TOLERANCE IS PARAMOUNT. The fact is that the broadening of general social and cultural tolerance in ethics and theology is something that is often confused with Christian humility. Then, too humility is being commonly mistaken as a sort of socially necessary cultural "non-belligerence." Any genuine effort to approach an effective Christian ministry especially among "Millennials" now comes with strong (almost adamant demands) to be "non-belligerent." Almost any "out-spokenness" in ministry or any clear statement of one's convictions is commonly mistaken as "belligerence." Many genuinely fear their position on any matter being mistaken for a "Donald Trump" attitude.
MUSN'T "KICK BACK!"It is clear that "holding any specific line of demarcation" or "contending for the faith" can quickly be assessed by others: (i. the more idealogical radical types or ii. those that are more timid or who fear others opinion more than anything else,) as though such "kicking back" is best judged as unacceptable or as "not making a useful contribution." That this fearfulness is leading to more confused judgments there is little doubt and that a loss of clarity is creeping into or more recently sweeping through historic Conservatism and once "old guard" Christian Fundamentalism is a fact many accept as "just inevitable."
THE STRANGE REACTIONS OF THOSE MORE PRACTICAL TYPES. I do find John MacArthur's attitude in his "Strange Fire" publication and ministry to be an unique exception to this now dominant and fear-ridden "spirit of our age." But, even here - in the case of Evangelicalism - it may be regrettably true that, MacArthur's 2013 attack upon "Continuism" in regards to the Charismatic gifts seems to be falling on "deaf ears." Could MacArthur just be "preaching to the choir" rather than leading any "call to arms?" Is it possible that the general climate of fearfulness makes any specific new form of militancy or any new awakening of any sort simply a practical unlikelihood?
WHO ME? "NAKED AND NOT AWARE OF IT?" - PLEASE!? It is clear (at least to me) that many conservative Christians are living in denial (at best) or quietly remaining divided (at worst). Though, now and then, there is some public disagreement the majority seem to be committed to or at least accepting of the fact that they must be "silent" even if they are personally "embroiled" in some or another division. Revelation 3:18
HOW BIG CAN SUCH A SMALL MATTER BE? The issue of accepting organizational compromises with all of the various issue-charged changes in culture and religion is a "sore point" for many. For example, one significant and more-than-symbolic shift taking place is the issue of Contemporary or Charismatic styled worship styles. This more-than-symbolic issue is the matter of acceptable or unacceptable music standards. This issue of the degree of worldliness or of achieving a world acceptance in the musical styles: the melodies - rhythms and harmonies of worship music remains a background noise or quiet-contentious and a quite unresolved issue for many conservative Christians. These "uncomfortable feeling" or put of character changes have swept into most of the once "more conservative" churches.
CAN PUBLIC STYLE, TRENDS OR FASHION BE SUCH AN ISSUE? There are, of course, some "other than" or "lesser than" conservative viewpoints or out-looks also making inroads and some impact or direct influence on this troubled branch of Christianity. The ministry style of of Charismatic types, Reformed and Conservatives is merging and there message is incrementally blending just as they "blend" (or compromise) their music styles. At first, at least these "variables" in viewpoint generally seem to relate more to the question of the degree of allowable or acceptable compromise in areas of Ecclesiology, Worship and Missiologybut it seems logical than theology will also soon experience this variableness, as well.
CAN THE MAJORITY BE WRONG? Another potential danger is one's acceptance of the contemporary social consensus. It seems that so many live rather happily by accepting the latest "polester's report." One example that most would wish I would forget or drop - is the "worldly," or rather fleshly styles of so much of Contemporary Christian Music. Can any music really be so harmful? Many leaders simply doubt that music can be such a big issue. Usually, this sort of attitude is found in leaders who are musically uneducated or just "naive" due to their own pre-occupation with other "more weighty" issues.
Then there is the sense of need many somehow just feel - a sort of inner drive or personality quirk that "calls them" to accommodate others. Those who feel this "urge to accommodate" or to just follow the most popular trends or the more unique "Emergent" styles are increasingly revealing their many new and dubious Worship and Missiological strategies. All of this "shift" and the accompaning changes in attitude toward the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God places many Christian ministry 'under a cloud' of instability. When society accepts anything over the honest literal interpretation of the Word of God --- a shift away from a truly Biblical context and goal is inevitable. All of this also brings with it the waterless clouds (Jude) of confusion now encircling so many otherwise good and godly living people.
WHO ME? Of course none of us (certainly not me) is above having had any number of times when certain specific compromises or mis-steps were taken. We all try to learn from these mis-steps or outright sins. Quite often, or certainly as much as not, we will attempt to 'turn back around" or attempt to improve our position or perspectives or rather just move away away from these mistakes. Even for the most sincere, these genuine efforts at reformation or renewal can fail to be effective reversals and in such cases we must be honest - we do experience genuine spiritual, moral or cultural shift - even if it seems (Romans 7) to be against our will. The danger, of such an incident is not the "once off" mistake or the one or the other time slip-up" but the danger is the far more the insidious creeping erosion of our once highly prized personal principles of even our character or worse - our core beliefs.
CONFIDENCE IS SO IMPORTANT TO MOST PEOPLE. Then there is another result - a rising confidence in or acceptance of a "new sort of Christian conservatism." (See also: 1 Corinthians 10:1-12) One clear example of this new outlook is the new acceptance by Independent Baptists of the denominationalism of the Southern Baptist Convention. That there are shifts taking place by both groups - the Baptist independents and the Southern Baptist "denominationalists" there can be little doubt. The question is - are these shifts bringing about a genuine re-allignment or just a mistaken sense of brotherhood and unity as a misrepresentation of the reasonableness of uniqueness in any family? This shift toward a re-allignment is, in my opinion, just one more indicator or example of a much "broader acceptance" of today's changing form of "Evangelicalism." The shift from Conservative Biblical principles to an Evangelicalism focused on the acceptance of culture and society is, in reality, no minor shift.
THE NATURE OF A 'SHIFT.' There are, one must recognize, so many calls for modernization, or for a "shift in perspective" or even for outright fundamental change that the noise factor or the distraction factor needs to be noted. If "everyone" seems to be saying the same thing - what they are really saying may be lost in the noise itself. So many of these calls for change or a shift in viewpoint are related to serious and long-standing and even historic on-going compromises that are radically (and incrementally) changing the nature of the church in our day!
CAN WE EVER HAVE TOO MUCH OPTIMISM? I want to remain optimistic and hold out a belief that some are possibly reconsidering these issues of compromise. It is possible that many (or at least some) have learned from their recent failures of judgment or with their mistaken optimism or their more recent realignments with the denominationalism of the Southern Baptist Convention, for instance. On the other hand, I am sure many more would consider all or most of my concerns as just the "unnecessary worries" of an unrealistic "sore loser. - or some such?
THE DANGER OF LISTENING TO THOSE 'ENAMORED.' The reader might want to re-consider the possibility that these shifts in judgment are a genuine (more than just-possible) reflection of the indirect cultural influence of our Post-Modern society. These, all too dominant, shifts toward our society's enamor with Post-Modernism's rising philosophical influences - is really all a complicated matter that is so difficult (for many) to honestly assess.
UNIVERSAL SHIFTS - NO BIG DEAL. Of course, differences in our basic Soteriology, even though handled in a truly kind and loving sort of way, still remains a core difference and will effect and influence all other outcomes. Over the years I have watched at so many conservatives have shifted between a three to four or even to a five point form of Calvinism. The Reformed position as an Ecclesiological theology quickly complicates the already complicated degrees or versions of Calvinism. With no desire to be aggressive in any way, I am aware of - on the other hand, a shift in this realm also leads to shifts in other regions, as well. Universal shifts - as small as they may seem - still effect all of the particulars that relate or are in the immediate surrounds. The belief that we can have our cake and eat it too - seems to be quite popular in these times.
VOICES IN A DARK AND DEEP FOREST? Hearing the voices of outspoken non-Calvinists or possibly hearing from the increasingly "anti-Calvinist (and/or anti-Reformed) camp and even noticing the warnings from Dispensationalist or the more vocal Literal Biblicists seems to be having no real effect on anyone. The memory of such "arguments' seems far too distant to be real. Having a respectful disagreement with others on the issues of Calvinism might place brethren at direct odds or on a distinctly different path but most concerning of all (at least for me) is the sense one had that all argument is useless since logic has somehow lost its way in the deep and dark forest of emotionalism. Leaders can't lead when there is no clear acceptance of any single authority. The Word of God has been for most practically marginalized. The drift or confusion in direction seems endemic. drMSBsr