January 27, 2021

iMonk Classic: Enough Courage to Go Around

Country Road, D. Shortt

Classic iMonk Post
by Michael Spencer
from May 2008

If the truth about Christianity turned out to be very different from what we’d been taught as young Christians by people we look up to as mentors and authorities, would we stand up and tell the truth? Would we make the turn and go the other way?

Every so often, this situation occurs. Take, for example, the infamous interracial dating rule at Bob Jones University. Through whatever process- enlightenment, epiphany, embarrassment- it became obvious that the school’s prohibition on interracial dating was wrong, even though it had been taught as part of a “godly Christian witness” for decades.

On the day that became clear, someone had to come to this conclusion:

  • Jesus never endorsed this prohibition.
  • It’s counter to the Gospel to have this rule.
  • But our pastors, teachers, mentors, parents, grandparents, ancestors and culture have taught us that this kind of segregation is right.
  • They used the Bible to prove their point, but they used it wrongly.
  • If we are going to do what is right, we have to say that those who came before us were wrong.
  • It will be embarrassing, and some people will get angry.

Get that next to last sentence: If we are going to do what is right, then those who came before us are wrong and we must, in one form or another, say so.

Plainfield Creek, D. Shortt

Christians struggle with this because their concept of truth makes them largely slow to comprehend the human, historical and cultural element in their perception of truth.

They are slow to see that their version of Christianity is very white, upper middle class and American.

They are slow to see applications of the gospel that require them to repent of the way they’ve treated people with whom they have some issue.

They are slow admit that what was preached and taught was wrong because the use of scripture (or lack of scripture) was wrong.

Many conservative evangelicals have a “thing” about the past. Maybe it’s the reformers. Or the confederacy. Or the last pastor. Or Puritans. Or some preacher of the last century. Or Christians who were right about many things but wrong about some things.

It takes courage to stand up and tell the world that Christians are wrong. It take even more courage to tell Christians that they are wrong. But if we are going to follow Jesus, we have do it and keep on doing it.

And we have to give our children permission to stand up and say we were wrong.

We were wrong, and Jesus is right. It’s an ongoing process of discovery, repentance and ownership.

It’s taken us through slavery and civil rights. Now it’s time to have the courage to say that we as evangelicals and establishment Christians have been wrong about many things.

Not wrong about the essentials of the Gospel, though we have a lot of problems related to the Gospel that we need to confess. And not wrong about the Bible or the Cross.

But we need to say we’ve been wrong about all kinds of things related to institutional and establishment, status quo Christianity. Those who came before us saw things in the Bible that weren’t there and used the Bible to prove things that were far from the ecclesia vision of Jesus.

It’s going to take courage. I hope we have plenty to go around.


Artwork by Donna Shortt and used by permission. Visit her website at D. Shortt Fine Art.


  1. How about starting with that group of folks called “the clergy?” Don’t see it in the NT. I see individuals with various gifts such as apostle, teacher, pastor, administrator, helper, etc. I see a title called elder. But where do we get the authority to take one elder, gifted in some fashion no doubt, and give him a title of “Clergy” or “The Pastor” or “The Minister” ?

    • I would urge caution here. Many ministers work very hard for little pay or recognition. They do things that those of us with regular jobs don’t have the time or inclination to do. If we found ourselves suddenly without them, left to go it alone ourselves, we would soon be overwhelmed.

      Some ministers are lazy and abuse the sheep. These tend to be in large churches with lots of money and little accountability. These churches are the minority; the average congregation is much smaller.

      Don’t knock it without at least having an honest conversation with a vocational pastor about how it really is out there.

      • Ben – no offense, but what I see you doing is making a pragmatic argument that, while it may be true, does not address the scriptural issue that Addison brings up. So while the “clergy” may do many good and useful things, it does not answer the question of whether the entire role is based in scripture or not.

  2. “if the truth about Christianity turned out to be very different…”
    Fact is, the truth about Christianity must be and has to be very different from our childhood teaching. If we are not continually shedding the old skins and crucifying the old props within ourselves then we are not engaged with the living Christ inside us who is on the move from glory to glory, from newness to newness of life. If we are listening to the living voice we can clearly see the idiocy of racism. What may be right to a child is just so much rubbish to an adult. The Bible can be used to endorse any position but the Holy spirit does not get used for anything. Rather, He uses us, if we have ears to hear. All arguement disappears into the mists at the sound of His voice. We need courage to listen; to hear. Adopting a new set of ethics is simply a formula for further failure. Hearing the living voice of God creates transformation. The cost of hearing that voice is the cross and surrender. God grant us courageous hearts.

  3. “But we’ve always done it this way!”

  4. I would love for a preacher to say:

    “I am not up to this. You are not up to this. We are not up to this. Biblical principles for living? It’s far too late for that. We actually need a Savior. And we have one in the Living Christ.
    Your sins are forgiven, and you are free in Christ. Go in peace.”

    (actually, our preacher says that in one way or another every Sunday – I pray that more preachers would)

  5. Both my husband and I graduated from Bob Jones’ Academy (high school) with the current president. We were really proud of him for having the courage to promote change through a difficult structure.

    I used to ask, “Why?” an awful lot often to the consternation of my Bible teachers. I imagine that has a lot to do with why I’m here and not at some fundamentalist Baptist website.

  6. I have nothing personally against people who commit miscegenation. We are all sinners. We all need Jesus. But marriage was created by God. For thousands of years, the church has testified that the different baramins must not be unequally yoked together. Those cursed with the Mark of Cain must not mix with those marked with the Curse of Ham, or however it goes. Can it be that the Holy Spirit was absent all these centuries, and allowed His Church to wander astray? To say such a thing is to sin against the Holy Spirit. Therefore miscegenation must still be wrong today, even if we are too spiritually blind to see it.

    Besides, think where this will lead. If we let different races get together, the next thing you know the gays will be wanting to get married (and even have GAY SEX!), and then where will we be? Nope, that way lies a slippery slope down to hell in a handbasket.

    Besides, Obama is multiracial. (His mother was attracted to Moslems.)

    • I do hope you’re being sarcastic here.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Scary thing is, these days you literally cannot tell. I’d figure this as a joke comment, but every time I’ve seen an over-the-top joke, I’ve run into some True Believer twice as over-the-top and Dead Serious.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        P.S. I have not heard the word “miscegenation” used in anything published after the 1950s except for KKK stuff.

        • Wow! I didn’t realize it was a published word. I parsed it from my 2 years of elementary Latin. Congrats on your breadth of reading.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            When you’re a natural-talent speedreader, by the time you’re 10 you’ve got more raw information in your head than most people have in their entire lifetime — with NO idea how to fit it all together.

            “What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been…”
            — Jerry Garcia

            Now as for “Miscegenation”, I remember the first time I saw the word — it was in a book on fiction writing pubbed sometime in the Forties or Fifties that said in so many words “DON’T USE MISCEGENATION!” Five-ten years before I found out it meant interracial marriage, and by that time it was “No Big Deal”. However, it was a real hot-button word at the time that book was printed. (“Automatic Red Murder Flag” in the words of Malcolm X.)

        • The only reason I recognized it is because it’s used in the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou?”

        • The word “miscegenation” was widely used in South Africa under apartheid. Maybe it still is.

          And yeah, I’d say Wayne is being sarcastic.

    • Wow Wee Wayne. Faulty premises through and through.

    • Prodigal Daughter says

      I seriously hope this is a joke, bc as a product of “miscegenation”, I want to kick your #@$%$#@ if it’s not!

    • Prodigal Daughter says

      I seriously hope this is a joke, bc as a product of “miscegenation”, this is extremely offensive if it’s not. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt…

  7. As usual, Chesterton said it well: “The faith has survived savage persecutions, but also peace. It has survived its own weakness and even its own surrender.” I forget which book it’s in, but he goes on to list all the times that the church has been wrong, or corrupt, or split, or flirting with heresy, and then expounds on how amazing it is that even when the church itself was its own worst enemy, God has always preserved the true faith among his people. If we have to admit we were wrong, it wouldn’t be for the first time, but Christianity has always come out stronger for it.

  8. Of course it is good to admit and confess when we are wrong. However, is there an opposite extreme that is, if nothing else, at least not wise? Should we be constantly admitting and confessing to past sins, while atheists and those who would love to see us all discredited simply use it as ammunition?

    Also, should we confess to sins that were also ubiquitous at the time? For example, slavery was practiced in most parts of the world at one time. It was brought to an end (although of course it may be still practiced in some parts of the world today) primarily by Christian abolitionists in the UK and the US. I do not hear other peoples confess guilt for slavery, yet I hear how the Christian plantation owners were busy justifying the practice with the bible, as if the bible somehow created slavery (by inference).

    • Jack Heron says

      “Should we be constantly admitting and confessing to past sins, while atheists and those who would love to see us all discredited simply use it as ammunition?”

      Yes. Because we’re the ones who believe in confessing sins, even if they don’t. Because we’re the ones who believe in repentance, even when the world at large likes to see it as a sign of weakness. Because we’re told to turn the other cheek, even if others are at pains to defend theirs. The fact that other groups might not acknowledge their less than savoury pasts is not a reason to do the same – if anything, it is a reason for us to set an example. I don’t recall Jesus saying to confess our sins unless it proves inconvenient to do so.

Speak Your Mind