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  • Virginia Brown

In Defense of Close Mindedness

I recently heard this quote: “Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” When we forsake foundational doctrinal commitments, we lose our bearings and wander into a ditch. This is exactly what is occurring in mainline Protestant denominations. Their churches are dying because they’ve forsaken basic Christian teaching. Not all see church decline this way.

In his recent article “South Dakota churches suffering decline in affiliation and attendance,” Bart Pfankuch helpfully documents the declining church numbers, but the theological diagnosis he provides is poor. Specifically, the author suggests that it is conservative doctrine that has led to declining church attendance. His source for this suggestion comes from, lo and behold, mainline theologians. According to one, Pfankuch remarks, “From strong positions on abortion, sexuality or even the response of governments and individuals to the COVID pandemic, the more that political and cultural views permeate the church, the less likely some people will be to attend regularly.”

We need to unpack this. Pfankuch argues that issues like abortion and sexuality are “political” or “cultural.” Notice how he doesn’t use the term “theological.” That’s intentional. I take it that he is removing theology from the discussion. However, we cannot neglect theology. The Bible, our source for doctrine, teaches that abortion and human sexuality are not simply political or cultural issues. The acts of killing one’s child and homosexuality are sins that require Christ’s spilt blood for forgiveness (e.g., Ex 20:13 and 1 Cor 6:9).

Mainline churches reject this reasoning, which Pfankuch fails to mention. As one theologian wittingly stated, mainline churches incorrectly believe, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” No wonder why mainline churches are empty—they have forsaken the gospel. Contrary to what Pfankuch suggests, mainline churches are dying because of liberal doctrine, not because of conservative doctrine.

Sometimes we need to be close-minded. If we forsake the gospel in the name of open-mindedness, we lose our minds. And this is precisely why so many mainline churches are dying.

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