One very startling verse found in the gospels is Luke 18:8: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Good question! Let me offer some quick context to it. Luke 18:1-8 is the parable of the persistent widow. It deals with perseverance in prayer as we await God’s justice.
The question is, will we be found faithful when Christ returns? This is a fitting question to ask as it follows on from Luke 17:20-37 which has Jesus speaking about his return. As the days get darker and the faith gets weaker – certainly in the West – such a question is well worth asking.
It is looking pretty grim indeed in so much of the West with an anaemic, compromised and craven church. Much of the problem can be found in our pulpits where the gospel is no longer being preached. Everything else is getting a good run however: entertainment, feel-good pep talks, celebrities, rock concerts, men-pleasing sermons, smoke machines and strobe lights, etc.
No wonder the faith of many is growing cold or disappearing altogether. Our church leaders have a lot to answer for. And it is just going to get worse as we have snowflakes in the pulpits preaching to snowflakes in the pews. Or as Sir Weary Dunlop is reputed to have put it, “The problem with Australia is that we have wimps in the pulpits and cowards in the pews.”
That is so true all throughout the West, and we are paying a great price as a result. We have one of the weakest, most ineffective, and non-salty churches in ages, and it shows no signs of getting any better soon. I am not alone in lamenting all this.
A recent piece by one of my favourite Christian commentators is worth highlighting here. Douglas Wilson has recently written about a “Gospel for Snowflakes”. His opening line nails it: “The irony is this. The only way for us to declare a gospel for snowflakes is by seeing that there is no way for the gospel to be preached by snowflakes.”
He unpacks this as follows:
In Scripture, the gospel is the objective good news of salvation. It is the message of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That message is declared to mankind in a way that summons us all to do two things—repent and believe. This repentance and belief are all the same fundamental and entirely fluid motion. Repentance is turning away from all that is not Christ, and belief is turning toward all that is. Repentance turns away from sin, and faith embraces Christ. This is the way it is by definition, and so it is not possible to turn to Christ actually without turning away from not Christ actually. This means true and real repentance.
He reminds us that the biblical good news “presupposes some awareness of antecedent bad news”. Salvation from sin is only good news if we first realise that we are dirty rotten scoundrels, to use the title of a Hollywood film – or lost sinners, to use the biblical parlance.
But in this snowflake generation of ours, we have outlawed any real communication of the bad news. This means that the good news (as it is found in Scripture) becomes contextually nonsensical. We are found peddling cures in a world without diseases, offering pardons in a world without justice, and preaching resurrections in a world without death. One is reminded of Niebuhr’s great summary of liberalism: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” And in this shrewd summary, we see just how far the leprosy of liberalism has already advanced in ostensibly evangelical circles. So we need to look to our message, and in addition urge all the messengers to look to their hearts. We need to start proclaiming a message that will not only get evangelicals saved, but which will also get a number of evangelists saved as well.
Amen to that. Wilson goes on to look at the prophets, at the Apostle Paul, and at John the Baptist. What a contrast they offer to most preachers and evangelists today. He concludes:
Those who wear soft clothing and who speak soft words are found in king’s palaces . . . and in the mouth of modern evangelicalism. And so it is that a gospel preached by snowflakes is incapable of offering snowflakes what they so desperately need—which is to get over themselves. This is because the best way to get over yourself is to see your ramshackle self hauled off in shame and disgrace to be nailed to the same cross where Jesus died. The promised glory comes later.
But to talk to this way is to be considered mean. And because narcissistic preachers would rather the whole tribe of narcissists go to Hell than to be ever considered mean by them, their whole sorry enterprise continues to stagger down the road.
“If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people!” (Micah 2:11, ESV).
But we don’t just want the wine and beer. We want some of the wind and lies too.
Unless we start getting biblical men in our pulpits preaching the biblical gospel, we will not find many real believers in our pews. Unless things change substantially, the question asked by Jesus 2000 years ago will not get a good answer.