangelicals responded. American politics has not been the same since.

 Later, talk show host James Dobson would likewise take strong stands on political issues he felt had moral ramifications, and to urge his listeners to voice their concerns to their congressmen. A word from Dobson could result in hundreds of thousands of phone calls to congressmen all over the nation, and the politicians sat up and took notice.

 Evangelicals do not vote lock-step on all issues or for particular candidates. They may differ widely in their views on ecology, taxation, and immigration. They may consider themselves Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, or none of the above. Where they do tend to come together is on issues where they feel the Bible has something to say.

 They overwhelmingly oppose abortion, for example. When you think about it, it could hardly be otherwise. Considering that the Scriptures which they love so fervently describe John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus (also in the womb) they hardly have a choice but to consider abortion the taking of human life. Likewise, when issues are raised about homosexual marriage, their respect for Scripture again dictates the views they hold. If God calls it an abomination when “a man lies with a man” they could not very well be expected to vote to legally sanction that which they believe God detests. 

Evangelicals are Israel’s most fervent supporters in America. Many liberal American Jews are far less “Zionist” than the evangelicals. It didn’t take Israel long to see this, and it is not uncommon for Israeli leaders to take part in evangelical gatherings in America where the Christians sing Jewish songs, and express their love and support for Israel. This view once again springs from the evangelicals’ love for the Scriptures. They read in their Bibles, “I will bring back the captives of Israel. They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them… I will plant them in their land and no longer shall they be pulled up…” (Amos 9:14,15). Believing God always keeps His promises, they are convinced that the restoration of the nation of Israel after nearly 2,000 years of non-existence was no accident.  When they read that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews as an everlasting possession, they take it literally and seriously, and scoff at the idea of Israel retreating to its pre-1967 borders. 

Evangelistic Evangelicals 

Evangelism

One of the trademarks of evangelicals is their unapologetic desire to draw the unbelievers to the Savior and the Scriptures which mean so much to them. In our age of multiculturalism and political correctness this has met with a great deal of scorn and derision from the secular world. Not only is their exclusivity considered stone-age in thought; it is labeled arrogance and bigotry as well.  To the skeptics, it seems absurd that we would desire to turn Jews, Muslims, American Indians, and atheists into fervent followers of Christ. Why not allow different strokes for different folks?

Despite the criticisms, evangelicals go right on evangelizing. Remembering the Great Commission of their Lord (“Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations…”) they figure obedience to Jesus trumps conformity to American culture. Preferring the theology of Paul (“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believes…”) to the ramblings of Ted Turner, they pass out tracks, participate in evangelistic events, and look for opportunities to talk to friends and neighbors about their Savior.

Much has been made of the heinousness of attempting to turn Jews to Jesus, or suggesting that they will be eternally lost unless they are born again. But once again evangelicals have little choice. Unless they are prepared to throw out one of the cardinal doctrines of the Scriptures and take exception to the very words of Jesus, they must believe that a Jew without Jesus is every bit as lost as a Muslim without Jesus, or an atheist, or a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker! “No man comes to the Father except through Me” may not be politically correct, but evangelicals are not prepared to contradict Jesus Christ.

One American Jewish leader seemed to realize this a while back. He said, to the effect: “Of course the Christians want to convert us. They believe that apart from Jesus we are going to hell. I wouldn’t expect otherwise from them, given their beliefs.” He refused to condemn evangelicals for being insensitive, realizing that our motives were springing directly from the pages of the New Testament. 

Charity 

Evangelicals are sometimes condemned by the secular folks for being unconcerned with important issues, such as poverty, the environment, global warming, etc. It is true that our primary focus upon turning souls from darkness to light dwarfs all other concerns, but it is not true that the typical evangelical is stingy or uncaring about non-eternal issues.

Non-Christian (or at least non-evangelical) liberals appear to be great champions of the poor. Many secular politicians constantly speak about the little man and seem to spend their days in little else than to come up with some new government program to help the poor. They are incredibly generous with the tax money the government has at its disposal.

Curiously this does not seem to translate into their personal lives. Studies consistently show that conservative Christians give far more money to charity than secular liberals. A liberal presidential hopeful faced a major embarrassment while running for president when his yearly giving to charity was made public. This great friend of the poor had given a miniscule amount (if I remember right, it was only a few hundred dollars) over a year’s time. With all his wealth, there were evangelical Christians barely scratching out a living who gave far more than he did!

Once again we find the Scriptures behind the behavior. In Proverbs we read that “he who gives to the poor lends to the Lord.” Jesus tells us to “give and it will be given to you,” and that “it is better to give than to receive.” As a result many evangelicals give a tenth or more of their income to their local church and various charities. Take the evangelical money away from the charitable organizations and many of them could not function. 

Renewing the Mind 

Paul exhorted the Roman believers to not be conformed to this world, but “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” that they might discover the perfect will of God. Any man or woman who will give themselves to lengthy and consistent seasons of reading and meditating upon the Scriptures will begin to experience that renewing of the mind.

The unbelievers of this world have a “luxury” that we evangelicals do not have. They can believe whatever they like about any topic or issue. They can be for something one day and against it the next. They are free to create their own morals and discard them when inconvenient. The evangelical believer has no such freedom. Many of our beliefs have already been decided for us. The same Scriptures that tell us that Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us to God also reveal that “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” An entire code of morality has been revealed in the Scriptures, and it is not optional! We are commanded to flee from sexual immorality, and to live “soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” We are commanded to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, and clearly told that if people will not accept Jesus as Savior they will “die in their sins.”

We choose to believe. We are quite aware that we will never be understood, appreciated, or commended by the secularists. It does not matter. We will love them anyway, and do our best to point them to the Savior. Their unbelief and even antagonism does not surprise us. The “god of this age” has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. We will carry on. We may not be able to turn them to Christ en masse, but we will have our individual successes, knowing that even the most vehement, skeptical liberal is aching from that God-shaped vacuum in his heart.

We have staked our lives on the integrity of the Scriptural revelation. At the heart of this revelation is a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Having trusted solely in Him for eternal salvation we know our investment is secure.

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