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October 04, 2009


While maybe I'm reading this wrong (and I very well may be...), I feel like the aggressive, self-righteous, and dehumanizing tone of the above quote is one of the biggest reasons I doubt my faith and get pushed away from Christianity.

While we see the truth of the gospel, Christians then turn and "[seek] to reshape the public life" and "overthrow the institutions" by declaring the gospel... How could anyone see the love and grace that Jesus brings them when we speak to them using such terminology? I thought we seek grace, not the overthrow of institutions?

To quote John W. de Gruchy "There is a difference between recognizing that our choices affect our destiny and deciding on behalf of God that someone's wrong choices place him or her beyond God's love" (quote from his book Confessions of a Christian Humanist)

Instead of telling people how they need to change, we should focus on showing hospitality, promoting the ideals of love, beauty, honesty, etc., and learning to live in the world in a participatory and not a manipulative way (i.e. not bringing the gospel to people or a peoples just so they will “change” their ways)...

I know some of you will tell me "that's not what the quote says, it's saying the gospel lived out in truth will change people and the world"... and I agree.. that is true. But I disagree with the tone of the quote, and the actions/politics that it motivates unintentionally or intentionally.

In the society we live in, the last thing we need are more spiritual leaders traveling around declaring God's will on the world. God does not need you, me, or the next big preacher to convert the world... he can do that himself.

Instead, "it might be better now [for Christians] to be known as people who ask for forgiveness and in turn forgive others" (quote from Charles Marsh in his book "Wayward Christian Soldiers"). As Bonhoeffer once said the time of words is over… so we need to stop preaching/telling people how to live, and just live in God’s grace.

Yeah, Anthony, you're misreading this very badly.

This isn't about Moral Majority moralizing, first-world hectoring of third-world brothers, or Christian dictatorialism of any stripe.

It's about internal transformation with external effects. Jesus transforms and he leads us out of Egypt, out of the wilderness. He does this in our hearts. And many hearts, transformed, make a herd. Thus a mass exodus.

Mass exoduses (exodi?) have social consequences, which Leithart describes powerfully. To the extent you want to argue with that, you're arguing with not only scripture, but all of Christian history. You can wrinkle your nose at that, I suppose, but at that point you're really arguing with the indelible Christian notion that we sinful ones need cleansing, transformation, and an exodus from our old ways of death.

All of us. Even the redeemed need the gospel every day. But here's the funny thing. You want the redeemed to show the fruits of redemption to the world, but keep mum on the redeemer. If that ain't a way to frustrate those with an ache for wholeness in a broken world, I don't know what is.


Thanks for your response, and I agree with you completely that Christianity is "about internal transformation with external effects." I'm all on board that train. However, I disagree, as I already said, with some of the language in the paragraph... and maybe I'm arguing semantics, but words do matter.

So when the author says "Where Christianity has become dominant, Christians have always sought to reshape public life, law, social order, custom, and economic life, in accord with the demands of the gospel" my whole body tightens up with fear of "Moral Majority Moralizing and Christian Disctatorialism"...

To me, a sentence like the above needs to be re-ordered/re-worded to say something like "Christians have always sought justice, peace, mercy, etc. in accord to the demands of the gospel and as a result public life, law, social order, custom, and economic life has been reshaped."

I feel like the former way of putting it will lead to more "moral majority moralizing" while the latter more civil rights movements.

If I understand the quote correctly, then Tim Keller spoke at a conference this past spring where he addressed the very things the quote mentions:


A very interesting article. I wished he'd explain more the link between the freedom that the gospel brings and the secularization I believe he was arguing that freedom brings.

In my opinion, Leithart is arguing that the gospel brings the un-moralizing of a society. No longer are rituals and rites necessary to experience grace ( or to avoid punishment), legalistic and moral code are abolished. A new way to life is here. Freedom had come. God is present. The world as 'religions' perceive it no longer operates the same way. There's no need to be a certain culture and to follow certain customs once you follow the gospel( the point of conflict for Origen and Celsus). The Gospel frees you from these ways of the world that only enslave and not give you life.

And with the loss of clean/unclean customs, secularism is birthed. That's where I struggle with the link. I understand that with Freedom comes Choice and that perhaps Choice somehow needs or begets a 'secular' space. And that could explain the exodus... we choose the gospel over the old ways and thus reject, leave, take part in an exodus out of all that put us in bondage. and enter a new world order, where... we separate ourselves from the ways of the worlds and let the ways of the world do their own thing...meaning secularism is created out of a necessity to not be of the world?? Yet, that last paragraph argues Christians do step into those ways of the world to influence them ...
so we are back to being in the world, but not of the world, and the world is not Christian, but there is christian influence, and it has influence to make things secular, which is better than being non secular and non christian.

I think I'm missing something, but that is my response to the article.

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