The president and chief executive officer of D. James Kennedy Ministries is elaborating on why he took the tone he did in a recent column highlighting a drift from Scripture among evangelicals.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Frank Wright, who is also a former National Religious Broadcasters president, noted that in the history of the Church, the shepherds have been key to its health and vitality.
"It was Augustine who set forth a three-fold standard for Christian teachers and preachers in which he said their role was to discover the truth in the contents of Scripture, teach the truth from the Scriptures and to defend Scriptural truth when it was attacked," Wright said.
"When those three things are not happening, the Church is in desperate straits," he said, "and I fear the Church is approaching the tipping point of sorts for this reason."
Hence, he wrote a column decrying a troubling foundational drift, highlighting recent developments within key evangelical entities, businesses and Christian ministers such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church of America, the National Association of Evangelicals, fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, and megachurch pastor Andy Stanley.
"What I did not foresee was the dramatic departure from biblical truth by supposedly evangelical leaders and institutions. We are now seeing a widescale rejection of God’s Word as the authority for faith and practice," Wright wrote in his column.
He noted that seven years ago, while NRB president, his greatest concern for Christian broadcasters was not the emerging climate of censorship or even abusive hate crimes laws but timid, self-censorship among Christian leaders.
Concerned for the future of orthodox Christian faith in the United States, Wright explained to CP that the Scriptures are not being preached as truth, not being defended when they are attacked, and instead, some are taking "a Thomas Jefferson approach" to Scripture. Jefferson infamously took a sharp blade to a Bible, physically cutting out portions he did not esteem.
But that cut-and-paste approach is essentially what some pastors in evangelical churches are now doing when they deem some portions of the Old Testament as no longer relevant, Wright said.
"I am fearful for the future of the Church where the shepherds are not fulfilling their responsibility to rightly handle the Word of truth."
Throughout Scripture, a strong expectation for unity in the Body of Christ pervades the text, he went on to say. Yet such unity is not possible when the foundations of Scripture are being so compromised.
"Writing a column like this ... it's not a lot of fun. It's not something I relish doing," he said, when asked what he thought of people who find a strongly-worded piece from him surprising given his reputation as an even-handed peacemaker.
As president of NRB, a job he said some people have described as "herding cats," it could be challenging leading a group of Christian ministries and communicators who hail from many denominational backgrounds and espouse various doctrinal differences.
"But when it came to these core matters of Scripture and biblical truth, there was no divergence," he said. "The things that were debated were friendly debates within the family of God."
It is that shared bond over those essentials that is now at risk, Wright lamented.
"Both the culture and spiritual warfare are responsible for what is, unfortunately, a fallen tendency of ours to not fully embrace truth that tends to criticize us," he said, when asked to explain what he believes has given rise to the drift.
The roots of the cultural drift are deep, he continued, adding that not long ago in society the argument against the Christian faith centered around whether or not it was true. Skeptics would posit their views that the Bible was full of errors and thus untrue, but the debate was always over the truth or falsity of the Scripture.
But now, the concept of absolute truth itself is challenged, he said, and spiritual warfare is, of course, always present. Taken together, those two things have reached a confluence in culture where the politics have turned some pastors into silent, timid shepherds who are afraid to touch any question that culture has deemed "political," which includes almost all moral questions.
"It used to be that the Church was the authority on morality and ethics and now the clinical culture has said 'not so fast, these are political issues and since they're political the Church should get out,'" he said.
"I think the root of it is cultural relativism leading to the denial of absolute truth and the work of the Enemy who wants to undermine the Scripture in the Body of Christ."
The early proponents of the seeker-friendly movement within evangelicalism had noble motivations goals, namely, making the church a welcoming space where people could come and enjoy the worship and then hear the Gospel presented, the former NRB president said.
Yet today, it has morphed and many who have utilized this particular approach to ministry have taken it an ill-advised step further: the cut-and-paste approach to Scripture.
That may be well-intended in that 21st century Christian ministers do not want to create "barriers" for people coming to church — as Andy Stanley has put it — but it is undermining the Gospel because the "barriers" being discussed is the Scripture itself, Wright contended. And some pastors are softening the text or doing away with teaching it at all.
Wright told CP that he deliberately avoided using the h-word in his column, that is, heretic. Though the term may seem outdated to some, actual heresy is not only teachings that are wrong but includes deliberately omitting essential teachings.
"Carving out a portion of the Scripture and teaching it to others that it does not apply and can be ignored today is a heresy. We just have to say that."
"What's going on today is just a new twist on an old practice, where people will cite a single passage of Scripture to make their case, and then ignore all the other scripture that speaks to that matter. And what some have done by fencing off a portion of the Old Testament is exactly that. And we must have the courage of our convictions to call it what it is."
He emphasized, "Will we be faithful to the Word of God or will we let go of the anchor line and drift on to who knows what rocks because we've let go of the truth? That's my hope that in calling this out, it will get people to reconsider."