Woe To the Silent Churches

The silence of the lambs is a disgrace:

I recently saw someone’s post on the social media lamenting the silence of the churches in dealing with all the encroaching evil in our culture, including the direct assault on our children by the sexual militants. The recent Disney attack on our kids was also mentioned. I have written about this diabolical matter of the ‘Magic Kingdom’ here: billmuehlenberg.com/2022/04/01/disney-the-diabolical/

One fellow commented that he was not aware of any churches in his area speaking out about these issues. Yes, I have been saying much the same thing for a very long time now. We have a massive problem with the silence of the lambs. The pulpits are silent on the things that matter, and most Christians are too afraid to speak out.

But the main reason why I discuss all this again now is because just hours ago I was reading a book that was saying the very same thing. But the book was penned 75 years ago! In other words, nothing much has changed in the past three quarters of a century – churches are still deathly silent when they should be speaking truth to a dying culture.

The book I was reading was the important 1947 volume, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism by Carl F. H. Henry. You can learn more about this very significant theologian and churchman here: billmuehlenberg.com/2022/04/05/notable-christians-carl-f-h-henry/

As I explained in that article, Henry was concerned that the fundamentalists of his day, while strongly standing up for biblical and theological orthodoxy, were far too silent on addressing the key issues of the wider culture. In fact, many of them back then wanted to withdraw from culture altogether and have nothing to do with it.

As such, there was little evangelical engagement with social ethics, and mostly there was a preoccupation with personal ethics, and a condemnation of various personal sins. It seemed for many church leaders at the time that the worst sins around had to do with being involved in dancing or smoking or going to the movies.

Thus evangelicals back then were seen as having little of value to say about the wider social and cultural problems of the day. Instead, all you had was what was encapsulated in this old ditty: “Don’t smoke, drink or chew, or run with girls who do.”

Image of The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism
The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism by Carl F. H. Henry (Author), Richard J. Mouw (Foreword) Amazon logo

Henry was not opposed to personal holiness and righteousness of course, but he was opposed to how most churches back then had nothing to say about the bigger social sins and evils. So his slim 1947 volume in part was seeking to correct this way of thinking and acting by American Christians of his day. His first chapter is titled “The Evaporation of Fundamentalist Humanitarianism.” Here is part of it:

The predicament of contemporary evangelicalism can be set forth from two vantage points, that of the non-evangelicals and that of the evangelicals themselves. From whichever direction the problem is approached, it is serious enough.

 

Against Protestant Fundamentalism the non-evangelicals level the charge that it has no social program calling for a practical attack on acknowledged world evils. True, other complaints are made against Christian supernaturalism. Representative spokesmen for religious liberalism, for ethical idealism, for religious humanism, and for pessimism, are linked by a common network of assumptions which clearly differentiates their philosophic premises from the orthodox Hebrew-Christian view. Non-Christian groups have no dealings with a supernaturalistic metaphysics. But nonetheless -though they regard contemporary orthodoxy as a vestigial remnant of traditional obscurantism – they theoretically recognize the philosophic right of the evangelicals to hold any doctrinal framework they may desire. But what is almost wholly unintelligible to the naturalistic and idealistic groups, burdened as they are for a new world order, is the apparent lack of any social passion in Protestant Fundamentalism. On this evaluation, Fundamentalism is the modern priest and Levite, by-passing suffering humanity.

 

The picture is clear when one brings into focus such admitted social evils as aggressive warfare, racial hatred and intolerance, the liquor traffic, and exploitation of labor or management, whichever it may be.

 

The social reform movements dedicated to the elimination of such evils do not have the active, let alone vigorous, cooperation of large segments of evangelical Christianity. In fact, Fundamentalist churches increasingly have repudiated the very movements whose most energetic efforts have gone into an attack on such social ills. The studied Fundamentalist avoidance of, and bitter criticism of, the World Council of Churches and the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America is a pertinent example.

 

Now, such resistance would be far more intelligible to non-evangelicals were it accompanied by an equally forceful assault on social evils in a distinctly supernaturalistic framework. But, by and large, the Fundamentalist opposition to societal ills has been more vocal than actual. Some concerted effort has been attempted through organizations like the National Association of Evangelicals or the American Council of Churches. Southern Baptists have a somewhat better record, coupled with rejection of the Federal Council. But evangelical social action has been spotty and usually of the emergency type.

 

The situation has even a darker side. The great majority of Fundamentalist clergymen, during the past generation of world disintegration, became increasingly less vocal about social evils. It was unusual to find a conservative preacher occupied at length with world ills.

 

In a company of more than one hundred representative evangelical pastors, the writer proposed the following question: “How many of you, during the past six months, have preached a sermon devoted in large part to a condemnation of such social evils as aggressive warfare, racial hatred and intolerance, the liquor traffic, exploitation of labor or management, or the like – a sermon containing not merely an incidental or illustrative reference, but directed mainly against such evils and proposing the framework in which you think solution is possible?” Not a single hand was raised in response. Now this situation is not characteristic only of one particular denominational group of Fundamentalists; rather, a predominant trait, in most Fundamentalist preaching, is this reluctance to come to grips with social evils.

He continues:

Fundamentalism was a Bible-believing Christianity which regarded the supernatural as a part of the essence of the Biblical view; the miraculous was not to be viewed, as in liberalism, as an incidental and superfluous accretion. It was from its affirmation of the historic evangelical doctrinal fundamentals that modern orthodoxy received its name, and not from its growing silence on pressing global problems. This was clearly seen by spokesmen for contemporary Fundamentalism like the late J. Gresham Machen, who vigorously insisted that Christianity has a message relevant to the world crisis, however staggering the issues.

 

The average Fundamentalist’s indifference to social implications of his religious message has been so marked, however, that the non-evangelicals have sometimes classified him with the pessimist in his attitude toward world conditions.

 

Of all the seemingly incongruous weddings in philosophy, this is the most striking. That Christian supernaturalism, which as a matter of historical record furnished the background and in some sense the support for the modern humanisms and idealisms, should be accused of having lost its own devotion to human well-being, is indeed a startling accusation.

And then he says this:

This is not to suggest that Fundamentalism had no militant opposition to sin. Of all modern viewpoints, when measured against the black background of human nature disclosed by the generation of two world wars, Fundamentalism provided the most realistic appraisal of the condition of man. The sinfulness of man, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and that God alone can save man from his disaster, are insistences that were heard with commonplace frequency only within the evangelical churches. But the sin against which Fundamentalism has inveighed, almost exclusively, was individual sin rather than social evil.

 

It is not fair to say that the ethical platform of all conservative churches has clustered about such platitudes as “abstain from intoxicating beverages, movies, dancing, card-playing, and smoking,” but there are multitudes of Fundamentalist congregations in which these are the main points of reference for ethical speculation. In one of the large Christian colleges, a chapel speaker recently expressed amazement that the campus newspaper could devote so much space to the all important problem of whether it is right to play “rook,” while the nations of the world are playing with fire.

Henry was urging churches and church leaders to be at the vanguard of speaking out against various social ills. Just as Christians like Wilberforce in the past led the charge against the slave trade, if Henry were alive today he would want to see them speaking out on things like abortion and the homosexual and trans assaults on marriage and family.

Some are, thankfully, But most still are remaining silent. So Henry would be only somewhat slightly pleased with the slow progress made in this regard over the past century. And he would have plenty of scriptural support to back him up in this. Just two verses immediately come to mind and can be shared here:

Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep.” (Isaiah 56:10)

Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8)

The silence of God’s people, and especially of God’s leaders, is a disgrace and a scandal. Carl Henry was greatly grieved by this so long ago. But alas today things are not all that much better.

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18 Replies to “Woe To the Silent Churches”

  1. Thank you for sharing the history and influence of Carl Henry and his book which called on evangelical churches to make a stand in the area of Christian ethics and laws. Also for the sad decline of our churches, many of which which have gradually backed away from speaking out about social issues that involve terrible sinfulness, especially ones like schools promoting transgender.
    Thank God for those brave enough to speaking out against the Govt sponsorship of paying for sex change for children (just introduced in USA) and here in Australia where Govt sponsors/pays for sex change in the ADF and has silenced doctor’s voices on this topic.
    Other areas not spoken of often in churches are trafficking of women and children and the link with drug mafia gangs and pedophile groups which stretch across the globe. Most Christians learn of this through the newspaper or through testimonies by those who have escaped such backgrounds.
    It seems topics like domestic violence, incest or child abuse are mentioned more in chaplaincy and counselling workshops than in a church sermon or in a prayer group time (sometimes though churches invite in a guest speaker or Govt one to address the issues)
    Praying into these needs:
    I have always had a burden for these areas and pray into them with prayer partners, as many are concerned for our children (many are now adults) of this generation and our grandchildren
    One step in prayer is to pray God will expose to police and the public, child abuse, domestic violence and any form of trafficking or control that seems coercive.
    We can pray God will help police and victims stay safe and be that they may be at right place at the right time to save children and those who are trapped or at risk of injury or death.
    Another step is to pray by faith that God tips off Federal and under cover and cyber police where the pedophile rings and trafficking are operating from, and catch them. Also to pray for the victims to escape in time.
    Practical ways to help: A number of churches already support DV women and children by donating money or items to bless and help them and some provide counselling. The women’s ministry ‘Hope’ in WA and YWAM’s ministry are wonderful examples of reaching those on the streets or those who have been forced to sell their body, or who have become involved with drugs or kidnapped.
    Supporting pastors: The brave pastors who address these issues and who get involved are to be commended and the individuals who support those who reach out and pray with others in the street, and who often prayer walk the streets at night eg YWAM, YFC and street chaplains.
    A voice in Govt: I thank God for the ones who speak out about Christian ethics and values and ring alarm bells like ACL (eg fighting against the proposed ‘abortion till birth’ bills (Wendy Francis and Martin isles) and MP’s like George Christensen and Fred Niles who try to keep Politicians aware of the Christian voters and Gods laws.
    May many more speak up as the terrible acts of defiance against God go ahead (e.g. This year the Mardi Gras was held in Sydney despite the floods raging at the time.)
    I so agree we need more speaking out and like Wilberforce but undergirding that I think we also need ones like Abraham in Sodom standing in the gap in prayer, asking God to help intervene.
    May God have mercy on our nation and our churches as many young ones would like to speak up more often and older ones, but need an opening and then need prayer backing to carry through what God shows to do to help in each community to help those blinded by sin or new unGodly laws that grieve God.

  2. The enemy of our souls has sown a very effective lie, which has been repeated times without number and that is the ‘church’ should never address political issues. Even yesterday I heard Joe Horn of Skywatch trot out the age-old lie. Skywatch is supposed to be on the cutting edge of evangelicalism so what hope is there? Where I live none whatsoever but there are some who are preaching on all aspects of man’s life, including politics and encouraging the Lord’s people to become involved. As a result there are some in one particular pastor’s congregation who are actually making a difference. Also the whole church is active in seeking to ensure certain bills are not passed by ‘phoning their political representatives to tell thrm they are opposed to such bills. Amazingly the pastor of this church, which I follow online because
    I live over 7 thousand miles away, also preaches the whole gospel, icluding eschatology! However, as you say, such pastors are few and far between.

  3. In the UK, there are evangelical organisations such as the Christian Institute, Christian Concern, Christian Voice etc. which do speak on such matters. Should churches, in the sense of places of worship, be the forum for discussion of political and social matters? Where there is reform in a nation, it seems to be led by individual Christians or parachurch groups rather than by churches. Are there historical examples what to do about the silence of churches?

  4. 1947, 2022 Nothing new under the sun!

    Humanity seems to walk history in a large circle and each time we come across a point in the circle we think we’re the first to get there.

    Christianity is the West is WAY too comfortable and comfort often begets laziness and complacency. We like what we have so we won’t risk losing it to tell people the hard truths they need to hear. How many churches after 9/11 told people about God’s judgment and anger and the countries sinful state and how many just offered platitudes of comfort in exchange for overflowing collection plates???

    Personal holiness is important but even there we can botch thing some with preferences being elevated to scripture. Yes sometimes there are clear cases to be made from scripture for things that may seem preferential and there are also many times where the Bible condemns one thing but some stretch that into something else. (drinking vs drunkenness).

    Instead of either/or why not do both and do both correctly.

  5. My husband is a pastor and he has spoken out but several church members have turned against us now as they trust the government implicitly. There are a few unvaccinated pastors in the LCA and they have been shut down and aren’t getting calls. One pastor recently resigned as his church members wanted him vaccinated and a church withdrew their call as they found out he’s not vaccinated.

  6. @ Anne Rasenberger, how dreadful, I have to suggest that the vast majority of those who are rejecting you just cannot be walking with the Lord, otherwise how could they do this to the one God has called to be their shepherd? I do feel for you and am appalled at how some, alleged, Christians are behaving. if it is any consolation there are still many of us who are totally against receiving this ‘jab’ and will continue to be adament. I just pray that the Lord will give you both all you need to continue serving Him in the manner He has called you to do.
    This truly seems to be a time of great division as God allows what is happening to show us all those who are His and those to whom He will, one day say, “depart from Me I never knew you.” Thank God it will not be you nor your beloved. May you be so encouraged today in all that God will show you.

  7. Thanks Julia Pomeroy. Prayers much appreciated, as it’s hard being in the minority. We saw an Indian doctor on Tuesday about the Indian vaccine, (Covaxin), as it’s the only C-19 vaccine which was not tested on foetal stem cells and it does not contain the spike protein. Also, the side-effects are mild and not fatal. He said he know nothing about that vaccine. They get told about certain vaccines, mainly from America and that’s all they know. He said, “It’s all political, no longer medical”. Doctors can be de-registered if they don’t follow the government’s rules, just as one was recently in that area of Melbourne. He said that “It’s no longer between the doctor and their patient: there is a third party”. We now have the antibodies, as detected by an antibodies test we paid for ourselves (as we caught C-19 in December) and have an exemption which expires 17th June. And we hope and pray the mandates are dropped soon. But it doesn’t seem likely as Daniel Andrews just extended the state of emergency until 12th July. The TGA said Covaxin is not approved in Australia, even though it’s approved for travel to Australia, and that I should contact the company, which I’ve done. But Covaxin has just been suspended by WHO as apparently the facilities need to be upgraded. Anyway, antibodies are said to last years and not months, according to Dr Michael Yeadon, but they are not recognised by the government. People who are immune to SARS Cov 1 were shown to be immune to SARS Cov 2. And if Omicron is like a common cold, what are people worried about?

  8. In 2017 I wore an “It’s okay to say NO” t-shirt to a school at which I was volunteering, during the same sex marriage debate and I was confronted with great hostility by a staff member, who said I had already been warned not to wear that t-shirt. But I had noticed a staff member (possibly a union member) wearing a rainbow t-shirt and that seemed to be acceptable. I was sat down and asked about it by several staff members who told me it could offend some people and another staff member covered me with her jacket and escorted me out of the school gates.

    Another time I objected online to the Autism float at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, via the ASPECT Facebook. I said this does not represent all autistic people as some of us objected to same sex marriage. I was called a “bigot” and was accused of being “judgemental”. And was blocked from the page, even though I myself have autism and so does our son.

    When I was in the local shopping centre I was wearing y “It’s okay to say NO” t-shirt and a lesbian confronted me and told me very agressively that it’s not okay to say no as I was being “bigotted” and “judgemental”.

    Many years ago when I was in an “Attachment” parenting group when our son was younger, I was told I was not allowed to talk about abortion as it is a taboo topic, since it is political, religious and about sex.

    In 2008 after I had a miscarriage I was at a support group (SANDS) and met another woman who had an elective abortion as her and her partner were told their baby would be disabled and they didn’t want them to suffer. I no longer felt able to go to that group and complained but got a standard response that they support all women who have undergone pregnancy loss.

  9. I also had two cousins block me on Facebook during the same sex marriage debate, one of whom is gay. And recently I had a cousin unfriend me as I said that Djokovic had an exemption to the vaccine and so do we, so what is the difference? Before Christmas we were told we had to be vaccinated to attend a family gathering, but ironically we caught C-19 during that time so could not attend anyway. The women’s fellowship also met at a cafe and we were not invited, but were going to a march in Melbourne that day. And the KYB ladies did not invite me to the break up as the Baptist church required people to be vaccinated.

  10. One thing I regret, is that another Christian friend invited me to pray outside abortion clinics in Melbourne with Kathy Clubb and I did not take up the offer.

    But I did meet outside parliament when the euthanasia bill was being debated with other disabled people and spoke as a person who has autism.

    And now thanks to the “conversion” bill, any Christian who prays or counsels an LGBTQIA+ person according to the bible can go to jail or receive a huge fine or both. ACL suspect a pastor will be the first to get caught. At our church a group of young men meet and they discuss all sorts of things and pray for each other without reserve. Some of them ask my husband, who is a pastor questions. They are aware of the bill but said they will still pray if asked by a brother who needs prayer. Some of them go to table tennis and ask me questions, inbetween playing table tennis. This group of young men is very enthusiastic and the group is growing. It is interdenominational. Please pray for them and their safety.

  11. We must be prepared to speak out. But Jesus warned that we should be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves in the face of persecution. ( Mat 10:16). I don’t think he means we should be lacking in courage.

  12. Just an amendment to my previous comment. Even with the Covaxin, which has relatively mild side-effects, was not tested on foetel cell lines and does not contain the spike protein, (so does not have ethical concerns connected for us) the antibodies decline after six months, indicating that immunity produced via vaccines wanes. See: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.01.05.22268777v1 (featured on the Bharat Biotech website at https://www.bharatbiotech.com/) Manmade immunity does not compare to God-given immunity which the body naturally produces after infection, which is long-lasting and robust, according to one doctor, Dr. John Campbell.

  13. True on immunity Anne but from the pharmaceutical companies point of view I point to a sign from a Simpson’s episode “sorry but there’s a profit to be had”.

    Mammon is more important to many modern men than God.

  14. How can churches ‘speak out’ when they are swallowing the surrounding paganism with aplomb?
    I recently had a tussle with an Anglican bishop over the ‘acknowledgement of country’ plastered all over their website and, I was told, intoned with all seriousness in some parishes! He was unmoved by my pointing out the, at least, incipient paganism he was courting. This would be like Paul ‘acknowledging’ the priests of Diana in Ephesus and her ‘custody’ of their city.
    Perhaps I should have sounded him out for a statue of Shiva in our church to show we accepted the historic culture of the few Indians in the congregation…although, keen Christians that they are, they would have been horrified at the idea.

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