April 1, 2020

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. Just Joan says

    I think it’s ironic that they think their religion is so much better than any other — that they must defend it with sports-team-like passion. That they must be on the winning side. And that no one else can possibly be right.

    Please repost the above verbatim when you get around to the Ironies of Catholicism post.

    This topic makes me weep.

  2. Irony – people who like to quote Luther’s “Here I stand” line and try to embrace a spirit of the Reformation yet ignore what Luther talked about private confession and his reverance of the saints. This also applies to “Romophobic” Lutherans.

    As an “Evangelical Catholic’ aka Lutheran, it’s only a matter of time before we find ourselves in the same boat as the RCC in the minds of some…

  3. Some of you get an “A” in knowing irony is. Others are more in the C- area. Need to brush up.

  4. SottoVoce says

    Speaking as one of the younger evangelical generation here, I find it supremely ironic that we are urged as teenagers and twenty-somethings to be good little culturally relevant evangelists while simultaneously avoiding any kind of nonchristian culture (and nonchristian people) whatsoever. “Don’t watch movies that you can’t show to a four-year-old, don’t read Dawkins, Hitchens, Nietzsche, or any novel whose protagonists are not paragons of virtue, don’t even get started with video games, don’t hang out with people who (insert possibly morally questionable activity of your choice here) because they might ‘drag you down’, never go to a bar even if it’s the only place you can have an actual conversation” etc., etc, ad nauseum. Basically, don’t spend time with anyone who doesn’t believe what we do and don’t examine any of the sources they draw from in constructing their worldviews lest you lose your own. Then we graduate, start our first jobs, and realize that we have no idea how to hang out with or have a normal conversation with people who think differently from us, let alone explain why we believe something they probably despise us for because it made us shun them all through high school and college. Allow me to apologize on behalf of evangelical Generation Y for listening to the above.

  5. MAJ Tony says


    First wife is dead. She was the only true wife, as by God’s own law, his second marriage was an adulterous relationship, as both parties were considered to be married to their first (true) spouses. Therefore, it’s a simple annulment in the case of the second “marriage.” That type of annulment is mostly a paperwork drill.

  6. Sottovoce: Write that in an expanded version, and I’d love to print it at IM.

  7. I just deleted three comments. I’m not running a repeat of yesterday or anything even close. Anyone who brings the rhetoric from those sites over here is going to be banned, not warned.

  8. Ky boy but not now says

    “actually, I like the old pictures of Jesus with a crewcut……….”

    I tend to get some very “unChristian” looks when I say most of our pictures of Jesus would be more accurate if they portrayed him as a young Yasser Arafat look alike.

    The southern European and Nordic DNA in the Jewish population didn’t happen till after the life of Jesus.

  9. “Does Jack Chick take suggestions for new tracts?”

    Does Jack Chick still write tracts? Is he even still alive?

  10. What’s ironic about evangelicalism? How much time have you got?

    It’s ironic that we say we are worshipping Jesus when the lyrics of 90% of P&W songs are about OUR EXPERIENCE in worshipping Jesus.

    It’s ironic that we preach brotherhood and forgiveness, and then split our churches over stupid issues.

    It’s ironic that we say God’s love is free and then charge people $10.95 for a framed copy of John 3:16.

    It’s ironic that the very ones who holler the loudest about being obedient to Scripture are the first to ignore Matthew 18 in dealing with interpersonal conflict.

    It’s ironic that we teach law & order and then boast about how many times we’ve been arrested outside an abortion clinic.

    It’s ironic that we demand the right to display the 10 Commandments in the courthouse and then get upset when atheists take out ads on city buses.

    It’s ironic that we demand certain books be banned from schools whether we’ve actually read them or not, and then get upset when people condemn the Bible without having read them.

    It’s ironic that we teach “Jesus Only” for salvation and then question someone’s else’s salvation because they voted for a certain candidate.

    Gonna stop now — I’m working into a lather.

  11. SottoVoce,


    Oops. That’s sure to ruffle some feathers.

    Anyway, I totally agree. I spent years 17-23 or so in that very mindset. Then I wondered why I found it so hard to talk to non-Christians and share my faith. It took being let go from my job in the Christian music world and having to go work at a Circuit City to reconnect with unchurched folk. And it just so happened that after a couple of months there, I got the most amazing opportunity to talk about Christ to a good friend I worked with.

    He invited me out for a beer after work one night. Over a Sam Adams or two, we talked for about two hours with him asking questions, commenting on how he noticed that I was different (which mainly consisted of treating people kindly, not leering at and talking dirty about every woman that walked in and not being a gossip) than the others we worked with and me very naturally and organically sharing how I came to Christ and the effect it’s had on my life. He wasn’t at a place to commit to Him at that moment and he moved away shortly thereafter but I know I got to plant some serious seeds that evening. But I’d never have been able to do that without it feeling forced and “used car salesman-ish” during my years of being confined to the Christian subculture.

  12. Ky boy but not now says

    “It’s ironic that we teach “Jesus Only” for salvation and then question someone’s else’s salvation because they voted for a certain candidate.”

    The one I ran into was believe in radioactive decay.

  13. Person I just banned:

    You might be shocked to discover that once your message is that I’m not a Christian, I’m not going to pay for you to go from the 20 people who read your blog to the thousands who read mine. That’s what an open mic means on my blog. My audience is well aware what “active moderation” means.

    I lost all interest in the other side of this discussion after “squirrels” last two posts yesterday. What exactly is the point of discussion when you reject the Christianity of everyone you are talking with? Duh.


    Ragamuffin: Not a problem.

  14. SottoVoce

    You are SO on target!!

  15. would it be ironic if Alan C made rosaries with a Huguenot’s cross? Cause I really would buy one

    (really, not a joke)

  16. Moderation will go on shortly, because I have to be gone for a few hours.

  17. MAJ Tony says


    “It’s ironic that we say God’s love is free and then charge people $10.95 for a framed copy of John 3:16.”

    We don’t charge for the words on the framed plaque. It’s certainly biblical that a man be paid a just wage for his work.

    “It’s ironic that we teach law & order and then boast about how many times we’ve been arrested outside an abortion clinic.”

    An unjust law is no law. The U.S. legal system basically requires you to break bad laws to have your day in court to overturn them. Civil Rights activists of the late 60s are no different. Fr. Benedict Groeschel C.F.R. was jailed for civil disobedience during peaceful protests of abortion clinics.

    Your point?

  18. Another one: people who rail at Catholics and other groups that have liturgical style worship (especially in using recited prayers, praying with rosaries or prayer beads, etc) for “vain repetition”, yet have no problem with Psalm 136, Revelation 4:6-8 or The Lord’s Prayer.

  19. It is ironic that dispensational types show their love to Jewish folks by helping them move to Israel where they believe millions of them will be slaughtered in the End Times.

  20. Ragamuffin: It’s also ironic when people make that claim yet engage in praise songs in church with vain repetitious lyrics ripped off of
    “pagan” pop music. It’s not pagan or vain if you insert Jesus into the song and really feel it…

  21. I’m amazed when I hear an “evangelical” preacher give an invitation and I scratch my head concerning when he articulated the gospel in his message.

    This sort of thing drives me up the wall…

  22. James: Oh yeah.

  23. rampancy says

    I was going to make a crack that their loss is my gain, because I’d never known of Alan Creech before, and I thought that one of his pieces would make for a fantastic Mother’s Day gift for my mom.

    Then I remembered that she and I are both baptized Catholic. Oh snap.

  24. I find it ironic that I know the gospels well enough to agree with most of the criticisms above, and yet still find myself in a life that doesn’t seem so different from the rest of the world.

  25. My favorite irony is how Evangelicalsâ„¢ have turned the statement, “God is about relationships, not rituals” into a recognition ritual.

  26. Actually, my last comment doesn’t make as much sense to read as it did when I wrote it.

    I read this open mic post of IMs hard on the heels of his reprint of the 2005 article on the hard bits of the Gospels. I was reading that article and reflecting on where I am in my life and what I am doing – all the time thinking “I’m not really very counter-cultural except in ways that I want to be”.

    To expand on my first comment then: I find it ironic that I can understand the gospels and strongly advocate a counter-culture, I can easily find things to judge about our culture that are wrong (both Evangelical culture and world culture) – and yet I have a normal job, a busy family life with running kids all over the place, and probably don’t look that much different to the rest of the world.

    That is ironic. It’s ironic that much of Evangelicalism is so strongly for the traditional family (which I think is good) – and yet to have a traditional family can make it so hard to feel like you have a transformed life. Sure – I don’t beat my wife or kids and I provide for them and try to ensure they have a good life. But that’s only different to a small percentage of the world (although your US divorce rate makes a long lasting marriage seem counter cultural!).

    IM – your article on the Gospels makes me feel like your room full of Doctors and Lawyers discussing the guy that Jesus asked to sell everything. Evangelicalism in NZ is only partly the circus that it seems to be in the US (some denominations more than others). But, like you, we seem to like guilt-trip conversations about our lifestyle because they are cathartic. They allow us to vent without changing anything. Ironic.

    I don’t know how to change that for my family.

  27. Right on Ana.

    I find it ironic that we proclaim that salvation is a gift, and that there is nothing we can do to earn it and then immediately we burden the believer with a long list of “do’s” and “dont’s” to accomplish as proof of their salvation.

    I find it ironic that while we oppose the death of an unborn child, and scream about the sanctity of life, we relish the blood sport of the death penalty.

    I find it ironic that the death of any American overseas is cause for retribution (at least massive investigation if accidental) while the death of a child from our bombs is an “unfortunate mistake”.

    I find it ironic that the same SBC tradition that condemns the consumption of alcohol finds (found) it perfectly normal to have a smokers’ pit outside the education building of the church.

    I find it ironic that I’m eating an unclean / non-Kosher meal tonight (Bang-Bang Shrimp) and that my fellow brethren that love to quote Old Covenant when it suits their needs, won’t even give it a second thought.

  28. I find it ironic that we say we believe in a Gospel of reconciliation but then go and talk about how Bob or Mabel offended us instead of going to them.

  29. I just want to add one more AMEN to soto’s post above because his story is definitely mine as well.
    In my case there was an extreme emphasis on the socially awkward part of it due to being homeschooled for too long. My wonderful parents could not stand the idea of having me exposed to such evil and secular influences as were rampant in public schools. They might have converted me!

    My 9 year old pleas to not be taken out of my mission field were note taken very seriously.

    Getting back into the field has proved a ridiculous challenge.

    Irony? How ’bout preachin “Go into all the world” and then creating our own little bubbles where we can live our entire life without contact from the unsaved world.

  30. “I find it supremely ironic that we are urged as teenagers and twenty-somethings to be good little culturally relevant evangelists while simultaneously avoiding any kind of nonchristian culture (and nonchristian people) whatsoever.”

    SottoVoce, I think you’ve got the most ironic one so far.

    I’ve long thought that Christian Youth Group was really a conspiracy of over-protective parents to keep their kids from having sex – damn the consequences of vapidating the Gospel in our kids’ lives, CHRISTIAN DAUGHTERS ARE NOT SLUTS, etc.

    All that teaching about being on fire for God, evangelism and engagement, and, like magic, when you hit 19 or 20 and you know nothing but you’re not your parents’ problem, the church doesn’t care to speak into your life anymore.

    No wonder people lose it.

  31. I find it ironic that so many evangelicals, born of the movement that was All About The Bible, don’t really has much idea of what the Bible is about.

    I find it ironic that after my parents’ generation spent all that money on inflatable bouncy castles and Velcro walls and sumo suits to keep me in their church instead of going to the church of the candle-burning saint-worshippers, four old guys talking theology on the radio turned me neo-Reformed.

    I find it ironic that I spent my seventh grade year memorizing huge portions of the book of Romans for Bible quizzing, but I didn’t understand the gospel laid out in Romans until my junior year of college (courtesy of the same four old guys with the radio show).

    I find it ironic that I can’t use language around my evangelical friends that is used in the infallible, inspired Word of God.

    I find it ironic that Jesus provided great wine for a wedding, but the evangelical half of my family left my Lutheran cousin’s wedding because they served beer. (Well, I say beer. It was Budweiser.)

  32. rampancy – “Then I remembered that she and I are both baptized Catholic. Oh snap.” uhh, whuuut? Just for the record, I take orders from baptized Catholics too – ha!

    And is it ironic or just weird that a decent number of the comments on a post about evangelical ironies… are about Catholics – some o’ ya’ll jus’ can’t hep’ yerselves. 🙂

    And this is ironic (I think) – has nothing to do with Evangelicals or Catholics, but in one of our very Irish local Irish bars in town here, the Irish guys sit and drink longneck Budweisers and the American guys like me, are drinkin’ Guinness – what da heeell?

  33. I discovered the irony of nearly working myself to death in various ministries at my old Evangelical Church only to be warned that I should not convert to Orthodoxy because those people are trying to work their way to heaven.

  34. My own personal irony: I have been a fan of both C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer for nearly 40 years. I’ve often said I read Lewis for his understanding and expression of Christianity, and Schaeffer for his understanding of our culture. But Schaeffer was the one with the theology background, and Lewis was a professor of literature!

  35. centorian says

    actually wouldn’t mind a rosary… but would prefer a simple cross…… uuh, alan?

    those whole thread is begining to sound ironic………… 8)

  36. FollowerOfHim says

    It is ironic that being raised as a good Christian kid thereby deprives one of an adequately dramatic “testimony” as an adult.

    Renoah — Ironic for me, too, that I could spend years of my youth memorizing vast swaths of the New Testament for teen Bible quizzing competitions, but always found absolutely anything else more interesting to actually study — until I encountered profound Christian thinkers as an adult. But it’s merely ironic — I pray those Scriptures come to be hidden in my heart, and not just in my brain.

  37. Christopher K. says

    I must have missed something severe, regarding Alan’s ad. Sounds like it was a load of waffle, though.

    Irony in evangelicalism? How about responding to people with seething hate. We like to distance ourselves from Fred Phelps and his lot, but it’s safe to say there are many churches that aren’t far off. Protesting abortion clinics, homosexuals, harry potter and the like. 1, we’ve forgotten that the world has no reason to conform to Christianity. And 2, we’ve forgotten to simply love people, rather than hating them into submission. That doesn’t mean condoning action, but then again, why should they change without Christ?

  38. Christopher K. says

    Alan, you need to come down to Fado’s in Atlanta. You’ll find more ex-pats from the UK than you will Americans. Good times.

  39. urban otter says


    I find it ironic that you are trying to avoid evangelicals by coming to this blog.

  40. The Guy from Knoxville says

    One of my issues regarding all this is that on the rosary issue yesterday – the lady having cows over it mentioned something about pagan roots in its use – here’s one – pagan…. how many of those same folks have not one issue with Christmas or Easter?? Especially the Christmas issue (love it and it’s my favorite time of the year) and yet it has plenty of pagan roots, brought into the catholic church and used as a celebration of Christ’s birth during a time of the year, a month of the year he wasn’t born in and a day he wasn’t born on!! Yet, in years gone by, I’ve known of church folk who practically swore that Christ was born on December 25th almost as if it were scripture and dared you to question it! Same with Easter in many ways.

    Music – do you have any idea (Curtis) how many times I’ve played (organist here) and heard Mighty to Save the last few weeks at church? How many times I’ve heard, played, sang How Great is Our God – and others along those lines? It’s to the point of nausea sometimes and no it’s not from the heart after you’ve sang it 25 times…. The first few… maybe – I’ll give you that much but after that – forget it… you loose most of the people after that. We’re throwing our worship and music heritage, our hymnody, the great sacred music of the church for this stuff – if we’re going to do that you would think we could write better texts and music than this stuff we whitewash with christian texts (so called at times) then shove down the throats of our congregations as worship and then complain and whine when they choke on it all the while questioning their spirituality and even their salvation if that don’t accept it as a valid form of worship!!!! NO I don’t accept and why should I have to!!!!!!!!!! I’m not and I won’t!!

    Stopping now – getting to lathered up on it – moderate if needed Michael. Sorry for the rant.

  41. Christopher Lake says

    I find it ironic that some professing evangelicals pit “story” against “doctrine,” when both are part of the Gospel.

  42. Christopher Lake says

    Or vice versa.

  43. Guy from Knoxville,
    You stole my favorite irony with the Christmas and Easter thing.
    I find it ironic that even though Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you,” and said it to the most religious people of His day; some can’t imagine it might still apply today.

  44. It’s ironic that people who believe the scriptures are inerrant, twist the interpretations of them so very much in order to hide any discrepancies.

    It’s ironic that we’re quick to complain about rude atheists, but quick to justify our own rudeness.

    It’s ironic how Reformed people nitpick doctrine as if our salvation hinged upon it, yet say salvation is by grace instead of works. Isn’t developing theology a work?

    It’s ironic how people complain about repetition in worship music, despite worshipful repetition in Deuteronomy 27-28, Psalm 118, Psalm 136, Ecclesiastes 3, or Matthew 5.

    It’s ironic that we celebrate Easter by eating ham, a food that Jesus won’t eat ’cause it violates HIs own Law.

    It’s sadly ironic how much we try to create “events” with no depth, commitment, or personal connection to Jesus in them, all so that church stays “fun” for our kids… then we act so surprised when they grow up and leave the church completely, and we can’t figure out why.

    And how ridiculous is it whenever we can’t recognize ourselves and our behavior in the Pharisees?

  45. urban otter says

    My comment above didn’t make any sense because I didn’t include the quote from Joseph:

    “Irony can be funny and amusing, but I find nothing amusing or funny about evangelicals at all. I don’t make fun of them, I try to avoid coming into contact or even thinking about them.”

    Yes, this is exactly the place to come if you want to avoid thinking about evangelicals. 🙂

  46. Don’t know that hymn “Your Grace Is Enough”, so I Googled the lyrics.

    Hmmm – are you *sure* this was written by a modern Catholic? ‘Cos I can’t find any overt heresy there (sins against lyric-writing and the English language are another thing; ending a chorus with the line “Oh God” needs very careful delivery in the singing) – surely some mistake? 😉

  47. cermak_rd says

    I find it ironic how often the statement, “I’ll pray for you” is used as some kind of strange I’m right, you’re wrong, deal with it, conversation ender.

    But I’m pretty sure this is not confined to Evangelicalism.

  48. + Alan: it could be down to two things:

    First, Guinness may or may not travel well. If the pub hasn’t a bull’s notion about how to store, cellar, and serve a decent pint, you’re better off not drinking it.

    Secondly, it’s all about the exotic. They can drink Guinness at home (actually, they can now drink Budweiser at home as well, but that’s not the point) – if they’re in an American bar, they (probably feel) they should drink an American beer.

    I don’t drink beer (shock! well, I haven’t drunk Guinness since as kids when we were six years old or thereabouts we got spoonfuls from the bottle mixed with sugar because we wanted to know what it tasted like.. and this by-no-means uncommon event in Irish homes probably explains why Ireland has an alcohol problem, huh?) – I would have to ask my brothers (one of whom prefers to drink Murphys to Guinness) to comment on that, but my understanding is that Budweiser is fizzy water that needs to be served refrigerated so that it will numb your tastebuds and you can’t taste what you’re drinking, more or less. You may have a different opinion 😉

  49. I find it ironic that many Evangelicals (and even more Fundamentalists), when noticing that there are major discrepancies between their own theology and worship practices and those of people living only a generation or two after Jesus, automatically assume that the differences must lie in the early church having fallen away. Looking in the mirror is absolutely forbidden.

  50. Catholics: Don’t start down the Catholic Apologetics road. Please.