D. A. Carson on Angry Christians and the Devil’s Tactics

The other day as I was listening online to D. A. Carson lecture on Revelation, I came across a very insightful and relevant snippet and decided to transcribe what he said here. The following quotation comes from Part 18 of Carson’s lectures on Revelation, posted at The Gospel Coalition Resource page on June 17, 2005. It is taken from the portion of the audio file that runs from 18:48 to 22:00. You can listen to the entire lecture here.

One of the things that troubles me about American society—about North America, and I include Canada in this, and Western European Christian society, to some extent, but it’s stronger here; it’s stronger here because of America’s particular heritage—there is a great deal of anger on the American Right at the moment. Have I thrashed this one over with you before? Let me just say a little bit about it, because it is troubling. It’s hard to know what to do.

If you want to make a lot of money with a Christian book in this country, write a book that says what’s wrong with America, listing all the bad things that you possibly can on the Left, demonize the Left. It’ll sell like hotcakes on the Right. If you want to raise money for Focus on the Family, or a whole lot of other institutions that are really good institutions in many ways, if they really want to raise a lot of money in a hurry, let them tell you the worst horror stories of the month. The money flows in!

Now the reason it does is because there is so much in this society that feels—with a certain amount of justification—that all those nasties on the Left are taking away our heritage! They’re perverting our schools! They’re overthrowing principles of jurisprudence! They’re making the city unsafe! And so there’s anger—there’s anger seething through the whole land.

Now contrast that with the first Christians taking the gospel in the Roman Empire. They were nobodies. They didn’t have anybody taking away their heritage. They were out to take over the heritage. They looked around and saw an extremely pluralistic empire, and they said with Caleb, in effect, “Give us this mountain.” And they kept witnessing and kept getting martyred, and so on, and there was a revolution, finally—a spiritual revolution.

But we can’t do that today. At least we find it very difficult, because we’re so busy being angry all the time that at the end of the day not only do we lose our credibility with people on the Left—they start demonizing us back—but we have no energy or compassion left to evangelize them. When you’re busy hating everybody, and denouncing everybody, and seeking political solutions to everything, it’s very difficult to evangelize. Isn’t it? Very hard to be compassionate, to look on the crowds as though they’re sheep without a shepherd, very hard to look on them like that when they’re taking away “my heritage.” Do you see?

Yet at the same time, because it is a democracy, there are things we ought to be doing to draw the line here and there, even if you understand the laws don’t finally engender justice. They might preserve it for a while. But finally they’re all broke, and you have to change the laws. There are things we ought to be doing. There are faithful things we ought to be doing…

But at the end of the day, if you can’t do it with compassion, and gently, and leave the doors open for evangelism, boy, you destroy everything. I think one of the devil’s tactics with respect to the church on the Right today is to make them so hate everybody else that at the end of the day they can’t be believed anywhere, not even the proclamation of the gospel.

 

Comments

  1. David Rogers says

    From what I recall, Jesus’ anger was always directed toward the religious leaders who perverted the gospel, but never to the lost sheep without a shepherd.

    • says

      How do you distinguish between the religious leaders and the lost sheep? Aren’t the religious leaders ultimately lost sheep in need of a shepherd too?

      Also, Jesus had some harsh words for the sheep on occasion (John 8:31-37).

      • David Rogers says

        Andrew, yes there are religious leaders, such as Nicodemus, with whom Jesus dealt on a different basis than the rest. Nevertheless, He was not loath to challenge his erroneous theological presuppositions.

        With regard to John 8:31–37, the argument Jesus was answering, even though directed on this occasion to a more general audience, was an argument that, from the context of the cross-reference in Matthew 3:7–9, had its origin with the Sadducees and Pharisees.

  2. John Fariss says

    Interesting that no one has comented on this yet. Maybe I’m just the first to see it, I don’t know. But I wonder it it has hit too close to home for anyone to comment.

    Anyway, I believe this is right on target. I live in an area that is largely unresponsive to the Gospel–a distant suburb of Washington DC. There is no industry here and relatively few local jobs. Most people commute one to two hours into DC or even northern Virginia; they get back, beat up and exhausted; between that and ball games , etc. for their kids, they have no interest in venturing outside their yards evenings and weekends. We had a community event at our church Saturday that brought something like 300 of these people onto the grounds, many of whom were unchurched. The next morning, I was talking with one of our deacons about it, and asking him for what our own folks had to say. Mind you, this deacon was in charge of the outreach effort and prayer walking at the event, and he had difficulty recruiting just five people who would each take an hour’s turn witnessing and/or praying. He said the member’s responses were mostly positive, though there were “a few” who complained that what we need to be doing instead was protesting and carrying signs against homosexual marriage and gambling. While I am as against those as any anybody who frequents this board–even Joe Blackmon and David Whorley–to be a culture warrior is not my calling, and it illustrates, I think, the point of this posting.

    John

    • Edgar says

      I will only suggest that you read the article at least once more, asking yourself if there is something you can learn from it. Just an advise, though.

  3. Edmond Long says

    So, according to Carson, the right demonizes the left in order to make the big bucks. So, is he in the left demonizing the right for some loftier purpose?

  4. Debbie Kaufman says

    Really liked and agree with this article.

    John: Is anyone called to be a cultural warrior? I’m not so sure they are.

  5. John Fariss says

    Debbie,

    I probably don’t want to get into that–but I will anyway. My opinion is “No,” but all I know for certain is that it is not my calling.

    John

  6. Bill Mac says

    I preached a sermon on this within the last year I think. And predictably, some in the congregation were angry at me.

  7. says

    This echoes my own heart and convictions so well. I think we have let the political language of culture war, which was established by a political group masquerading as a religious movement, seep into our own understanding of the Gospel.

    Excellent words from Carson. I pray we would all heed his words and return to proclaiming the Gospel instead of worrying about our rights and our voting blocs. The Gospel changes lives in ways that laws and empty morality never could.

    “There has never been a Savior on Capitol Hill.” – DW

    • Gggggggggg says

      Laws may not change hearts but they can stop the killing of the unborn and the enslavement of young women into the sex industry, etc. Laws can also put in prison those involved in these and various other injustices so they can no longer commit their evil acts. There they will have plenty of time to have their hearts changed.

      • Christiane says

        “Laws may not change hearts but they can stop the killing of the unborn”

        changing hearts is one way to stop a woman from aborting her baby. . . but it isn’t only HER heart that needs changing . . . she needs the protection of her community to have a safe place to be, medical care if she cannot pay for it, pediatric care for her newborn, financial assistance so that she and her child may live safely and decently, the friendship of a community that surrounds and encourages her, and help to complete her education (if high school) and/or job training so that she may find employment in time . . .

        that’s a lot of hearts to be changed

        the ‘LAW’? if you banking on the law to ‘stop abortions’ I am afraid that you are being unrealistic

        . . . in the real world, it isn’t going to be a man-made law that keeps a desperately frightened young pregnant woman from making a deadly mistake.

        This is not a ‘legal’ issue. It is a question of changing our communities to be places where a young girl in need of support can find it among people who want for her and her child to live and be well.
        If there is any ‘law’ involved in preventing a young frightened woman from seeking termination of her pregnancy, the best concept of that ‘law’ is the Royal Law of Our Lord . . . the law of love.

        politicians ?
        don’t trust them

        trust in Our Lord and work in your own community for alternatives that embrace life

      • says

        As the quote pointed out, as citizens in a democratic republic, there are things we can and should do towards influencing the laws. The question boils down to where do we put the priority, preaching the Gospel, or influencing human laws? If you’re trying to do both, and resources are cut back, which do you cut back first? And if you find that the pursuit of influencing the laws is producing attitudes in you that hinder the effective preaching of the Gospel, do you keep at that pursuit, or do you repent, put the Gospel on the front burner, and pray until you find out how to continue the pursuit without hindering the Gospel?

        • Frank says

          Ben,

          I’m not sure that the issue can be dissected as neatly as “this or that.”

          Micah 6:8 and many other passages seem to teach that the issue is not an “either/or” proposition, but a both/and.

          It is how to do it that creates the tension in my mind. I think your summary is on the mark: “How to do it without hindering the Gospel.” Not an easy task.

          • says

            I don’t think I dissected it as “this or that”. At least that wasn’t my intention. That’s why I expressed it as a priority issue. But thanks for your assessment of my summary.

            I suspect that what C. S. Lewis dubbed the “Law of First and Second Things” comes into play here: “every preference of a small good to great, or a partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice was made”….”You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.” (see the essay “First and Second Things” in the C. S. Lewis collection “God in the Dock”). Preaching the Gospel is a First Thing, influencing human laws, a Second Thing. Put influencing human laws first, and you’ll lose it.

            Given our progress (or lack thereof) in influencing human laws lately, you have to ask, which have we been putting first?

          • Frank L. says

            Ok, Ben. I see some merit in this approach, but there is a problem.

            I don’t accept your definition of primacy. I don’t accept the dichotomy between influencing human laws (Mic 6:8) and preaching the gospel.

            Let’s apply for example Lewis Law to an airplane. Which wing is first and which wing is second? Right or left? The obvious answer is, neither, or perhaps both. The Law of First and Second only applies when two or more things are in a sequence.

            I don’t view preaching in this manner, at least not as strictly as some do.

            I see your application of First and Second as a causal fallacy, assuming that the gospel is the cause and influencing human laws is an effect. I can see how one can define the matter in these terms, though I do not.

            Here’s my problem with this approach: most preachers never get to the effect of influencing human laws; or to state it differently, many preachers use preaching the gospel as an excuse to ignore the sin in culture (human laws).

            However, I can see some merit in your position.

  8. Chris Sutton says

    Yes we have the same problem here in Canada with some people actually thinking that getting their “cause” in the media is the same as showing the love of Christ. Thank you David for putting this out there.

  9. says

    David: It isn’t just the American Right; it is also the American Left. In fact the whole spectrum of of our way of wife is in a state of extreme susceptibility to anger, probably due to the exacerbations of certain subliminal techniques being used in advertising and other media as well as the general milieu of a state of war with terrorism. It is the constant and unremitting nature of the irritants that are, very likely, responsible, in part, for the explosions of serial violence that we have been seeing in the past 30 or more years, symptomatic, I think, of the breakdown of our society and social order. And we are unable to cope with such unrelenting and unremitting assaults upon our very raison d’etre (reason for being or existence). We are being steadily manipulated by dimly perceived and often misunderstand forces. We need a prayer movement for a Third Great Awakening which might, deo volente, provide us with a large charge of life and newness to counteract the negative influences.

  10. David Rogers says

    James,

    Yes, indeed, it is also the American Left. But, as Bible-believing Evangelicals, the majority of us would self-identify with the Right. The Left will one day have to answer before the Lord for their thoughts, words, and deeds. In the meantime, we must look at our own hearts before we cast the first stone, or attempt to take the speck out of “our brother’s” eye. As Carson says, to what degree has our demonizing of the Left provoked them in their counter-demonizing of us? As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a higher standard, a higher plane of living: no longer eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.

    Having lived in Spain for 18 years, where the culture is far to the Left of anything the US has ever seen, I can testify that it is still possible to be a faithful, victorious disciple of Jesus Christ there, perhaps even easier, in some respects, than it is in the midst of a culture that readily accepts a watered-down version of Evangelical Christianity.

    • Christiane says

      “But, as Bible-believing Evangelicals, the majority of us would self-identify with the Right.”

      DAVID ROGERS,
      in what ways specifically do you see Bible-believing Evangelicals identifying with the Right?

      is it just on social issues, or do you think the Bible affirms the conservative right’s economic agenda also?

      do you understand how the conservative right’s economic agenda will impact our more vulnerable citizens in this country?

      • David Rogers says

        Christiane,

        I am not speaking theologically, primarily, here as much as demographically. On social issues, I would say that Bible-believing Evangelicals identify especially with “the Right.” Not to say, however, there are not specifically theological reasons for taking “right-wing” stances on certain social issues. On economic issues, there is also a demographic tendency in that direction, though not quite as pronounced as on the social issues.

        Personally, I don’t think we as Bible-believing Evangelicals (realizing you are Catholic, not Evangelical), ought to be specifically identified with the “conservative right’s economic agenda.” I don’t think it is wrong for individual Evangelicals to have a personal preference for right-wing economics, but I don’t see that as a necessary gospel implication, and, in some cases, may even find itself at odds with a consistent application of the gospel (i.e. the philosophical underpinnings behind Ayn Rand, et al).

        I address this in more depth here:

        http://sbcimpact.org/2011/10/12/macroeconomics-and-the-bible/

        • Christiane says

          Thank you for that link, DAVID . . .

          Yes, I remember that post as thought-provoking and I did respond to it at the time

      • Lowell Martin says

        Christine,
        In what way do you see the conservative right’s economic agenda hurting the more vulnerable citizens in this country? I see the exact opposite. They want to develop businesses so that our people have jobs? If we continue to destroy businesses with high taxes to pay people not to work and destroy initative and self esteem we’ll all be the more vulnerable and the elite in Governement will own it all.
        When government programs take from the production of one and give it another it is not charity it is forced redistribution. That is not a biblical concept. Charity is when someone gives voluntarily to another out of compassion. Charity is biblical. It is a way to share Christ’s love. When it is done through government it glorifies the government not Christ and creates dependency in those receiving and resentment in those being taken from. Not to mention it is inefficient due to the cost of government bureaucracy.
        2 Thessalonians 3:6-10, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 at first glance these seem to contradict one another. However, if you look deeper they provide the biblical framework for Gods vision for caring for the poor… charity. Thessalonians is clear that no one has a right to take production of another even if they are starving… Corinthians tells us God loves when he blesses someone abundantly that they cheerfully share with a brother in need. They find joy and a healthy pride in being able to extend a hand to a brother in need. Charity not food stamps is God’s plan. Gods plan replaces the entitlement mentality in the recipient and resentment in the producer with gratitude in the recipient with Joy in the giver.

        • says

          Christine,
          In what way do you see the conservative right’s economic agenda hurting the more vulnerable citizens in this country?

          L’s believes that it’s wrong for someone to go out, go to college, work hard, get a job, and earn more than someone who has 3 baby by four different baby daddy and doesn’t want to work to better themselves. She thinks the poor deserve the best of everything at the expense of those who have worked hard enough to earn the best of everything. Essentially, she wants to reward lazy people and punish hard working people.

  11. says

    Our small congregation (about 75 worshippers on Sunday) is roughly 50% liberals, and 50% conservatives.

    Our pastor preaches the gospel and not political gospels.

    We know we have the freedom to vote whichever way we believe is right. But politics has no place in the pulpit, unless it is to put a pox on both their houses.

    • Lonnie says

      Just checking, but did the war for independence first start from a CHURCH? I thank the church should be involved in politics, to lead the people in the right direction. Your vote counts.

  12. Nate says

    David,

    I think Carson is right, but I would also add that, in our representative democracy, this issue (how to influence laws, etc.), there is a both/and structure to it; not merely an either/or. What I mean is that believers need to be careful in how they express their frustration (anger, etc). but, by the grace of God, we have been given the privilege of living in a land where the masses have a responsibility to the laws that are passed. This is not Imperial Rome. Yet we do have to be careful in how we (believers) project our dissapointments with society to our neighbors, whom we are trying to share the gospel with.

    • David Rogers says

      Nate,

      If you go back and listen to the entire context in which Carson makes the observations I have quoted here, you will find that he is in total agreement with what you say. Thanks for your input.

    • David Rogers says

      :) Every now and then, I come up for air from my studies, which normally occupy a good part of my free time. And, when the blogging bug bites, the blogging bug bites.

  13. says

    Part of what we see in modern political discourse I attribute to the continued rise of what back in the 1940’s C. S. Lewis dubbed “Bulverism” (Google it, the first few entries include a copy of the essay defining the term). Bulverism is a tactic of argument where instead of trying to refute your opponent’s arguments, you assume they are wrong and proceed to give an explanation of the motives or background that causes the error. Basically, it’s a circumstancial ad hominem. Lewis coined the term because its use seemed to be pervasive. I believe its pervasiveness has increased exponentially since then.

    Part of Lewis point is that “until Bulverism is crushed, reason can play no effective part in human affairs”. If the majority of people use and accept Bulverism, pointing a finger at their opponent’s supposed motives instead of actually arguing the facts (and if you allow Bulverism as an acceptable tactic, it *will* become common, as it’s much easier than actually having to think(, there’s no room left for actual rational argument.

    And from what I see, today Bulverism isn’t just accepted and used, it’s practically taken for granted. This hit me earlier today when I saw an excerpt from the interview with Ann Romney. At one point the interviewer essentially asks “do you think it’s possible to convince women that the Republican Party has women’s best interests at heart”. The question seems to leave out the possibility that both sides could have women’s best interests at heart, but differ on what will accomplish it. The question goes right past the possibility of trying to convince women that one’s sides positions will actually be in women’s best interests, and assumes that this must be a question of motivation, as if only one side could possibly have women’s best interests at heart. It’s classic Modern Bulverism – “If you don’t agree with what my side says, it must be because you have some ulterior motive, or because you just don’t care”. And you see if from both the left and the right – “If you don’t vote for Obama, it must be because you’re racist” – “The Democrats don’t care about your health, they just want to get more power”. It’s concentrated post-modernism – don’t pay attention to the actual words, just dig around for motivations, and assert that the position comes from the motivations that you’ve asserted.

    And as a Christian, I have to wonder if it’s literally of Satanic origin(to get back to the issue of the devil’s tactics). I look at Genesis 3, and from what I can see, the argument that the serpent uses to deceive Eve is essentially a subtle Bulverism. No arguments as to *why* she won’t die, just an assertion that eating the fruit will make her like God, and an implicit assertion that God doesn’t want that. He implies that God has an ulterior motive for forbidding eating the fruit, and therefore you can ignore what God says (classic Bulveristic tactics). It’s essentially the original “Da Man is just trying to keep you down!” argument.

  14. says

    Great article, and good follow up comments. A refreshing thing to consider. I do believe this may go the way of Mike Leake’s self-examination articles in that it will engender a small amount of response. It is, however, much needed.

  15. says

    That is exactly what has been on my heart as I hear my conservative friends shrill cries. I care more for the gospel and ultimate truth. Jerry Bridges’ book Respectable Sins, is a great resource for dealing with personal sin before societal sin. Not that we do nothing, I vote and I help in campaigns and I donate to life issues, but I do not get shrill. Jesus directed his anger at the religious hypocrites, who did need the gospel, but who were enemies of the cross at the end of the day.

        • says

          That doesn’t mean that everyone who uses the term shrill is using that definition. Yes, the left lumps in calling sin sin with being shrill. That doesn’t mean that everyone who is called shrill must therefore be calling sin sin.

    • Lonnie says

      My son and I have a big debate going about HATE. So my questions is, did Jesus hate the hypocrites or just their sins or both. As a Marine, I was trained to defend this country and hate anyone who trys to harm it in any way. Like Obama! Can it be that a person’s sins are so great and numeruos, that it consumes the person who is sining, and make them the sin? I could use some advice..

  16. says

    It is interesting that when someone disagrees with the points of another person’s argument, they are automatically categorized as “angry,” even if they are simply disagreeing in an objective way, point by point. I’ve seen this on many blogs…and here in this comment thread as well. True that some who disagree are also angry, but to disagree is not to be angry. I disagree with several of the comments here, but should I refrain from making any points of response for fear of the “angry” label? To be angry over the sin that is destroying precious human beings is now politically incorrect in Christian circles. God has called some to be “prophets,” and some to have the gift of mercy. Both gifts are from God, and both are necessary. I’m not saying defensive, prideful anger is acceptable. I’m talking about anger over the sin of a nation. This post has some great points…but let’s not swing the pendulum in the opposite direction and assume everyone who disagrees or fights for justice and truth is sinfully angry. And why label everything “right” and “left?” How about just “right” and “wrong?” Because you’ll find both right and wrong on both the right and the left. Things get so much clearer when they are defined biblically instead of in human terms.

  17. says

    I certainly appreciate the point here but if you want to find scathing cynicism and anger, look more closely at those on the extreme left. Watch MSNBC for a few hours in the evening and it will be obvious. The growing intolerance (soaked in superiority and arrogance) on the left is ironic in that it comes from those who boast most loudly about tolerance and it is alarming in its demonization of those who see things differently.

    • Lonnie says

      AMEN! This is my felling too.. The news is leading us down the wrong path. They take a little new and start a full blown riot, just to get more news, and they do not care who dies..

    • Frank L. says

      The Right is absolutely right when it comes to the “right to life”. Everything else is secondary

        • Debbie Kaufman says

          Frank: First, I think that is a naive statement. Look at Romney and Cain’s stance for instance. Back and forth, sometimes in the middle. It’s mostly used to gain the evangelical vote and has worked for several decades. Laws have not changed. But….abortion has gone down drastically. What there is an epidemic of now is unwed mothers. Teens having children and not married. It seems we are stuck in the 70’s.

          • says

            It’s only naive to someone who shills for the left. The left have made abortion on demand their live-or-die. They will oppose any attempt to limit abortion at any point in the pregnancy under any circumstances. They will NEVER work to make it illegal. So, what’s really naive, is for someone to say that it is eveer acceptable for a Christian to vote pro-baby slaughter.

            (Said in a shrill voice)

          • Frank says

            Debbie,

            When you get to heaven, ask God if He thinks killing something He made that is “fearful and wonderful” is sophisticated (the opposite of naive).

            I’m pretty sure that God does not consider literally ripping apart a human being as “sophisticated.”

            I think you are the one who is naive to believe that abortion is anything more than killing an innocent human life. It solves absolutely no problem but creates a whole host of other problems.

            Think about your description of “sophistication.” “Back and forth, sometimes in the middle.”

            Would you like for someone to be “back and forth and sometimes in the middle” concerning whether it is “humane” (forget moral) to cut you up into small parts without as much as a swig of whiskey to dull the pain?

            Being absolutely pro-life (which by extension and necessity means anti-Democrat) is far from being naive. I can assure you that I have been in the middle of this game now for going on 30 years beginning with pro-life volunteer work in Berkeley in the 80’s.

            I respectfully disagree that my belief in the sanctity of all human life–regardless of the size or age–is “naive.” It is NOT popular to be sure, but that does not make it “naive.”

            I didn’t write Psalm 139–God did.

          • Mark Harvey says

            Debbie,
            You’re exactly right about the manipulation of the evangelical vote.
            The institutional “right” (ie the Republican Party) has adopted socially conservative rhetoric because they know that many evangelicals will always “vote life” or “vote family”. That means that their real agenda– pro-business, anti-government, and anti-tax– gets a free pass in the marketplace of ideas.
            You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone less sympathetic to abortion than I am. It’s an abhorrent practice. But will I vote for someone who espouses economic principles that I find in conflict with Christian principles because he gives lip-service to stopping abortion through legislation? Probably not.
            When these guys get in office, they really do what they said they’d do on the economic issues. That’s what they really care about. The outcome is always disastrous. Will anything change socially? No, because mankind is fallen and consumed by the sinful nature.
            Christians have the answer to social ills. It’s not at the ballot box, in Congress, or in the White House. It’s in the Gospel. That’s what changes people’s hearts and lives. And I think Carson is just suggesting that we work a little harder at sharing it.

          • says

            Mark

            Without question that is the stupidest thing I’ve read today. So, because the political right has adopted socially conservative rhetoric your solution, then, is to vote for people who make known from the outset that they will defend a woman’s “right” to an abortion with their life’s blood??? And THAT is your solution to the horror that is abortion with how many million people slaughtered??

            Go play in the street. Prefereably a busy one. And I say let the driver that hits you off with just a warning ticket and call it a “post partum abortion”. I’d be perfectly ok with that.

          • says

            Mark

            Glad to help. :-)

            BTW, not one of the right’s economic policies is in any sort of conflict with Biblical principals. The Bible also doesn’t suggest that capitalism is the correct way to run an economy, but it most certainly doesn’t forbid it.

        • Frank says

          PS–I realize that this puts me in a precarious political position these days since I also am not a card-carrying Republican.

          Right now, under Obamanation and the demogoguery of the Democratic strangle-hold on Washington and the bumbling of the Republicans, I’m a man without a country.

        • Frank says

          Joe,

          Spoken with a certain aire of sophistication tinged with a tiny bit of “shrill,” and topped off with a nice glaze of sarcasm.

          Well . . . Amen.

          • David Rogers says

            Well, guys, I guess that shows Carson is not just making this stuff about angry Christians up.

            Personally, Joe, I think your comment to Mark was quite inappropriate.

          • Frank says

            David,

            Who said Carson was making anything up?

            Quite frankly, I have to say I wonder if Christians got “mad enough” when the Supreme Court voted for Roe v. Wade; or a hundred other bad decisions.

            I think I could make an argument, at least satisfying to myself, that we did NOT get “angry” enough.

            The key to understanding what Carson really wishes to be the result of his post would be, “what does he mean by angry?” I can certainly understand why Joe would raise your blood pressure–but, behind the fascade of being a tough, mean-spirited, son of a gun, Joe demonstrates clearly what is at stake.

            Carson’s implications may be more endearing, but that in and of itself, does not make them more efficacious. Sweet talk in a fox hole is as out of place as tough talk in in an ER.

            I am not at all surprised that Carson’s post would be taken by some as it is and responded to by others as it has been. But, it goes back to: 1) what did Carson say (and mean); and 2) what were the likely consequences of extending his words to real life in America today.

          • David Rogers says

            Frank,

            When we get to heaven, do you think Jesus is going to ask us if we were hardline enough on our political rhetoric, or if we were loving enough with the folks we hoped to win to Christ?

            In the long run, though, I believe angry rhetoric proves counterproductive to both spiritual and political renewal. It really doesn’t serve to change any one’s mind who may be on the other side of the issues.

          • Frank says

            David,

            You said, “”””When we get to heaven, do you think Jesus is going to ask us if we were hardline enough on our political rhetoric, or if we were loving enough with the folks we hoped to win to Christ?”””

            What if I asked you, “”David, have you stopped beating your wife?” You see, the way you phrase the question makes any answer I give an admission of guilt.

            I tell you what I do think: when I get to heaven God will not be pleased with me if my rhetoric in regard to the horror of abortion-on-demand-for-self-indulgent-convenience is not as strong as His.

            You see, David, I think this is where it really comes down to the fact of whether or not we use terms like fetus or baby, terminating or killing, or surgery or butchery.

            I cannot say whether your “rhetoric” is as hot as it should be, but I can say I don’t believe mine has always been hot enough–and I’ve been pretty involved.

            I’m not suggesting how you “should” or “should not” engage the culture in this matter, nor how Carson engages. What I am suggesting–and to the best of my human understanding–is that people ought to be careful when they suggest someone else is an “angry Christian” because of the way that brother or sister engages.

            I feel this is exactly the consequence–intended or not I do not know–with what Carson wrote.

            I am absolutely confident that Debbie and some others–perhaps yourself–would be uncomfortable with how I engage the topic of abortion. I can respect your difference of opinion, but at the same time resent your calling me an “angry Christian.”

            Carson paints with too broad a brush in this article in my opinion and the unexpected consequence is to “soften” the rhetoric on abortion to the level of a whisper.

            I cannot do that while babies are being butchered–and there is no other way to describe the late term abortions, especially partial birth abortion that Democrats support.

            I do sincerely respect your right to disagree. You will not have to answer for me “when I get to heaven.” I will have to answer for myself.

          • Frank says

            “””who may be on the other side of the issues.”””

            I agree. My rhetoric, if you will, is not directed at Democrats or entrenched ideologues.

          • David Rogers says

            Frank,

            You said: “My rhetoric, if you will, is not directed at Democrats or entrenched ideologues.”

            If you are not trying to convince people who have different opinions on the issues, what is the purpose, anyway? Is it all about preaching to the choir, and an angry one at that? Is it just self-affirming?

            I believe in doing what I can to protect human life. But it matters to me whether the way I am going about it is truly effective or not. I think it also matters for the babies being slaughtered, if you will.

            If you have not read the article I linked to on Morality, Politics, and a Broken Heart, I really hope you will. As I say there, you can come down on all the same sides on the issues, but if you don’t do it with a broken heart, you are coming from a polar opposite point of view than the one who does. I believe it is a broken heart that makes all the difference, and it is a broken heart that may (or may not) help to change other hearts.

            And, yes, you are right. We must each answer to our own master. But I, for one, am very driven, in the way I choose to live my life, by the question, What will Jesus ask me when I get to heaven? I think that helps to put things in perspective.

            And, I agree that there is a time and a place for anger. But, as I observe in a couple of other comments near the top of this discussion, Jesus’ anger was practically always directed at the religious leaders of his time, not the sheep without a shepherd. He also had a few choice moments of anger directed toward the money-changers in the temple.

            One day, God’s wrath will be poured out on all lost humanity, but that time has not come yet, and it is not up to us to do God’s wrath-pouring for Him.

            “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

          • says

            Well, David, I think your position that it’s acceptible for Christians to vote for pro-abortion candidates is quite inappropriate. I know it’s more loving to say that it doesn’t matter who you vote for but anyone to suggest for even a nano second that it’s acceptible for a Christian to vote for a candidate who has sworn to defend a woman’s “right” to an abortion with their dying breath just because they like that candidates position on something as trivial as immigration reform is pathetic.

          • Mark Harvey says

            Joe,
            Thanks so much for your thoughtful and Spirit-filled response to my foolish ramblings.
            You’ve really made me see the error of my ways. From now on, I’ll try to adopt your method of discourse, since it’s so effective at winning hearts and minds.

  18. Tom Strode says

    David,
    Thank you for taking time to post this from Dr. Carson. It is an important and insightful message for conservative evangelicals, especially during an election year.

  19. RG says

    Of course, it’s hard to disagree with this post. I believe that Carson has rightly identified an ungodly spirit of criticism and negativity among Evangelicals, particularly with regards to politics.

    However, I would like to take exception to one thing. Carson says, “But at the end of the day, if you can’t do it with compassion, and gently, and leave the doors open for evangelism, boy, you destroy everything.”

    May I make a simple observation? Christ, in his dealings with sinners and public officials, did not do everything with compassion and gentleness. In fact, Christ burned bridges on a regular basis. When you go through the Gospels, it might surprise you to see just how many “unkind”, ungentle things He said. Regularly.

    To be certain, we all fail at demonstrating Christ-like compassion. However, I would like to suggest that the paradigm which Christ employed most often was not uncommon kindness, but uncommon wisdom and discernment. Wisdom is not loud and arrogant, wisdom is not divisive. But wisdom is not always gentle, or sweet. Wisdom always seek peace, but wisdom does not always seek mutually beneficial solutions. Wisdom does not always encourage, or build up. Wisdom offers friendship to all, but does not set friendship with all as a goal.

    I would like to suggest that Christ Himself would fail the standard that Carson has offered.

  20. says

    I respect Prof. Carson. He’s an excellent teacher. I’ve learned and continue to learn from him. In fact, a lot of my (Reformed) theology has been shaped for the better by his teaching.

    However, I think there may be an inconsistency here. For instance, he recently published The Intolerance of Tolerance. Among other things, isn’t this book based in large measure on what the Right has said about the Left?

    Also, I don’t think someone like Carson is “seething” with “anger” or has lost much “energy” for evangelism despite writing The Intolerance of Tolerance.

    (By the way, I don’t think a tu quoque argument is always necessarily fallacious. See the work of logicians like Peter Geach or Douglas Walton.)

  21. Terry says

    The murdering of thousand upon thousands of innocent babies does make me angry, make me want to vomit, make me wonder why so-called Christians on the left can overlook this and vote for this? If these innocent children were say, 6 months old would they then care about children being murdered by their own mothers? I can see no justification for a child of God to look the other way at this blatant slaughter of babies let alone vote left or accuse the right of being to angry.

  22. David Rogers says

    In answer to various comments:

    Since Carson is not here to explain himself, I will take the prerogative to say once again, I don’t think he is saying the Right is the only side that is guilty of angry rhetoric–far from it. And, neither is he saying that as Christians we should never speak out in the public square on moral issues that may be perceived as unpopular. What he is saying is we must be ever vigilant of the tone we use and of the possibility of closing the door for future opportunities for winning for the gospel the same people we are confronting with truth on moral issues.

    • Frank says

      David,

      I believe you are probably right: this is what Carson believes. I think you are also wrong, this is not what Carson said.

      Herein lies a great problem in trying to deal with such and expansive issue–and a critical issue for the future of our nation. It is a much bigger issue than a blog can deal with.

      My hope is that the on-going conversation will flesh this issue out as your post does.

      But, if ever there were a time for the “Right” to speak in the public square, I think it is now. We do not have a long time to discuss these issues in my opinion.

        • Frank L. says

          Thanks, David. I’ll put that on my “Things to Do List.”

          We have a school and today is the first day. I’m a bit overwhelmed which is why I’m in our Fine Arts Center with the lights off, hiding and blogging.

          It beats thinking.

        • Lowell Martin says

          I read your post at the link above it it well written and has several valid points, however the mistake you make is a common one. We don’t live in a democracy. We live in a republic. A republic has a document that defines an absolute of which the Government is to base its laws on. The role of those voted into office are to govern based on that absolute. That document is our Constitution which is based on Godly principles of those who wrote it. It’s roots are found in the 10 commandment from God’s word. What we as Christians have every right to be “angry” about is that society is attempting to erase that from our heritage and convince the public we are democracy instead. In this way they can say that morality is not based on principles outlined in Gods word but on popular oppinion. This is all tied into the political landscape. So while it may not be Christian to be angry about Democrat or Republican, we as Christians need to be angry about this attempt to base morality on popular oppinion rather than the absolute truth of Gods word. Unfortunately, since one political party has decidedly become intent on basing morality on poplular opinion, then we as Christians are left with the choice to passionately join the other side or stand aside watch the biblical foundation of our society be erased.

  23. Frank says

    “””Now contrast that with the first Christians taking the gospel in the Roman Empire.”””

    In general I like to read Carson, but he runs off the road several times in this post.

    The above quote fails to take into consideration that the First Century Christians had not been given a God-blessed country worth preserving. I think he is comparing apples and oranges in that regard.

    “”””on the Right today is to make them so hate everybody else “”””

    This statement is so fallacious you wonder if Carson, a reputable scholar, actually made it.

    I don’t think all the “hate” that comes to the so-called Right is because we “so (notice the adverb) hate (notice the choice of word) everybody (a bit of exaggeration) else (makes the debate personal, rather than a matter of principle).

    No, I don’t think we can make a difference if our strategy as the Church is “primarily” political. Yes, I do believe that the Left drags us further and further away from our Judeo-Christian roots with every political win.

    With a shrill voice I am crying out in the wilderness: “if we don’t soon get it right, we will be left . . . . behind by God, that is.” There is only one hope for America and that is to “turn” back to Him as a people (Chron 7:14, et. al.)

    As “angry” as it makes me sound–I believe that would be a “right” turn.

    • Lowell Martin says

      Well said. “The so called Angry Right” is simply another attempt to stereo type and silence those that are willing to stand up for Godly values in society. I’m proud to say I’m part of that group. I’m not angry at anyone, by standing up for truth, and working to promote Godly values into society, I’m not turning people away from Christ but leading them to him. We as Christians should be angry enough to stand against Abortion, Gay marriage, and the attempts to erase our Christian heritage, to do something about it. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew 5:13-16&version=NIV

  24. says

    There’s an ancient Chinese Proverb that’s oft quoted: “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” I think it’s a good illustration of this.

    The problem with the Church in the US is that we’ve gotten too comfortable in our own communities. We think that the way of life we make for ourselves right now is the epitome of the Christian life. So we’re typically afraid of death because we don’t want to lose what we have and we nominally desire heaven because it seems like a better deal than hell, although we don’t know if we’ll get to do all the fun stuff we get to do in our lives now. But it’s all about us – not about our Lord.

    So when things attack the way of life that we have created, we are upset. Why should we be upset? The Bible said it would happen and that we should count it as joy. The thing is not the life we create here, but the life with our Lord that He has created for us that awaits us after the resurrection.

    • says

      I’ll agree, Jim. I think this affects even such things as praying for revival. If we’re praying for revival because we want it to restore our comfortable community, God’s response may very well be “No. You want revival in order to preserve your own kingdom. You’ll get it when you want revival to advance My Kingdom, regardless of how it affects your own.”

  25. Lowell Martin says

    This article disturbs me to hear that even people in the Christian community have begun to believe the lie that they should remain silent and not be proponents of Godly values in society. Several times the Bible speaks about being angry and sin not. I see a lot bigger problem with apathetical Christians not being willing to stand up for Godly values in society. We’ve allowed pagan proffessors with false idealologies to teach our young people rather than take the effort to teach them truth. Now we have a generation of people that do not believe in a moral absolute. It is time we get angry enough (without sinning) to do something about it.

  26. M.O.E. says

    We as Pastor’s, should take our stand for God and preach against sin, not the political party. In many churches, all it takes to divide the church is for a Pastor to favor a particular party. It is hard enough to keep a group of people together as it is, especially in medium to small congregations.

    In any typical church you will have those that are babes, those that are only half grown, and those that are eating meat of the word. We have to burp some, while giving napkins to others. If I am to point people in the right direction I have to do it with the word of God.

    In every church there are D’s, and R’s. I’m not there to tell them how to vote, but to tell them how to be a Christian, then pray that God will take care of the rest.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Angry Christians An excellent article from D.A. Carson: One of the things that troubles me about American society—about North America, and I include Canada in this, and Western European Christian society, to some extent, but it’s stronger here; it’s stronger here because of America’s particular heritage—there is a great deal of anger on the American Right at the moment. Have I thrashed this one over with you before? Let me just say a little bit about it, because it is troubling. It’s hard to know what to do. [...]

  2. [...] But at the end of the day, if you can’t do it with com­pas­sion, and gen­tly, and leave the doors open for evan­ge­lism, boy, you destroy every­thing. I think one of the devil’s tac­tics with respect to the church on the Right today is to make them so hate every­body else that at the end of the day they can’t be believed any­where, not even the procla­ma­tion of the gospel. (D.A. Carson from his lec­ture on Revelation in 2005, quoted briefly here). [...]

  3. [...] D.A. Caron on Angry Christians and the Devil’s Tactics – “When you’re busy hating everybody, and denouncing everybody, and seeking political solutions to everything, it’s very difficult to evangelize. Isn’t it? Very hard to be compassionate, to look on the crowds as though they’re sheep without a shepherd, very hard to look on them like that when they’re taking away “my heritage.” Do you see?”  (H/T) [...]