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Why It's Time To Say Goodbye To The Gospel Coalition

July 1, 2024
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To be perfectly honest with you, this is not an article I have much desire to write. And that’s not just because I don’t want to immediately start a turf-war or because I’m averse to launching this site with something quite so negative, but rather because, like many others around my age, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) was integral to my spiritual and theological development. It corrected numerous imbalances, deepened both my understanding of and my hunger for God’s word, and introduced me to numerous thinkers both current and historical who have transformed my faith. Despite this piece’s title, I actually like the organization.

However the fact remains that one of the big reasons why we are embarking on this little adventure called ‘Clear Truth’ is that we are convinced that TGC is no longer fit for purpose. It’s by no means the only major evangelical publication that would come under that category - if TGC needs to be put out of its misery, Christianity Today has died, returned as a zombie and is now staggering around biting innocent bystanders. But thankfully most Bible-believing Christians already successfully ignore everything Russell Moore et al say. TGC, on the other hand, still lives off the credibility built up through over a decade of fruitful ministry - and the concomitant nostalgia - and as such comparatively few evangelicals have awoken to the fact that they’ve been asleep at the wheel for years. They also have not realized that in that time there have been several major accidents and a number of fatalities because the slumbering chauffeur has occasionally stirred to reassure them that this is all perfectly normal when driving in today’s post-Christian world. 

My intent in this article is not to give my thoughts on TGC; I’m arguably working for the competition, so I’m biased. Instead, I want to give TGC’s thoughts on a range of topics, namely some of the most important ones of the last few years, and see if they strike you as worthy of the esteem in which they are held. I’ll provide the receipts, you can be the auditor.  

Item 1 - On Race

Few issues dominated headlines or divided the church like the Black Lives Matter movement during 2020. Increasingly people have come to realize that this movement had its genesis in the specific lie of ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ (which was never said) and the more general lie that black people are systematically being killed by police (which statistically they are not), and many have also also discovered that the organization was started by ‘trained Marxists’ who engage in occult practices and had the aim of abolishing the nuclear family. Even the case that supercharged the BLM movement no longer seems clear-cut, now that we know that George Floyd’s autopsy report did not find life-threatening injuries to Floyd's neck, but rather discovered 11 ng/ml of fentanyl in his bloodstream.

But where was TGC on this issue?

Unfortunately they sought to ‘gospel-wash’ this campaign as a good and necessary thing for Christians to support. TGC founder Tim Keller said in a public interview, “If you have that asset of white skin, right now, the historical asset, then you actually have to say, I didn’t deserve this… so the Bible says you are involved in injustice, even if you didn’t actually do it.” And thus the new category of having white skin as sin was created.

In an article entitled ‘More Than Mere Equality: Identity Politics, White Privilege, and Gospel Peace’ by Jonathan Leeman, the author writes: “white privilege means, second of all, that I possess those advantages by virtue of systemic and historic patterns of discrimination and injustice. I possess the $100,000 and you possess the $1,000 because my grandfather and his father and his father rigged the system in favor of people who look like me.”

Thabiti Anyabwile wrote an article talking about reparations, the concept that African Americans are owed money from Whites - regardless of the personal or even familial histories of either - in which he concluded, “Reparations are simply the biblical principle of restitution taught throughout Scripture applied to the specific history of slavery and the descendants of slaves in America.” I asked my Bulgarian wife who grew up under communism, who remembers breadlines and whose father was repeatedly arrested for being a pastor if she feels like she owes black people money for her privileged life. Turns out she doesn’t. 

Other articles on the topic contained quotes such as, “But when the onslaught of police brutality against the black community began to surface, I found myself unable to truly empathize,” and, “It’s about being handcuffed and thrown into the back of a police car while walking down the street during college, and then waiting for a white couple to come identify whether or not I was the one who’d committed a crime against them, knowing that if they said I was the one, I would be immediately taken to jail, no questions asked.

Now what were the effects of the Black Lives Matter movement? Well aside from the dozens killed in riots and billions of dollars in damage at the time, there were two lingering results: firstly, a large increase in the number of black murders, overwhelmingly killed by other black people due to decreased law enforcement, and an outpouring of anti-white racism. Yet TGC not only tacitly endorsed the movement with a deluge of articles and videos about ‘Racial Justice’ and near-total silence about the evils being committed in the name of BLM, but also actively promoted its lies to Bible-believing Christians. 

Item 2 - On Sexuality

Conservative Christians who agree that homosexual activity is sin - which to their credit includes TGC - still have significant battles to fight on how they communicate around and pastor people through such issues, and the opportunities for compromise to the spirit of the age are myriad. 

One big one would be that of same-sex attraction, something that should be viewed as a sinful desire - the lust of the flesh - and therefore which both can and should be put to death. Such a view offers the hope of freedom and ultimately of heterosexual marriage to those struggling with this sin, and thus makes the Christian message far more attractive to such people. It’s certainly more appealing than the oft-touted promises of something like a ‘Christian gay bowling league’. 

But TGC has not taken such a line. Instead, in an article entitled, Godliness Is Not Heterosexuality, Ed Shaw argued, “...far too often in the evangelical church, godliness is heterosexuality, and no one can grasp how same-sex attraction and godliness could exist together. So if you want your children to be godly, you must do all you can now to ensure they’re heterosexual. And, obviously, if your child starts experiencing same-sex attraction, you must do all you can to change that as quickly as you can.” The article goes pretty much exactly as you would imagine: discussing how same-sex attraction is not a matter of personal holiness nor something Christians can expect to put to death. 

TGC author Sam Allberry, himself a ‘same-sex attracted’ Christian, writes regularly about celibate ‘gay Christians’, and various other pieces on the subject have been written by contributors such as Ed Shaw and Rachel Gilson. In all of these pieces, the solutions for such attraction are outlined as being things like friendship and chastity, but at no point is mortification of this sin mentioned. 

There are other forms of compromise in this area. In a TGC podcast, the aforementioned Gilson said, "Preferred pronouns...can come down to a question of conscience...in the weak brother/strong brother passages of scripture, Paul has a category for [this]...Some of us would feel incredibly compromised using a trans person's preferred name or pronouns.” This essentially implies that Christians who refuse to lie to their neighbor are the ‘weaker brother’ in an otherwise neutral matter. 

Furthermore a 2021 TGC panel discussion on sexuality referred to ‘Rachel’ Levine as a ‘transgender woman’ (a falsehood rather than a biblical category) and a 2022 article “Should Christians Ever Wear an LGBT+ Pride Patch?”, whilst implying that the answer is ‘No’, strangely refused to actually answer the question, sidestepping it with platitudes about conscience and courage (a move unlikely to strengthen either…).

As mentioned, TGC has not totally collapsed on this issue, and that should be celebrated. But they have repeatedly given up vital ground that conservative Christians must hold if they are to make an effective biblical response to this ideology. 

Item 3 - On Covid

Covid is next. Now that the dust has somewhat settled, it is becoming common knowledge that masks were totally ineffective, that distancing and closures were not backed by science, and that not only were the vaccines largely ineffective, but had serious health risks that outweighed those of covid itself among young and healthy populations.

One of the clearest collective voices at the time that suggested that all of this was very likely to be the case and that therefore the government should not mandate such things was conservative Christians. But what was the stance of the leading conservative Christian media outlet?

Well, quite literally, it was, “Thank God and Roll Up Your Sleeve” - at least according to a 2021 TGC Australia article. In this article, Neil Chambers argued that, “Thus, love for our neighbour and our community should encourage us to get vaccinated where we can, whatever our assessment of the benefit to us individually. Love will want the vulnerable protected; our health care staff to be safer; our economy to once again be able to open up; for people to be able to travel freely to see family, for opportunities for mutation to be limited. Love will want our government to help make this vaccine widely available to other, poorer nations too.”

Similar arguments were made for wearing masks, one article claiming, “I do not believe that conscience is a valid reason for refusing to wear a mask to church. Christians should save the conscience for conscience issues. Instead, call this what it is: civil disobedience.” Brett McCraken in a different article gave four reasons to wear a mask, the first of which being “To Love Your Neighbor.

Implicit in these claims is the case that not getting vaccinated, or refusing to let your healthy children be vaccinated, or standing strongly against autocratic mask and vaccine mandates could not be a matter of personal conscience nor a loving thing to do, and those conservative Christians who did so were thereby in breach of the second commandment. 

Item 4, and 5, plus item 6, and also finally 7

There are countless other issues we could get into, for instance the nonsense articles on gospel themes in Taylor Swift music, lessons from the Barbie movie, and a since-deleted disturbing article about Christ, sex, penetration and the church, or their seeming tendency to punch hard to the political right through things like functionally slandering Kyle Rittenhouse as a mass shooter (it was proven to be self-defense) and the disparity between TGC’s regular condemnation of Donald Trump and their comparatively kid-glove treatment of abortion-up-to-birth, trans-the-kids Biden administration. 

But for me the issue of most concern at TGC is simply this: unwillingness to repent. When confronted with specific errors, or upon the increasing clamor by conservative Christians for them to change course, The Gospel Coalition steadfastly continues as-is. Several years have passed since the height of Covid and the BLM hysteria, and one would hope that an organization like that would take stock of how they handled things and perhaps retract some of the foolish positions they endorsed. Instead, critics are brushed aside. The article referring to Rittenhouse has a minor correction at the very bottom. One or two others mentioned have been deleted without comment - something that would be considered journalistic malpractice. The majority are still up, and nothing has been written to contradict the now-debunked arguments that were made. Is this how a Christian organization, particularly one held in such high esteem by the body of Christ, should act?

None of this is to say that everything produced by TGC is worthless, nor that all of its contributors are complicit in its demise. We may have even invited one or two to write for us. They are by no means the most liberal Christian publication out there. But the problem is, as demonstrated, as a publication held in high esteem among Bible-believing Christians, they have sought to move that portion of the church to the left on almost every major current issue. 

As arguably the most prominent conservative evangelical platform in the Western world, TGC was a watchman on the wall. And unfortunately when it came to the key theological and cultural battles of the day, not only did they nod off as the adversary approached, but were caught proffering packs of NyQuil, cups of warm milk and sweet lullabies to the inhabitants. Meanwhile anyone who dared to mention the barbarian hordes at the gates was labeled ‘a disturber of the peace’. And now that enemy soldiers patrol whole quarters of the city, it seems like none of the preceding events even give them pause for thought as to what might have gone wrong. As such, perhaps now would be a good time for the general populace to demand a changing of the guard.






 

Discussion

Why It's Time To Say Goodbye To The Gospel Coalition

18,079 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 day ago by Graeme22
Bigdeal
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Unfortunately, this appears to be the way of most godly organizations. They start godly (e.g. Harvard, Yale, most denominations etc) and are commandeered by the evil one over time. My concern is the solution, not the problem. How can we prevent this from happening? The evil one is like a lion seeking who (and what) he can devour. It is sad to see this repeatedly. I am hoping TGC can be restored to its former "glory", not through compromise but a focus on the original vision that made them what they were.

As much as Keller's ministry helped me to understand grace in a much fuller and deeper way, he opened the door for the social justice warriors to get a foothold in TCG.
Graeme22
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Thanks for starting this site! I'm sure it will be edifying for many.

I wanted to nitpick one claim. As far as I understand, the post-pandemic evaluation shows that masks and social distancing were largely meaningless, while vaccines were a significant help. Here's some statistics around that: https://www.natesilver.net/p/fine-ill-run-a-regression-analysis

That, of course, doesn't address the conscience issue. But I thought this data might be useful in the interest of "clear truth."
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