Evangelist accuses church of keeping Jesus buried.
By Charles Gardner.
Britain’s leading evangelist has written a lament for the Church of England he has served so faithfully for the past 40 years. And it comes on the back of a similar lament over the Church of Scotland’s decline by a leading Scots preacher.
J John, an Anglican clergyman of Greek-Cypriot parentage who has inspired audiences across the nation with his colourful, always challenging, and often comic, presentation of the gospel, is understandably distraught at the state of the C of E.
He laments its loss of clarity, coherence, confidence, charm and, most of all, Christ. And as I responded to Rev David Robertson’s diagnosis of the Scottish problem by adding that the Jewish element was also a major factor, it would be remiss of me not to apply the same remedy for England.
As with Rev Robertson, I agree with all J John says in his clarion call (published online) for a return to vibrant gospel proclamation. But I should add that the dry and dusty nature of the church is, at least in part, due to cutting off our Hebraic roots and thus disregarding Israel’s relevance both to God’s overall purposes and to our ongoing message.
J John says the gospel has widely become so diluted that “we have many in the church who believe that the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain”.
He adds: “One of the few things that our chattering world respects is a confident faith, and without it we have lost any debate already.”
So much church communication seemed nervously crafted to avoid any offence, he said. “Historically, the Church of England looked at the surrounding culture to confront it; today it seems to look at our culture in order to find how to be concealed within it. The irony – and it’s a fatal one – is that no-one is converted from the world by an organisation indistinguishable from it.
“Yet we are under orders: we must proclaim Christ, his cross and his crown. Sadly, much of the Church of England has succeeded in doing what the Sanhedrin, the Roman Empire and the sealed tomb failed to do: it has kept Jesus buried. Yet he is not only our greatest hope; he is also the one to whom we will have to give account.”
Absolutely. But if we wish to see the church revived, we also need to be reminded that the gospel is “the power of God that brings salvation to all who believe; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). Post-Puritan evangelicals like John Wesley, Robert Murray McCheyne, Charles Spurgeon and J C Ryle believed that the salvation of the Jews leads to restoration of the church.
After all, Jesus told the Samaritan woman that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22) and God told Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3)
The second part of this verse is frequently used to explain how the nations have been blessed by the gospel, whereas all too often the first part is ignored. And it plainly states that our relationship with Israel is a matter of life or death.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul reminds the Gentiles there: “You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” (Romans 11:18) He explains that we Gentiles have been grafted into the natural source (i.e. the olive tree representing Israel) and we “now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root” (verse 17).
The implication is clear, that if we cut ourselves off from the Hebraic roots of our faith, we will soon wither and perish until we are nothing more than a dead tree.
As Jonathan Cahn puts it, “When you look at a tree…you only see what grows above the earth. The most important part is unseen, growing downward into the earth. From the roots come the tree’s water, its minerals, and its nourishment. Without the roots, the tree ceases to exist.”1
Sturdy Trees in the Judean Hills
If we want to see the Holy Spirit revive the church with life and power, we must surely repent, restore and rebuild our connection with the Jewish roots of our faith, and all that means in terms of loving and supporting them and, above all, sharing the gospel with those who first brought it to us.
But there is nonetheless much for which to give thanks as I sense a turning of the tide of opinion. While church leaders are becoming Doubting Thomases, some of our top journalists are responding to ever-increasing waves of wokery by pointing to the obvious common sense of Christianity.
On the hot topic of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rowing back on over-ambitious plans to cut carbon emissions, which has provoked inevitable howls of outrage from eco-zealots, Leo McKinstry, in the Daily Mail2, quoted the legendary C S Lewis as saying: “It would be better to live under robber barons than omnipotent moral busybodies.”
And Richard Littlejohn, on the same subject, found himself falling back on the wisdom of G K Chesterton, “who observed that when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they start believing in anything. Wokery, EU membership and Net Zero (carbon emissions) have replaced Christianity as our new state religions. And anyone who dissents is considered a heretic, to be burned at the stake.”2
Seems like déjà vu – the religious leaders having a problem with Jesus, but the common people flocking to hear him.
1The Book of Mysteries, published by FrontLine
2Daily Mail, September 22, 2023