Recently, people I love have been liking and reposting blogs from John Pavlovitz’s popular blog, Stuff That Needs to Be Said. One post in particular titled The Arrogance of Evangelical Evangelism, inspired by this video of famous evangelical pastor David Platt, caught my attention because it makes a lot of claims without much evidence to support them. I wanted to respond to some of what is brought up in this blog not to attack Mr. Pavlovitz, but to address the claims and sentiments he brings up, which I know are shared by many. Please watch the short 3 minute video to see what this post is referencing.
Starting with a scriptural baseline:
John 3:18 (ESV): “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Now, the author of “The Arrogance of Evangelical Evangelism” states that “Platt seems to believe that “597 million people in Northern India will go to Hell” if he doesn’t convince them to say a magic prayer to get God to not be angry with them…”. As well, the author states that Platt, “fall[s] in line with a fairly modern orthodox evangelical worldview.” If Platt falls into this worldview, couldn’t he have based his statements on John 13:18? Many evangelicals are aware of those verses. Why stretch the argument to make Platt seem reliant on the Indians saying “magic prayers to get God to not be angry at them.” A basic application of scripture by Platt seems much more likely; that Platt knows magic prayers don’t work, and what John 13:18 says is a reason enough to share the gospel message. The author then states “Platt in this way, has placed the forever destination of millions of souls squarely upon his and his brethren’s shoulders. (Yes, Jesus saves, but not without their help.)” How does Platt’s burning heart to spread the gospel equate to Platt believing Jesus needs evangelists to help save people? Evidence is needed to back up these claims by the author.
Another claim the author makes regarding Platt’s and similar Christians’ approach, is that their theology is “…comfortable…assessing the moral condition of masses of people with almost no understanding of their lives…”. However, Platt did not assess anyone’s moral condition. He applied scripture where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” If someone is a Hindu, and thus seeks God by another way but Jesus, Platt has biblical standing to believe they need evangelizing.
Regarding Platt’s understanding of God’s willingness to send unbelievers to Hell, the author counters it by appealing to rational thought, asking, “…do we really believe that this is the nature of God…?” Unfortunately, the appeal to rationalism does not stand in this instance. The author provides no evidence to show how God is any different than Platt described. He actually asks a lot of questions which place an even greater burden of proof on his shoulders, 1. To prove God isn’t how others say He is; 2. to prove God is how the author believes He may be. Without a referent, how can the ought-to-be or should-be, be justified? An ontic referent, a baseline theology in this case, is needed to help the author’s point stand, but none is provided.
Framing Platt et al. into a worldview that is disagreeable, the author asks, among a string of similar questions, “Is it our main confession of faith, that sin is a birth defect that God allows and then holds against us…?” This question presupposes that this is Platt’s confession of faith, when it is in fact not. In the video of Platt that provoked the author to write his post, Platt states, “It is the epitome of hate to not sacrifice our lives to spread this Good News (that Jesus rose from the dead and saves us from death and hell) among every person we know…”. This willingness to die to save another, should they need saving, is an actual confession of faith by Platt.
It is important to highlight the author’s umbrage of the “who” in who is spreading the gospel, when he asks, “What kind of character does (Platt) ascribe to that God, who would put the onus of revealing this sole and specific Hell escape clause, on (largely white, male) preachers and pastors and evangelists?” 2,000 years ago Jesus tasked 11 (tan?) Jews to spread the gospel, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Thus, Jesus tasked the onus of revealing His sole and specific Hell escape clause on just 11 (tan?) male evangelists. This seems rather exclusive of Jesus. The author, by decrying the current bio-makeup of modern evangelical evangelists as being too centralized around one color/gender group, undermines his own ends and castigates Jesus in the process for his own ethnocentric selection of evangelists.
To finish, one comment by the author sums up the grievances I have with the post, The Arrogance of Evangelical Evangelism. The author claims Platt’s style of evangelism “dispenses drive-by damnation upon the masses; …(and) claims to know in an instant and from a great distance, the moral condition of another human being, and to pass sentence accordingly.” Here, the author trips over his own accusations. What exactly does the author believe his accusations of all modern orthodox evangelicals have amounted to? Are the author’s judgments from a distance? Yes. Does what he has posted claim to know the moral condition of another human being? Yes. Is a sentence rendered? Yes. The only thing the author has proved is that he is guilty of many of the issues on which he specifically calls out Platt and others.