Some Weekend Reading on Missions


(Lucas Weeks) #1

I recently read two long articles that blew my mind. The first was an interview with a Roman Catholic Prelate from Guinea named Robert Sarah. He speaks with more wisdom and moral authority than anyone in the Evangelical and Reformed church:

The other thing that really struck me is how he was willing to demonstrate deep gratitude for the gift of Christianity that was brought to him by the white, European missionaries that brought the gospel to Guinea. Does that demonstration of humble gratitude make him inferior to Westerners, or even appear so? Of course not. He towers over his western colleagues in just about every way that matters. I wish blacks in this country could see that.

The second long article was by an Indian man named Aubrey Sequeira. He’s a PhD candidate (may God protect him) in biblical theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His article on “Gospel Sanity in Missions” is the best thing I’ve read on missions in a very long time:

https://www.9marks.org/article/a-plea-for-gospel-sanity-in-missions/

Both of these men are the fruit of Western missionaries, and they are doing good work in their pleadings and warnings with the Western church. I pray that we will heed their warnings.


(Fr. Bill Mouser) #2

Cardinal Sarah has long been at the top of my Papabile list. Sadly, after the selection of Bergolio and the damage he’s wreaking on his own house, Cdl Sarah’s future at the Vatican has grown dim. He’s already been demoted from influential posts he held under Benedict. Cdl Sarah is a good example to show that speaking truth to power at the Vatican is not the way to advance your prospects there.

As to his acceptance of the Christianity delivered to him by Western missionaries, the same can be said for Anglican Christians across Africa. Their message to Canterbury for several decades now amounts to this: “We believe the Bible that Anglican missionaries brought to us over 100 years ago. Why do you no longer believe it?”

That Westerners generally do not credit anything older than 18 months is a gigantic symptom of their cultural blindness. This includes most of broadly evangelical American Protestantism. Like the Athenians, they spend their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.


(John M. ) #3

I don’t really have a dog in the fight of who becomes Pope, but it would be nice to greet the once-rhetorical question of, “Is the Pope Catholic” with something other than the thinking face emoji.


(Fr. Bill Mouser) #4

Nor do I, in any sense other than what I might affect via my prayers.

On the other hand, I’m not of the mind that thinks what the Romans do within their own boundaries is irrelevant to serious orthodox evangelicals. It goes better for us if they retain the kind of Romanism that one found under JP2 or Benedict than what appears to be evolving under the Bergolio Captivity of Rome. If his brand of SJW Neo-Marxism prevails into the next pontificate, it’s going to get much harder for evangelicals anywhere in the world to advance their projects.

Cardinal Sarah as Pope would be a huge blessing. But, I’m not counting on it.


(John M. ) #5

I hadn’t considered this. I think I agree with it, but I’d love to hear you expound a bit.

-John


(Fr. Bill Mouser) #6

Expound? How 'bout speculate? :thinking: With these assumptions (some or all of which you might disagree with) . . .

Definitions:

SJW Neo-Marxism: Some have pointed out that we have abundant documentary evidence for Francis’ affinity for South American liberation theology, a chimera of Christian vocabulary and concepts adopted from Marxism. He has also recently injected himself into geopolitical issues (mass migration, open borders, global warming), espousing political tenets and agendas that characterize the leftist wing of politics. The Vatican’s tepid response to the scandal of homosexual predators within its ranks along with its seeming departures from Roman dogma on divorce and remarriage - all these mark Francis’ pontificate as revolutionary.

Evangelicals: I used this word though it is currently fuzzy. Sometimes I would style myself such; so would most of you. In some contexts. On the other hand, all of us would distinguish ourselves from evangelicalism’s increasingly frequent forays into Trendyville. Social justice, racial justice (as informed and shaped by secular values and agendas), economic justice, sexual justice (a recent name for what used to be called egalitarianism) - all these and more are racing into the evangelical mainstream. So, in the sentence you quoted, the word evangelical should be replaced with this one . . .

Mere Christians: For this discussion, I use this term to denote Christians who can salute the primitive ecumenical creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian, Definition of Chalcedon) without crossing their fingers behind their backs, and whose Christian lives follow the sexual ethics of the first 1950 years of Christianity. All of us are in their number. Many (most?) evangelicals are not, or they’re slouching toward Gomorrah.

Now, If Francis’ brand of SJW Neo-Marxism prevails into the next pontificate, it’s going to get much harder for mere Christians anywhere in the world to advance their projects.

Why?

  1. Because mere Christians will become more and more a minority within the Western developed world (where political agility and financial power reside), far more so than they already are.

  2. The Roman Church has had its progressives (theological, social, economic) for at least as long as second-wave feminism surfaced in the middle of the last century. This group within Romanism is thrilled with Francis and is pushing its liberalizing agenda forward as urgently as it can. It knows that Francis will not have a pontificate as lengthy as JP2.

  3. If the next pontificate builds on Francis’ (as Benedict’s tried to build on John Paul’s) there is a real chance of a modern schism that shakes off the costume of Tridentine Romanism. And, if that happens . . .

  4. The institutions of so-called evangelicalism (publishing houses, media, seminaries, internet-institutions such as TFG, TGC, etc.) will rush to #meetoo themselves, while mere Christians (within broadly evangelical American Protestantism, and elsewhere) will be pushed further and further to the edges of any community/denomination they currently inhabit. Think of the situation of the original fundamentalists (all highly educated folk!) as they were ejected from their seminaries and/or defrocked and set out to reorganize themselves and to rebuild their ecclesiastical institutions from the ground up.

While mere Christianity still had a home within the Roman Church, mere Christians outside the Roman Church still had plenty of room to maneuver. If mere Christianity loses its home within the Roman Church, mere Christians outside it are going to find much less room to maneuver than they used to have. And, we don’t have a lot right now.


(John M. ) #7

I appreciate the response.

This is an interesting framing. The parts of evangelicalism that I’m familiar with (let’s just shorthand it as TGC) still salutes the creeds, and I’m not aware of much finger crossing. And I’m not aware of active sexual immorality among the leadership, notwithstanding an unwillingness to discipline sexual sin in the membership that seems to me to be more of an unwillingness to discipline sin generally.

Now, evangelicalism is clearly in the midst of a downgrade crisis, and I doubt the creeds or the sexual ethic will fare any better in 21st century woke evangelicalism than they did in, say, the United Church of Christ. But we are still at the part where the leadership is generally faithful to these things while they quietly disassemble the foundation those things are built on.

What in the past leads you to believe that these folks follow the lead of the RCC? The preference cascade of Protestants discarding head coverings following Vatican II is the only similar example I can think of, and it was well before my time, so I may not even have my story right there.


(Fr. Bill Mouser) #8

@FaithAlone, it’s not that evangelical folks are following the RCC. Rather it’s the RCC (under it’s current Pope) is beginning to follow all the woke crap that “progressive” evangelicals are foisting onto their confreres. The more woke the RCC becomes, the more it legitimizes the wokeness of the woke evangelicals!

“See! Even the RCC understands social justice. Sexual justice.” and so forth.

And, for the circles you inhabit that have nothing to do with all this? Well, I can’t imagine that pursuing bona fide orthodox agendas (evangelism, discipleship, etc.) is going to become easier. Quite the opposite, I’d guess.


(John M. ) #9

Oh, quite to the contrary. I see plenty of wokeness. I just haven’t seen it get to the creeds, or directly to the sexual ethic yet, though especially on the latter front, I see the groundwork being laid for a complete abandonment of the Christian sexual ethic in the next generation.


(Fr. Bill Mouser) #10

Ach. I misunderstood you, then. I don’t see wokeness in the ecclesiastical circles in which I circulate, and it all springs from a self-conscious commitment to Biblical sexuality. Rather, I see wokeness in all the reading I do - including the offerings of standard evangelical publishing houses (Crossway, Zondervan, IVP, etc.).

I’m convinced by now (after 30 years of combing through this kind of stuff that has come to be called woke) that aberrations and abuses in the area of sex are the fountainhead of anything woke. An example:

Back in the late Nineties I was having lunch with Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, a senior editor of Touchstone. Touchstone Journal is a project driven by Roman, Orthodox, and Protestant writers, to defend and to proclaim mere Christianity to a world (that includes the church!) that is hostile to mere Christianity. In view of the contradictions in doctrine amongst these broad communions, some of them going back centuries, I was always intrigued by how the enterprise actually worked. This lunch gave me an opportunity to query a man who had been on the ground floor at Touchstone’s birth.

I pointed out to Fr. Reardon what he obviously already knew - the doctrinal contradictions among the editors who were working together to vet, edit, and publish articles in the journal. And, then, I asked, “In view of these contradictions, how to you evaluate a prospective new editor? What doctrinal filter, whose doctrinal filter is deployed in choosing the new man?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” he replied with a sly grin. “We just ask what they think about the ordination of women, and to defend whatever it is they do think about it. Early on we learned that a man’s answer to that question was . . .,” and here he grinned more broadly, “… a touchstone for all the rest that matters.”

As to sexual ethics, dig up Barna’s polling site and dig up his polls from back in the Nineties (I think), where he reported that the incidence of routine sex outside marriage among evangelicals was around 85 percent, just five percent less than the non-evangelical population. Or consider the reports you see here and there about the consumption of pornography among evangelical men, among evangelical pastors.

You haven’t see wokeness or departures from Biblical sexual ethics in the creeds. Admitted - the ecumenical creeds didn’t address sexual ethics per se. But consider this line from the Apostle’s Creed:

…Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary …

Or this from Nicea:

… he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

Nothing to do with sex, right? :smirk: Get into a conversation with some woke folks and ask them if Jesus Christ is a human male right now. The opinion you find won’t be universal (yet), but you will commonly find their answers (1) doubtful/confused as to a correct answer, or (2) an insistence that God - and therefore, Jesus - is beyond sex, that his maleness was a feature of his time on earth, that in the resurrection we will be neither male nor female.

I’m with you on what I fear is coming in the next generation of evangelicals, who - because of their embrace of homosexuality and everything else aberrant in sex as normal - will finally disqualify themselves decisively from any claim to be evangelical. That embrace is already well underway, extending to any creedal affirmation of the incarnation, to dismiss it as a temporary expedient that is discarded (i.e. sex itself becomes ultimately irrelevant).

And, so, today sex should have no bearing on qualifications of church office! In the resurrection, sex as we know it vanishes! And, we should live resurrection lives now, dontcha know. So, of course we can (and should for the sake of justice) ordain women. And lesbians. And gays. And trans folk. And so on and so forth.

Yes, I think wokeness is already warping the creeds.


(John M. ) #11

Thank you for the additional explanation. Much of the creed stuff exists in fine points that are hard for me to see, or hard for me to understand. I know the Baylys have posted on their blog about a controversy regarding submission in the Trinity that I haven’t wholly grasped.

And yes, I certainly use female pastors as a touchstone myself. I just turned down an Easter service invitation to a church whose web site showed a female “family pastor” and that listed a married couple (male/female, God have mercy on us) as “founding pastors.”

It’s easy to sort out a church’s position on female leadership from their web site. I don’t think I’ve ever learned anything about a church from its boilerplate doctrinal statement.


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