Who are the most influential Evangelicals in America?
TIME Magazine took a guess at The Top 25 Evangelicals a few years back, but I think things have shifted just a tad since then. I made one of these lists just a year or so ago, and I’ve changed several names.
Previously listed were: James Dobson, Charles Colson, Kirk Cameron & Sarah Palin.
Here is my current subjective list of who I think the top 10 most influential Evangelical leaders (for better or worse) may be (in no particular order of importance):
1. Dave Ramsey
In our failing economy, everyone is looking for answers, and the man who has been ready with them is Dave Ramsey. He has used his platform to reach millions of people, even outside of the Christian community who are looking for financial advice.
2. Joel Osteen
He has become a rallying point for many in the Charismatic movement because of his positive message and the fact that he has avoided scandal.
Brian is, in my view, the father of the modern “Emerging Church” movement, which is one of the most influential movements in America right now. There are others more popular, but none that are more influential.
4. Rob Bell
Of all of the really hip preacher guys in America, Rob is arguably the hippest. No one has brought Starbucks and Christianity closer than Rob. His new book, “Love Wins” is the most chattered about book in the Christian world right now, and he is young enough to be around for quite some time yet.
5. John Piper
Piper has become a rather “hip” face for the Reformed theology crowd and has a tremendous influence on people who don’t even know what a TULIP is.
Mark has filled gap between Rob Bell and John Piper. He’s young and hip, but is increasingly leaning on a more historic version of Christianity than most of the pop-preachers. He definitely has the ear of a large segment of young adult Christians in America.
7. Rick Warren
Rick is sort of a magnet that attracts support (and criticism) from both the far right and the far left. The fact that he is as controversial as he is reveals his influence. If you don’t matter, people don’t care what you do.
8. Louie Giglio
Louie may be the most influential evangelical that you DON’T KNOW. He is the founder of the Passion Conferences and is a personal mentor to Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin and many other contemporary worship leaders and songwriters. He is influencing influencers in a similar (although different) vein as Francis Schaeffer several decades ago. As a refreshing side note, if you visit the Passion City Church site, or the Passion Conferences site, you will find little about Louie on either site. He seems to like to work behind the scenes and promote Jesus, rather than his own personality.
9. T.D. Jakes
I don’t think there is anyone who has more influence over African-American church-goers than Bishop Jakes.
10. Ken Ham
There is still a large segment of those who identify themselves as Fundamentalist Christians, and Ken represents the “funnest” of these. He leads the charge of the Creationist movement, and has the ear of the ever-growing homeschooling movement as well. For these reasons, I think he is a leader among the most theologically conservative elements of Evangelicalism.
Please do not interpret my listing of these leaders as an endorsement of them or their ministries.
So what do you think? Agree, or disagree? I’d love to hear your feedback.
Israel Wayne: What led you to begin your Apologetics ministry in India?
Pankaj Parmar: India is country with varieties of religions and philosophies. The deep seated religiosity which prevails and the pride of cultural and religious uniqueness of Hinduism is deeply embedded in the psyche of Indian mindset. In fact, ideas and concepts like God becoming man are not at all new concepts as our nation abounds with many stories of God becoming man and such stories are dynamic in the sense that they keep on adding. Unlike in western context and culture where atheism, materialism and humanism are the primary worldviews, where once you establish existence of God, it is easy to present Jesus as God, whereas here in India people already believe that many gods and goddesses exist and all are deemed to be true.
India is also philosophically strong as we see the influence of Indian philosophy in the forms of New Age movement in the western world. Hence in such context it was very much a need to start apologetics ministry. In fact a nation with more than 1 billion people to reach, led us to start apologetics ministry.
Israel Wayne: Which authors / speakers have influenced you the most?
Pankaj Parmar: As far as defending the Christian faith and answering the objections is concerned, I am indebted to the writing of Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. Paul Copan, Dr. Ron Rhodes and Dr. Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Josh McDowell. But when it comes to doing apologetics offensively and culturally in the context of India, I am indebted to writing s of Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi and Apologist L.T. Jeyachandran whose writing are tremendous useful in doing apologetics in the Indian Context. Yet at the same time I maintain still lot of work is needed to be developed in the context of Indian Culture which is needed to be worked out in the terms of developing contextual apologetics.
Israel Wayne: What are some of the Apologetic topics that are vitally needed today in India?
Pankaj Parmar: Indian context is quite diverse and complex. In fact every person you encounter has different worldview. Even within Hinduism there are multiple worldviews, sects and schisms, hence when you encounter different people you have to approach differently. So No one methodology can be absolutised. However there are many topics which are needed to be addressed apologetically which I will delineate below at the same time.
- The Problem of Evil & Suffering in relation with Karma and Reincarnation in the context of Theistic worldview existing in Hinduism. Very often this problem is dealt in the context of Pantheistic Worldview which is only one of the part of Hinduism.
- Political issues
- Religious Pluralism and Exclusivity of Truth
- Epistemological challenges in contriving the nature of truth.
- Cultural Superiority attitude of Hindus.
Israel Wayne: Is India Pantheistic or Polytheistic in its worldview?
Pankaj Parmar: Pantheism is in Hinduism but Hinduism is not only pantheism. Similarly Polytheism is in Hinduism but Hinduism is not only Polytheism. Hinduism as far as I understand comprises all the “isms’ of the world. In fact, even Atheism is part of Hinduism in the sense that there is a whole school of philosophy termed as Carvaka which espouse atheism and materialism is part of Hinduism but with little significant influence. Let me reinstate in the words of Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, “You can be Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and even atheist and still be Hindu. Most Hindus behind the polytheistic concept of gods and goddesses see them as only different forms of One God. So Compartmentalizing India to be Pantheistic or Polytheistic is not right way to do as Western scholars, philosophers and even apologists assume. So I would term India to be Multi-Faith as well as Hinduism to be Syncretistic generally.
Israel Wayne: What arguments do you use to counter Pantheism?
Pankaj Parmar: Pantheism is quite complex but contradictory system hence many arguments are useful to Counteract Pantheism. Let me share with you one such argument.
If according to Pantheism all is Divine therefore all is God and hence no ultimate distinctions and diversity exists while only Unity is true then there is problem. They have stressed only unity at the expense of diversity, which has removed all the distinction between creator and creation and I /You. If such distinction does not exist then the problem is there is no need for Vedas or any scripture to tell about pantheistic worldview, as there is no real I and You. And how does such system incorporate the whole idea of avatars or God becoming Man or whole idea of Guruism. If such ideas are embraced than it follows, God in Enlightenment is teaching God in ignorance about to how to get enlightenment. With regards to avatars God is becoming man to save the righteous who are also God and destroy the Unrighteous who again are God. But if all distinction are not existent then the distinction between dharma and adharma or righteous and sinners also evaporates, then what’s the need of avatars?
Pankaj Parmar: I want to admit at the outset as you talk with Hindus in these issues it is not easy to challenge this tendency. But there are many arguments which has been useful in my discourse with Hindus. While comparing and contrasting the Avtars (God incarnated in Hinduism) with the Incarnation of Jesus Christ often I have used eight points presented in a chapter 10 by Josh McDowell in his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict which are as follows:
- If God Becomes Man then He should have an utterly unique entrance into human history
- He would be without sin
- Manifest Supernatural acts – miracles
- Live more perfectly than any human who has ever lived
- Would Speak the greatest words ever spoken
- He will satisfy the spiritual hunger of humanity
- He will have a lasting and universal influence
- He will overcome humanity’s most pervasive and feared enemy Death.
Apart from that when you read mythological stories you find lot of contradictory and illogical stories which can be shown to be inconsistent. Let me share with you one such encounter. A colleague of mine where I was working was sharing the story of his god Ganpati (the elephant God known as Lord Ganesha). He was telling How this God came up with a head of elephant. The story goes something like this. Once upon a time the Mother of this god, Parvati was taking a bath, she told her son, Ganesh (Ganpati), to stand outside and keep vigil and see no one enters. While he was standing, His father Shankar (Hindu God) came. So this son did not know the man was his father. So when father insisted to let him come and see Parvati, the son tried to stop him and in anger his father cut off his head. So when the mother came, she told Parvati “This was your son, why did you do this?” So they decided to put on their son the head of anyone who came first in the next morning. So the next Morning the elephant came first, hence they cut off the head and put the head on the son and hence this elephant god. So I asked my friend, “If Shankar is God and if he could replace the head of elephant then why he could not place and put the same head. Why kill an innocent elephant?” So my friend could not answer and then I presented the Gospel. So there are many such stories which need to heard and then show them the inconsistencies. Once showing them inconsistencies and inadequate definitions of God and then present Biblically revealed Nature of God and how that God became man to the save Humanity from Sin and the consequences makes sense.
Israel Wayne: What are your future goals for your Apologetics ministry?
Pankaj Parmar: We want to create more awareness of using apologetics in Indian Churches and take apologetics at grass-root level. Apart from that want to develop contextual apologetics curriculum and trainings so as to meet the challenges of Indian Mindset.
LOG ON: http://www.satyatoday.com
JOIN SATYA TODAY – AN APOLOGETICS MOVEMENT OF INDIA
OUR VISION : To Practice and Promote Evangelism under-girded with Apologetics and spread a wave of apologetics in India, raising an army of apologist to Defend and Confirm the Gospel of Lord Jesus Christ.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) reasoned that there are two types of government: Just and unjust, and that there are three basic forms that these may take.
1. A Just Monarchy
For Aquinas, the absolute best form of government was the rule of a single leader whose heart was kind and just and who applied God’s law to all matters of governance. This was the most efficient form of government, because there were no obstacles in the way of the king’s benevolent rule.
2. A Just Oligarchy
The second preference would be the rule by an aristocracy, or elite leadership who would rule as a kind of senate, making decisions for the people they represent. This was not nearly as efficient as a monarchy, so is not as ideal, but is the next best thing. Again, it is presumed that these are God-fearing men (Aquinas had no expectation of women leading in politics), who are doing what is best for the people and not merely themselves.
3. A Just Democracy
A democracy is rule by the masses. This is the most inefficient of the three options because masses of people move very slowly. Assuming that the people are just and God-fearing (this is, of course, quite a leap theologically…and begs the question of why you need a formal government in the first place!), this can be a good form of government, although it is quite unlikely that you will ever get anything done.
4. An Unjust Democracy
Supposing that the people were selfish and looked only after their own interests, rather than following the law of God and caring about others, a democracy would be the best form of unjust government. Why? Because democracies move slowly, and this form of rule would be the least likely to adopt tyranny (since everyone is wanting to be free from external rule).
5. An Unjust Oligarch
If tyranny is a risk, it is more likely to happen at the hands of a few, than at the hands of the masses. Therefore, according to Aquinas, an oligarchy is worse than a democracy, but better than a monarchy, if you HAD to settle for some form of unjust government.
6. An Unjust Monarchy
The absolute worst form of government that Aquinas could envision was the tyranny of a single monarchy. As you look back at the history of the world, it is not hard to agree with his assessment. So, the best kind of government, with a kind and benevolent king, could also be the worst, because there is no “red tape” or bureaucracy to keep the king in check.
In his later years, in the Summa Theologica, Aquinas proposed a hybrid of the three. The best form of government, he argued, would be one where a monarch would be kept in check by a group of elected aristocrats who were put into power by a polity of the masses. Sound familiar? Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were impacted by these ideas five hundred years later as they wrote the founding documents of America.
Israel Wayne: Josh, you’ve become known as someone who promotes the concept of absolute truth, and many of our readers would already be familiar with many of your materials devoted to that subject. However, you’ve brought out a different dynamic in some of your newer materials, and that is the aspect of relationship. Can you explain to us why it is important to cultivate a relationship in the transmission of truth?
Josh McDowell: Well, there are many reasons. First of all, that’s how God created us. Science now shows (see Josh’s executive summary of the study by Dartmouth Medical School) that a baby’s brain from the time they are born, and this is amazing, is physically, biologically hard-wired to connect in relationships. I thought, come on, how can science…but then I thought, wait a minute, God created us. God says in Exodus 34:14 (NLT), “You shall worship no other gods, but only the LORD, for he is a God who is passionate about His relationship with you.” Then it makes sense that God would create us to desire to have a relationship and need a relationship with Him and others. So God created us for relationship. Second, God’s dimension, God’s program for truth is in the context of relationships. All truth is relational. Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” Most people have no idea what that meant.
What is truth? Webster defined it, “Truth is that which has fidelity to the original.” Fidelity means the same as “equal to.” So truth is that which is the “same as” or “equal to” the original. What does that mean? Let’s suppose that I say have a liter of water. You say, “No you don’t.” I say, “I do too.” You say, “You do not!” Now is my statement true and yours false, or is your statement true and mine false? We would catch a flight and fly to Paris, France. We’d go to the far out suburb where there’s the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, where they have all the original measurements in metrics. Linear, liquid, solids, everything. We would like my bottle, my liter of water, and we would compare it with the original. Remember, truth is that which has fidelity to the original, same as, equal to. If the water in my bottle equaled the original measurement of a liter then my statement is true. Why, there was fidelity to the original. But if there is a little more or less water then my statement was false. Why, because there was no fidelity to the original. Now, picture this, Jesus said, “I am the truth” in John 14. What did He mean by that? He meant that he had fidelity to the original, or Jesus said, “I am the same as, equal to, the original.” Who is the original? God the Father. It’s probably the boldest claim to deity that Jesus ever made. You see, Mohammed could never say that, Buddha couldn’t say that, no one. Only Jesus. Others say I have the truth, I teach the truth, I believe in truth. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Why? Because “I am the same as the original, God the Father.”
Do you know why in that context he said, “Why do you say you do not know the Father, when you know me? For if you know me, you know the Father.” Why? Because “I am the same as, equal to the original.” He said, “Why do you say you believe in the Father, but you don’t believe in me? If you believe in me you’ll believe in the Father.” Why? Because “I am the same as, equal to, the Father, the Creator.” And it says there, “Why do you say you haven’t seen the Father?” Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” Why? Because “I am the Truth.” This is why he said, “I am the visible representation of the invisible God.” Why? Because “I am the truth.” Christ is the truth. Why? Because he is the same as, equal to, the Father. Now that becomes our standard for everything. Why is lying wrong? Because God is truth. Why is hatred wrong? Because God is love. Let’s put it this way, why is lying wrong? Because there is no fidelity to the original. God is truth.
Jesus intended truth to be relational. He became man. God became man, as truth, and he related to people. So He has created us to understand truth in relationships. That if it is true, it will work. This is why I think the scripture is so dogmatic about relationships. For example, “I have been constantly aware of your unfailing love, and therefore I have lived according to the truth.” I’ll tell you this with homeschooling, just like everything else, but especially more in homeschooling, because they become the source of the very truth they teach, if those kids do not believe, in their hearts of hearts, “My dad and my mom loves me,” they will walk away. It’s the relationship that engenders the belief. I believe part of a Biblical worldview is relationships. If you don’t have relationships incorporated in there it’s not a Biblical worldview. It’s isolated, it separated. We’ve got to teach that all truth is relational. Therefore, no matter what part of our worldview, we’ve got to show that it’s relational. Like with the deity of Christ: what do I learn about the incarnation? Who I am. What do I learn about the resurrection? Where God wants to take me. What do I learn from the Scriptures? What God wants me to be like. All these scriptures are relational. God wants to show us what we need to be like, to relate to Him. Anyone who says, “I believe in a Biblical worldview” has to incorporate relationships in it. Where we are falling down today, and often in homeschooling, is where there is not that loving, intimate relationship. Now, I admire homeschooling. I think homeschooling and Christian schooling is the future of the Church. I don’t know how any kid can come up through all school: elementary, junior high, high school, going to a secular university and in the future really become a Christian leader, unless they had the most phenomenal parents and church. They won’t be able to. It’s too anti-Christian and secular oriented. It’s not public education, it’s secular education, it’s anti-Christian education. But so many of your homeschooling families come from a very narrow, fundamentalist perspective. Now I’m a fundamentalist, if by fundamentalist you mean you believe in the fundamentals of the faith. Yeah, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, the holy life, etc. Oh, I’m a hard-core fundamentalist when it comes to that, but not when it comes to the rules and regulations.
Here’s the principle, rules without relationships leads to rebellion. Truth, the truth of God’s word that we are so sold on in homeschooling…we want our kids to know truth, to be embedded in truth, truth to change their life. Truth without relationships leads to rejection. Relationships is part of God’s plan.
Israel Wayne: So just as Jesus modeled truth, as he discipled his followers, parents have the same responsibility. The children are to imitate them as they imitate Christ.
Josh McDowell: In John 13, Jesus says, “Imitate me, follow my example.” In 1 Thess. 1, it says, “Many of you are following our example,” and “Follow the example of those who follow Christ.” Oh yes! Especially today, if we don’t model that truth, they will reject it. There are two cultures now for the first time ever, and homeschoolers had better realize that. Kids do not process truth the way their parents do. Parents process truth through their minds and flow them through the scriptures. Kids process truth through their feelings, their emotions or relationships…called their experience. That’s why when a parent hears a true statement whether it’s the deity of Christ, the incarnation, the resurrection, or whatever, their mind is, “Well, if it’s true it will work.” For the kids, “If it works, it is true.” It’s totally different. For kids you create truth, for adults you discover truth. You can’t communicate the same way to them.
Adults see hypocrisy and say, “They’re not living the truth.” Kids see hypocrisy in their parents and say, “It’s not true.” That’s how the process. Wow! That’s devastating if parents don’t model that very truth. It’s very interesting that Dartmouth Medical School came out and said, you want to pass you values on, and you talk about homeschooling, then model that very truth.
Israel Wayne: What is the difference between belief and conviction?
Josh McDowell: It would be better to ask, “What is the difference between belief and faith?” You can believe something, and I think in the scriptures belief is the same as faith. In the scriptural belief, pisteuo, means not just to adhere to something intellectually, to know it. It means to adhere to it, to grab on, rely in. Probably the best description of that is the Amplified Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…that he who believes (adhered, relied in, grasped a-hold of). So true Biblical belief is what we see as faith. It is committing to that truth. I would say that when you commit to it, that’s when it becomes faith. It’s like, there could be a big gully here with a rickety bridge going across it, and I could say, “I believe that bridge will hold me. In fact, I know that bridge will hold me.” But that’s only belief. It becomes faith when I commit and walk across that bridge. Then I’m living by faith. It’s taking the belief and committing your life to it and living it out. The difference between belief and conviction is that belief basically in our mode, in our culture, not eastern culture, but in our culture, is to adhere to a set of cognitive facts or something. Conviction is to not only adhere to those facts but to know why you hold on to those facts, and to experience it. Faith is experiential. Faith means to live out what you believe. We need to lead our kids to a life of faith, not a life of belief. Because it goes one step further to experiencing that very faith. But here again, the parent can say all they want to the child, and it’s even more devastating in homeschooling if they don’t do it because they’re around that parent more, if that parent isn’t living by faith, with their money, everything, then those kids are going to walk away. That’s the downside of homeschooling.
Israel Wayne: Do you a message for homeschooling leaders?
Josh McDowell: If there is any hope (and this is just apart from spiritual things), if there is any hope for any morality in this country, the leaders are going to have to be homeschoolers. It’s going to have to be. They are not going to get it in public school. It’s going to be difficult in Christian schools. Now Christian schools are getting better and better. Thank God. They really are. If my son (Sean McDowell) has anything to do about it they’re going to get a lot better!
But I’m just thrilled that homeschoolers win the spelling bees and everything else…what a testimony. But there has got to be those relationships, or ultimately homeschooling will fail.
Visit Josh McDowell at www.Josh.org
To more info on Homeschooling, visit the Home School Digest magazine.