One of These Things is Not Like the Other Ones…

From Russell Moore:

The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynist, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now. The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.

But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so. The new birth doesn’t just transform lives, creating repentance and faith; it also provides new leadership to the church, and fulfills Jesus’ promise to gift his church with everything needed for her onward march through space and time (Eph. 4:8-16).

After all, while Phillip was leading the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ, Saul of Tarsus was still a murderer.

What is it about Teresa that puts her on a list along with Edwards, Wesley, Graham, and Spurgeon? Personally, I don’t think Graham belongs in that list, but that’s a debate for another time. The real question, in my mind, is how can a conservative evangelical include Teresa on a list like this? Does Russell Moore believe that Teresa’s life represents the transforming power of God’s Spirit? Is there some evidence somewhere that she renounced the false gospel of works salvation? I’ve not seen it, but I’ve seen pretty clear arguments to the contrary.

I hope this was a careless mistake by Moore. It ought to be corrected. I fear it is too common a mistake among those who wish to expand the mission of the church into the kind of work that Teresa did. It certainly represents a dangerous tendency, as I’ve written previously.

What I wrote above was actually done on Monday, but I didn’t want to drop a post right on top of the one about prayer, so I waited until this morning. It seemed wise to check back on Moore’s post to see if he had updated it or made any corrections that would influence this post by me. To my chagrin, not only is there nothing by Moore to clarify, there are plenty of commenters who defend what he has done against the concerns expressed by others.

I’d encourage you to read Moore’s defenders in the comment section for a real time illustration of what is wrong with evangelicalism. The defenses range from the typical “well, he didn’t really say that” argument down to claiming that the book of James somehow backs up his inclusion of Teresa in that list. It is encouraging, though, to see objections as well. The state of things is very muddled and won’t get any better while leading evangelicals hold up folks like Teresa as examples of the Spirit’s work to transform lives and provide leadership for the church.

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