When Jarod and I started discussing the book Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church, we were interested in it because it spoke directly to issues we’ve been discussing on this podcast for over a year now—and because it was such a broad representation of mainstream evangelical thought. It has been all the more impressive to us because, in spite of the fact that it was published in 1992, it hardly seems out of step with the issues currently faced by the church. So many of the seeds that have grown up into struggles over things like politics and conspiracy theories, social justice and critical theory, and the increasing ubiquity of the Word of Faith movement in the American church are seen in the warnings and discussions set forth.
Seen just as clearly are the calls for best practices to replace the questionable and dangerous ones that were and are present throughout the evangelical church. When pastors from Presbyterian, Baptist, Evangelical Free, and other denominations stand together in calling the church to judge its view of power with a biblical lens, we ought to take special notice.
It was a little unusual for a podcast to spend its time digging into a book that is not current, but I hope our point and our reason was clear throughout: the weight of being the church calls us to look back, both to recent and ancient history, and know where we have been, so that we don’t stumble into traps unaware and so that we don’t invent new heresies, or rehash old ones.
I know the charismatic/Word of Faith crowd took the biggest beating during this discussion. It isn’t our goal to anathematize everyone who has set foot in a Pentacostal church. It is, however, our desire to warn of the ease of falling under the sway of false teaching, and that particular movement has been a major breeding ground for them. There, power is sought out of a desire to be closer to God, but it puts power in the wrong hands, rather than calling the church to trust the One who wields power perfectly at all times. That includes the power to endure suffering unto the end.
The thing I think we found most engaging, and what will probably drive our discussion in the next few episodes, is the struggle of Christians to engage with the world in a way that says “I trust God,” while not being antagonistic to our neighbors. For so many, being a conservative believer often seems to mean you find yourself clucking your tongue at the latest nonsense being put in children’s programming and getting into fights online over hot button issues. It results in us not spending much time truly “giving a defense for the hope that is within us,” because as conservatives we often seem to have no hope. On the contrary, we often operate from this idea that says, “Well, the world’s going to hell, I’m going to just dig in here and try to keep my kids from going along with it.”
I am grateful to everyone listening to us as we dig into this, and I hope you will give us feedback as to your own thoughts, either in the comments below or by email. We want to know how we can strengthen believers to truly walk in faith as we seek to grow our own.
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