Soft Christianity Does Not Cut It
We must return to a muscular and aggressive faith:
There have always been believers who have thought that if we are just really nice and smile a lot and never seek to make waves or ruffle feathers, then we will have a real impact on the surrounding culture. Just be gentle and kind and never get involved in controversial issues and we will win the world over for Christ.
Um, no. This soft, anaemic and spineless sort of Christianity which is all the rage today just does not cut it – it never has. Only those on-fire believers with Holy Ghost boldness who fearlessly proclaim truth even when people hate them for it have made a lasting difference for Christ and the Kingdom. The prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus and the disciples all are examples of this.
All of them were hated and most of them were killed. So much for just trying to be nice, winsome, and all lovey-dovey. Sure, we ARE to love others, including our enemies, but that does not mean watering down the truth, avoiding crucial battles, and refusing to be confrontational. The biblical Christian, like the prophets of old, must be willing to challenge, to rebuke, to confront, and to agitate.
This article, like many of mine, actually came out of a number of things I just recently read. In a period of 12 hours I came upon three quite different things that all fully tie together, and thus this article. Some folks might say that this was just coincidental, but I would say it was providential. So let me quote from these three very different sources.
Last night I pulled out my copy of Horatius Bonar’s classic 1864 work, God’s Way of Holiness. Bonar (1808-1889), was a noted Scottish preacher and hymn writer. As I was flicking through this book, one passage especially stood out. In his chapter on “The True Creed and the True Life” he said this:
For there is some danger of falling into a soft and effeminate Christianity, under the plea of a lofty and ethereal theology. Christianity was born for endurance; not an exotic, but a hardy plant, braced by the keen wind; not languid, nor childish, nor cowardly. It walks with firm step and erect frame; it is kindly, but firm; it is gentle, but honest; it is calm, but not facile; obliging, but not imbecile; decided, but not churlish. It does not fear to speak the stern word of condemnation against error, nor to raise its voice against surrounding evils, under the pretext that it is not of this world. It does not shrink from giving honest reproof lest it come under the charge of displaying an unchristian spirit. It calls sin ’sin,’ on whomsoever it is found, and would rather risk the accusation of being actuated by a bad spirit than not discharge an explicit duty. Let us not misjudge strong words used in honest controversy. Out of the heat a viper may come forth; but we shake it off and feel no harm. The religion of both Old and New Testaments is marked by fervent outspoken testimonies against evil. To speak smooth things in such a case may be sentimentalism, but it is not Christianity. It is a betrayal of the cause of truth and righteousness.
If anyone should be frank, manly, honest, cheerful (I do not say blunt or rude, for a Christian must be courteous and polite), it is he who has tasted that the Lord is gracious, and is looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God. I know that charity covereth a multitude of sins; but it does not call evil good, because a good man has done it. It does not excuse inconsistencies, because the inconsistent brother has a high name and a fervent spirit. Crookedness and worldliness are still crookedness and worldliness, though exhibited in one who seems to have reached no common height of attainment.
And this morning in my daily Bible reading I was going through 2 Chronicles. One passage intrigued me and I pulled out a commentary on it. What was said by Andrew Hill about the relevance of prophets was especially pertinent. He wrote:
R. B. Y. Scott was touting the relevance of the Old Testament prophets five decades ago in what might now be considered his “minor classic” by that title. But why are the Old Testament prophets relevant, and what makes their message spoken to ancient Israel more than twenty-five centuries ago applicable to contemporary culture? According to Scott, the remarkable contemporaneity of these ancient figures and the perennial freshness of their message spring from several distinctive characteristics:
-their power to penetrate past the maze of appearances to identify the essential underlying human and theological facts of a given circumstance or historical situation
-their ability to define essential justice and essential religion amid moral confusion, secular influence, and human waywardness
-their shrewd understanding of human nature and the human predicament as a result of their suffering (what at times is called the “prophetic pathos”)
-their sensitivity to the urgent meaning of history as the sphere of humanity’s moral decisions and God’s preemptory interventions
-their knowledge of God as the fountainhead of ultimate meaning and purpose in the context of everyday life
-their capacity to communicate concretely, in universal terms, and with both passion and conviction – to speak with divine authority by the power of God’s Spirit as choice servants commissioned by God – unlike their rivals, who told “fortunes for money” (Mic. 3:11; cf. Amos 3:8; Mic. 3:8)
The third thing I just read was an article by Rod Dreher. It was about the New York Pastor Tim Keller and what several others had been saying about him. Rod and one of the other writers felt that the winsomeness of Keller had its place when things were not so hostile to Christianity, but today in the anti-Christian West it may not cut it. Said Dreher:
The moment for Christians to love our enemies and pray for them will never pass, this is true. But the idea that they will embrace us, or even tolerate us, if we just be sweet is no longer viable. I don’t advocate at all hating our enemies. Neither did Martin Luther King. But King also recognized that he and the movement he led really did have enemies, and that these enemies were willing to do violence to them. We non-conforming Christians are moving into the same world, very rapidly — except this time, the technological powers that our enemies have to use against us are without parallel in world history….
I don’t know a lot about Tim Keller, except by reputation. He seems to be a very fine man, and devout Christian. I couldn’t imagine saying a bad thing about him, but some of you Evangelicals who follow him more closely than I do might disagree. All I can say is that Winsome World Christians are failing to prepare themselves, their families, and (if pastors) their flocks for the world that exists today, and the world that is fast coming into being. Again, I am thinking of the pastor I argued with who believed that he didn’t need to speak about gender ideology to his parish (“I don’t want politics in my congregation”) because, as he explained, if he just keeps winsomely teaching Biblical principles, all will be well. I am certain that man believed he was taking a virtuous stand against fearmongers and alarmists like Dreher. I think it was cowardice….
Winsomeness is not going to prepare the churches for what is fast coming to us. That is not a rationalization for embracing hatred! But it is a warning to individual believers and leaders, both ordained and lay, to read the signs of the times, and act. The Christians who have lived through this sort of thing before, and who are warning us today, have strong counsel for us in my book Live Not By Lies.
One of the most important things I learned in reporting this book is something that dissident Kamila Bendova, the wife of the late political prisoner Vaclav Benda, told me. She said that she and her husband, despite being very strong conservative Catholics, had no problem at all working closely with Vaclav Havel and his hippie dissident circles. Kamila told me that when you are facing the kind of dragon they had to fight, the rarest quality is courage. She said most Czech Christians kept their heads down and conformed to avoid trouble. Kamila and her husband had more in common with the brave atheist hippies who refused to live by lies, and who were willing to suffer for it. https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/tim-keller-david-french-myxomatosis-christians/
I have to go along with Dreher on this. And I have written about such matters before. See this piece for example: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/04/08/no-more-mr-nice-guy/
The days of just trying to be nice and accommodating and compromising in order to get along with the world in the vain hope of reaching the world is long over. Indeed, it never was acceptable. Soft Christianity must come to an end. Only an aggressive, masculine Christianity, as Catherine Booth wrote about, will suffice. See what she said here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/01/07/on-aggressive-christianity/
As she wrote, “If we are to better the future we must disturb the present.” And three brief quotes from A. W. Tozer are worth finishing off with:
“Modern Christians are too tolerant, too nice, too anxious to be popular and too quick to make excuses for sin in its many forms. God’s people should be willing to stand for God.”
“It is true that the church has suffered from pugnacious men, but she has suffered more from timid preachers who would rather be nice than right. The latter have done more harm if for no other reason than that there are so many more of them. I do not think, however, that we must make our choice between the two. It is altogether possible to have true love and courage at the same time.”
“Yes, if evangelical Christianity is to stay alive she must have men again, the right kind of men. She must repudiate the weaklings who dare not speak out, and she must seek in prayer and much humility the coming again of men of the stuff prophets and martyrs are made of.”
18 Replies to “Soft Christianity Does Not Cut It”
Excellent exposure of where our current church leaders are in error Bill. The desire to be all things to all people, and not make waves is so evident today.
I read a quote by G. K. Chesterton on social media today which goes to your point.
“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions”
Today we tolerate everything but truth and righteousness.
Yes quite right Henri. And I always have liked that quote by Chesterton.
Thank you Bill. Very timely. I am one of those you speak of.
I need to repent!
We all do in various ways Vincent. Blessings.
As it relates to “soft Christianity “, it’s a rot. Peddled and undergirded with the expressed purpose to deceive, has brought us to a dangerous juncture. Truth, as it relates to the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM, is combative, indeed, it must need be. *Radically so I say. Radically? Yes!!! Dig and get to the *root. Dynamis, YHWH’s power in Yeshua/Christ Jesus subduing darkness to loose those in bondage, to set free and bringing them into the glorious light. The devil and his imps are liars and defeated foes. In every societal concourse evil must not be coddled. It’s a glorious contradiction: applied thusly, love does the tempering.
Sometimes Christians are nicer than God, and there are times, having just fielded another nasty and sarcastic comment in The Times (UK broadsheet) when I wish I could be more like them! When people are openly wishing you were dead, it is then you realise, if you had not already done so, that you really do not belong to this sin-sick world.
I needed this, this morning! One of your best Bill! I have been struggling with this since Biden became President. Christians excusing every evil thing he has done. Every church around me is surrounded by this type of soft Christians, only appearing on Sunday, thinking their ticket is punched for the glory of his Kingdom. Sad!
I agree Bill, Christians are not warriors or fighting people anymore. I came across a short 45sec Kim Clement 2014 prophecy last night and then a news heading this morning said the US Supreme Court was voting again on the Roe vs Wade abortion issue today again. I love powerful prophets so here it is https://www.youtube.com/shorts/y61BWnnxBYM
but it keeps repeating itself – a Christian friend couldn’t understand it so here is what he is saying:-
‘And your children will no longer be your food, you shall not use them and take them out of the womb anymore says the Lord’ (ie from being sacrificed or blood used for making andrenochrome or just for food, you might not believe it but it is happening, then abortion which is taking babies from the womb).
‘Watch as I change everything. There are those who want justice and there are those who are in a strong position in the highest court of the land, the supreme court. Two shall step down for the embarrassment of what shall take place. For I wish to place in the highest court of the land, righteousness. And they shall attempt to put others in to reach their endeavours but God says, hear me tonight, hear me today, I have this whole thing planned out according to My will.’ so please pray it gets overturned today or a later date.
Nice one bro. My wife and a select few friends have been discussing how weak the church has been lately, not having anything to say about this current crisis of culture. Praying for boldness, a fruit of being spirit filled. 2 Timothy 1:7
I was surprised that you are somewhat critical of Tim Keller, I think he’s a fabulous teacher, has such clarity. That said, I was not aware that he has chosen not to comment on current sociopolitical themes. I do find that disappointing, he has a wide influence.
I have a friend who is a very passionate evangelist from a Presbyterian background and he takes a similar stance, believing that individual hearts changed for God is the only way to change wider society. He argues that is how Jesus went about things. While I agree to an extent, it is the long term solution. However, Jesus was concerned with and intervened to address social injustice and so should we.
Thanks Phil, although I expressed no direct criticism of Keller in this piece. Just a few days ago I also spoke about him and I stated that for the most part I quite like him:
My husband & I went along to the Rally For Life in Perth last night. We had a mild case of what we are up against when a group protestors came up to those speaking and started shouting their slogans & waving their placards. It was handled quite well, given there was no warning. We, & the Christians near us, were actually quite emboldened & encouraged by what happened. The responses to the prayers, speeches & songs seemed stronger & louder than in the past. As Christians, we need to be actively standing against those who are trying to tear down, or water down, Christianity. We were disappointed, however, with how few Christians come along to events like these. When things get worse, who will still stand up for righteousness?
Well done Suzanne.
So much for the experiment of acting like hell does not exist. The church shrank and hell grew.
Maybe they are putting testosterone killers in the water or something, because willingness to stand up for truth is a major theme of the Bible, as well as all the great moves of God in the last few centuries.
Nowadays it’s all talk, niceness and walking on tippy-toes… Unless, of course, you quote what the Bible says about homosexuality on social media while you are a high profile sportsman. Funny how a football player has more nounce than virtually every pastor in the country. That would be as crazy as Jesus commissioning a bunch of fishermen to save the world. Oh, wait…
True. How many pastors at the funeral of a man who: had multiple infidelities leading to more than one divorce, paid for sex with prostitutes, swore worse than a sailor after a long voyage and despite going to church often and putting money in the collection plate and taking communion professed no real faith beyond standard God trope even worldly people can recite yet was nice to people and did charity work and volunteered time for kids. How many would say “I’m sorry but seeing as he didn’t believe in Jesus as his Lord and Savior he is in hell not heaven.”??? If you can’t state a man living a sinful live who doesn’t believe or says he does but who fruit betrays him, by their fruits you shall know them, how can you convince anyone of the need for Christ and repentance??? Afterall if he got in why shouldn’t they???
I might have to disagree with him on bluntness at least sometimes. With some people and in some situations you have to be blunt. Some people you try not being blunt but you find yourself going there because you aren’t getting through. I think blunt and rude are different as blunt is being frank, straight forward, no “pussyfooting around” while rude is antagonizing, insulting, vile. Like a person has a illness and being blunt you would say if you don’t get this treatment you’ll die. Where being rude is if you’re too stupid to see this treatment is the only chance you have to live I can’t help you. Often we aren’t blunt because we want to be nice or sugarcoat something or we want to ease into it. Bold and blunt many times are the same thing.
Strangely the armour of God , as in Ephesians six is almost entirely for defense.
Yep, the only weapon we need is the Word of God which Jesus used to great effect against the devil when in the wilderness prior to the start of His ministry.