Why We Need the Evangelical Jeremiad

Speaking about dangers and errors is no failure of love for one’s own community.

Amid the meltdown within evangelical Christianity, some are warning against the dangers of the jeremiad. A few of these critiques are prompted by books like Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne, which argues that evangelicalism’s problems are deeper than we think. Usually, though, the jeremiads against jeremiads are directed toward those who are doctrinally fully within the conservative evangelical camp and are warning that something is awfully awry.

It’s confusing to see these anti-jeremiad arguments coming from people who have endorsed jeremiads about the cheap grace of evangelical conversionism contradicting “the gospel according to Jesus” or how evangelical flirtations with relativism and pragmatism would leave “no place for truth.” These older jeremiads were timely and necessary, even if one didn’t agree with every point. But they were certainly jeremiads.

It’s also baffling to be told that speaking about dangers and errors is a failure of love for one’s fellow evangelicals. Years ago I might have expected such a line from the folks who repeat, “Doctrine divides and love unites” and who look for ways to “affirm” everything. But those worried now about jeremiads are not Episcopalians but Puritans—the very ones who have insisted, rightly, that truth matters and who have worked to shore up doctrinal clarity even on issues where evangelicals disagree (such as predestination or women in ministry).

Likewise, the people issuing anti-jeremiad jeremiads continue to denounce dangers and errors in the outside culture. They want jeremiads against the abortion culture or sexual anarchy or New Atheism or gender ideology. Oddly, most of those …

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