January 21, 2021

Open Mic at the iMonk Cafe: The Ironies of Evangelicalism

After spending the day learning that my Alan Creech ad has deprived me and thousands of others of their salvation (thanks a lot Alan), I’m rather overwhelmed with the ironies of evangelicals in general and the neo-Reformed in particular. (Yes, Virginia, there are neo-reformed.)

So here today’s somewhat sophisticated open mic question:

What are some of the ironies you see in evangelical life, belief and practice?
(If you have to look up irony, that’s OK. Go ahead. We’ll wait.)


  1. Man, and I was just about to rip out a bunch of Catechism quotes – dangit. …hey, wait, is that blood? I think I’m bleeding, daggonit – Grace song, mmhhhmmm, clears throat.

  2. George Malin says

    Oh I got a good one!

    I find it ironic that a salvation based on “faith” alone, and not “works” include daily bible reading and daily prayer…never understood that…

    Then people go ranting on how “real faith” will make a person read the bible daily and pray daily…don’t understand that either…

  3. Dixie Dawg says

    Just a quick note on Newt Gingrich’s becoming Catholic. This holds implications for the politicized religious right, aka theocons and the 2012 election. With his absolution Newt may make a run for the Presidency.

    The irony. Falwell’s children will find themselves lining up behind a Catholic.

    If he runs or not, Newt has a good start on re-gathering the Right. This from Max Blumenthal.

    “With more than $5 million from right-wing casino baron Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich recently founded a conservative nonprofit called Renewing American Leadership. Among the group’s planned activities, which appear coordinated with a who’s who of the Christian right, are a series of “tea party”-style protests against Obama’s economic plan…”Max Blumenthal, The Daily Beast.

    It’s never boring is it?

  4. Justin V says

    An irony from back in the days immersed in CCM culture: Listening to “Secular” music was frowned upon, but listening to CCM acts cover “secular” songs was okay.

    I still find it ironic that a missions trip to a desolate Native Reservation or inner city slum can be augmented by a stop at the Mall of America or Amusement Park on the way home.

  5. It’s ironic that most churches have jettisoned sacred music while sacred music is performed at secular venues.

    It’s also ironic that most of the people at said churches balk about government funding of the very arts organizations that are keeping the Christian musical tradition alive.

  6. A church council I once was a member of haggled over a $500 electric bill for almost two hours, debating the merits and demerits of various bulb wattages, then in the last 20 minutes of the meeting unanimously approved taking out a $50,000 loan for property repairs and improvements.

  7. Dixie Dawg:

    I’m about to start a full time rant on portraying all evangelicals as sheeple who follow whatever Fox news says they are going to do.

    I’ll bet that 75% of the evangelicals on this blog wouldn’t vote for Gingrich. I agree with him on many things, but can’t see myself supporting him.

    Evangelicals are diverse. The media portrayal of us as monolithic is not true.



  8. I find it ironic that posts where we get a chance to rant (me included) draw 3x the number of comments / introspection as a post on the book of Mark.

  9. MAJ Tony–

    My point about arrest records is that as Christians we have to walk a fine line between standing up for what is right and living in obedience to the laws of the land. Unjust laws certainly existed during Jesus’ days on earth, but He did not go around engaging in civil protests. He invested in people. If we managed to get abortion completely outlawed and all abortion clinics shut down tomorrow, abortion would still happen just as it always has. What has to change is people’s hearts; and our energies would be much better spent in investing in women with unwanted pregnancies and helping them get what they need to carry the baby to term. If that means we have to help them find a job, suitable housing, adoptive parents, or whatever, then that’s what we should be doing. That seems much more productive than waving signs around and getting in people’s faces about abortion. You don’t solve one problem by creating another one. Jesus saved his anger and table-flipping behavior for the religious establishment, not the government.

    I agree that at some point we may have to make a choice about civil disobedience when it comes to preaching & teaching Jesus, but if we look to the disciples for our model, they did not engage in protest, either. They disobeyed the Sanhedrin’s orders not to preach Jesus, they accepted their punishment, and quietly went right back to preaching. I guess I just have a problem with Christians copying the world’s behavior and justifying it in the name of Jesus; speaking as an English teacher, I never was a big fan of Thoreau.

    As for charging for a framed copy of a Bible verse, I guess what I’m chafing at is people who think it somehow makes them more holy to decorate their homes in that kind of thing and an industry that caters to it. So maybe that belongs in a category other than irony.

  10. I find it ironic that after supposedly hearing the good news of God’s incredible generosity towards us in Christ large swaths of Evangelicals go to restaurants, treat the wait staff like dirt, and tip poorly. And many of them probably felt smug that they were in church when the restaurant workers were not.

  11. The Guy from Knoxville says

    Dave N:

    It’s ironic that most churches have jettisoned sacred music while sacred music is performed at secular venues.

    It’s also ironic that most of the people at said churches balk about government funding of the very arts organizations that are keeping the Christian musical tradition alive.


    Dave N, so true, so true! Back in Feb here in Knoxville
    the St.Olaf College Choir (Lutheran School in Northfield, MN) sang here and the venue was at the Univ. of TN. I heard more church music in from them in that setting than most churches on any given Sunday. I commented to my wife that evening that it was so nice to hear good sacred music again – why can’t we have it in church anymore? We were sitting in a 900 seat auditorium specifically designed for music (newest pipe organ in town there too) and it was full! We can’t half fill most church auditorims these days for what we call the worship service – a definate statment on where we are or where we’re not depending on how you want to look at it.

    Stopping here – if I don’t…. another rant on the music issue and Michael might really have to moderate this time. BTW Michael, sorry for being so negative on the worship and music issue – this has “got my goat” lately and I know I need to call a hault on this and
    get myself straightened out on it – it’s not all of worship and I know that…. just trying to come to terms with everything. You well know how much certain issues can get at you more than others sometimes – especially if you’re close to it.

  12. Jason — totally with you on that! Nowadays, I find myself tipping excessively (25% or higher) just to make up for the miserliness of my brothers and sisters in Christ …

    Irony: Protestant leaders in general and evangelical leaders in particular who stress the importance of studying the Bible, but, when you question practices in the Church that are not supported by (or go directly against) Scripture, will then accuse you of being “educated beyond your obedience.”

    That last part is a direct quote from a pastor of a good-sized (avg. att. 300-400) local congregation. One of the members of that congregation had sent him something I’d written, and that was part of his response. In the process, he was slagging not just me but his own parishioner, who had stated that he agreed with what I’d said. Nice shepherding of the flock there …

    That raises a question: if it’s even possible to be “educated beyond one’s obedience” … what does that say about the kind of obedience that pastor expects of believers?


  13. Another irony: congregations that believe in Biblical inerrancy, yet ignore Matthew 6:3-4 when it comes to offering time and do the whole deal in full public view with musical accompaniment (and often an admonition to make sure your name and/or membership number is on the envelope) …

    … or did I just quit preachin’ and go to meddlin’ there? 😀

  14. The Guy from Knoxville says

    Ray A.

    Something I started, probably last fall, is when I play for offering time (organist here) I have purposely started playing music less “flashy” as I have
    come to believe, in some if not many, situations (esp sbc and similar) that the offering time has become a time to showcase the instrumentalist and instrument. This part of worship, and offering is a part of it,
    is diminished to some degree by that being so obvious so I’ve taken to playing things that are more appropriate and less “flashy” during that time in the service – not boring or dull mind you just less obvious – less focus on me and the instrument more on worship of God through giving. Still have a “flashy” one on occasion but trending less and less in that direction. It also became a point of conviction as a musician – still got a lot to sort though – most of us do.

  15. Sort of an Irony…

    After a dissertation from my dentist that he follows scripture alone as his source and not all that extra-biblical stuff…

    Dentist: I’m in a group right now doing a scripture study

    Me: Really! which book are you studying? (Note: I happen to like scripture study and wanted to know what book of the bible)

    Dentist: How to succeed in business…

    Me: (After thinking about the countless blogs I’ve read on IMonk)

    One more…

    Conversation with a woman who is Baptist and whose huband is Catholic on her struggles with the Catholic view of things…

    Woman: I just don’t like that Catholics have to depend on the Pope for interpretation of the Bible…

    Later in the conversation…

    Me: What do you find attractive about the church you belong to?

    Woman: I like my pastor’s interpretation of the Bible…

    OK – one on the Catholic side – Why is it that we are justified by our faith and works of love yet so many of us don’t do any works of love?
    OK – I’m done.

  16. Ray A:
    Or those who won’t give a penny if it’s not tax-deductible. (The Father seeing in secret apparently being secondary to the taxman seeing it)

    (And like someone said, copy-paste this into Catholic Ironies if it every comes up!)

  17. I find it ironic that people who willingly confess that God is beyond our understanding, insist on defining every aspect of His being so that anyone can “understand” it.

  18. Jeremiah Lawson says

    Oh THAT is neo-Reformed. God is bigger than the box you want to put Him in … but HE fits in MY box perfectly!

  19. I find it ironic that the evangelical church, supposedly built on the great commission, has forgotten what discipleship is and is now satisfied with efforts towards mere conversion.

  20. To Mule Chewing Briars who posted on April 1 at 3:31 about the hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers:”

    This site http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/f/a/faithoof.htm indicates that the verse about Mary has been removed for at least some Protestant purposes. (Warning…that page has some annoying-sounding music attached to it. I turned off my speakers while I read the page.)

    I also got from wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_William_Faberabout Frederick Faber’s hymns: “Those hymns are widely used in Protestant collections as well; indeed, finding a Protestant hymnal which does not include ‘Faith of Our Fathers’ is difficult, albeit with the Marianism and Roman Catholic triumphalism amended.”

  21. I know this is off-topic for this thread, but I have to ask: why or how would Newt becoming a Catholic help with votes?

    And why is this portrayed as a shrewd political move, rather than a personal conversion on religious grounds?

    Okay, so the man is a Republican, but there’s a lot of Catholics who vote Democrat because they want to vote Democrat, not on the basis of “if only I could find a Catholic Republican to vote for, I’d vote for him or her.”

    Or do the media really imagine the entire hierarchy of U.S. bishops are going to issue pastoral letters instructing their flock to vote for Gingrich?

  22. Dixie Dawg says

    monolithic “any group” is not true.

    That realization should have long ago become the bane of psychology and sociology. But, it hasn’t. We still insist on studying and lumping, defining and describing, representing and misrepresenting people as though they were a school of guppies. Why anyone would sit still for being described as a ” Lunch Box Republican” is beyond me. John Andersen used that phrase constantly.
    If I remember, somewhere in the old book there is this, ” … created He them in his image.”
    Few,if any analyzers, to include Christian, begin with that understanding of the neighbor.

    rant on brother. someone needs to.

    grace and peace

    Curtis B

  23. Steve Winger says

    I find it ironic that the metrics of success which are applied to spiritual endeavors are frequently, blatantly antithetical to Jesus’ values.

    Where did Jesus ever assign value to crowd size, political clout, wealth or buildings. What do you think he would make of our fascination with the size of a mega-church, the size and beauty of its buildings, or the numbers of an author’s books or artist’s records sold? (Does anybody else find CCM’s “Twenty-The Countdown Magazine” and the star treatment of Christian recording artists so anti-Christ that you feel sick to your stomach? Not to mention celebrity pastors, Christian athletes, etc.)

    When did Jesus ever have anything positive to say to those who had the trappings of power or success?

    The church preaches against materialism, yet embraces materialistic measures to determine if, or prove that, God is blessing a venture.

    Correlative irony – When the church had no cultural influence or wealth, it tended to live in a way that resulted in credibility and eventual influence. When that influence became institutionalized and started to lead to the accumulation of wealth and power, the church started to live in a way that squandered its credibility and influence. Ironic.

  24. “Correlative irony – When the church had no cultural influence or wealth, it tended to live in a way that resulted in credibility and eventual influence. When that influence became institutionalized and started to lead to the accumulation of wealth and power, the church started to live in a way that squandered its credibility and influence.”

    In other words, most of us posting here wouldn’t be Christian if we were faced with joining the Christianity of the early Christians or staying Pagan.

    Be honest with yourselves, guys.

  25. Dixie Dawg says


    I think you broke the code.

    Years ago, after about four sermons on the order of “.. sell all you have and give to the poor,” ( I think F.F. Bruce inspired me with his “Hard Sayings of Jesus”) one of my Deacons shared with me that he didn’t like togas, wouldn’t wear sandals and had no interest in walking to his various appointments.

    I think I made some smart remark in the sermon about we think we believe the Bible is literally true and then tossed out the “sell all…” statement. I just wish there were blogs then. It sure would have saved me a lot of wear and tear.

    Curtis B.

  26. CCM magazine was a paragon of irony.

    Glowing articles about musicians who were presented as humble, super-Godly people who not only were as good as their “mainstream” counterparts, but also were ministers and evangelists with some special anointing that meant God was moving in their ministry as much as He did in Wales or one of the Great Awakening revivals.

    The fans, interestingly enough, either held up the musicians as 20th century Isaac Wattses, or gushed over them like the pagans did Prince or Michael W. Fox.

    Glowing articles about humble Billy and Billyette Grahams in a magazine covering an industry that, in many ways, was all about consumerism and celebrity. An industry that purported itself to be all about the gospel and family values, but put its most attractive performers out front and shunted more talented, but not as pretty, performers into the unseen background.

  27. rampancy says

    @Alan> uhh, whuuut? Just for the record, I take orders from baptized Catholics too – ha!

    Oh, I was just cracking a joke at Michael mentioning how he and thousands of other Christians have apparently lost their salvation because they use prayer beads and/or a rosary…they lost their salvation but I got a cool gift idea…and then I realized that being Catholic, both my mom and I are also in that emininent bunch who apparently make Baby Jesus Cry.

    In all seriousness, I’ve started to consider getting one of your pieces for myself, which is interesting as I’ve never given much thought to using items in prayer.

  28. Poooor Baby Jesus. 🙂

  29. My mailbox held a colorful mailer from a local church. Addressed to Neighbor, it claimed that “Easter Changes Everything, urging people to Discover that Change.

    The mailer asked, how can a holiday change anything? It continued with, Easter is just another day with candy and colored eggs thrown in, right? The disclaimer read; Easter is the celebration of an amazing historical event when an innocent man gave his life to bring hope to mankind. What, no mention of Jesus?

    What really stirred my ire were the large red letters inviting us to their Easter Family Block Party. Oh, yes there would be an Egg Hunt, Raffle, Crafts, Barbecue and a Jumpy – for kids of ALL AGES. No mention of Christ, how politically correct.

    One should realize that the early church absorbed pagan practices when the population was unwilling to give up ancient, goddess worshipping festivals. Thus a lot of what believers now see as Christians practices are in fact pagan.

    Many of faith will disagree with this letter, secularist will see the church as no different than any other social venue. A precious few, as one protestant pastor said, the church today is turning wine into water, will say Amen.

  30. Without being familiar with the church who sent you that flyer, I don’t think they are trying to obscure Jesus from Easter. I think the point is not to explain everything in a flyer, but to hopefully pique the recipient’s curiosity enough that they come to church on Easter Sunday and hear about Christ’s death and resurrection. And if the flyer alone isn’t enough to get them to church on Sunday, then hopefully they’ll at least come to the Easter party, get to interact with people from the congregation and plant some seeds that way.

    I’ve just seen this sort of thing done before and handled properly it works well. It’s way better for someone to hear a fuller explanation of the Gospel in person than to try and communicate it all in a mailer.

  31. charlie.hr says

    Irony?… hhmmm let’s see…

    Have you ever heard say: “Jesus is not religion, it’s life (… relation or whatever the bumper sticker says)”?

    How many of us “evangelical christians” slap this words in the face of (mostly) catholic people and then preach them: If you want to become a REAL CHRISTIAN, you have to become… EVANGELICAL!!!? (Obviously we don’t say it that way).

    We rant about a void religious life and go trough the motions every single weekend without questioning our own religious practices, because we find them fulfilling. Then what’s the difference with other religious practices that other people find fulfilling for them?

    I’m no theology scholar, but it seems to me that Hebrews speaks of Christ replacing the religious order of communion with God (trough Sacrifices – read tithes and offerings – Temple and Priests) for another more natural and familiar trough Christ. He replaced the religious agenda with the original idea of communion set on the Garden of Eden. (What was Adams religion? anyone?

    Am I wrong here? or we’re missing the point? Jesus didn’t come to replace old religions with a brand new one. He came to (in his own words): Set the captives free!!! (religious ones included). That’s why I find pointless arguing of catholic vs. evangelicals, or them vs. us. Once you get rid of the religious agenda, you’re set free to be a true witness of the gospel.

    Wanna be counter-cultural? Fall passionately in love with God, know him and Go and live a “normal” life (eg.: do whatever you do for a living) and while you’re at it, make disciples, cast out devils, heal the sick, plead the case of the widow and the poor; don’t worry about being saved by grace or by works, just be a christian-less all the add-ons. I dare you to see the counter-cultural effects of that.

    I know maybe this post will be misunderstood, or even criticized. I know we can keep arguing forever about the relevance of our religious liturgy and practices. But lets face it… Our Religion and denominationalism is one of the main things the hinders the church to witness to people like Bill Maher, muslims, far eastern religions, atheists, agnostics, etc. (John 17? anyone?).

    Let me be clear on this, I’m no ecumenist… far from it! Forget all what you know and start over. Discover the bigger picture… It’s about God, not about our religions. Jesus slammed the religious establishment of his days; Paul was unwilling to allow the corinthians jump into the denominationalism bandwagon; and here we are almost 2000 years later trying to make sense of all the religion-mess that we are in.

    … have ears to hear?

    Peace and Love!

  32. charlie.hr says

    One more thougth…


    trying to reform something that it’s wrong from its very core.

    Peace and Love!

  33. The church which sent the Easter invitation is a Christian, non-denominational church. I doubt that there is a human being in the USA who doesn’t know why Easter is celebrated. We can agree to disagree on this means of drawing people to church. We left a church, in the Calvary Chapel system, which started bringing in all types of entertainment to perform worship – including hip-hop and rap. I can hear the arguments roiling, just my point of view, respect here is key.

    The Halloween party, called a Harvest party, was always held on Halloween, costumes and candy, and all the trappings of a pagan holiday. Thousands came to this event, how many came to Christ? This even overrode the Saturday night service, if Halloween fell on a Saturday. GIve me a break.

    It’s little wonder that the teachings in many churches are long on social messages and short on truth.

    I go to church to hear the Word, to learn more and to partake in worship and fellowship without the disruptions of coffee breaks, comedy acts and people who feel the need to talk during the service.

    Easter, for the church I mentioned, has become a festival of booths and Egg Hunts every half hour.

  34. I find it ironic that I can’t think of a pulpit today that Spurgen would be allowed to fill because he enjoyed smoking his Cuban cigars….

  35. I find it ironic that people are so busy arguing whether God made the Earth in six literal 24-hour periods or not and whether or not gay marriage should be legal that they forget that Jesus simply said to love one another, help one another, heal one another, and believe in Him.

  36. Sorry a bit late on this thread… but I just gotta add the irony of the works vs faith divide:

    I grew up hearing stories of the scales used in the catholic church – if the good outweighed the bad they’d make it to heaven. I was told that catholic’s were legalistic and believe they get to heaven based on good works.

    Catholics on the other hand grow up believing that evangelicals believe all you need to do is say a prayer. Once saved always saved. They think once we said that prayer we think we can live however we please and still get to heaven.

    The irony is this:

    In practice some are skeptical of how worldly Catholic’s often are, and no matter how sinful they seem to live they all get the ticket to heaven at the Catholic funerals.

    In practice evangelicals are often the ones who seem very legalistic. Don’t smoke, drink, dance or chew, or go with those who do. And if someone does break these rules, yet said the prayer, we say they likely were not really saved before – maybe they said it but didn’t mean it?

    So in practice which (stereotyped) group seems to practice “once saved always saved”, and which group is legalistic and placing a larger emphasis on works?

  37. Very good, thoughtful points, Jonathan.

  38. Jonathan
    I totally agree with you. Having grown up in one tradition and “moved” to the other, this is something I often think about. It’s an upside down world.

  39. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Having grown up in one tradition and “moved” to the other, this is something I often think about. It’s an upside down world. — Sharon

    “‘Cause it’s a Great Big Stupid World…”
    — Randy Stonehill (?)

  40. alvin_tsf says

    i find it ironic that someone who has started a so called jesus shaped spirituality and has welcomed everyone from different traditions to engage in this journey consistently highlight the shortcomings of people who preach doctrines of grace…

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