Edelen’s Theory of Inverse Evangelistic Zeal


The theory:

The more a Christian uses labels for perceived foes, the less likely that Christian will be to evangelize others, particularly those so labeled.

Talk to any Christian, especially someone who identifies as evangelical or born again. If that person descends to always labeling people in conversation who are believed to be working actively against Christian progress (feminists, homosexuals. liberals, humanists, etc.)Labels, the less likely that Christian will be to engage those perceived foes in an evangelistic context. Instead, those labels serve as a distancing mechanism that permits the Christian to relegate those perceived foes to an “enemies of Christ” context that excuses the Christian from evangelizing them and helping lead them to Christ. Also, in general, those same Christians will be less likely to engage all people evangelistically, even those who do not fall into perceived foe groups.

I’ve been a Christian for 35+ years now. The older I get, the more this theory seems to be true.

In summary, if you are the kind of Christian who tends to lump people into categories, you will have less evangelistic zeal.

Tunnel Vision


It is rare that I read anything on the Web that sets me a-nodding from the first line. Josh Harris’s reprint of “Exposing Major Blind Spots of Homeschoolers” by Reb Bradley gave me motion sickness from my perpetual head-bobbing in agreement.

Beyond its look at how homeschooling parents can miss the forest for the trees, it exposes the general disconnection from simple reality that often plagues the most zealous Christian families and churches. Bradley’s confession at how his son received more love from the boy’s tat-laden, stoner co-workers than from his own Christian family is a tale oft-told yet one rarely comprehended.

It’s also an article woven through with examples of overt gracelessness, as holier-than-thou condemnation takes center stage in households that should know the core of the Gospel better. But knowing isn’t always living, and if anything, better praxis in the American Church is the one area of needed growth no rational person can argue against.

I’ll also put in props for my previous post (“Fear: The Ruination of the American Church“), as the Bradley article amplifies how fear of the times and the world as it is contributes to the errors committed by well-meaning Christian homeschoolers.

More than anything, I believe this article argues for the Way of the Average. I continue to note that the people who seem to get on best with life are those who were neither too outstanding nor too underperforming. I learned this at a reunion many years ago: The people who were average in high school (and possibly overlooked then) were enjoying the best, happiest lives.

One could argue from the experience of averageness that it is not the spiritual superstar in the youth group who goes on to achieve the greatest ministry. Same goes for the über-student held out as the homeschooling pinnacle. For every Nobel prize winner, there’s a Todd Marinovich. It very well may be that it is possible to be too Christian, especially when that which is gaged as “Christian” has more to do with impressing the spiritual Joneses than with clinging to the Faith as expressed in Palestine AD 60.

Hat tips to Challies for bringing this one to light and to all the others who noted it. Do read this one. It’s an 11 out of 10.

Boomerangs, for Better or Worse


“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
—Matthew 7:2

I see it as something of a mania, this affliction of the American Church with outing those we perceive as being wrong. Yes, doctrinal purity matters, but the ramifications of our calls for it are scary when we meditate on the words of Jesus.

At the core, doctrinal purity is not so much the issue as is personal humility. And if we want to talk about humility, we need to start with the truth that we tend to judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves.

A collective distortion exists in your mirror and mine. We have a tendency to always believe that we’re right and the other guy is wrong. Boomerang, by PaleontourAs I’ve written many times before, it is a grave error to presume that we’ve arrived. Fact is, none of us got to a decently solid foundation of truth without holding erroneous views at some point along the journey of faith. Everyone has been wrong at some time or other.

Perhaps we would all do ourselves a world of good if more of us assumed that we might even hold erroneous views/doctrines right now.

I started this post with the words of Jesus, words I don’t think we take well to heart.

Do we ever consider that when we hold out the title of heretic and attempt to pin it on another Christian that title may very well boomerang and wind up embedded in us?

Do we stop to wonder if we’re exactly right on every part of the faith before we attempt to correct someone else’s perceived errors?

Do we ever think that the more we judge the more we will end up judged?

Do we ever ponder that when we deal with other possibly erroneous views (and the people who hold them) with love, it is love that will be applied to our own possibly erroneous views?

The world today is a tediously judgmental place. It seems like everyone walks around ready to lay into another person, poised to spring the trap. And the level of disagreement has taken on insane dimensions, almost as if someone else’s love of the color indigo warrants the death penalty from those of us who may prefer aqua.

It’s as if we have no understanding of the boomerang nature of judgment and love. Hurling the former comes as second nature, yet we’re caught off guard when we get konked in the head by the same standard we just hurled at someone else. And that love thing feels pretty foreign to us, so scant the amount we toss around.

Funny thing is, tossing love actually feels pretty good when it boomerangs back on you and me. That we American Christians throw so little love may explain why many of us feel beaten to a bloody pulp.