Big Eva · Justice · Theology

How to Beat the Big Eva Shell Game

For years something has gone on in Big Eva (big/popular evangelicalism) that a lot of us have issues with. For a lot of us, there has been a struggle to know how things got where they are, or when they turned. Guys like Ed Stetzer, Tim Keller, David Platt and others that many of us flocked to listen to at conferences have changed, and we all know it.

At one point, these guys gave us guidance. They pushed us past our comfort zones. We were taught some great key doctrines that we still hold to this day. So why have so many of those pastors, Christians, and followers of Big Eva have such angst about the current state of affairs? Who has really changed?

In some ways, a lot of us were drinking out of the firehose. We missed that they told us who they were. As Couch Dennis Green famously once said, “They are who we thought they were.” The problem was that we were grabbing onto such big chunks of doctrine, missiology, and church polity that we missed the nuance of some of the things they were saying. And much of this nuance wasn’t nuance at all.

In other circumstances, like many feel about their political party, “The party left us.” We followed what they said, and they rejected what they were saying. They bowed to the “nice” and woke crowd. They bent to make sure everyone would hear the gospel, and in doing so, they gave up the doctrine they were trying to teach.

I’m not talking about the niceness, or the over the top “be all things to all people.” I am talking about what is going on in the shell game. How are they doing it, and how can you catch them in the act to find the pea so you are not deceived?

Is this intentional or not? It is probably different in every circumstance. The steps are actually simple. It goes: downplay, dismiss, destroy, redefine, and rebuild. It is a liberal playbook, and it has spilled over into the theological realm. Let me explain it step by step.

To beat the shell game, you need to know how it works. The first thing is they downplay and dismiss an idea. Take the idea of justice. They downplayed it for a while. They told us, “It was all about the gospel, so don’t worry about justice.” 

Although, for anyone who has read a Bible for the length of time it takes to make microwave popcorn, you understand that justice is part of the gospel. The cross says, “You are sinful, and what is ‘just’ is that you deserve Hell. But in God’s grace, He took what you deserved – your just punishment – on Himself.” If we get justice wrong, we get the gospel wrong. In downplaying, they also dismiss, and ultimately destroy things.

The next thing they do is redefine. They use what sounds like philosophical nuance, but in the end they twist words, definitions, and Scripture. They reinvent what words and ideas mean, but they do so craftily. Now that you don’t seem to care as much, because of the downplaying and dismissal, they have a chance to switch things up.

The third part of the playbook is to rebuild. Why didn’t they start with building? Wouldn’t it have been quicker? But they could not have done that under the old definitions. It would not have worked if we were focused on those things, instead of downplaying them. Therefore, it takes time. Now that you and I are out of the way, they can put their hand to the plow and build like they wish. 

The latest example came from Tim Keller, a man who has written, spoken about, made videos, and recorded podcasts on the “evils of Christian nationalism.” He was one of the top poster children for this discussion over the last five years. Many secularists would laud him. The attitude of “how dare you with your American flag” and “it is evil to mix your Christian life and politics,” or “your Christian life and society” was coming out of him with rage, as if this was the downfall of the modern church.

What did Tim Keller post recently on social media? He promoted a book called, “A Time to Build,” a book with the subtitle, “From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream.” 

I will be honest and say I have not read the book, nor do I know the authors. A trusted friend tells me it is actually a great book. At best, Keller owes an apology for all those he berated for acting this way in the past, which he now seems to be promoting.

At worst, here is what happened. A lot of them are attempting to rebuild, in a different manner, that which they have torn down. They pretend something isn’t important, then they destroy those ideas, and redefine them. This has happened repetitively over the last couple years, and we should watch out for it as well.

That is the playbook. That is what I want us to be aware of: downplay, dismiss, destroy, redefine, and rebuild. We need to know the shell game. If we don’t, we will miss the opportunity to catch them in the act. We hand over to those who are not worthy of the keys to rebuild our society, and worse yet, Christianity. We need to be aware, know the plan, and by God’s grace, lead as He has called us to lead.

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