Carl Lentz, pastor of a giant pseudo-church in New York called Hillsong, recently went on The View and refused to label it a sin to kill babies.
The View seems to specialize in locating Christian squishes of this sort. They aren’t hard to find, of course, and the producers obviously knew going in that they’d hit a goldmine of squishiness with Lentz. All the Squish Indicators are noticeable here, and they’ve been helpfully summarized in the author’s bio for his new self-help book, “Own The Moment”:
When you think of a Christian pastor, you probably don’t envision a tattooed thirty-something who wears a motorcycle jacket, listens to hip-hop music, references The Walking Dead and Black Lives Matter in his sermons, and every Sunday draws a standing-room only crowd to a venue normally used for rock concerts.
Sadly, these days, that’s exactly what I envision.
Unsurprisingly, the tough guy in the motorcycle jacket proceeded to cower in the corner when questioned by Joy Behar. She didn’t have to exert much effort. Lentz disavowed the Gospel of Christ and betrayed the unborn without resistance or hesitation. All Behar had to do is ask a very simple and very straightforward and very, very, very easy question: “Is abortion a sin?”
The complex theological issue of child murder sent Lentz into a babbling panic. “That’s the kind of conversation we would have finding out your story, where you’re from, what you believe,” he stammered. “I mean, God’s the judge … People have to live to their own convictions … That’s such a broad question, to me, I’m going higher. I want to sit with somebody and say, ‘What do you believe?”
Lentz clarified that abortion is an open and shut case “to some people,” but, “me, I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, and find out their story. Before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”
One wonders if Lentz would be so circumspect in his answer had he been asked whether racism is a sin. What if Joy Behar inquired as to the sinfulness of joining the KKK? Would the good pastor have insisted that Klan members are merely “living their convictions” and we ought to get to know them and their story before we start “picking and choosing”?
That’s the thing about these warm and fuzzy Christians who are allegedly too focused on loving people to bother denouncing evil: they seem rather selective. You’ll notice that they never, ever hesitate to call out bigotry, “homophobia,” “intolerance,” etc. They’re quite eager to rebuke Christians like me, who, in their opinion, are too forceful and “divisive” in our approach. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been personally and viciously condemned by the same Christians who are too “loving” to condemn child murder. It’s an odd thing, isn’t it? They seem to have developed this magnanimous and overriding tolerance only for the kinds of sins that are most popular in our culture. What a coincidence.
After the interview, many Christians, including me, called Lentz to task on social media. He sparred with us but still refused to give a clear-cut answer to the question. Finally, after several days of pushback, Lentz did eventually concede that abortion is sinful. The original interview was on October 30. He issued his statement on Tuesday of this week. It took Lentz — a famous pastor of a huge church with thousands of followers — eight whole days and lots of not-so-gentle nudging to admit that killing babies is wrong.
A pastor who takes eight days to come to the conclusion that you shouldn’t murder kids is like a doctor who has to retreat into the woods and meditate for a week to figure out if it’s a bad idea to contract Ebola. It’s nice that he finally landed on the right answer, but is he really qualified to be a doctor if he was stumped by that inquiry in the first place? Either the man has no understanding of medicine at all, or he harbors some strange sympathy for the Ebola virus. Whichever is the case, find a new doctor, pronto. Likewise, we must either conclude that Lentz hasn’t the slightest clue about what the Bible actually teaches, or he’s too fearful and cowardly to speak the most basic and important Biblical truths publicly. Whichever is the case, he should not be a pastor.
Of course, there are those who say that we ought to take it easy on Lentz and his ilk. Perhaps they don’t get all the theology exactly right, the argument goes, and perhaps they aren’t the best moral guides, but they still do quite a lot to bring people to Christ. Look at the size of his church! He must be doing something right!
Yes, he obviously appeals to a lot of people. So does internet porn. Yes, he makes people feel good. So does heroin. Yes, he gives his followers a vague sense of spiritual fulfillment. So does Buddhism. Yes, he spreads happiness, sort of. So does Disney. But shouldn’t a pastor deliver a message completely distinct from what a person can already gain through internet porn, heroin, Buddhism, and Disney films?
Here is the distinct message: Christ’s redemptive sacrifice on the cross, which opened up the doors of salvation. In his mea culpa statement, Lentz said that his goal is to tell the story of “God’s redemptive grace.” That’s a great story and exactly the one he should be telling.
However, it’s exactly the one he refused to tell on The View. You cannot separate the story of redemption from the story of sin. You cannot talk about salvation without talking about why we so desperately need to be saved. You cannot talk about Christ’s sacrifice without talking about the evil that necessitated it. You cannot talk about Christ’s cross without talking about the sin that nailed Him to it.
You cannot skip right over the hard stuff, the dark stuff, the challenging stuff, and go right to “hope.” What use is the cheap and easy “hope” of a person who has not acknowledged their own wickedness? You cannot see the stars during the day. You cannot appreciate the light of Christ’s love until you have seen and confronted the darkness of your own sin. Hope is found in the triumph of good over evil, not in the denial of evil itself.
Trying to teach a person about the hope of Christ without teaching him about sin is like trying to teach someone how to use a parachute without teaching him first about gravity.
“Here, just pull this cord and you’ll be fine.”
What happens if I don’t?
“Don’t worry about that! It’s too icky to think about!”
There are a lot of people who never pulled the cord because nobody ever told them what would happen if they didn’t, and now the hope the parachute afforded them is of little consequence as they lay splattered all over the pavement. This is the story of modern man, thanks in large part to “Christian leaders” like the good pastor Lentz. We want to be saved without ever having to think about or acknowledge what exactly we’re being saved from. We want Christ without His cross. Joy without suffering. Forgiveness without repentance.
It doesn’t work that way.
I have said nothing groundbreaking or especially insightful here. This is basic Christianity. It seems there are many pastors in America who struggle with these basics, either because they are ignorant or cowardly or all of the above. They are doing far more harm than good. They should all step down from their positions. But they won’t, of course, because they are more interested in fame and accolades than leading people to Christ.