The Fellowship of Trendy Catholics and Contemporary 'New' Evangelicals

In a Biblical reply to those who prefer a trendy, compliant church,  Msgr. Charles Pope notes that during the recent Papal Conclave  the media had a field day interviewing various degrees and types of disaffected Catholics,

"... who all presented their wish list (or list of demands) of how the Church should change to be tenable and relevant to modernity and regain their “loyalty.” Most of the demands of course had to do with sex and power: that the Church should approve contraception and promote it, homosexual activity and same sex unions should get the thumbs up, divorce and remarriage should be approved, women and active gays ordained, priest should be able (sic) to get married, abortion approved, euthanasia applauded, etc." (Is the Church a Thermometer or a Thermostat? A Biblical reply to those who prefer a trendy and compliant Church, Msgr. Pope, Apr. 11, 2013, Archdiocese of Washington)

Though Msgr. Pope's reply is primarily aimed at disaffected Catholics, it speaks as well to 'new' evangelicals, the youth-idolizing seeker-sensitive contemporary and emergent evangelicals who are traveling the same broad, smooth highway to destruction taken previously by liberal mainline Protestants. 

Both disaffected Catholic and contemporary 'new' evangelicals are united by the demand that the Church update her teachings,

"….be more modern in her thinking, teachings and structures.” She needs to “Listen more to young people and speak their language and share their vision.” Put more in a hostile way, the Church, “needs to abandon her medieval ways, cease being hostile, judgmental, intolerant, bigoted, sexist, homophobic, hateful etc” (and the usual list of modern accusations that reflect more the accuser’s personal issues than the Church). (ibid)

If the Church does all this, said Msgr. Pope, then our parishes will be filled again and all will be right with the world:

"Never mind that the Liberal (mainline) Protestants have tried all this for decades, approving whatever the people and the polls demanded, and with that approach their numbers have plummeted, far lower that any Catholic Parish. Never mind too that the only Protestant denominations that are growing at all are the more biblically conservative Evangelical Protestants who reject a good bit of the list of demands above." (ibid)

As Msgr. Pope points out, only the more biblically conservative evangelical churches that reject the contemporary influence are growing at all.   As for the rest, their fall into irrelevance and death is happening with breathtaking speed, said Michael Spencer:

"Collapse....will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed; that within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants, leaving in its wake nothing that can revitalize evangelicals to their former “glory.”

"New" evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. And in what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, the expenditure of billions of dollars by 'new' evangelicals on youth ministers,

"....Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures that they will endure." (The Coming Evangelical Collapse, Michael Spencer)

Fueling the demands of both trendy Catholics and contemporary 'new' evangelicals is the spirit of accommodation in the guise of 'love' whose purpose is winning souls and making the world a better place.  To do these things the Church should accommodate the felt-needs, appetites and desires of its' patrons, and to do this it must parrot pop-culture.

Decades ago Francis Schaeffer noted this spirit already at work amongst new-evangelicals.  In The Great Evangelical Disaster he wrote:

 "Accommodation, accommodation. How the mindset of accommodation grows and expands. . . . For the evangelical accommodation to the world of our age represents the removal of the last barrier against the breakdown of our culture. And with the final removal of this barrier will come social chaos and the rise of authoritarianism in some form to restore order. "  Schaeffer then adds, “To accommodate to the world spirit about us in our age is the most gross form of worldliness in the proper definition of the word.”  (Schaeffer, “Evangelical Disaster,” 401)

In "Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture," Herbert Schlossberg exposes the timeless seductive promise underlying the mindset of accommodation:

"....the antinomian idea that Christian love can be used to nullify the requirements of the law and so free autonomous man to determine good and evil for himself (which) repeats the serpent's blandishments."  (p. 48)  

The Apostle Paul linked the performance of the duties of Christian love with the keeping of God's commandments, specifically the second table of the Decalogue, the "thou shalt nots."  In this sense, love is the "fulfilling of the law," Rom. 13:8-10 through submission (obedience) to the law:

"That thou mightiest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; that thy days may be prolonged." Deuteronomy 6:2-3

The Decalogue shows that idolatry (preference for self over God) leads to adultery, contempt for law, norms, authority, rules and other people.   In this light, no matter how accommodation of church to culture is rationalized it is adultery via the lust of the eyes (materialism), the lust of the flesh (eroticism) and the pride of life (egoism):   

“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”  (James 4:4, KJV)

 The preference for one's self instead of God reveals that 'self,' the self-deserving, autonomous, imperial "I" deserves something more than God and this is the seed of envy.  If 'self' is primary then 'self' deserves everything it can get.   The Bible however, does not argue from a human-self point of view but from a thoroughly theocentric worldview in which mankind deserves nothing. 

The deceit of Adam and Eve as well as of today's fellowship of trendy disaffected Catholic and  contemporary 'new' evangelical antinomians is their own self-serving idea that they actually deserve and have a right to whatever they want, and worse, the church should accommodate their desires, ambitions, dreams and self-serving visions.    This is self-idolatry.

The awakening of Adam and Eve from their delusion that they deserved to eat of the Tree came with the onset of death, for  their inward turning selfishness tore the fabric of their being from communion with God.   Thus we can see that the reason God does not execute self-idolaters, be they Christian or otherwise, is that those who violate God's Law in effect execute themselves by tearing away from God in preference of self.   It follows then that all attempts at transforming the Church into a culturally compliant institution will die as well.

@Linda Kimball