Rhetoric is a powerful tool. Yea, possibly the strongest, most influential weapon man has in his arsenal. Aristotle defined rhetoric as “The faculty of using all the available means of persuasion in a given message.” Others have offered their definitions as well, ranging from, “The art of communicating effectively,”…”The art of enchanting the soul,”…”Communicative deception,”…and so on. For purposes of this essay, we shall regard rhetoric as being the habitual dilemma of man(sic), in which verbal communication strives for the one goal of persuasion. Let us apply our objective epistemologies and critical wit to the field of rhetoric, more specifically, the rhetoric used by the modern evangelical churches, which I will collectively refer to as “The Modern Way,” out of sheer respect for Martin Luther, and his battles against this sense of “New Thinking,” in Erfurt.
The Modern Way uses rhetoric to establish a new look on the Gospel that is neither biblical, nor historical. The story goes like this: “You know you are a sinner, right?…Do you want to go to Heaven?…Repeat these words after me…were you sincere?…then you are SAVED!” Since when is the redemption process dependent upon the sincerity of man’s heart? The bible says the heart is deceitfully wicked. As a Calvinist, and writing this with fellow Reformed Aficionados blowing smoke around the table, I’m sure we are all ready to draw our pistols at Synergistic ideology, but let’s stay on task…Rhetoric is the issue at hand.
Although I side with the Aristotelians that rhetoric does qualify itself as an art—or Tekne—I side with the Platons on the uses, as well as the dangers of rhetoric. The rhetorical style of The Modern Way promises you a better life, with a more submissive wife, a more gentle husband, bigger bank accounts, better friends, and, oh yeah, Eternal Life. The Modern Way encourages, rather, builds, mega-churches and boasts of the numbers who prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer” last service. Please note I do not entirely—“entirely” mind you— question the salvation of those who have prayed such a prayer. However, I stand firm that such a prayer is neither biblical nor representative of true faith with repentance and a turning away from sin. If you yourself experienced conversion in this manner, please note that you were not redeemed because of this prayer and manner but rather in spite of this prayer and manner.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).” The Modern Way, in almost every instance, though not exclusively, has steered clear of pluralism in their rhetoric. There is still one God; and there is still a Narrow Gate. However, the “seeker-friendly” attitude of The Modern Way has distorted, molested, and compromised the holiness of the gospel of Jesus Christ by falling upon the social sciences of Anthropology and Sociology to determine what their church environment, ideology, and appearance should resemble. When did the bible become insufficient in such matters? Paul Washer states, “It is fine for a church to be seeker-friendly when the one they seek is God.” The Modern Way has, and will, do everything in its power to become relevant to the surrounding worldly culture by molding itself to resemble that culture entirely. The promotion of the “Sinner’s Prayer” creates an army of un-redeemed “Christians.” The Modern Way will continue to value the advice given by carnal men on what to transform their church into. Then, they will be forced to continue their carnal nature and appearance to keep an attendance of carnal men, which they have prepared with golden bells for reprobation, and the fire that awaits them.
The rhetoric of The Modern Way’s pulpit promises salvation to all by making a few quick and simple decisions, like jumping through a few evangelical hoops to achieve eternal salvation. We will then march them off to Baptism the next Sunday, and rarely see them again in Church. Many years will pass and they will return, at which point a bold one may witness to this man, to which he will reply, “Oh, I have been there n’ done that. I’m a born-again believer. I have been most of my life.” Mind you that not only the Gate is Narrow, but the Way is Narrow as well, and true conversion is marked by the constant repentance of His children. Jesus’ sheep hear his voice, and they know Him and follow Him (John 10).
My friend, we as Christians are not relevant to our culture by establishing identical views and appearances; we are relevant to our culture because we are absolutely nothing of the sort. Likewise, evangelism does not depend upon a band that resembles MTV; it does not depend upon drawn-out altar calls, or a preacher who believes wearing blue jeans will make people more comfortable in church. Evangelism lies solely and utterly upon the Irresistible Grace of God, and for someone to move and become a child of God, it is not because of any other reason other than the Spirit of God moved in that place, as was ordained before the foundation of the world.
Let us not forget that the Way is Narrow, not only the Gate. Sharpen your brothers and sisters trapped in The Modern Way. Declare war against mindless preaching and worldly values molesting their way into that which is holy. Though it may seem as a mite beating his head against a world of granite; declare war against such things.
The Modern Way’s rhetoric is convenient, appealing, painless. Dear reader, declare war.