Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Pastor at Liberty

Over the past week I’ve had two rather disturbing encounters – disturbing because of the way they illustrate the problem the modern church has with accepting its responsibilities.

One encounter was on Nick Peters’ blog, where a commenter reacted to his posting declaring that apologetics should be a mandate for pastors. This oblivious soul declared that by declaring such a mandate, we impinged upon the “liberty” of pastors, who should feel free to explore apologetics as an option, but not be required of them.

The second encounter was with a book. I’ve been researching the relationship between the Nazis and Christianity for a TektonTV series of late, and it’s been a fascinating exploration. However, I was disgusted to find that a book had been published on the subject by Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor at Moody Bible Church in Chicago.

I’ll be blunt as usual: Lutzer has absolutely no business writing such a book. He is not knowledgeable in that subject area. Nor is he competent to research the subject, and his bibliography shows this: The newest edition – published this year – makes no reference to one of the most critical and comprehensive volumes on the subject of Nazism and Christianity (The Holy Reich).  The few respectable books used are badly out of date (e.g., Shirer’s 1960 history), and Lutzer also makes use of questionable sources like Dusty Slkar’s item on Hitler and the occult, and (cough) Dave Hunt.

To make matters worse, Lutzer’s book won an ECPA Gold Medallion Award for excellence (!) and Ravi Zacaharias wrote a foreword. This, in spite of the fact that it was clearly amateurishly done, as reflects Lutzer’s non-expertise on the subject (and I’ll add just in case it’s true, that of any ghost writer he may or may not have used), and at times is more like a sermon than a serious history.

This is not the first time Lutzer has put out a book on a subject that is truly none of his business. I also recall he did the same for The DaVinci Code. There may well be others.

In light of this, I have to ask: Do pastors really need to be given the “liberty” to NOT be responsible generators of information? 

As I told the person on Nick’s blog, all of this talk about “liberty” for pastors would be fine – if (among other things) they also agreed to not meddle in subjects they have no business meddling in. As it is, Luzter was clearly authoring this book not because he had any idea what he was talking about, but because a book by Erwin Lutzer, star pastor, sells well.

The sad fact is that many Christians do come to their pastors for advice on all sorts of things a typical pastor knows nothing about. In turn, some pastors either think they know the answer, but don’t (as with Lutzer), and continue to spread false or incomplete information. That in turn spirals downward to a time when those who first queried of them find out their pastor was talking out of his hat, and then we have the standard crisis of confidence in authority figures…and on it goes.

Pastors like Luzter do not need “liberty”. They need accountability.


  1. Just curious, did you read "The Occult Roots of Nazism" by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke at any point while researching Hitler and Christianity?

  2. I think most people nowadays treat their pastor as their theology teacher, and some would even extend that to matters of daily living, depending on how much of it their pastor is preaching on. In that light, this is an interesting quote I've found regarding the trust we place on teacher figures:

    "Teachers are like bartenders for teens. When things go sour, they're the most likely adults that students will turn to for help. When they give advice, we listen, because they're teachers and they must therefore be the best at teaching things. If you can't trust your teacher, then who can you trust? But if he's a moron, every bit of advice he gives you is so much worse than simple misinformation. Bad facts can be corrected. Bad advice shapes who you are."

    Unfortunately, much of the congregation I see are still spiritual teens, if not spiritual infants, due to the modern church setting.

  3. @Gio -- I saw the title. Not to reveal much, but I think the occult connection is often overplayed (except for some particular Nazis, like Himmler -- but not Hitler). But I'll be looking more at that soon.

  4. When you're talking about Lutzer, are you talking about his book "Hitler's Cross"?

  5. It is even worse when ministers/ministries give medical advice they have pulled out of thin air. I believe part of the problem is that the great scholar and the great communicator are usually two different people. And guess which one wins? Scholars provide carefully nuanced research that is not accessible to the general public. Communicators are able to sway the multitudes with their oratorical skills and personal charisma. There are varied giftings in the body, and this is where we need to work together for the edification of the body. In practical terms though, the celebrity pastor has no need of the scholar, because his goal is popularity and sales, not truth.