Time For Truth

A place to grow in the Grace & Knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ

Of the World, but not in it

I think, I can summarize the situation within my own PCUSA and other mainline denominations with the words … of the world, but not in it. I have been doing much reading and thinking about the dilemma of the church, even among evangelicals. Here is how I would summarize the situation:

  1. The western church has lost its way.
  2. Mainline denominations are overrun with liberalism/progressivism that teaches an entirely different – much more secular faith. See J. Gresham Machen for more on this.
  3. Evangelicals in their legitimate desire to evangelize and reach the lost, have bought into an extreme mantra of relativism, which in some instances has served missiologically to adapt worship styles and evangelism approaches to better communicate the gospel, but in other instances has so minimized discipleship as to create a faith that is gutted of almost all doctrinal, theological, and historical content.
  4. Declines in mainline protestant denominations continues on unabated, even in more conservative churches in those denominations.
  5. The hope now is all about mission and being missional, even among more conservative leaning mainliners such as in my own denomination (PCUSA).
    1. Translated ignore the 800 pound gorilla (being wedded to heresy in your own denomination), and focus instead on appearing more compassionate (through caring missions).
    2. In this way you appease liberal leaders in your own denomination (focusing on social gospel issues) and appearing to be active in missions (very little if any church planting and evangelism) thereby appeasing evangelicals.


  1. We look more like the world all the time. There is little to distinguish us in areas that matter…theological & ethical.
  2. As conservatives are attacked for supporting pro-life and pro-traditional marriage causes, they shy away from the public square.
  3. Secularism seems to intrude more and more within the church through Darwinian evolution and global warming advocates.
  4. We have become less and less counter-cultural and truly relevant in our attempts to be more artificially relevant.
  5. We have sacrificed education and the making of disciples for meaningless forms of “community”, psychology and caring missions (that serve mostly to assuage our western guilt).

We are becoming… of the world but not in it.



March 16, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Adel,

    I agree (mostly) with your analysis. I have been wondering (since my last Haitian trip) what it is that the third world church seems to have that we have lost in the “developed” world. I think it has something to do with the fact that the faith is so much more related to daily life (life and death) that we see here. Any thoughts?

    Comment by Craig | March 17, 2009

  2. Craig,

    Are you saying that our modern western world has made it easy to no longer think about the brevity of our lives and the reality of death? If so, I would say that you are absolutely correct. I’ve often been told by military veterans that there are no atheists in a foxhole.

    Our lives of ease and comfort have made it much easier to avoid the ultimate questions of life, and I do believe that contributes to theological and moral decline. Yet, having done a hospital chaplaincy internship, I can also witness to the fact that most chaplains are very liberal. Yet they face death and pain constantly.

    So while I think that this is part of the issue for some, it certainly not for all of it.

    What are your thoughts about this?

    Comment by Adel | March 17, 2009

  3. “Our lives of ease and comfort have made it much easier to avoid the ultimate questions of life, and I do believe that contributes to theological and moral decline.”

    I agree with this. I have had the opportunity to worship with Christians in several countries besides the US. They have something we don’t. You, or at least I, can feel God’s presence. Sometimes it was a 3 hour service, with no a/c, hard pews, in a language I didn’t understand, but I could feel it. I don’t feel it in my sanitized, professionally decorated, former church.

    Also, we (PCUSA), no longer know how to make disciples. This was something I pushed for while on session. We had Elders who didn’t even want to use the word “disciple” because it might put some people off. We had the same issue around “evangelize”.

    I do believe that the Church has and will continue to evolve. Sometimes it seems we are clinging to dogma and ideas from other times, that were not historical (Christ/Apostles).

    I liked this post, I don’t agree with it all, but I understand more of where you’re coming from and helped me to better see my position in the Church.

    Comment by Sam Mack | March 17, 2009

  4. Life and death, yes. But material poverty is a constant reality in these places.

    I think that our wealth gets in the way of our faith, and not just as a god that takes the place of the Living God. We feel guilty because we believe our wealth undeserved and, incorrectly, that it comes at the expense of others. This creates the perception of a sin that cannot be forgiven or given up, and a block to a deeper faith.

    I think the desire to somehow be free of this guilt drives much of the Left agenda. And because we on the Right have, at some level, accepted that analysis, it separates our daily lives, which consist of making and spending money, and which we see as, at best, a necessary evil, from our Christianity.

    It seems to me that we, particularly Western, Reformed Christians, have thrown out the work ethic baby with the “Visible Saints” bathwater, and really have no theology of free markets. The Left conflates productivity (working, saving, investing, creating wealth) with the consumption of wealth. And we remain silent.

    I believe Scripture for the most part raises up work and the creation of wealth as good but sees consumption as problematic. And we know from basic economics that the creation of wealth benefits the entire society by creating jobs and goods and services that people desire.

    This leads directly to the old Calvinist doctrine of Calling. If more of us thought of our life work as our Christian calling we would lead far more integrated lives and discipleship would become a much greater reality.

    I seek a church that is orthodox theologically, that defends Life, Biblical family values and individual liberty and responsibility, that holds up our individual callings and our work ethic and that encourages us to roll up our own sleeves and reach into our own wallets to do Christ’s work in the World (rather than looking to government to do it).

    Comment by Whit | March 17, 2009

  5. Excellent points Whit. I agree with you entirely.

    You are right on about the aspects of productivity, consumption and guilt.

    It is too bad that we have lost sight of the meaning of vocation and productivity, thriftiniess, and generous giving.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Adel | March 17, 2009

  6. Sam,

    Thank you for the kind and thoughtful comments. It is very sad that so many have lost sight of the great commission (making disciples not making converts).

    Comment by Adel | March 17, 2009

  7. Adel,

    I’m not sure I can quite get a handle on whatever “it” is. But I think it is related to a reliance on God for things like everyday needs. I also think it involves the fact that in the third world they are aware of the “cost” to follow Christ. In the sense that they are in many cases courting physical danger for their faith. One other thought is that they often see in a stark contrast the difference between true and false. (for example the difference between Christianity and Voodoo. Which is stark when seen side by side.) My fear is that if it can be quantified or packaged it will be sold as the next big thing, and therefore ruined. I’d still like to figure this out, but don’t have much more than that. Hope that helps.

    Comment by Craig | March 17, 2009

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