by John Ellis
How should Christians respond when wolves in sheep’s clothing tragically die? That’s the question, I think, driving the many text messages I’ve received today after the news of Rachel Held Evans’ death was made public. Curious as to my response, I fielded the question, “Did you hear that Rachel Held Evans died?” multiple times. For starters, my response is one of immense sadness. The news deserves mourning. Yet, it also deserves truthful responses that point people to the saving grace found in repentance of sins and faith in Jesus Christ – a message that was tragically rejected by Rachel Held Evans.
In case you were unaware, RHE had severe allergic reactions several weeks ago to antibiotics she was given to help her combat the flu. After a series of unexplained seizures, doctors placed her in a medically induced coma. On Thursday of this week, according to her husband, she took a turn for the worse and passed away this morning.
In a statement to Slate, RHE’s husband Dan Evans said:
She put others before herself. She shared her platform. She always remembered how others had helped her. She enjoyed seeing other people in contexts where they thrived. She didn’t hold grudges, would forget as well as forgive. She had little time for pettiness and a big heart for people. And these are all things I wish I had told her more while I still had the privilege to keep her company.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Rachel Held Evans, Slate eulogized her with this honest assessment:
Evans was a forceful and winsome public voice for progressive evangelicalism, first as a blogger and later as an author and sought-after speaker. She started her eponymous site more than a decade ago, and in her years of writing she confronted every controversial issue in American evangelical culture. She wrote about biblical literalism, racism, abortion, evolution, theology, marriage, patriarchy, women in leadership, and evangelical support for Donald Trump. She advocated for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church and analyzed her own complicity in racial bias after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The Washington Post once called her “the most polarizing woman in evangelicalism.”
She was definitely polarizing; I can personally attest to that. One of the most read posts on this blog is my review of RHE’s book Searching for Sunday. I lost friends over that review.
Sadly, many in my ex-fundamentalist and ex-Bob Jones University circles found a prophetess in Rachel Held Evans and they blindly followed her to the faux freedom she held out in the form of an inclusive Christianity shorn of sin, judgment, standards, and consequences. While promising freedom, RHE’s religion is actually an eternally damning bondage to sin and self.
Over the years, I have not been shy in my denunciations of the heretical first lady of progressive evangelicalism, and it would be dishonest to change course in her death. With that confessed, how do I believe Christians should respond to the news when one of the most dangerous wolves preying on Christians dies?
Well, we should respond with sorrow and mourning and prayer. First and foremost, a husband has lost his wife and two young children have lost their mother. Not to mention Rachel Held Evans’ parents, extended family, and her many friends. Death is not to be celebrated. We should be praying for the Spirit to draw people to the Father through RHE’s death. We should be praying for the physical and eternal protection of her young children and husband.
So, yes, we should mourn the death of Rachel Held Evans. Death is the enemy. An enemy that Christ conquered with his death and resurrection, but an enemy that will continue to wheeze out its evil and heartbreak until Jesus returns to complete his victory over sin and death. Christians should never rejoice at the death of an Image Bearer. And, make no mistake, Rachel Held Evans was as fully made in the image of God as I am or as you are.
And we should mourn over the death of an individual who rebelled against and rejected the one in whose image she was made. Choosing to worship herself, Rachel Held Evans denied the God of the Bible and, instead, created a god in her own image – a god that allowed her to exist comfortably alongside those who worship the sexual revolution. Out of all the tragedies surrounding her death, the most tragic thing is that all evidence points to the reality that Rachel Held Evans entered eternity under the wrath of God.
We should mourn those who are following her to perdition. I have friends who have succumb to the self-serving idolatry taught by Rachel Held Evans, and I mourn their rebellion against God and pray for their repentance. I pray that the Holy Spirit will be pleased to use the tragic death of an individual that they respected and looked to for spiritual guidance as a means to wake them up to the reality of their rebellion and the fact that they, too, will one day answer for how they respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The good and right desire to show compassion during circumstances like the death of Rachel Held Evans can tempt us to minimize the damage done by wolves in sheep’s clothing when tragedy strikes. Yet, as the untimely death of Rachel Held Evans underlines, life is short and fragile. None of us are promised the next minute, much less tomorrow. How we respond to our Creator is all-important. Related to that, how we respond to those who are leading people astray is important, too. In fact, the most anti-Rachel Held Evans thing that I or anyone else can do is to simply share the gospel of Jesus Christ and call sinners to repentance and faith.
The Bible reveals that all humans are born in sinful rebellion against God. Since God is perfectly holy and just, sin must be punished, and since our sin is against an eternal God, the fully just punishment is eternal. Thankfully, in His mercy, God has provided the way in which His people can be saved from their sins and reconciled to Him. After living the life of perfect obedience that God requires and that none of us can live, Jesus willingly mounted the cross to die as the just punishment for the sins of those who repent and believe on him. Three days later, vindicating his claim to be the Son of God, Jesus rose from the dead. At this moment, King Jesus is in heaven preparing a place for his people. One day, he will return. Upon that day, those who have repented and believed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus will be ushered into an eternity filled with God’s blessings and physical communion with our Lord and Savior. However, those who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ will be ushered into their just eternal punishment for their rebellion against their Creator.
Sadly, Rachel Held Evans denied the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, she dedicated her life to the destruction of the gospel. Promising the freedom to be whomever you want to be with no judgment, RHE held out a religion of self. No denial of self; no taking up your cross. A full-throated commitment to self-serving individualism was the religion preached and spread by Rachel Held Evans. While we mourn the death of a woman made in the image of God, we need to mourn even more the tragically eternal effects of the false gospel she preached.
Soli Deo Gloria