Post Author: Bill Pratt
Well, yes, of course, but that’s not the view of all pastors who call themselves Christian. I just finished Eric Metaxas’ brilliant biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I was struck by Bonhoeffer’s view of the liberal churches in Manhattan during the early 1930’s. In a fascinating season of Bonhoeffer’s life, he visited New York City to study at Union Theological Seminary. What he found at the liberal seminary and the liberal churches around the seminary profoundly shocked him.
During this period in America, the battle between the Christian fundamentalists and the liberals was in full swing, and Manhattan was the epicenter of the struggle. As Bonhoeffer became familiar with the students at the staunchly liberal Union Theological Seminary, here is what he found:
There is no theology here. . . . They talk a blue streak without the slightest substantive foundation and with no evidence of any criteria. The students—on the average twenty-five to thirty years old—are completely clueless with respect to what dogmatics is really about. They are unfamiliar with even the most basic questions. They become intoxicated with liberal and humanistic phrases, laugh at the fundamentalists, and yet basically are not even up to their level.
If this was the condition of the seminary, the nearby churches were just as bad.
Things are not much different in the church. The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events. As long as I’ve been here, I have heard only one sermon in which you could hear something like a genuine proclamation, . . . One big question continually attracting my attention in view of these facts is whether one here really can still speak about Christianity, . . . There’s no sense to expect the fruits where the Word really is no longer being preached. But then what becomes of Christianity per se?
In New York they preach about virtually everything; only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.
If the Word of God is not preached in a church, then what is? In Manhattan during the 1930’s, here is what you could expect:
So what stands in place of the Christian message? An ethical and social idealism borne by a faith in progress that—who knows how—claims the right to call itself “Christian.” And in the place of the church as the congregation of believers in Christ there stands the church as a social corporation.
Sadly, there are still “churches” that are stuck in the liberal mode of the 1930’s. Just as Dietrich Bonhoeffer was repulsed by these churches in the early twentieth century, so should we be in the early twenty-first century.
His words ring true. What we need to hear from our pulpits is the “gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.” My wife and I thank God that he led us to a church 14 years ago where our pastor, Dr. Rick Byrd, has consistently preached the Word of God, week in and week out. If you cannot say the same about your pastor, it may be time for you to move on. You are being starved of the bread of life.