Seeking to Follow Christ Amidst the Clamor for a “Kinder, Gentler Gospel”

After I posted one of my blogs about Love Wins, I received the following heartfelt letter from a seminary student which I really appreciated.

My thanks to this believer for the permission to post and for desiring to walk in the grace AND truth of Jesus Christ.

PenI'm writing this in response to your recent post on Rob Bell and the whole “to Hell or not to Hell” shenanigan that's been going on for a little while now. The seminary that I go to is fairly large and fairly well known, and I don’t feel comfortable posting my name in conjunction with this comment.  I’ve already suffered a little persecution here on campus for some of the stands and stances that I've taken. I don’t mind being persecuted for my beliefs by unbelievers, but it’s a little weird when other people who say they’re Christians do it, too. I guess I just wanted you to know that there are still conservative evangelicals out here, and that some of us are studying hard and praying to be heard amidst the clamor for a “kinder, gentler gospel.” I'm so thankful that you and others are continuing to address this issue even after the hype over Rob Bell's book has started to die down some.

I came to Christ in my late 20s out of a life of hard-partying, depravity, and sin, and have now known the Lord for eight years. My early years in Christ were fairly sheltered; I had a very close-knit, conservative (but not legalistic) church family who helped me to see what a God-honoring lifestyle and Christ-worshipping doctrine looked like.

That all changed when I came to this large “evangelical” seminary two years ago to work on a master's degree. I’ve found that many of the professors here hold to a Gospel-centered way of teaching, and in general, most seem to believe that our eternal destiny is determined by the gracious gift of faith in Christ. This has been reflected in the teaching that I’ve received in my history classes, Bible classes, theology classes, and language classes here.

However, I realized very early on that our administration tends to take a fairly liberal view of Scripture, and this view is reflected in many of the school’s social settings and regulations. To some extent, this influence is even evident in the classroom, where professors will tell us that, “This is what we teach in my background, but I'm sensitive to the fact that we have many different denominations represented here.” It's almost like the courtesy disclaimer that gets tagged onto the back end of any conservative teaching here. There has been a pervasive sense of “Scriptural relativism”—a type of, “Well, good for you if you want to interpret Scripture that way, but don't you dare impose that interpretation on anyone else here!”—throughout the student body, and the right to interpret Scripture with relativism has been upheld by the overarching student services administration.

SignIt’s been confusing to say the least. Even as a mature adult, I find myself at times being torn in two between upholding what I know to be true Scripturally and softening my doctrinal perspectives in order that I might find some—any!—fellowship here. I know that there are others here who view Scripture as I do, but they’re very hard to find. The liberal voice on this campus is so loud and so condemning that at times it feels like a very, very lonely place.

I think that this Christian community, steeped in its “evangelical” culture, is the biggest test of faith that I’ve faced yet in my Christian walk. This is a sad predicament of our times. It’s articles like yours that remind me that I'm not alone, that this community here is not the end-all-be-all, nor the final word in what is or is not the Holy Word of God. (I think the Word is the final word!)

Randy Alcorn, founder of EPM

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over fifty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries