Whatever Happened to Acts 4?- Ministers Feed into the Fear of Speaking Jesus’ Name

March 2, 2009

When I need to know what is going on in the world that should concern me as a Christian, one person I always trust to inform me on this is Al Mohler.  President of Southern seminary and respected cultural commentator, Dr. Mohler runs a regular blog and daily radio show, which promises to offer “intelligent Christian conversation about the issues that matter.”  Often times his posts are stunning as to the amount of depravity that they reveal in all of humanity, but his most recent article was so disturbing to me that I felt I had to comment on it.

Friday Dr. Mohler posted a piece entitled, “This Prayer Approved by the White House?,” in which he approaches the topic of the newly elected adminstrations odd policy of approving the wording of the invocations given at public events prior to their being cleared to be delivered.  As we all know, the cries to remove prayer from all facets of the public square have been sounding out for many years, but this has never done much to stop the practice of the invocation.  With President Obama taking office, though, new teeth have been given to an old dog.  However, it would be one thing to end invocations, a sad decision undoubtedly, but livable; it is a complete other thing to vet the prayers being offered and marking them as “fit for use.”  This type of 1984-esque intereference (yes, I went there) with what many would expect to be an improvised, personal offering is just plain weird, and is probably not what anyone expected, either conservative prayer warriors or liberal secular activists.

What is most disturbing, however, is the seeming compliance of Christian ministers in this action.  Two such are mentioned in the post, one from Indiana who gives the gist of the process, and one from Florida who offers a small, but sad soundbite.  The minister from Indiana, one Ryan Culp, lets us in on how his invocation went from written, to presented over the phone to a White House Public Liason, to approved, and then delivered at an Obama town hall meeting.  It makes mention of the handshake he received from Obama afterwards, which makes me wonder if that was his sole motivation in following this all along.

The minister from Florida, a pastor of a black Baptist congregation in Ft. Myers named James Bing, was also one of those mentioned who had been vetted prior to his prayer for an Obama event.  What he revealed was even more freightening than the phone approval process Mr. Culp described.  The pastor, in explaining why his prayer “carefully avoided mentioning Jesus” said, “For some strange reason, the word Jesus is like pouring gasoline on fire for some people in this country . . . .  You learn how to work around that.”

WHAT?!?!?

I’m sorry.  I think I just threw up in my mouth!

How could any person claim at one and the same time to believe this and to be a Christian minister?!?  I have enough trouble seeing how one could allow their prayer to be censored by the White House.  I can’t even imagine volitionally not speaking the name of Christ in fear it would offend people.  

It’s supposed to offend people!

Do these guys preach in churches that don’t have Acts 4?

But when they had commanded [Peter and John] to leave the council, [the Sanhedrin] conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4.15-20)

How have we come so far?  Why was it so important for the apostles to stand up to the Sanhedrin and preach Jesus’ name yet now it is more important to “work around” even saying it and to get a handshake from the President?  What happened to there being “no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12)?  There is to be submission to the authorities placed over us, but as Dr. Mohler says, “If the Christian cannot pray in the name of Jesus, let someone else deliver the prayer.”  How could this have ever happened?

We must see an end to this garbage.  The gospel message cannot be proclaimed with all of these dead, non-fruit bearing branches cluttering the vineyard.  I pray that soon God will see fit to gather them for the fire so the fruit of his redeeming love can grow freely once again!

The entirety of Dr. Mohler’s post may be viewed here.