In his most recent essay at First Things, Carl Trueman takes aim at those have made it a virtual cottage industry to blame “the church” for all of her woes.
He points out that critiques can and should be made but contrasts what we see today with the posture of the apostle Paul:
St. Paul was certainly well aware of the failings of Christians, even of the wickedness that they could perpetrate in the church’s name, as his blunt letters to various congregations indicate. But he never ceased to present the church—flawed, divided, morally compromised as she was—as the meaning and hope of history.
Trueman is not just critiquing those on the left. He writes:
[There is] a rather unpleasant truth about the loudest voices in the conservative Christian world: They seem united only in their apparent belief that a posture of righteous indignation and demands for extreme sanctions against those who hold different opinions are essential parts of courageous Christian discipleship.
Here is his conclusion:
The church’s exile from mainstream culture is going to be hard, but the Bible makes it clear that she wins in the end.
The gates of hell shall not prevail against her. That is the source of our hope at this time, and so it is pastorally cruel and theologically irresponsible for Christians to obscure this truth with endless complaints about “the church’s” past behavior and present inadequacies.
By all means, call out the moral failings of Christians, congregations and denominations, left and right; but be specific, do so without slander and vitriol, and make a clear distinction between the church and the specific failings to which you allude in order to promote clear thinking.
And remember—if your critique of Christians is not balanced by a Pauline emphasis on the church, the body of Christ, as the answer to the world’s problems, you ultimately offer no true Christian commentary on the contemporary scene. For as soon as you see the church herself as part of the problem, you have lost the gospel and deprived yourself and your audience of hope.
You can read the whole thing here.