The Plague of Evangelical Pessimism

“The world out there is just getting worse and worse.” (Insert forlorn or hopeless tone)

“Things just aren’t like they used to be.” (Followed by a well-timed sigh and mournful glance toward someone much younger)

“We might have to live in this ugly world…but we can’t be part of it.” (The righteous pause of condemnation with dramatic emphasis on “ugly world”)

If you have grown up in church like I have, you have very likely been exposed to phrases like these — from the pulpit, during Sunday lunches, or maybe even at Bible studies. This “glass-half-empty” view of the world (whatever seems to be going on outside the safety and security of our church fortresses) has somehow permeated American Christian culture. It is an ever-present and ugly part of many evangelical circles.

You don’t have to search the shelves (or the internet) long to find riveting tales of doom and gloom from the mouths and pens of those who claim to follow Jesus. On many levels, we allow all of the bad news to drown out the Good News.

I listened to a popular speaker lament this condition (one he called “Evangelical Pessimism”) in a talk he gave in a university chapel not long ago.

From stock market crashes to abducted children, fear and bad news effortlessly dominate the majority of the headlines today. There is plenty of tragedy to go around… it is easy to feel a little hopeless about it all… unless we know the rest of the story.

It is Our Story. We follow the greatest Idealist to ever walk the face of the planet.

John 3:16 tells us that Jesus came to redeem the world… the entire world. If we truly live our lives believing that our story is only a part of God’s story — how can we hold onto such negative attitudes about the future? How can we miss the reality of the final chapter?


After three days, the tomb was empty. The Story has been finished. We are living the Author’s story — it is a hopeful, invigorating narrative.

If we resign ourselves to dwelling on a view that the world (out there) is just getting worse and worse, how can we reconcile that belief with the undeniable Biblical truth that the world is actually being moved toward God’s world order? Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute…redeemed.

Maybe “Evangelical pessimism” is just an eloquent phrase denoting our lack of trust. The Gospel leaves no space for pessimism. If we aren’t living the Good News — then who will?

2 thoughts on “The Plague of Evangelical Pessimism

  1. Hi, Matt.
    I’m writing a thesis paper studying Evangelical pessimism. Thanks for sharing post, it’s been helpful. I really enjoyed your point that “We follow the greatest Idealist on the planet.”
    Would you mind sharing who the person was that you referred to as speaking in a chapel? I’d like to look into what he has to say. Thanks!
    Hope E.

    1. Hope – I would love to check out your thoughts on the topic! I am pretty sure that was Erwin McManus speaking at a Baylor chapel? Surf the podcasts in iTunes and I think you can find it. E-mail me here at the site from the contact page, I would enjoy hearing a little more about your thesis. There are two chapters in my book Holy Nomad that may be helpful to you.

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