Bruce A. Little

Courage to be Christian

Written by Bruce A. Little |
Monday, March 27, 2023
What is alarming is the number of evangelical Christians who bow to culture by incorporating the cultural lies into the life of their institutions/organizations and justifying it as Christian.  This involves participating in the lies of Marxist cultural ideology as embedded in the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” (DEI) doctrine. It is appalling to witness Christian organizations and institutions create diversity offices to implement the Woke lies. Christians are not against diversity or inclusion but should refuse to bow down to the Marxist definition and practice of those ideas.

Some might be familiar with the name of the internationally known Russian Christian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He and his family were expelled from Russia on February 13, 1974, eventually ending up in the United States (Vermont). After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he returned to Moscow to spend his last years in the country he loved.
However, the night before his deportation, he circulated to the Moscow intellectual community a brief essay titled “Live Not by Lies”. In this essay, Solzhenitsyn laid bare the naked reality of Communism’s cruel crushing of humanity with its lies and asked the reader to refuse to participate in the lies. He wrote: “The circle—is it closed? And is there really no way out? And is there only one thing left for us to do, to wait without taking action? Maybe something will happen by itself? It will never happen as long as we daily acknowledge, extol, and strengthen—and do not sever ourselves from the most perceptible of its aspects: Lies.”  “And the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me.”
In  this missive Solzhenitsyn challenged the individual citizen to refuse to participate in the lies of the State. These were the lies  that flowed out from  naturalistic atheistic communism. It was a plea for citizens to reject the lies that aim at crushing the human spirit, denying personal freedom, and assaulting humanity itself. The idea was that to protect one’s human dignity requires the personal choice to reject the cultural lies shaping everyday life and live according to the truth of creation.
Solzhenitsyn realized this would mean different degrees of rejection for different people, but that each must have the courage to draw a line somewhere. Christians did this in the first Century. They committed to saying no to the lies of the Roman culture and to face each day resolved to live according to the Truth as it is in Christ and to accept the consequences (I Peter 5:29). They were not foolish nor reckless in this but confessed they owed allegiance to neither the Roman Emperor nor the Roman culture. They understood that claiming Christ as Lord meant not just refusing the lordship of the emperor but also the lordship of culture that flowed from the Emperor. One needs only to read the literature of first and second century Christian apologists to see how that worked out in real life.
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What the Church Needs Now

Written by Bruce A. Little |
Monday, January 23, 2023
The Evangelical world is in a great position to stand up against all manner of evil in our culture as it is unfolding before our very eyes in the name of social justice. We can give the world something concrete by which to see that Christ makes a difference in how to deal with sin. A baptized version of skewed view of the world is no help at all to the world and it is a contrary model for the generation of Christians to come.

Francis A. Schaeffer wrote at the end of his life: “In order to show forth God’s love and holiness and to present the Good News to our generation in such a way that the message has viability, we must try in a balanced way not to fall into the ‘blue jean’ mistake of thinking that we are courageous and ‘being with it’ when we are really only fitting into what is the accepted thought- form of the age around us” (WV, Vol 4,371).
As Christians, they wore the rebel’s mark—faded blue jeans (today’s equivalence of skinny jeans, ripped jeans and low hanging pants). Schaeffer pointed out that that was not relevance, it was accommodation. As evangelicals, it is important we do not ignore Schaeffer’s warning.
Of course, there is a strong temptation to look “cool” or virtuous and to talk like “we get it.” This must be resisted on all fronts. The urge to appear culturally relevant grows stronger as evangelicals sense they are being pushed out of the range of cultural relevancy. If we give in, we will end up only giving lip service to objective Truth. Only a strong commitment to objective Truth will steer the Church away from the pervasive corrosive relativism that is at odds with God.
Today’s Western culture activists capitalize on particular sociological ills such as racism, then exaggerate them as a way to legitimize their hidden agenda of the destruction of Western culture. Evangelicals need not join their chorus as it is lethal to the Gospel. However, if a local church has a problem with racism within, then deal with it scripturally and resist the temptation to use it as a flag to boast of cultural relevancy.
Actually, the world does not care what evangelicals think. If a biblical view of women has been ignored in some of our churches or organizations, then according to the Scriptures (and not secular culture) straighten it out, do what is right without yielding to exaggerated reactions sanctioned by the culture. To mimic culture would be to put the entire legitimate discussion out of balance until it becomes the controlling concern.
We, as evangelicals, should be a balanced and sane voice in the discussion. That will take courage, but our God calls for nothing less. We must not use the world’s language, measurements, or solutions to correct the wrongs in the community of Faith as the activists do in the culture at large.
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Thinking Holistically

Written by Bruce A. Little |
Monday, January 16, 2023
From the very beginning in Genesis we see the stark outline of things to come and how we should understand the history of the Old Testament. Tamper with the early chapters of Genesis and one throws the history of the Old Testament into confusion. However, it goes further than that, it distorts the Christian relationship to the world which is ruled by the god of this age. It is easy to view cultural issues today as only moral issues and fail to see that they are the enemy’s attack on Christ’s Body, the Church.

Francis A. Schaeffer wrote: “The Christian system (what is taught in the whole Bible) is a unity of thought. Christianity is not just a lot of bits and pieces—there is a beginning and an end, a whole system of truth, and this system is the only system that will stand up to all the questions that are presented to us as we face the reality of existence” (Complete Works of Schaeffer, vol 1, p 178).
In this quote, Schaeffer puts his finger on a growing problem with evangelicals today as they increasingly fail to think holistically when thinking about the Bible. Much of evangelical biblical thought, when it exists, is very fragmented. That means, one portion can be preached without concern for its coherence with another portion. That seems to be happening especially with the Old Testament.
For example, one text of Scripture that is, in some cases, being walled off from the rest of Scripture is the first three chapters of Genesis. It is concerning to hear some evangelicals promoting a “different” way to understand the first three chapters of Genesis. The logic of that position is that earlier Christians simply got it wrong. It seems, for example, that some Christians are embarrassed to speak of a real Serpent in the Garden. For one to say they affirm inerrancy of Scripture and then interpret the text according to science is incoherent.
However, one of the most concerning effects of this move is how it interferes with the truth of the spiritual warfare between the enemy of God and the people of God.  From the very beginning in Genesis we see the stark outline of things to come and how we should understand the history of the Old Testament. Tamper with the early chapters of Genesis and one throws the history of the Old Testament into confusion. However, it goes further than that, it distorts the Christian relationship to the world which is ruled by the god of this age. It is easy to view cultural issues today as only moral issues and fail to see that they are the enemy’s attack on Christ’s Body, the Church.
Today, in the West, we are witnessing the evaporation of the distinction between man and woman even to the mutilation of children and a host of other humanity-defying acts. To put it bluntly, this is part of the dehumanizing strategy of the enemy that began in Genesis three. It is the lie that all cultural, political, and economic issues can be explained by an oppressor-oppressed template which is the height of relativism. It is not just a theological or philosophical problem; it is a devilish plan intended to destroy humanity itself. Without understanding that, any response to it will fail to be spiritual prepared for the battle.  Of course, such ideology may have some sliver of truth to it, but it must not be rewarded for that. It is only a way to pull non-thinking Christians into supporting the base lie.
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The Battle

Written by Bruce A. Little |
Monday, January 2, 2023
What could be discarded from the local church operation that seems objectionable to the world but have the message remain the same? However, the changes created a worldly ethos that nullified the message that was proclaimed. Soon, as part of the friendly look of the local church, the meeting place was scrubbed of all religious symbols and replaced with symbols of entertainment—flat screens for example. Music followed much the same path and sermons became more theologically innocuous. Evangelicals began to parrot pet phrases of the Woke crowd to virtue signal to the culture and let the young people know they “got it”, they were “cool.”

In 1984, Francis Schaeffer, speaking of evangelical Christians, points out that “very few have taken a strong and courageous stand against the world spirit of this age as it destroys our culture and the Christian ethos that once shaped our country” (GED, 310). He goes on to claim that the primary battle is the “spiritual battle which is being fought in the heavenlies” (GED, 310). This he notes “is a life and death struggle over the minds and souls of men for all eternity, but it is equally a life and death struggle over life on this earth” (GED,310). In this spiritual battle many evangelicals have not only lacked the courage to stand for truth, but a good number have actually imbibed the spirit of this age in the name of being relevant.
Unfortunately, many evangelicals have ignored Schaeffer’s warning as they have become complicit either by remaining silent or actually accepting some ideas of groups such as the Social Justice Warrior, a movement owned by the spirit of the age. They seem oblivious to the redefinition of social justice, thinking they are virtuous for defending such a noble idea—Justice.
Of course, Justice is a noble idea but according to Isaiah 59:14 justice must be grounded in Truth, not lies. Every Christian ought to be a concerned defender of equal opportunity and equal protection under the law when those terms are defined in the normal use of the English language. It is not that there must be some evangelical crusade against all of this, but at least evangelicals should expose the anti-human, anti-Christian rhetoric of all forms of Wokeness so to protect the church against its insidious ideas.
Quite to the contrary, evangelicals try to walk a fine line where they give mouth support to the authority of Scripture while virtue signaling to the world that evangelicals are benign creatures and truth does not matter. It seems to me that evangelicals made a misstep earlier which has led to either an uncritical acceptance of Woke doctrine or simply remaining silent.  As many young people turned away from the church, understandably evangelicals became worried.
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Training in Godliness

Written by Bruce A. Little |
Monday, December 5, 2022
The Christian life is not about cultural relevancy, morality, or making it through the day. I did not say that Christians need not be examples of morality or of living according to their calling. I mean that the Christian life is about the life of Christ, which is moral, but that is not the heart of the Christian life. The Christian life is a life of the mind, a mind that is set apart unto God that thinks God’s thoughts after Him, that learn of Him. It is a mind trained in godliness and preaching should “accord with godliness” (I Tim 6: 3).

The other day I was looking up a church website and came across its advisement for the church. It explained the pastor’s wonderful ability to extract ideas from the Scripture to help Christians make through the day. How often this is what churches advertise. It made me stop and consider precisely what message that was being communicating and how it squares with God’s purpose of the preaching of the Word.
Having just read through the New Testament I wondered why I never came across language such as what I find on church webpages. When Paul writes to Timothy, we find no instruction for this sort of thing.  For example, his words to pastor Timothy (among other things) is to train the congregation in godliness (I Tim 4:8). Here we have explicit instruction on the responsibility of the pastor which is to teach and live as an example of godliness.
How little today is said about loving God through obedience to his Word or the place of the Spirit of God in the daily walk of the believer.
I know that Christians want something to help them throughout the week, but how is that accomplished by giving people four steps to handling disappointment or something like that. Wherever this language appears today it reveals how the thinking of the world has shaped even the content and focus of evangelical preaching. It reeks of pragmatism after the kind found in postmodernism. The relative, the emotive, have replaced loving with the mind (Matt 22: 37). That is not to say that people should not be moved emotionally by the truth and power of the Word, but loving God must begin with the mind. As C. S. Lewis once said, the heart never takes the place of the head, but it can, and should obey it (Abolition of Man). Pastors who give their energy and time to crafting culture affirming sermons are failing their people.
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The End of Accommodation

Written by Bruce A. Little |
Monday, November 14, 2022
This is where accommodation leads; start down the path of cultural relevancy and one will soon be entangled by an accommodation to the spirit of the age.  In addition, it leads to a most catastrophic move by evangelicals to reimagine Christianity which follow a weakened view of Scripture. In the end, not only is the Christian witness compromised, but the true nature of the Christian calling is lost as it is not by might nor by power, but by God’s Spirit (Zech 4:6). The sacred is camouflaged so the world will not be offended as evangelicals accommodate the spirit of the age.

Francis Schaeffer in his concluding remarks of chapter one of the Great Evangelical Disaster, wrote: “Here is the great evangelical disaster—the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this—namely accommodation: the evangelical has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.” He goes on to say, “and let us understand that to accommodate to the world spirit about us in our age is nothing less than the most gross form of worldliness in the proper definition of that word.”
Accommodation was a logical conclusion of the growing evangelical commitment to sounding culturally relevant, which in time morphed into acting like the world while trying to maintain a moral difference. In the end this has proven neither to impress the world, nor maintain the moral distinction.
Furthermore, most evangelicals have little or no understanding of the philosophical scaffolding supporting the cultural response to which they attach themselves. Schaeffer calls accommodation the grossest form of worldliness. There was a time when worldliness (a word we seldom hear in sermons anymore) was when Christians engaged in activity such as playing cards, going to dances or to the cinema and so forth. If you did these things, you would be considered a worldly Christian thus confusing the distinction between Christianity and the world. The thought was by condemning such activity would keep the world out of the church. This was called legalism. Good intentions, just ineffective and wrong.
In fact, this thinking committed two mistakes. One: thinking that such activity was the main threat from the world against Christianity. Two: thinking that avoiding certain questionable activity would make a Christian spiritual.  However, the real threat of worldliness is thinking according to the spirit of the age. This was Schaeffer’s understanding of worldliness, and it is why he called accommodation the “most gross form of worldliness”.
He meant that evangelicals had brought the world into the church by their worldly thinking which came about because of a weakened view of Scripture and a softening on moral issues of the day. A little later, in the same chapter, Schaeffer noted that all of this led to some evangelicals (some in his day, but many more in our day) “to talk about a wider, richer Christianity and to become more deeply involved in culture, but at the same time to accommodate to the world spirit about us [evangelicals] at each crucial point.”
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True Spirituality Subverted

Written by Bruce A. Little |
Monday, October 3, 2022
Although there is much to this story, one area especially concerning to Schaeffer was the subtle slide away from the commitment to the doctrine of inerrancy.  Now some thirty-five plus years later that disaster is on full display as Evangelicalism is awash in cultural relativism. Although doctrinal statements in religious institutions and churches remain the same the real accommodation has come in the area of hermeneutics (methods for interpreting the Bible). The change in hermeneutics has been powered by cultural pressure as evangelicals embarrassed themselves as they became obsessed with the desire to be relevant to the world.

Over the past several weeks I have been writing on ideas spawned by thoughts from Francis Schaeffer’s book True Spirituality. Regarding the book, Schaeffer tells us that although the book would not be published until somewhat later, the final form of the content was completed in 1964. This means, in a sense, this was Schaeffer’s first book (technically, his first published book was Escape from Reason in 1968) and served as the heart of his theological thinking and ministry until the end of his earthly life. Schaeffer claimed that without the truths set forth in True Spirituality, there would have been no L’Abri (established 1955). This supports the claim that the teaching in True Spirituality was central to the development of his ministry shortly after moving to Europe.
On the other hand, Schaeffer’s last book, The Great Evangelical Disaster (1984) details Schaeffer’s lament over the state of Evangelicalism in America in the 1980s. He indicted evangelical Christians in America for failure to stand against the great spiritual assault on the Christian view of truth and reality. The result was that the spirit of the age rolled “on and on claiming to be autonomous and crushing all that we cherish in its path” (310).
The battle was over two contradictory views of “truth and reality.” For Schaeffer this was truly a violent spiritual battle waged within the actualities of human history. He thought few Christians really understood the threat this spiritual battle posed to Christian theology and practice. However, it was not only that the spirit of the age was not lovingly confronted, but it was that evangelicals mindlessly accommodated to it. The consequences were what Schaeffer termed as the great evangelical disaster.
When the two books are juxtaposed, I think a case can be made that the evangelical disaster developed, in part, because the evangelicals ignored the very heart of the Christian life as explained in True Spirituality. Although there is much to this story, one area especially concerning to Schaeffer was the subtle slide away from the commitment to the doctrine of inerrancy.  Now some thirty-five plus years later that disaster is on full display as Evangelicalism is awash in cultural relativism. Although doctrinal statements in religious institutions and churches remain the same the real accommodation has come in the area of hermeneutics (methods for interpreting the Bible).
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Spirituality and Naturalism

Written by Bruce A. Little |
Friday, September 30, 2022
…the reality of the Christian life lived by the reality of the indwelling Spirit would suffer. As that reality was diluted evangelicalism kept up the appearances of true spirituality, the Christian life, by external means of organization and methods. It became more fashionable to talk and teach about Christian truth using the world’s categories as Christian truth began to be practiced according to naturalistic methods. In time this changed the ethos within evangelicalism even while the doctrinal statements remained the same. Quantitative replaced qualitative, image superseded substance, emotionalism supplanted theology, cultural relevance snubbed objective truth, while social action masqueraded as faithfulness to Christ.

Francis Schaeffer notes that by the latter half of the 20th naturalism had captivated much of the thinking in the west. In chapter five of True Spirituality he writes: “Our generation is overwhelmingly naturalistic. There is an almost complete commitment to the concept of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.” The basic assumption of naturalism is that all that exists is the material world, that everything can be explained by a series of biological, chemical causal chain. Unfortunately, this thinking began to seep into evangelicalism as well. Schaeffer writes: “Surely this is one of the greatest, and perhaps the greatest reason for a loss of reality: that while we say we believe one thing, we allow the spirit of naturalism of the age to creep into our thinking, unrecognized” (255).  When Schaeffer says “we”, he is speaking of evangelical Christians. He concludes that “little by little, many Christians in this generation find the reality slipping away. The reality tends to get covered by the barnacles of naturalistic thought” (263).
This explains why he thought naturalism was a real threat to the Christian way of life as it demeaned the unseen side of reality. One must understand that according to Christian teaching, reality consists of both the seen and the unseen (II Cor 4:18).  It is a fact that the actuality of the Incarnation brought these two inextricable aspects of reality into full view (Jn 1:18). However, as the American Enlightenment rolled into the 20th century, the champions of naturalism started to divide total reality (seen and unseen) into two separate parts where the unseen was separated from physical reality. Eventually, many, especially in the American secular academy and scientific community denied the unseen aspect of reality altogether.
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The New Birth and Spirituality

Written by Bruce A. Little |
Monday, August 22, 2022
The new life in Christ does not add onto or build upon the old foundation, it builds on the new foundation of regeneration. The new birth is associated with being crucified with Christ. The reality of the new birth and the indwelling of the Holy Spirits do not mean that one’s life is automatically guided or domineered by the Holy Spirit. However, there is evidence that something real happened internally to the person who confesses Christ

In my last blog, I wrote about what I believe to be an urgency upon American Evangelicalism to recover the truth about which Schaeffer wrote in True Spirituality. History reveals evangelicalism has experienced a shift in focus beginning sometime in the 1980s. Part of that shift was the new emphasis on “relevancy to culture”. It is also important to point out that at this time evangelicals began talking about “culture” instead of “the world”. The importance of this shift is that the idea of culture is rather ambiguous as can be seen by all the books today trying to explain culture (this is another part of the story to be addressed later). It is not that Christians should not talk about culture, but it should always be in the context of “the world” and the spirit of the age.
Undoubtedly there is an element of wisdom in being relevant if one means speaking meaningfully into the ears of the world. It is a matter of wisdom, not a command. Furthermore, relevancy is not the emphasis in either the Old or New Testaments. Unfortunately, relevancy has become the interpretive lens through which many evangelicals now read the Scriptures (more on this in a forthcoming post).
Consequently, the relationship between the Christian life and the life of self-denial has been leaking out of the Christian message as it does not sound very relevant to the ears of today. In the next blog, I will give an account of how this happened, but for this blog, it is important to consider the New Testament teaching on the Christian life as a life involving self-denial.
Chapter two of True Spirituality is titled “The Centrality of Death” where Schaeffer examines the Scripture regarding the role of death in understanding the message of walking in the newness of life. Of course, that sounds odd to our ears today as the evangelical speaks only of the newness of life which of course is definitely true to the Christian message, but there is the other side.
The Apostle Paul testifies: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal 2:20). In the context of “walking in newness of life” we read: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Ro 6:12) which is a call to self-denial. However, it is common today to hear the message that self-denial is an ugly form of legalism and therefore, it must be rejected. This has led many evangelicals to reject or only selectively apply the idea of self-denial as part of the spiritual life.
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A Present Urgency

Written by Bruce A. Little |
Thursday, August 18, 2022
Over the last 20 years, there have been a number of insane turns within evangelicalism. These turns were not away from theology, but as David Wells said it has been a turn to a different theology. Most disheartening in all of this is that Christians in the pew have been cheated from the treasure of their birthright in Christ. With the passing of time, Christian leaders became more occupied with being relevant to the modern world than true to the God of the Book.

In the Preface to True Spirituality Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) confessed that in 1951-52 while living in Champery, Switzerland he experienced something of an existential crisis in his Christian life. The book is the conclusion of that struggle. He explained the struggle with the “problem of reality” of Christian truth in his own life. He was troubled by the realization that the “reality [of his faith] was less than it had been in the early days after [he] had become a Christian” (195). I think many Christians, if honest, would confess something of this struggle themselves if they ever stop to think about it.  However, for Schaeffer this would not do, either Christianity meant something about living each day in the Truth of God’s reality and the reality of Christian salvation, or it did not. Although Schaeffer was convinced of the truth of historic Christianity, he was concerned with the growing weightlessness he experienced of the reality of Christ in his own life (Christ in me), a reality he had known in the early days of becoming a Christian.  Unsettled by this lack of reality, Schaeffer determined to go back to the beginning of his confession of Christ to see where things had gone wrong for him. The crisis ended when the liberating truth that Christians have been freed from the bonds of sin because of the new birth. He explained that without this truth arresting him, the work like L’Abri would not have been possible”( 196). In fact, he says, “This book was published after a number of others, but in a certain sense it should have been the first” (195).
Over the course of the next several months, I intend to link this book with Schaeffer’s last book, The Great Evangelical Disaster.
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