Christianity as Usual? Not Quite
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
CBN.com - ORLANDO, Florida -- There is an alarming trend in today’s church. Contemporary culture has accused Christians of being politically incorrect, unloving, and narrow–minded in their devotion to God and His Word.*
Author Eric Ludy believes the Church has unwittingly played right along. In his new book, The Bravehearted Gospel (Harvest House), Ludy takes readers back to the basic purpose of the Bible – a force meant to bring glory to God and to turn hearts in His direction.*
In an explosive conversation, CBN.com Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Ludy to discuss why Christians are perceived as being narrow minded, the problem with the Emergent Church, and what happens if we lose our perspective on absolute truth.
The title of your book is The Bravehearted Gospel. I must confess that every time I hear that title I have visions of Mel Gibson as William Wallace seeking freedom at any cost in the movie of a similar name. Is this how you see the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
It was something I was intending to do. However, what you just said, yes. In other words, what Jesus Christ came to do was to bring freedom to human beings. The Bravehearted Gospel is all about that. It is fighting whatever stands in the way of that. “Braveheart” is a great term used for warriors throughout the ages. The warriors that were the most stout hearted, the most courageous, were the brave hearted. We need that back in Christianity. We have lost something. We have a lot of melee mouthed Christians – we have a tendency to be melee mouthed ourselves because the culture has sensibilities that it has set up. They don’t like Christians actually espousing what they really believe. So, we have to curtail it a little. But what changed Christianity in the culture were the brave hearted ones. That is the essence of what we are needing.
In your book you write, ‘temporary culture has accused Christians of being narrow minded in their devotion to God and the Bible.’ Why do you say that?
It doesn’t come across too well. It doesn’t translate into our culture very well when you say Jesus is the only way. Some say, ‘Do you actually mean that?’ Yes, I mean that. It’s not me who came up with that. It was God. I just follow His playbook. Whatever God says I stand with. To be honest, that comes across as being narrow minded. The other problem is we have a very mushy-mindedness that has crept into the Church today. I will just call it what it is – the emergent movement. The emergent movement is creating a mushiness to the thinking patterns in Christianity today. It’s like we really can’t stand for anything. When you stand for something firmly and concretely and make a judgment on something by saying this is right and that is wrong. This is God. This isn’t. This is truth. This is a lie. You are making a judgment and that is not allowed anymore. I actually do propose open-mindedness but open-mindedness to the Word of God.
What does a brave hearted type of Christianity look like in contemporary times?
To me, it is Job 29. It is a manly chapter. Everyone who reads my book needs to go out and read Job 29. It makes you sweat. It makes you raise your fist into the air and howl something. It is so exciting. It stirs within you. Job was called perfect and upright by God. Most of us, when we look at Job we only see a man that suffered. We don’t see the fact that God noticed him above all other men in his generation and said, ‘Have you considered my servant Job?’ Usually when we hear that story we think, ‘Dear God, do not bring up my name in conversation with the enemy.’ Why is he talking with Satan in the first place? We have all sorts of thoughts. What we fail to see is that this was not the overall tenor of Job’s life. The tenor of his overall life was extraordinary. He had basically one week of suffering. The book of Job does not cover a long period of time. What happened before and what happened after is that this man was a world changer. He was literally a man’s man. Job 29 is about Job reflecting on his past before the calamity hit him to say this is the type of man I was. So, you want to know what God calls perfect and upright? Read Job 29 and you will understand what kind of man God esteems.
In your book you discuss a term called ‘Cool Christians’. In other words, someone who has a cool vibe. What do mean by that term?
Just go into a Christian bookstore and look at the music CDs. We have all seen it. We all chuckle at it every now and then. It works so that is why people keep doing it. It is this hip look that you get. It is sort of that far off, distant gaze. It is the hairdo that is spiked a certain way. It is the rings in different portions of your body. It is the tattoos. It is the Christian attempt at modeling the world. We want to be seen as cool. The problem is Jesus wasn’t cool. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not Jesus didn’t do it the world’s way. He came in and offended the world. He came in and did everything the wrong way. Yet we want to come in and do everything the right way. We actually want to indict Jesus and say, ‘You know what? If you had known as much as we know you would have done it differently. We want to appeal to the world’s sensibilities and somehow draw them to the Gospel. Jesus didn’t do any of that. The Bible says, “Raise him up and He will draw all men unto Himself.” Get the Gospel undiluted. The key is we lift up the Gospel. We give the straight and narrow path. We give it undiluted and people will start respecting us because we are not giving them something that will tantalize the flesh. We are giving them something that will bring life to their spirit. We need to give them what they need not what they are wanting. We need to see people falling down in repentance not dancing in the aisles or mosh pits in the typical cultural manner. That is cool.
Is it wrong to be a ‘Cool Christian’?
It is not necessarily a moral statement. It is a compromise. The issue of the Gospel is to not mix. One of the things I go through in my book is that there is no mixture in the Gospel life. God doesn’t say add this on to this. He says, ‘Get rid of this and then this can come in.’ One of the principals of the New Testament life is based on the Old Testament pattern of the temple. You are not allowed to bring any profane thing into the temple. This temple is supposed to be a set upon place for your thoughts, for your life, for everything you do. For the way you bare the Gospel life, it should be clear who Jesus Christ is. There should be no trappings of the world. It’s not like we bare the world and then try to see Jesus through that. They see Jesus. And yes, they will mock it. Yes, they will make fun of it. Yes, they will probably crucify it. That is what we are afraid of. We don’t want to live the version of the Gospel that ends up on a tree.
In Chapter 11 you describe a person named “Metro”, who essentially is taking up the precept that Jesus Christ meets you where you are at. Metro is going into bars, night clubs, and other similar type places and sharing the Gospel if the opportunity presents itself. What is wrong with that?
The reason I used him in the book as an illustration is because he is a perfect enunciation of where I believe the Church is at. It has gone girly. It has lost its manly stuff. It has lost its Job 29 disposition. So, even the men have lost that essence of what makes the Church strong. This guy is a Christian leader. He bares what I call metrotheism. In other words, basing everything on metrosexuality, which is when you look good on the outside, outward appearance is more important. There is a slippery slope when you begin to follow this trend. You lose the masculine bearing. Suddenly our men start to look like girls and act like them. This is what has happened to the body of Christ. Jesus was a man whether we like to admit it or not. We are representatives of His body. Now, we are the bride of Christ. There is definite evidence in Proverbs 31 – femininity at its grandest. We are also supposed to emanate Job 29. It is the warrior-poet connection. We have the poet, we have the sensitivity, and we have the strength. It is Song of Solomon meets Revelation 19 – the rider on the white steed with a crown on his head and a sword coming out of his mouth and a tattoo on his thigh that says ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’. We have removed the manly stuff. It’s uncomfortable. It is socially incorrect. Men like to fix things. You’re not allowed to fix things in the Church anymore. I don’t know if you have noticed that. You bring up a problem and what they say is, ‘You are judgmental.’ If you say anything is wrong you are judgmental or legalistic. You are coming up with a higher standard. It’s not you coming up with a higher standard, it is God. All I want to do is stand with what He says. Let’s agree with Him. He is right, we are wrong.
You alluded to this earlier, what then are your thoughts on the Emergent Church? Everything you just said seems to fly in the face of what that religious movement represents.
The Emergent Church is metrotheistic in its very nature. However, there are some very good questions they are bringing up. For instance, they are asking questions that the previous generation said was unspiritual to ask. Like, why should we trust the Word of God? They are asking that question. Unfortunately, they don’t give a good answer. That is the problem. My problem with the Emergent Church is not the questions they are bringing up but the answers they are giving. They are making Christianity milky. They are making it so you can no longer define anything. There is no sound judgment allowed. There is no decision. You can never say this is right or this is wrong because that is making a judgment on something. It is basically bringing post-modernism into theology. Post-modernism is removal of the head to an entire state of being that actually allows contradiction and contradictory thoughts, notions, and ideals to exist. You cannot have truth when you allow Buddha to be the savior of the world and Jesus to be savior of the world simultaneously. But that is what post-modernism does. You cannot bring it into an arena of truth. Truth means something defined by God. This is His reality and He doesn’t shift with every generation. Evolution has crept back into Christianity through the Emergent movement. They believe we are in a new period of time and therefore in this day and age we should redefine truth to fit the culture around us. That has so many consequences.
So, what happens if we lose perspective of what truth really is? What happens then?
Truth is lost. I was giving this illustration to someone yesterday. A treasure map is not the treasure itself. The Word of God is a treasure map. That treasure map is the most valuable thing you have until you get to that treasure. Because the only purpose it has is to help you find what is really valuable. Therefore, that treasure map is of equal value because without it you cannot get to the treasure. If you lose pieces of that treasure map you may not find that treasure. So, you need to guard that treasure map. One of the things Paul talks to Timothy about is to guard the sacred deposit, the good deposit that was given. To guard the Word of God, men and women have died throughout history and shed blood to defend the integrity of the Word of God, the soundness of the Word of God, and to preserve it. In our modern generation we are hacking it up by saying ‘we don’t like this piece, we like this piece’. ‘Let’s emphasize this piece, let’s de-emphasize this piece. Let’s retranslate. Let’s take out a few words here.’ We are losing the integrity of the Word of God right before our very eyes. The very thing men and women throughout history have died for we are watching it slip away. If we lose the treasure map, we lose the treasure. Plain and simple.
There will be people who will read your book and then come out and say, ‘Eric, you are being condemning here.’ What is your response to those people?
There is a difference between conviction and condemning. Conviction is when someone is headed over the side of a cliff and then the fog blows away. It is then they realize that if they keep walking in that direction there is certain disaster. That is conviction because there is still hope to turn. Condemning means you push them off the cliff. You have no hope. There is nothing to do. Condemnation is offering no hope. I am passionate about the body of Christ. I care about truth. I care about Brian McLaren. I care about Rob Bell. I care about Donald Miller. I do not want to push them off a cliff and say there is no hope of this changing. I am appealing. I am saying we cannot lose this. They happen to have made a public presentation of truth. Therefore, I have to deal with their error publicly. In other words, this isn’t a side issue. This isn’t one of those take them into the corner and confront them privately. This is a public issue. They have brought it out onto a public stage and now there are millions of people that are absorbing and taking in these ideas that are simply not truth. The Church only works in identification with the Word of God and identification with the Word of God as flesh in spirit. This isn’t condemning at all according to the definition of condemnation. I speak with a manly thrust and a manly forcefulness. That is not popular today because it sounds like I am too confident. Being too confident in truth makes you sound like an absolutist. I would by no means say I have it all figured out. So, I will throw that bone of humility out there. However, I care about the Word of God so much that when I see it being violated and I see it being torn to shreds I have to do something.
Final question, after people read your book what do you want them to take away with them for life application?
I want them to be stirred. I want them to be uncomfortable. I want them to need to do something with God. I want them to feel pressed to transact with God. I want them to feel like whatever it takes, their life needs to get into God’s hands. It’s in my hands right now and I want it to be in yours. I want them to be pressed to the point of discomfort. There is a tremendous life awaiting each one of us but we have to go through a death to get to it. We have to get past our sensibilities, our desire for comfort, our self-centeredness, to say it is all about Him. Are we willing to say even if I went to Hell you are worthy of my dedication and my devotion. He gave His life for us. He deserves every fiber of my being dedicated to Him from this moment forward. I also want people to be stirred to do something with their life. How can I be a Job for this generation? I want us to be bearers of the Gospel in deed. I want people to find Jesus Christ in reality not in theory.
* Text courtesy of Harvest House
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