"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Death by Trivialization: The Decline of Christianity in America

One might ask the question, "Why is the evangelical church thriving and growing in foreign cultures, but static or declining in the USA?

In the 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, educator Neil Postman proposed that futurist Aldous Huxley, not George Orwell, understood better the future of Western civilization.

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books," wrote Postman, "But what Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one . . . Orwell feared that truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared that the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orewell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture."

Could it be that evangelical churches, particularly those churches aligned with mainline denominations in America, are both Orwellian and Huxlian?

In other words, could the problems be that we face those in denominational authority who seek to squelch true, free Biblical debate, but at the same time, church members and leaders don't care that debate is squelched because they have no interest in the teaching of the Bible? It seems that our culture is dying the death of trivialization, and our churches our following suit by caring more about the next special guest, the fascinating entertainers, the current musical rage, and the special "How To" homilies which have taken the place of sound, Biblical exposition from the pulpit. There is more emphasis in our churches on horns, slogans, and banners than worship, sound teaching and Biblical exhortations.

Would to God we really cared what the Bible said. Only then would we be up in arms about any attempt to silence debate.

In His Grace,


Don't know, just asking.



Jeremy Roberts said...

The title of the book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, is the answer to why we are seeing a plateaued or declining Christian culture in America.

This amusing is sadly true in many of our SBC churches today.

Dorcas said...

I think people have forgotten that the Bible itself is fascinating. Sound biblical teaching and exhortation will necessarily include all the interest and excitement of how God wove time and events together. If we would spend more time trying to show that to people instead of dressing it up with worldly fluff or trying to add to it, I think the churches would be stronger.

Roger Simpson said...


I agree that in some quarters we are seeing trivialization of Christianity. This is manifesting itself as an unintended byproduct of "market driven" or "consumer driven" models.

The tension is to adjust our services to reflect the cultural context that is relevant without disconnecting the church from its legacy. As the Wall Street Journal article on Monday pointed out, attempting to adjust your church to reflect a given target audience has a side effect of alienating it from all other audiences. I would argue that today in the USA there is no such thing as a single "target" audience in any given city if you define "TARGET AUDIENCE" in terms of music styles or other cultural baggage rather than the fact that people are sinners in need of Christ.

Also, in some quarters {not SBC) we see the amazing "success" of prosperity theology (i.e. "name it and claim it"). While flashy it does not address the real needs of people for a relationship with Christ. Church need to be more than just a motivational rally with a couple of Bibles tossed in on the side.

Steve Davis said...

I was in church, Sunday when the pastor shared from his sermon that the preaching of the Gospel is not enough to change lives. Judging from the rest of the sermon he never preached the gospel and that is why lives were never changed. The people in the pews don't care about sound exposition many times because no one has exposed them to it. It is a failure of leadership.

WTJeff said...

Shane Barnard wrote a song called "Lord I want it all." The point of Shane's song was that he wanted all that Jesus had for him and was willing to put the world aside. When I do training, I teach a session on the myths of multihousing church planting. Myth #7 is "I can have the American Dream and fully be in God's will". Our culture teaches that you can have it all -- everything of God and everything a white, urban, middle class family wants. The truth is we must be willing to sacrifice what the world says is valuable to pursue the sufficency of Jesus. The only way to rest in the sufficency of Christ is to know His Word and through that, to know Him intimately. Until we can set aside the American Dream and pursue Christ, the trivial nature of our culture and our churches that embrace rather than engage that culture will grow.

Tim Cook said...

I was browsing Larknews.com thanks to yesterdays post and came across an article that made me laugh and almost cry at the same time. It was fake, of course, pure satire. In any case the fake news story was about how the church in China was in decline ever since the translation of "The Prayer of Jabez" into Chinese. It said that none of the Chinese Christians were into suffering for the faith any more. Even though this didn't really happen, it seems to touch on our subject. I think the trivialization of the church started long before we had "seeker sensitive" models. Whatever you think of that type of church, I don't think it is to blame. Do you want to see the gospel trivialized? walk into a Christian book store. Right next to the gospel, you will find jokes and novelty merchandise marketed as a "witnessing tool". These things cause others to laugh at us. Also, "Amusing Ourselves to Death" does not necessarily just mean over-the-top amusement; it could be just preaching to people what they want to hear rather than preaching the word. It could be sliding comfortably into secular culture rather than adapting that culture to the gospel. IMHO, the church was sliding into irrellevance long before any of the modern "amusements" came about; they are a symptom, not a cause.

davidinflorida said...

Pastor Wade, I believe that here in the USA the "church" (described in REV 2 AND 3 ) has become lazy and fat. One only has to see or hear what Christians have to do, or are subject to in other countries to worship GOD......Go to VOM (the voice of the martyrs) and you can see. These people will have crowns to cast..............I believe the other problem could be that the new Gospel, that has been preached over the past 100 years, refers to a God shaped hole in your heart and that God wants to be your friend. The Law , which convicts sinners, is not preached. The people do not know what sin is or how they have sinned. Therefore they do not cry out for a savior ( see Rmn 7:7 )they are not greatfull.

Alycelee said...

I can see this has provoked thoughful discussion and I agreed with these comments.
I am a big fan of Erwin McMannus, who has effectively used the arts and music, not to mention urban locations to reach people who are unchurched. In that mode, I agree completely and in some ways agree to looking outside the box in evangelical ways that certainly do not exclude preaching what Peter preached!

However, I see big mega churches hiring consultants from Disney to plan their childrens ministry, Starbucks and bookstores on site, choo choo trains transporting children to the baptistry.
Is it too much? Are we in the competitive mode or are we lifting up Jesus and drawing men unto him.

I know the gospel is preached in these churches, I just don't know how much is heard or why people are coming. This would be a narrow road to walk and I would hate to be in that business meeting voting (oh, wait I don't go to business meetings, ha I'm not congregational!)

As for the denomination authority struggle of keeping things oppressed, I think I see things a little different. I believe their real fear is staying in power.
Not necessarily losing their power to another, but that denominational power and significance is waining and they know it.

For I believe e are in a post-denominational period, just look at the number of churches who take that name off their signs, even old liners are doing it by the droves. God is moving to unify the body, He is doing it His way. I for one intend to cooperate with Him.
When I see the Authority of God-I submit. I pray he allows me to see it.
Good topic, Wade, you always keep us on our spiritual toes.

Pastor Brad said...

Unfortunately, evangelical churches throughout the Western world have turned to amusing people back into the pews because it looks like we are alive, but we are not. (Can anyone say the Church at Sardis)

There is nothing wrong with how-to sermons, skits, doing things well. We certainly need to connect the Word to their lives. However, has anyone else ever noticed that with some of the mega pastors you can search their sermons and they have lots on purpose, but little on sin. Or they emphasize creativity, but fail to emphasize holiness. They abuse scripture taking it entirely out of context as a proof text.

We have taken on a consumer church mentality - give them what they want and tickle their ears.

What concerned me most in seminary and pastoral circles is that these are held up as the example, rather than the Ken Whitten's and others.

Great post Wade. Thank you.

Pastor Brad said...

Alyce Lee,

I agree with you on the Disney consultations etc, but I disagree with your conclusions regarding the move away from denominationalism. Generally, you see the two together not separate. I realize there are some exceptions, but in my experience it is the non-denominational churches that are less anchored to the Word not more. In an effort to not touch on the issues that separate us (baptism, the charisma, etc) they avoid key passages in the Bible. For instance, we had a family come to our church plant after 8 years in a local non-denom. church that is widely considered a solid evangelical church, and they reported that they had not once been taught about baptism of any form. They had never been trained to read the text in any way other than topical. I think that is sad and I have no desire to be a part of that.

As a pastor, I have the responsibility and joy to teach the whole counsel of the Word to the best of my ability. Ecumenicalism more often pushes us away from a solid reading of the Word than nearer to it, IMHO.

God bless.

Alycelee said...

It's not my intention to disagree with you about what should be preached Pastor Brad. But the scripture says, the goodness of God leads men to repentance.
When I was lost, I knew I was lost and I knew I was in sin. The problem I had was, could I stop? could I get out if it, could I stay out of it, could God forgive me and could I really live and walk a holy life?
To me, that is what is not preached. The God commands us to LIVE HOLY, but he also gives us the POWER to do it. I never heard that. Oh, I wish I had.
There is Hope and our HOPE is Jesus. That is our only hope. For the lost and the saved. He is our hope.
The people I work with (women who come out of prison) know they have sinned. Many have come from Penecostal background and have been beat over the head with "thou shalt nots". They need to be instructed with how to be a "blessed art thou"
Just a perspective, thanks

Pastor Brad said...


After rereading, I don't think SWBTS was right to restrict the chapel message, though I think they have the right. I certainly don't think it was dangerous to churches. I simply would have preached the other point of view at the first opportunity.

However, I don't think the denominational leadership as a whole is trying to squelch discussion (see Page's comments on Charismatics,Calvinists, etc)but trying to make a stand in important areas to keep the SBC representative of the majority of SBC churches.

For instance, I see no support biblically for unknown tongues or a prayer language, and most SBCers agree. At the very least, we should all be able to agree that the Bible agrees that drinking alcohol is unwise, even if we don't see it is a biblical imperative. Aparently, the vast majority of SBCers agree.

Alex F said...

Very interesting discussion contrasting the vision/fear of Orwell and Huxley. Lots to chew on here.

Reading the subsequent discussion I'm reminded of a recent book by Os Guiness (Prophetic Untimeliness) where he argues that "relevance" has become a major idol in the Western church.

The Gospel is counter-cultural and points to a narrow way that few will walk. We need to get beyond a typical bigger-is-better American mindset.

Alycelee said...

Pastor Brad, while that was an experience you had with a couple, my experience was completely different.
My husband and I spent 15 years in a non-denominational church, where we were truly discipled. We were taught the government of God,
the kingdom of God, at a young age in Christ we left the "elementary teaching" that Hebrews speaks of and were encouraged to devour the Word of God.
My love for God and the Word came from my mentors in Christ encouraging that in me from my inception in Christ. We had weekly Bible studies for years and saw the fruit of our labor.
We are still in covenant relationship with these people who discipled us and love them dearly.

I have never seen discipleship work like that in denominational life. I've seen programs teach it, people pontificate about it, and we quote the great commission, I don't see it active and alive in churches, UNLESS they move to small groups and have pastor/elders for those groups-then perhaps.

I'm not saying denominationalism will be replaced by non-denominations-which then becomes a denomination. I'm saying the emphasis is less and less important to people out there who need help.
Like Rick Warren says, They don't care what you believe, until they know you care.

Alycelee said...
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dave said...


I want to ask your thoughts on someting:

It seems to me that some of this lack of theological depth in some preaching today is internet-based.

What I mean by that is that there are numerous web-sites where pastors can buy other folks sermons and pass them off as their own. Many of these sermons fall into the category of "how-to" or follow some variation of purpose-driven.

I'm finding that pastors, whether going after the latest new idea, have had an exceptionally busy week or whatever are taking someone's sermons (a word of God to that particular context) and claiming that word as their own.

One theologically lacking sermon, then, gets preached all over the country, just because a famous name is attached to it.

Your thoughts?

Pastor Brad said...


Thank God for those people in your life. I agree completely with you that they need to see we care first, and I know there are exceptions to what I said, though my comments are based on many experiences.

I also agree that the average person doesn't care what denomination you are. We began with Baptist in our name and removed it because here in the NE we found it detrimental, not because they don't like Baptists or love non-denom. but because even though they are 2nd-3rd generation unchurched, they still identify themselves with whatever the historic family denom was. However, we make no bones about who we are if asked.

We need to teach the "thou shalt nots" along with everything else or they do not understand the need for grace, though I can imagine that for the incarcerated, they probably understand that sooner.

Thank you for your ministry among these women for the Kingdom.

God bless.

Pastor Brad said...


I keep rereading your post and better understanding what you are asking. Sorry, I'm slow.

It seems to me that your question regarding those who are "squelching free debate" are not at all those who are teaching "How-to sermons." It would be a stretch for instance to connect Patterson, Aiken, etc with the Warren's, Ed Young, Jr's, etc. Surely, you would not accuse the first group of not teaching sound principles of biblical and exegetical preaching, even if you disagree with their conclusions.

I would humbly appreciate if you would clarify the connection for me, because I agree with everything else in your post and think it needs to be said. Thanks in advance.

montijs96 said...

Oh, sort of like being upset about the colors not showing up in the church's plasma sign, only to discover it's because they couldn't be seen because of special golf sunglasses?

Christopher Redman said...

As I travel and view preachers and preaching, I see a great deal of story telling, poignet and relevent illustrations, man centered messages, and a lack of power in the pulpit.

It is also my experience that powerful exposition of scripture challenges and invigorates Christians and many churches grow exponentially in this environment.

Preaching the gospel still changes lives, the problem is too many preachers are either not preaching the gospel or they are preaching the wrong gospel.


Paul Burleson said...

I'm not Wade but I do have some thoughts. There have always been sources for simple sermons for preachers who do not study. Hershal Ford's book series [way before your time I'm sure] was entitled "Simple Sermons" and was on every topic imaginable as well as many books of the bible. I preached them all in my first five years of ministry. I, of course, came up empty of true biblical knowledge. Not because his sermons weren't biblical but he'd done all the study and I did none. That changed and I now study to see for myself what the scriptures are saying and meaning and have followed this method for a number of years now. It makes a difference. But, my point is that the internet is just another delivery system of what someone else found in their study. We even call it now the "Pastor's office" instead of the "Pastor's study" for good reason.

Another thought. I've always been amazed that in the first Corinthian letter where sin was obvious in a culture and in a church, the Law was never mentioned. If the Law is necessary to bring conviction Paul missed the boat with these people because he didn't mention it.

But the Cross and it's work in the wisdom of God was mentioned rather consistently. It may be the missing element in our day is the real person, purpose, and work of that Cross that Paul seemed captivated by. If that Cross is adequately heard and understood [the hearing of it is our part, ie preaching, the understanding of it is the Holy Spirit's part, ie enlightenment] statements like "9-11 was God's judgement on America" wouldn't be made. The Cross is God's judgement on sin. If the Cross is rejected eternity will bring judgement of course. But the Cross is our message with all it's purpose verified as accepted by the resurrection. Our message is, it seems to me, the goodness of God as demonstrated in that Cross with all of it's attendant meaning.

Just my thoughts.


Bro. Robin said...

Bro. Wade

I have learned that it is better to give a slow thoughtful response than misunderstand what is said and ask the wrong questions.

After giving it some time and thinking about what you wrote I have the same questions as pastor Brad.

Are you trying to equate those who you think are "squelching free debate" with the watered down how to sermons that seem to be popular today? Even though you did not mention names, I can't help but think you are referring to the "chapelgate" incident and President Patterson. Or are you saying that since sermons have been watered down so much that people can't react or think properly on these issues and therefore they will not rise up and question those in authority because of a lack of sound expository preaching?

God Bless

Bro. Robin

irreverend fox said...



you are exactly right...so what else is new.

Gary Fox, president,
Wade Burleson Fan Club, International.

Pastor Brad said...


You have far more experience than I do. However, the following comment troubles me:

"If the Law is necessary to bring conviction Paul missed the boat with these people because he didn't mention it."

While I agree that we must preach the cross, we must also, especially in our post-Christian culture, preach the law as well, that they might see their need for a savior. As you know, Paul also said in Galatians 3:24-25, "24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."

To the lost, we must teach the Law which leads them to Christ. The Law reveals our sin and need for a savior. However, for Christians, like the Corinthians, we are no longer under the Law. Despite their sin, Paul assumes they are Christians.

BTW, Paul does reference the law several times in 1 Corinthians, such as 9:20-21.

If I have misunderstood you, I would really like to understand.

God bless.

Alycelee said...

AMEN Bro Paul,
Christ and Him Crucified.
We in the pews suffer the same plight.
We sit and sit for year upon year with mouths open like little chicks wanting to be fed and could care less what kind of worm is given us, from the internet, books, warmed over, where ever.

God convicted me some time ago, that while my pastor is there for me, to minister to me and exhort me, teach me, he is no substitute for the Holy Spirit who promises to teach me all things. I am cautioned to check EVERYTHING out, grow up.
At 58 I need to be grown, a little late to be a baby dont ya think :)
Thanks for your post.

Alycelee said...
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Alan Cross said...

This is a rarity, Wade! Everyone pretty much agrees with you!

I think that Wade was trying to say that fluffy sermons and those trying to squelch debate are BOTH problems, not that they are necessarily connected.

The answer to all of this is to love Jesus more than we love ourselves. If we would live for the glory of God more than our own comfort, things would fall into order. But, churches play the game with people because we want to attract and keep people happy. In a free market society, people can just leave. Our churches must perpetuate themselves by attracting people. We do this by appealling to what people want.

In my opinion, very little of this has to do with evangelism, but rather, a bigger is better mentality that breeds power and meaning for the pastors and church leaders. Just my opinion.

We need more John Pipers, in my opinion.

Alan Cross said...


I'm really interested in your list of "Myths." Could you post them here or send them via email? You've really got me thinking on that one.

Paul Burleson said...

Pastor Brad,

Thank you for your spirit and I'm sure , while older, [much older] I have no edge on you in understanding. You're questions and comments show a studied person.

The 1st Corinthians 9 reference is really what I base my view on, at least partially. Paul referenced the Law to Israel since it was significant in relation to His covenant with them. But to the Gentiles, which the Corinthian church reflected primarily, the Law was not a major factor being without that covenant connectedness. Then, Paul himself being "in-lawed" to Christ, was not seen as under the law [always a reference to the whole Law of Moses] or without law either. [Showing there are three groups in relation to the Law of Moses. Those under it, Israel---Those not under it,Gentiles---Those under a new Law of Christ, Christians.] So the passage is, perhaps, reflecting that the law is NOT the main issue in Paul's ministry to the Corinthians, but knowing how to present the Cross to all people is, which is the context of the first 9 chapters of the book.

A second thought is that while the law is often used by Paul in his dealings with the Jews and their uniqueness to their covenant he always took the law ..."to the Cross"...so to speak as evidenced in your reference to it being a school master, which I aree with by the way.

Good discussion and you or I neither one can adequately explain such a complex yet important truth and maybe not even adequately exlpain ourselves, but it's fun trying wouln't you say. Thanks.

Wade, sorry for the length. I promise to write a post on my blog rather than take up too much space here. :)


Paul Burleson said...

Wade, I got under the pressure of too long a comment and my spelling went out the window in the last paragraph. SORRY.


Pastor Brad said...


I always appreciate your humility, gentleness, and openness to discuss. I aspire to grow to the depth in my walk with Christ that I might always be that way.

It seems to me that there are not 3 groups, but two. Those under the law (all outside of Christ) and those under grace (all inside Christ). I have never fully understood dispensationalism. Is your view a dispensational approach? Also, how would you deal with Romans 7:7-14, that seems to indicate that the Law is for all, not just for Jews?

Thanks again.

Bryan Riley said...

I believe that it is because we make all things about ourselves, which, we all ultimately find to be empty. Leaders, whether Christian or not, often point their followers not to God, but to themselves or a cause or a "truth." But true Christianity and abundant life comes only from seeking first God's Kingdom and loving Him with all our hearts, soul and mights. Nothing can stand between us and God or we find emptiness, which leads to either insanity or apathy or both.

Lee said...

If you asked most of the members of our church what is mainly responsible for the slow decline in attendance that occurred between 1965 and 1990, they would tell you that the church didn't have the resources to "compete" with a couple of nearby mega-churches of the same denomination, which is where the bulk of those who left wound up going. They saw people leave to attend churches where the children's department was put together like an amusement park, where there were full scale health clubs in their family life center, complete with raquetball courts, weight equipment and programs for athletic training, where there were discounts offered to families to attend the Christian school, and where big-name Christian entertainers were fequently featured as artists in the worship service, along with a well-known pastor.

If this church had the resources to offer much of the same, though, I wonder what they would have done? What has happened is that a 25 year decline was arrested by a focus on simplifying the church's mission and purpose, down to the simple task of attaching ourselves to unbelievers in order to bring them to Christ, and making the church a training center for Christians to carry out their mission. By putting a few tools in place to be culturally relevant, even though there have been speed bumps along the way, I don't think they feel the need to "compete" any more. There is still some resistance to the cultural tools (contemporary worship and cell groups) but by and large, there is some movement toward being the church because that's what God wants us to be, and not because we have to compete with someone else.

Alycelee said...

Brad, when you are talking about the law the need to teach the "thou shall nots" are you talking about the 10, or the 600 and something?
Are you using that as a point of reference to someone who is not a believer that they are in sin?
I'm just not following you here and wanted to understand better.

Pastor Brad said...


Not sure how to take your question. I am of course speaking of the ten.

I would point you to the same passages that I have cooresponded with Paul on. It seems to me the clear teaching of scripture that it is through the law that we see our sin and need of a savior. The Law diagnoses the disease (sin) so that the cure (the Cross) is embraced.

Hope that clarifies.

God bless.

Bryan Riley said...

Brad and all, am i confused or isn't the whole purpose of Galatians 3 to say that we can't earn our salvation and we are foolish to try to chase the law now that we are under grace? And, doesn't it also seem that God keeps trying to show us that we can't do it, but He can, and that the only way to experience true change is from the inside out, not the other way around???

I find myself again ditto-ing Alan Cross... John Piper, yes, not because he points us to John Piper, but because He points us to Christ!!!

Alycelee said...

Yes Bryan, I agree.
I'm no scholar or biblical teacher, but it seems the law was a yoke tied around the necks of those who wore it and even the ones who wore it proudly failed miserably, because it was a heart issue ie Jesus pointing out to the Pharisees if you lust you have committed adultry.
So in theory, you can "keep" the 10 but fail in the heart issues as the Pharisees were doing.
thank you Bryan, you said it much better.

Paul said...

Perhaps that is why Huxly advocated legalizing and taking drugs.

davidinflorida said...

Pastor Wade, I also must admit that I am not a Bible expert and cant debate your DAD or Pastor Brad... I really mean it with all respect. ... What I mean when I say the law ,is the Ten Commandments.... When we come face to face with ALMIGHTY GOD, are we or are we not going to be judged by either the law, or by The Blood of Jesus Christ.....Romans 7:7 shows how PAUL gained an understanding of sin........I understand that as Christians we are not under the law, however, arent all non Christians under the law, regardless if they know it or not?........How can someone be saved from sin if they dont know what sin is? That just my opinion...

c_swbts said...
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davidinflorida said...

Pastor Wade, Food for thought, this is what I was saying is missing from most churches today..."the unsaved are in no condition today for the Gospel till the Law be applied to their hearts, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin. Its a waste of time to sow seed on ground which has never been ploughed or spaded! To present the vicarious sacrifice of Christ to those whose dominant passion is to take fill of sin, is to give that which is holy to the dogs"---A.W. Pink

c_swbts said...

Paul said, "What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” Rom 7:7

And, to others:
...then, the points are these: first, the law is fulfilled in us when we love our neighbor as ourselves. Second, love is the outworking of genuine, saving faith. Third, therefore, the law did not teach us to try to produce meritorious works, but only taught us to trust the gracious God of the exodus and to live out the obedience of faith. Fourth, therefore, the Mosaic covenant is not fundamentally different from the Abrahamic and New Covenants, for we should obey the commandments of all three from the very same motive—not to win God's favor, but because we already depend on his free grace and trust that his commands will lead to full and lasting joy. The final point, then, is that we should delight in God's law, meditate on it day and night (Psalm 119:97), and sing of his value to all generations (Psalm 19:7–14).
-by John Piper

I think the point about the law is being missed, IMHO.

Bob Cleveland said...


The word I see most in the New Testament for "worship" is "proskuneo". My computer Bible says that's a combination of words meaning to prostrate oneself, and to kiss. The illustration the Interlinear bible gives is a dog licking its master's hand.

That really speaks to me about worship.

The verse "Study to show yourself approved...": the word "study" is (or was the last time I looked it up) the same word as "use due diligence". Same phrase Paul used to say do your best to come before winter.

I can tell you that I did not use due diligence in the first 35 years of being a believer, and I sure never did anything approaching as worshipful as a dog licking its master's hand.

If my old ways are common today, then your question is very, very apropos. The real onus would be on members to know where they are, and pastors to be sure they do.

Jim Paslay said...

Wade asks: "could the problems be that we face those in denominational authority who seek to squelch true, free Biblical debate, but at the same time, church members and leaders don't care that debate is squelched because they have no interest in the teaching of the Bible?"

I don't see many denominational leaders trying to squelch debate over the Bible. I can tell you as an example that there is little debate over private prayer languages in many Baptist churches. The use of private prayer language is the exception rather than the rule. As for the people in the pew, I believe there is still a hunger there to know the truth of God's Word.

The trivialization is by those who refuse to have a high regard for God's Word. When it is treated as just another book or that it cannot be trusted because of so-called errors, then our culture follows suit and disregards what we are saying and preaching.

By the way, I used Dr. Mohler's "theological triage" article in a Bible study on doctrine last night and had excellent discussion and comments from my members.

SWBTS Underground said...

If I may pose an earnest question...thanks. Debate has not been silenced, just streaming video of a chapel service. I am not saying, however, that debate would be condoned on campus; but, that it has not yet come to that. I hope to have more on this soon.

I think the things you say in your post are true, but merely are corresponding, in the most minimal extent, to the lack of outcry about the chapel issue. The question is, why isn't everyone worked up over it like many on certain blogs? I don't know. I will offer the following:

James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?...
11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

James, I think, makes a powerful argument that may just speak to the issue at hand (the chapel issue only, not the underlying doctrinal strife). If we are to believe the reasoning Dr. Patterson provided, then his motivation is to protect churches. Very possibly, baptists view this as a noble reason to take a hit, who knows. Now, it is not unbiblical to do what he has done (stop video streaming)...that is, unless I am missing something crucial. His perogative is to use his authority to temper a doctrine he believes to be dangerous. If we are to question his actions as a brother, then, we must question his motivation, since we already determined the act of what he did is not itself sin. It may be un-academic, in bad faith, ad nauseum. But, if we question his motivation, we are on very dangerous ground, much treaded by the one who seeks to destroy us.

Therefore, in the bounds of how we are to treat our brothers, is it possible many view this as an academic debate only (not tongues, but non-distribution of media content)? I think many in the churches who love Christ, truly love Him, see through what is going on. But why should they get worked up over this particular issue? I do not have these answers, but history might.

Pastor Brad said...


Yes, the point of Gal 3 is that we are not saved through the law but through grace and therefore as Christians we should not continue to live under the law.

But if you look at v.19, Paul clearly asks the question he knew they would be thinking, "Why the Law, then?" He then goes on to say that it is the law that teaches us of our sin and need for grace. However once we receive that grace, we are no longer under the law, because Christ has paid the curse of the Law (v.13 I think).

What say you?

Alycelee said...

Interesting post.
What I don't get is, why is Dr Patterson protecting the churches? What is he protecting it from?
Recently he and Dr Mohler debated about Calvinism/Arminianism. Differing views. Should Dr Patterson protect "the churches" from Dr. Mohlers view in this case also?
Where does it end?
Just a thought.

Pastor Brad said...

By the way Bryan, what part of Ark are you in? I was born in Little Rock and all my extended family is there. Just curious.

Bryan Riley said...

Thus, our focus is not on the law but on the grace of God and, most importantly, God. Our focus must be on Him. As a result, as His grace changes us on the inside, then we begin to live as we ought, not out of compulsion from the law, but out of love for Him and His grace. Does it take discipline and effort? Yes. But that must be God directed and not self-seeking or in any way that leads us to a form of self-righteousness. For me it is a focus shift. A shift from walking by sight to walking by faith. A shift from walking to please the "wisdom" of man to living the Wisdom of God. It's the difference between Sarah and Hagar, Folly and Wisdom as described in Proverbs 9, etc.

Pastor Brad said...

From the Christian's perspective, yes, we are to focus on grace, but my understanding of the original point from Alyce was if the church should teach the Law.

If we are speaking to only Christians, no we should not. But if there are unbelievers, which in my context between 1/3 and 1/2 of my congregation on an average Sunday are unsaved, we must teach the law, not to be followed out of a motivation of self-righteousness, like the Jews had wrongly adopted, but to point to their need of a savior.

As I read Paul, the law leads people to an understanding of their need for a savior. So it is an issue of audience. Paul said that for an unbeliever, the law is like a teacher that leads them to salvation, not to self-righteous external religiosity.

All you are saying is true from the point of view of a regenerate mind, not an unregenerate mind.

Bryan Riley said...

hmmmm, I don't know about you, but most people I know have a sense inside that something in their lives isn't working when they don't have a relationship with God. It isn't the law that pulls them to Him. It's the Spirit and that emptiness they long to fill. The law clearly won't fill it and they also seem to inherently know that they can't fulfill it, particularly all those parts about sacrifices and milk and meat together and stuff. :) Wait, I'm sorry, I shouldn't be saying they... I'm thinking of how I was before I had a relationship. No one told me what not to do or do and it saved me or even made me think i needed to be saved. What made me follow Christ was the someone told me God wanted to be my daddy. I'm struggling with what you are saying, honestly. It doesn't mean you are wrong, but it doesn't fit what I've learned personally, through bible study, or seen experientially in others. I do agree that people come to a realization that they can't be "good" enough, but it doesn't take detailed "legal" teaching to make that happen. Now, that doesn't mean we shouldn't teach the law, but i'm not sure if you and I would have the same focus in that teaching.

foxofbama said...

I don't know what it all means, but I do think you ask a very interesting question, Wade.
I have two random thoughts.
1) I hispanic child burned in a fire about two miles from my house Sunday week ago. I contacted the head of the Bama SBC about it today as well as the editorial pages of the Bham News.
I doubt the ministerial council in Collinsville, otherwise good folks, one with a son who finished Yale Div School this year, will go out of their way to ask the obvious justice questions, or pose them to Baptist Deacon Bob Riley, gube incumbent seeking a second go at it with a strong immigrant plank in his platform; doubt they will go out of their way to ask him or our State Senator, Lowell Barron the obvious justice questions.
Especially in light of Bob Moser's article White Heat in www.thenation.com mag
2) No offense to David Rogers who has been quite gracious in the few email exchanges I have had with him, and does not seem to be as meanspirited in his submissions to this board I found his father to be in the takeover of the SBC; I cannot agree with Roger Wilmore that Stephen Olford and Adrian Rogers are worthy of the esteem he holds them in his recent effort for Baptist Press or SBC Life, not exactly sure where I saw it.
There is a clear Biblical baptist witness very much alive. I see it in different places I'm sure than most of you see it who frequent this blog.
Charles Marsh, SBC preacher's son; Kate Campbell, SBC preacher's daughter, and a host of like minded in my view carry on in our time.
Stephen Fox
Collinsville, Alabama

And forgive me but for those of you who follow these things, Blake and Federer are in a whale of a tennis match as I make this commment
And some of you may want to google up Montoya's spiritual samurai blog. He is gonna take a pass till the BGCT convention meets later this fall, he blogged today

Pastor Brad said...


I'm talking about the 10 Commandments. Your experience is your experience and I can't really address that. All I can say is that the Word says that the Law reveals our sin and need for a savior.

The average lost person is not walking around thinking, "Wow something is missing in my life, I sure wish I could find it." You may have been, but I bet there was some prior understanding that helped you see your need.

Certainly, it is a work of the Spirit. The Law shows the need and the Spirit illuminates the mind and draws the one to God.

Surely, someone did not simply walk up to you and in a complete vacuum of knowledge say, "God wants to be your daddy," and you said, "Yes, I want that!" What about an understanding of your sin? What about repentance?

Pastor Brad said...


Another couple of question: In your view, why preach the Law at all then? Why not just throw it out if it has no spiritual purpose for today? What would you say is the purpose of the Law? How would you preach/teach it?

Kevin Bussey said...

I don't understand how anyone could preach another person's sermon. I sure couldn't. I have my own style. I have favorite preachers but I could never be them. Now getting ideas from others is valuable in my opinion. But give credit where it is due. JMHO

CB Scott said...


This is a true and very good post.


Bryan Riley said...

Pastor Brad, if you go to my blog you can find how to reach me and we could talk offline about our questions that aren't directly on point with Wade's post. I'd enjoy the discussion. Of course, if anyone else wants to chime in here, it's ok with me because i'm curious about others' thoughts.

LivingDust said...

Brother Wade,

You asked - "Why is the evangelical church thriving and growing in foreign cultures, but static or declining in the USA?"

Within our constitutional republic we have decided to accept and support an "anything goes" concept of society; replete with on-demand abortion, pornography, open sexual perversion, entitlement, blatant consumerism, astronomical national debt, 24 hour entertainment and a splintered national identity.

In this atmosphere the idea that a person would "surrender their will to the will of God" is complete anathema to everything our society teaches, preaches and supports. "Have it your way" is the national anthem. "Your entitled to it" is the national motto. "You can have it now" is the national slogan.

Has this negatively affected the Christian church in America? Yes.

Has it adulterated the Gospel? Yes.

Will the decline of Christianity in America slow or stop? I doubt it.

What America needs is an unrelenting, unapologetic call to "repentance" by every Pastor across America. Our new SBC President ought to be the guy to pull the lanyard on the first salvo.

Roger Simpson said...

Living Dust:

You have hit the nail on the head!

Another byproduct of having everythling "our way" is that everyone's way is "their own way" and different than anyone else's way so even if you wanted to coddle to the whims of the populace (which I argue we should not) we couldn't since there is no such thing as a "shared culture" or "common ethos" anymore.

Therefore, any attempt at a "seeker sensitive" service (or any other kind of service) is only going to potentially attact a fairly narrow target audience.

The very thing that attracts group "A" repels group "B".

There are Christian music artists using all the various genres in popular music including rap, pop, hip hop, country / western, etc. Imagine trying to duplicate all these mutually exclusive styles in any given church service.

Roger Simpson said...

Living Dust:

I left out my bottom line to your question:

"Why is Christianity having more penetration in foriegn cultures that the USA?"

My answer -- at least a partial answer -- is that in the USA we have too many DISPARATE cultures.
In other countries which are "less free" cultural norms conform to the majoritarian view.

For example, in Cuba, the culture probably pretty "uniform" across at least 85% of the entire population.

Wade Burleson said...

Pastor Brad,

There is no connection. Some who would stifle free debate are very orthodox in theology.

Wade Burleson said...

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sorry I could not be more involved in any of the excellent discussion on these comments.

We are in OKC on our staff retreat.

Will be unable to respond to this post or the comments on tomorrows post --- one I am sure will bring much debate.


Bryan Riley said...

Living Dust...great comment. Yes, we want it all and we want it all now. And why? Because we want it for ourselves. We have no desire to please anyone besides ourselves and keep pulling up empty because we aren't seeking to fill ourselves with the only One who can fulfill.

Pastor Brad said...


For pragmatic reasons, I think it was foolish to pull the message off the website - not worthy of the fodder that has been given to those who have a bent/personal grudge against Dr. Patterson as a dictator or back-room dealer.

However,assuming we are still beating the McKissic horse, it is hardly an issue of silencing debate. He has at least one on the faculty that disagrees with him if you listen to the chapel sermon cited in their response statement to McKissic's message. It is an issue of one CP organization not posting commentary critical of another CP organization. However, others have made the same point, and the two camps will continue to see the issue their own way, so I suppose we agree to disagree on this.

I like the overall point of the post. Thanks.

Greg P said...

A few points:

1) The removal of the word of God from America is probably God's judgment upon the people of this nation. He gives them over to their own desires (Romans 1:24-28) and he conceals the truth from those who refuse to hear it (Isaiah 6:9-10, Matthew 13:14-15, John 12:39-40).

2) "Debate" as such is not a noble goal. It is something to be removed. Paul reprimanded the Corinthians because they did not "say the same thing", that is, they were not united in their purpose/thoughts/motives (1 Cor 1:10).

If there is something *true* in the Bible, our goal should be *no* debate about it; our goal should be that everyone believe the exact same right thing. We follow the single-meaning hermeneutic, do we not? We are quite emphatically not post-modernists.

Now, that said, there should be an abundance of humility and gentleness in our attempts to demonstrate the truth of what we have found in the Scriptures. But debate is no place to stick around.

To use the obvious example, either there are such things as "private prayer languages", given by the Holy Spirit, or there aren't. Everyone sees the dichotomy. In such a case, debate is only good so far as it leads to discovering the truth.

You are absolutely spot-on, though, when you point out how scary it is that no one would be concerned about these debates. Theological wranglings happen so rarely these days because no one even cares!

Such is the sorry state of "evangelicalism" today, produced by the weak gospel of licentiousness, producing false converts to whom pastors cater their messages and dedicate countless unfruitful hours while neglecting to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.

Was that a keyboard explosion, or what? Sorry about the length :)

LivingDust said...

greg p:

Thanks for your post. Regarding a couple of your points:

I'm with you, once the TRUTH is known, debate is not necessary or needed. Embrace truth, don't debate it.

The plague of the church today is the false converts that you mentioned. No contrition, no genuine repentance, no real conversion, saved only in their minds, no visible outward evidence of their faith.

LivingDust said...


I'm hearing you loud and clear brother.

Psalm 19:7 - The LAW of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul....

The lost must hold their life up against GOD'S LAW to see and understand that they are DOOMED and need a SAVIOR.

George said...

Jeremiah 5:30 “A horrible and shocking thinghas happened in the land:
31 The prophets prophesy lies,
the priests rule by their own authority,and my people love it this way.But what will you do in the end?

George Welborn

Bryan Riley said...

The Rich Young Ruler was completely focused on the law and still lacked.