October 23, 2017

Riffs: 11:14:09: Patrol Magazine and Evangelicals Who Won’t “Get Over It”

rc-by-rachel-rivera-radcastle-460x368I asked for permission to reprint an entire editorial column from the always provocative and frequently dead-on-target Patrol Magazine. It’s entitled “Get Over It.” It’s the latest installment in The Coming Evangelical Collapse, as far as I’m concerned. There aren’t enough ways to say “Yes” and “Amen” to this editorial. I’ll have more to say about this on the podcast.

Patrol Magazine is consistently on top of the current evangelical evolution. David Sessions and the Patrol staff have been doing outstanding journalism for two years now. It’s a young evangelical Rolling Stone, the magazine Relevant would like to be. There’s more to say, but this is a true note amidst the confusion that surrounds us. Expect this editorial to get the “people who criticize the beautiful bride of Christ are pathetic” treatment, but don’t be deterred. Evangelicals have their strong suits, strong churches and worthy messengers, but overall, this is what mainstream evangelicalism is cooking. Add Patrol to your feed and stop in frequently.

(Reprinted with permission from Patrol Magazine)

HOWEVER LONG it may take to relinquish its hold on American culture, evangelicalism in the United States—still probably best defined by the British historian David Bebbington as a movement whose members adhere to conversionism, Biblicism, activism and crucicentrism—faces near-certain extinction. It has been blinded by its symbiotic relationship with the Enlightenment, and has perpetually failed to see beyond its hopelessly Western perceptions. Confined to the paramaters of liberal rationalism, it has mounted no challenge to the present political order and offered no intellectually acceptable explanation for how one is to live and think in the postmodern world. As this magazine has chronicled, its brightest children are throwing up their hands in record numbers, defecting heavy-heartedly to less temporal churches, or to no church at all.

But rather than recognize evangelicalism for the sinking ship it is, its cheerleaders are calling in increasingly desperate tones for a regrouping. Last year, a collection of prominent leaders met in Washington, D.C. to consider an “evangelical manifesto” designed to clear up the theological and political confusion that is intrinsic in the movement. In January, the hard-right Web site WorldNetDaily offered a checklist for identifying “true Christians.” Southern Baptists assume the apocalypse is coming from within, and mobilized this year to draw lines between themselves and cussing drunkards like Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell. (Ironic considering that those same leaders, often perceived as “liberals,” are just as insistent on salvaging the term for themselves.) Most recently, the ecumenical journal First Things launched an evangelicalism-focused blog that devoted its first few days to further pulpifying the dead horse. Evangelicals simply cannot stop talking about who is and who is not an evangelical.

This definitional masturbation is frustrating for those who see many of the values typically associated with evangelicalism as worth preserving. First, it behaves as if evangelicalism were once a unified, coherent tradition to which Protestants can return. On the contrary, with its scatter-shot, authority-averse tendencies, evangelicalism has always been a concept in constant cultural flux, particularly in the democratic United States. Some evangelical denominations have kept a firmer grasp on their senses than others, but the broad sweep of American Christianity is hopelessly fractured, diluted, politicized, ideological, nationalistic, and often plain idiotic. The notion that the term and the culture it represents can be salvaged from this smoldering heap is naïve at best.

The fight to define evangelicalism in its latter days also operates on the mistaken premise that an imagined theological purity or conformance to a “lost” orthodoxy, rather than an emphasis on ethics, spiritual discipline and mystery, will revive the power of the Christian church. It is astonishing that so many intelligent Christians seem to believe there is a deficit in emphasis on evangelism and scriptural literalism, and that, if the hatches are just battened down on a more solid “worldview,” evangelicalism can resume explaining the universe to new generations of believers. In this respect, evangelicalism’s true believers resemble the faction of the Republican Party that asserts with a straight face that returning to “core principles,” and not a radical restructuring of priorities, will bring waves of Americans back to the right wing.

But so many twenty-somethings are not calling themselves “post-evangelical” because they know too little theology or have put too small an effort into synthesizing it with reality. They have come from the most apologetics-obsessed generation of Christians in American history, and have realized that many of their prepared answers are for questions that no one is asking. Adrift in the cultural sea, many turned to traditions and theological systems of the past, only to find those similarly unequipped to address the questions of our time. The only choice has been to begin the messy and at times overwhelming process of drafting something new.

The growing collection of post-evangelicals is what the defensive, definitional evangelical fears the most, and could by itself explain the recent obsession with protecting the label. Surely many of the intelligent professors, students, writers and bloggers rushing to its defense have also felt the naggings of cognitive dissonance and the inkling that the world might make more sense if they abandoned some of their cultural presuppositions. But haggling over the details of theology provides a psuedo-intellectual haven from real-world questions, where evangelicals can exercise their minds without coming to any unsettling conclusions. And thus the cycle of definition and redefinition continues, providing endless diversion as it cuts deeper and deeper ruts into what was once known as the Christian dialogue.

Refusing to align squarely with evangelical shibboleths requires courage, but the sooner it happens on a larger scale the better. All signs point to a near future where religion will play an increasingly climactic role in global culture and politics. Men and women who, as Mark Noll puts it in the final pages of The Evangelical Scandal, “think like a Christian”—by which he means “take seriously the sovereignty of God over the world he created”—should be leading the way on the meta questions that are already besieging society. But as long as they are busy drafting manifestos in their barricaded salons, hubristic rationalism will continue charging unchecked into the 21st century.

(Reprinted with permission from Patrol Magazine.)

Comments

  1. I just read this last night and immediately thought of you. Patrol Mag is now one of my absolute favorite magazines. They consistently hit the issues that need to be addressed. This editorial is especially needed for the American evangelical church. But I wonder how many who need to listen the most will listen at all?

  2. Z. J. Kendall says:

    I really dug the piece but in reference to :
    “They have come from the most apologetics-obsessed generation of Christians in American
    history, and have realized that many of their prepared answers are for questions that no
    one is asking.”
    What questions are being asked that aren’t answered?

    • Jeremiah Lawson says:

      I believe it would be more accurate to say that “worldview” evangelicals are presenting “Jesus is the answer” to a series of leading questions that evangelicals have been asking for generations. Even as a self-identifying evangelical I have considered this a problem ever since I got into my mid-20s.

    • Feliz Navidad says:

      Michael, thanks for the article. It is thought provoking — and true. One of the problems with American evangelism is that it is culrurally based — not really biblically based. I’ve heard evangelical pastors saying that you have to vote republican to be saved — that the reward of the true christian is material gain, etc. etc. I’m concerned that many evangelicals are Bible thumpers — not Bible readers. That many church services offer only snippets of the Bible — if that, and that too many Christians are only superficially acquainted with the Word — if that. As you have observed elsewhere, too many of the hymns teach no doctrine, and reflect Nashville not Christ. The argumentative, sometimes even hostile response of evangelicals is often based on emotion — even condemnation — but not authentic passion– granted by God’s grace — for God’s Word. In my hometown of Pittsburgh at the Pittsburgh History Museum, there is an old leather Bible that belonged to an early settler. The cover of the Bible is worn out where the owner’s hands gripped it day after day — but the pages are stuck together — because it was never opened! Is this a metaphor for American evangelistic Christianity?

    • “What questions are being asked that aren’t answered?”—Nobody’s asking any questions in the first place. People just assume they know the answers already. They don’t investigate the truth; they know it in their gut. Think of Stephen Colbert’s definition of “truthiness.”

      Of course, postmoderns like me are gonna argue that few ever really did that in the first place. The rational response is a fiction invented to cover up the embarrassing fact that human beings, unless they’re in the hard sciences, tend to make decisions with their hearts. Logic is only brought in after the fact to strengthen one’s position. We love God because He first loved us; not because we were forced to accept the logical conclusion of Anselm’s proofs for His existence.

    • ZJK and KWL,
      I [personally] hesitated to ask questions because it risks the cross-posting no-no. However, I will leave a link off this reply and just post questions I have seen and heard (and have):

      – If we call on God as Our Father, why do act as though he is Our Executioner?

      – Why did God create the Universe only to destroy it later?

      – What did Jesus actually accomplish on the Cross if the vast majority of humanity will end up in Hell?

      – What good is a creed it it’s revised every couple of generations or by the church down the street?

      – Does the world know the disciples of Jesus by their love for one another, or by their doctrine and denominational distinctives?

      – Is it a sin to doubt God?

      Point me in a direction of the nearest evangelicals who have really, seriously answered questions like this.

      • Those are good questions. But they don’t fall under the purview of “apologetics.” Christian apologetics is largely limited to the existence of God, the historicity of Jesus, the reliability of the bible, and the validity of miracles. (Unless you’re dispensationalist; then it’s the validity of miracles in bible times. And that’s as far as I’m opening that can of worms.)

        All your questions can fall under the purview of Christian doctrine and Christian behavior, and I’ve either heard or preached sermons on all of them. How “serious” those answers are, I’m gonna have to leave to your judgment. Most people figure they’re not serious answers if they don’t like them or they’re too brief. That I can’t help. Sometimes the best answer is honestly “God hasn’t said and all my guesses suck.”

      • Hi Justin,

        These are very good questions. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I’ll try to clarfy some.
        – God is love and like any loving Father He wants to have a pure relationship with His chilcren. We act as though He’s our excecutioner, because of fear as well as sin. Sin separates us from God, fear drives us away, and Satan banks on that big time. Because he hates us, he thwarts God’s truth and God’s image. As a result we become more fearful and find it more difficult to come into His presence.

        – Again the real issue here is sin. Sin can not exist in the presense of a perfectly Holy and Pure God. Adam was not created to die, but because he disobeyed God, he was driven from God’s presence, thus separated. Any separation from the presence of the Holy God equals death.

        – Believe it or not, the vast majority of the humanity will end up in Heaven. God’s promise to Abraham was that “I will make your descendents GREATER than the stars in heaven and the sand of the sea”. This is(will be) accomplished by the finished and perfect work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. God’s desire is for all men to be saved, not a select few. Heaven is for ALL who have come to believe on Christ. They outnumber the number of stars and the sand of the sea.

        – There is only one creed I know to be the absolute truth…Christ and Him Crucified! Everything else, is man-made.

        – You are right, the world should know the disciples of Jesus by their love for one another (and for others), rather than anything else. Any division is man-made

        – Is it a sin to doubt God? No, not at all, but it is sin to ultimately reject Him. God wants you and me to go to Him even when in doubt, after all, He is God, knows all things, and loves us regardless.

  3. “As this magazine has chronicled, its brightest children are throwing up their hands in record numbers, defecting heavy-heartedly to less temporal churches, or to no church at all.”

    That’s the number one crisis of young adult life, right there.

    However, I am trying not to think of it as “defection.” That’s an evangelical way to describe the action. True, in my depressed moments I feel like I jumped ship, lost faith, or turned traitor. I still cry about it, from time to time. But in my better moments, I realize that I’ve merely found a new “way of being” Christian, one I can better reconcile with my deepest longings and convictions.

    Does that still mean I am an evangelical? I don’t know. I think I am done worrying about the question.

    • Maybe you need to stop crying about it and quit worrying if you are an evangelical. How about finding a local church that does its best to be Biblically based, Christ centered and obeys Christ’s commandment to tell the nations the gospel? If your “new ‘way of being” a Christian is not in line with what Christ and his apostles taught in the New Testament then you need to be concerned. Go to church, pray to God and love him with all your being, read your Bible daily, love your neighbor as much as you love your self and ensure that your deepest longings and convictions are in line with Christ’s.

      • Maybe I have been unclear. I am focusing on practicing my faith. I have committed myself to a local church. My longings and convictions might not all be correct (the heart is deceitful above all things), but they are rooted in my desire to know Christ.

        My point is merely that this quest has taken me out of the evangelical movement — or at least to its periphery. And when you have spent years believing that Christianity might end or at least get murky at the borders of your own movement, this is a hard step to take. I am not trying to be self-indulgent by saying this; I am merely observing that there is a subgroup of young evangelicals who are ill-at-ease. These persons are not leaving because they’ve failed to care or to read their Bibles or pray. They hate to leave, and it takes them months or years to make the jump.

        • Danielle,

          Jacob’s remarks are convicting. If I was hurtful, sorry. I can be sharp with my remarks at times. My excuse is limited time so I hammer out the thoughts in the few minutes I get. Not able to access the site very often over here. So, if you read this, sorry if my reply was hurtful.

          “Christianity might end” – not possible, if it is true.

      • KYReserve,

        I say this as humbly as I can, but I found the tone of your response to be lacking in all the things you enumerated at the end of your comment. If I was Danielle, I would be pretty hurt by your words.

  4. Eh… I don’t know Michael. Yes, evangelicalism is fragmenting. But what of these so-called “post-evangelicals?” All I have really seen of those who wear that label is an evangelical who doesn’t like evangelicalism. They are largely Protestant in the same way most evangelicals are. They see the Bible as foundational to defining the faith, justification as watershed doctrine that seperates us from the RCC, and an insistance to reach people with the gospel. Perhaps you can reply to people like me who are in dark about the content of post-evangelicals?

    • You’re speaking of post-evangelicals as if we are a team with a conference and our own cast of speakers. Adam, I don’t know what we are. All I know after 8 years here at IM is that we are here. We are evangelicals who are not going to make peace with evangelicalism. Some of us have found shelter in other communions and in the emerging movement, but I tell people all the time that when I read Eugene Peterson and say YES, it’s not to reclai or fix anything or to even start something new. I resonate with this article completely because I think most of us are just trying to find who we are and where we. We are looking around and finding others and finding evidence that whatever is happening is about to happen in a much bigger way, but many of us don’t know where to go next. We’re in the most INTERIM position I know. We are staying in, but not buying. We’re looking far back and far beyond the next big thing and wondering if we’re lost or just waking up to understand what it means to be found.

      Don’t ask the confused for directions 🙂 Just because we are standing on the corner doesn’t mean we know where we are or where we are going.

      • You’re telling us the ship is sinking (and apparently has been for quite some time) but you have no idea where the life vests are. The above article is shouting the ship sinking but gives us only the vaguest of clues of whether or not the life vests exist. No one is giving directions on how to patch the holes, but they’re all yelling its not worth the effort.

        Hey I’d consider myself a post-evangelical, but I grow tired of all problems and no solutions. I’m postmodern enough to realize you can live in a solutionless environment, but if you going to poke your finger in the sore at least tell me what I can do to heal.

        • Brendan, I’ve been guilty of cynicism and ranting. These are not the Jesus way and can be a way of only poking my finger into a sore that needs healing. There are many who read this blog and other voices that cry out that something is wrong, there is a problem, the predominant ways and means we have been using for many decades if not centuries are not working and only seem to perpetuate the sickness of our churches. I know the problem is not Jesus or his ways.

          Perhaps, we need to learn to both speak and hear the difference between “ranting” and “lamenting”. I read folks like Michael because I believe at the bottom of his heart is lament. Perhaps, the Spirit is calling us to live in a liminal season of lament. A painful time between problem and Solution. If so, may we lament with humility and hope.

          • mick is right, we do live “between problem and Solution.”

            I forgot who said it, but our current Christian lives take place after Christ’s crucifixion but before Christ’s resurrection.

        • Todd Erickson says:

          There have been a number of authors making a stab at the solution. I would offer Dallas Willard as a firm trend toward resolution.

          His main point is that the modern church has lost all bearing on discipleship. Our churches create bible experts answering staged questions which are reformulations of ideas that are 500+ years old, but which essentially encourage behaviour which would have a baseball star on a professional team never practicing, just expecting to hit home runs when he gets up to the plate.

          The life in Christ should inform all of the questions and reactions, but instead the life in the church is one of institutional answers, behaviour, bible reading, church attendance, etc. It’s not, for the most part, a lifestyle which informs the world of Christ (through the lifestyle testimony of it’s followers) but instead informs people of their need for sin management.

          So the life raft church will actively seek to act in the world on a daily basis in a manner which reflects Christ (not with condemnation, but with Love and activity). It’s praise, it’s Orthodoxy, etc. will all follow out of a life in Christ. In so many ways, the Protestant Church has formed it’s own version of the Catholic “Traditions which must be followed”, much as it tries to deny it.

          If you find yourself unable to find the life raft, it’s probably because you’re trying to maintain too many of those traditions as you leave the boat.

        • Better to be in the water than on a sinking ship that will suck you down endlessly.

      • I’m with you on that corner, and I can tell you plain as day that i have no idea where I’m going. I know evangelicalism is full of holes, some of which are in the foundation. In particular, the issue of authority. They’ve backed themselves into a corner with sola scriptura. All evangelicals seem to want to do is appeal to the Bible, but they have no means for determining what is an acceptable interpretation. As a result, the fragmentation continues to accelerate. “Every man does that which is right in his own eyes”—the period of the Judges, today’s evangelicalism, or both?

    • But let me say this definitional conversation has got something wrong with it. When I saw 9 Marks and then a line up of others knocking the Nicene Creed while they sponsored the umpteenth Internet conference on “Who are the REAL Evangelicals?” I have to wonder if I am in a bad Catholic movie.

      Once again LUTHERANS!!! ARGHTERQ#)_R@O#ROU#@RHO!!

  5. “If the hatches are just battened down on a more solid ‘worldview,’ evangelicalism can resume explaining the universe to new generations of believers.”

    I really despise the “worldview” brand of true-believism which will inevitably lead to the demise of evangelicalism in the US that the author speaks about. Their approach basically consists of a totalizing dominionism where any departure from religio-political viewpoint of the leaders is immediately condemned as “unbiblical”–including following their views on things like the US income tax.

    But what about evangelicalism in other countries? It seems to still be quite popular in places like Korea, but that is only speaking as an outsider.

    • I wouldn’t connect this analysis to evangelicals outside the west. Not to say there aren’t the same issues in the pipeline, but they are at a different place in their evolution as a movement. But they will dependably pick up a lot of evangelicalism’s diseases.

      • My gut feeling is that eventually they will find themselves at roughly the same place we are today.

      • Dave: I think the “Sunday morning show” is in some trouble. Give it another decade and a half and get back with me. I think the gas is running low.

        • The “Sunday morning show” is a good analogy for the TV generation. A new show can indeed be sensationally popular…for awhile. Then there’s the gimmicks to keep it running, then the eventual over-the-top “shark jump,” and finally, the cancellation—people get bored and watch something else.

          • L. Winthrop says:

            Right–the larger, most established churches have long since gone into reruns (but isn’t the whole church thing supposed to be reruns?), and are received in much the same spirit as “TV Land” on Nickolodeon. A few of the more gung-ho ones belong on some strange cable channel full of UFO specials, or have gone straight to You-Tube.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Then there’s the gimmicks to keep it running, then the eventual over-the-top “shark jump,” and finally, the cancellation—people get bored and watch something else.

            Followed by the fanfics hanging on for years, then around 20-30 years later the Retconned Remake (“Reimagined Revival”) for Nostalgia purposes (i.e. to make money off the aging fanboys).

        • So if Sunday morning is not best then what? Is Sunday the Sabbath? If so then what time, what format, what songs, what prayers, what is the method that a local body of believers is to keep from “forsaking the assembly”; to sacrificially give to thier Pastor who is worthy of double honor/care for the widows and orphans in their assembly/etc.

          Again, if you don’t like the format the come up with a different, albeit Biblically based, one and follow the commands of Christ. BUT, if we simply leave the current format because we don’t like it then we asking someone to tickle our ears.

          —————————-
          For you Mike, I was finally able to get to an internet connection with my laptop thus able to get on. Not sure when I can again. Say hello to Denise. Will be home from Iraq in January, Lord willing.
          ——————————–

    • The term “evangelical” gets more complex when talking about other countries. In Latin America, for example, an evangelical (evangélico) is considered to be anyone who isn’t Roman Catholic. Los evangélicos amount to about 10-15% of the population and include Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, at least as far as los católicos are concerned.

      • Wouldn’t you include Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses as evangelicals in the US? If there are 2 groups known for their evangelizing, it is these two.

        • No. That’s not anywhere near the traditional definition of an Evangelical is. Mormons and JWs hold beliefs that are counter to the historic Christian faith. They are definitely not within the Evangelical fold.

    • As a Korean, I think you are grossly simplifying evangelicalism in Korea. Many Christians in Korea are very legalistic and their churches are fraught with divisions over petty personal issues. To make it worse, the prosperity gospel is HUGE in Korea! Trust me, I grew up in the Korean church, and Joel Osteen is a legend there! Koreans love the guy! Especially the older generation, they admire all things American, capitalistic, and successful…such as Western Evangelicalism!

      But not all is bad. Koreans have an good understanding of oppression and pain, there’s even a special Korean word for this cultural concept called “Han.” Compared to China or Japan, Korea has the highest percentage of Protestants in East Asia. This is probably because Korea was really a pitiful nation back in the day as it was continually bullied and conquered by Japan and China. Realizing its continual oppression, Koreans sought hope and salvation in Christ. This is probably why Christianity never spread too well in China and Japan because these nations generally prospered in history, while Korea didn’t.

      • I don’t know how I could have oversimplified Korean evangelicalism when I really didn’t attempt to say much about it, except that it was popular and then admitted my ignorance–and you seem to be in agreement there. My anecdotal encounters agree with your assessment of black and white legalism.

  6. It isn’t just the young who are leaving; I’m 3 months away from 60, and my wife and I left our last “church” or non-profit corp. or whatever you want to call it last January. (I don’t consider “church” the best term; how do you leave something you are?) We do have an informal group of believers we gather with, but we’re probably too informal for Frank Viola and a lot of other house church gurus, if that tells you anything.

    What do we want? Less of “churchianity” and more of Christ, for starters. Less “Sunday morning show” (either of the contemporary or traditional worship styles) and more walking the walk 7 days a week. Less Institution and more Life.

    What gets me, at my age, is that these problems were seen by some people 30 years ago! (Check out “Brethren, Hang Loose” by Robert C. Girard, which I first read in the early 1970s) The evangelical “clubs” did not deal with the problems then, and most are resisting facing them now. There have been a lot of things over the last thirty years that could have resulted in another “great awakening” but the majority of evangelicals were too content in their happy little ruts. What is going to happen if God Almighty is as tired of the “same old same old” as we are?

    • Sir,

      You told us that you just church hopped again. Tell us how it has helped you to tell the nations the gospel, how has it caused you to go to the local jail and spend time with the imprisoned, how has it caused you to care for the widows and orphans, how has it helped you to love Christ more, be sacrificial with your belongings/time/energy?

      • L. Winthrop says:

        Er, wasn’t there also something in that book about showing charity to others, refraining from judgement (whoops–now I did it too), stuff like that?

  7. When was this a united front? It must refer to the glory days of the moral(?) majority(?). About twelve years ago, a prominent evangelical leader commented that the once united cultural front had fragmented a degraded into small, isolated forces hunkered down in foxholes. There’s no going back to those glory days, and I am glad for it. When evangelicals talk about uniting under a conservative social agenda rather than a common declaration of faith like the Nicean Creed, the game is over. Icabod! Icabod! The Spirit has departed.

    • It actually reminds me of last year’s imonk posts quoting Franky Schaefer, where he compared evangelicals’ emphasis on culture war with liberals in the sixties. Both replaced the gospel with something else.

  8. “…an emphasis on ethics, spiritual discipline and mystery, will revive the power of the Christian church…’
    Really?
    Do we need to re-write Acts 1:8?

    • That comes pretty close to drive-by scripture tossing. I hope you’ll expand if you plan to comment.

      • Sure, and sorry for the drive-by.

        I generally agree with Patrol’s diagnosis of evangelicism, but not their cure, or at least the way they stated it. Many religions that have ethics, and spiritual discipline, and mystery. Is that what is necessary to revive the “power of the Christian church”? I just recently re-read Romans, so that’s underpinning my thoughts here:

        I don’t think that ethics is the main point of the gospel; it is the point of the Law. Paul would describe the Law as “weak” in the flesh (Romans 2:17-23) as compared to the power of life in the Spirit (Romans 8, and the Acts 1:8).

        I am not belittling the place of ethics or spiritual discipline or mystery per se. I just think that the Bible speaks more clearly as to where we will find the power of the church:
        “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the *revelation* of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but is *now manifested*…” Romans 16:25-26

        • Steve, thanks for adding to your comment. I’m certainly no expert in exegeting scripture within its historical context and know little of the guest bloggers but I do believe the practices of spiritual discipline(s) and intentional openness to mystery were already routine to both the Jewish culture, the early Christian culture and most pagan religions of the day. Some may have over-emphasized them making them a legalism or magical. But we are on the other end of the spectrum which is why I think they are vital for us to move from an overly rationalistic and consumer driven model which seems to sink about an inch deep into our soul vs. a deeper, more responsive “Jesus shaped spirituality” that is still a growing in (and by) Grace.

  9. Christiane says:

    THANK YOU MICHAEL !!!!!
    I love that term ‘drive-by Scripture-tossing’.
    That says EXACTLY what it means. :))))))

  10. This article has a lot of good observations and is written in a clever and provking manner. There’s just one problem. It offers no solutions. Am I the only person sick of reading bogs and aticles that heap up criticism after citcism without offering any reasonable solution?
    There is a valid place for someone who recognizess something is wrong without knowing how to fix it, especially if others don’t realize things are broken. But surely we are past that point. Are the readers of Patrol walking around thinking everything’s alright with the american church?

    • But surely we are past that point.

      Actually, if I leave the comfortable confines of my chair here, it becomes readily apparent, at every church I visit or attend, or group of Christians I meet with, that we surely are not past that point.

      • I’m not saying that every christian and every church is past that point, I’m saying that articles like this have been published in magazines, internet, and blogs, ad nauseum over the past few years. The idea that american evangelicalism is broken and empty is out there and the case is pretty solid for anyone willing look at it. Articles such as this one just pile on without offering anything in return. It’s time to start offering up a viable alternative if these critics are to be taken seriously (*warning* shameless attempt to brown nose ahead) such as the one offered on this blog with the Coming Evangelical Collapse. Most others however are just content to sit with the proverbial peanut gallery.

        • Right now, I am finding some glimmers of hope in Thomas Oden’s systematic theology, Robert Webber’s and D.H. Williams’ writings, along with others who are advocating “paleo-orthodoxy” as a way forward. They are basically encouraging the church to return to the orthodoxy of the church in the first 6 centuries as the basis for unity and witness in the 21st century.

          • L. Winthrop says:

            But wouldn’t that mean becoming Catholic or Orthodox? Obviously not, I guess, but why? How do these guys determine what “paleo-orthodoxy” means?

          • Totally agree, although I am not sure how we incorporate that yet. But it is the way forward.

            I don’t necessarily agree on the Sola Scriptura issue you raised earlier. When seen in the light of Anglican (Scripture, Tradition, Faith), or Wesley’s Quad., Sola Scr. still works. It should be seen as above these others, but not apart from these others (which has caused some problems).

        • Patrick Lynch says:

          By and large, these viewpoint pieces are the personal initatives of people who are in distress about the situation in their home churches – they’re voicing their concern and confusion to the internet BECAUSE their local church isn’t hearing or seeing the problems they’re facing.

          I don’t think that hurting people should need to offer us a litany of possible solutions before we should concern ourselves with their problems.

          And of course Patrol is offering something ‘in return’ – the complaint itself is an umbrella that everybody underneath it can identify and resource for understanding, and since this is the Internet, it gives rise to a little community of far-flung strangers who are all observing the same problems locally – and healthy community is precisely what these people feel is LACKING in evangelicalism.

          You know – kind of like how the first 20 comments on every thread on this blog are people telling iMonk how he’s restored their faith or blessed them somehow, just by being honest.

          I sort of hate that you’re characterizing disaffected people as simply lazy or members of a ‘peanut gallery’ of whiny non-contributors though.

        • So, RP, what is your solution, then?
          –Justin

      • “The scandal of the evangelical mind,” Mark Noll has written, “Is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”

        Interestingly, he later commented that so many evangelicals responded positively to his book that he began to suspect there was perhaps more of an evangelical mind than he had thought.

        I tend also to think that there is still hope … but there will be serious growing pains. IMHO, the movement really, really needs to get honest about its intellectual shortcomings and narrow social witness. To do this, it absolutely must make certain “dangerous” questions into “faithful” questions. And it must stop threatening to shoot those persons in its ranks most likely to ask these questions.

    • I’m not sure there is a permanent or long-term solution. ISTM that text-based religions will by definition or default have or develop these kinds of problems. It’s the nature of the beast (pardon the pun).

      I.e., you see it in Judaism and its many varieties, and I suspect you’d also see it in Islam if you knew the religion well enough (which I don’t), as well as in other faiths that have a set of sacred texts that permit more than one interpretation.

  11. I’ve been reading Lesslie Newbigin lately, and naturally I think everyone should. Newbigin insists on defining the Christian faith by its center, not by any boundaries. This sounds very much like St. Augustine’s infamous line, “Love God and do as you please,” or Paul’s rhetorical question concerning legalism: “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle?”

    From an interview of Lesslie Newbigin by Andrew Walker in 1988:

    “WALKER: I mean, if somebody was to come here, put you into a corner and say, ‘Now look here Bishop, what have you got to believe to be a believing Christian?’, what would you say were the basics?

    “NEWBIGIN: I would simply say, ‘Jesus Christ, the final and determinative centre around which everything else is understood.’ If that is there, I am not enthusiastic about drawing exact boundaries. I think you can define an entity by its boundaries or by its centre. I think that Christianity is an entity defined by its centre. So provided a person is, as it were, ‘looking to Jesus’, and seeing him as the central, decisive, determinative reality in relation to which all else is to be understood, then even if his ideas are weird or off-beat, I would regard him as a brother in Christ.

    “But once you start trying to define Christianity by its boundaries, you’ll always come up against some kind of legalism. You know: ‘Has he been baptised? Has he been confirmed? Was the bishop who confirmed him in the right apostolic succession?’ and so forth. Or: ‘Has he had the right kind of religious experience? Was his conversion datable? Did he have those kinds of feelings at that time?’ and so on. You always finish up with some kind of legalism, whereas I think Christianity is to be defined by its centre.”

    • I do want to affirm this sentiment and express my qualified agreement with it. Qualified, I say, because there are real matters in the Church demanding that boundaries be defined, as far as I can tell. The one that I can name off the top of me head is the prohibition on suing Christians. Well, what’s a Christian? If there’s nothing clear, we’re left to our own devices, which will almost invariably err on the side of suing the other person.

  12. Whoa!!??…how did i miss that one? spot on – thanks! (reprinting)

  13. Great post, Michael. Patrol mag is now bookmarked on my computer. They have articulated a lot of what I have been experiencing in the past few years. I agree they don’t provide any solutions, but I don’t think there’s going to be a conference or a manifesto or blueprint any time soon from us in the evangelical wilderness, and I don’t see that as a bad thing. I think there’s a lot of desire to follow Jesus and be Jesus shaped; that’s why I’m here. But that is not an easy path or one that lends itself to neat written statements that button up every doctrine and practice. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, it’s not safe, but it is good.

  14. Scott Miller says:

    “First, it behaves as if evangelicalism were once a unified, coherent tradition to which Protestants can return.”
    No, most evangelicals simply want to return to the 1950’s.

    • LoL – Ditto

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And not even the REAL 1950s, but a Mythic 1950s According to Ozzie, Harriet, and Donna Reed.

      I was a kid in the REAL 195os and First 1960s, and I don’t remember anything like they remember. Except on TV reruns. Or the wall pictures and hymnals of my writing partner’s rural PA church.

      No, most evangelicals simply want to return to Pleasantville with a Christian coat of paint.

    • I recently got into an argument with my mom about what actually took place in the ’50s as opposed to what she personally remembers. I used the example of the movie Milk, which I’d just seen—I grew up in the Bay Area in the ’70s, and at the time, I knew nothing about any of the events in that movie. Because she and my dad sheltered me from it.

      “I don’t fault you for that,” I said; “you felt I was too young for such things. But it gave me an extremely inaccurate picture of the world I grew up in. I thought it was safe and stable. It wasn’t at all. And your parents likewise sheltered you from everything distasteful about the ’50s, and that’s why you think things were so much better back then. They weren’t. They were just better at hiding it.”

      This whole idealized-past sucky-future thing is most of the reason why Evangelicals just love the premillennial end-times stuff, but that’s another rant.

      The idealized-past belief of course includes the idea that Evangelicals were at one point a unified whole, fully in agreement with doctrines, objectives and goals. Billy Graham can certainly tell you different. Evangelicalism has always been in the mess it’s currently in, and has always suffered the flaws that we’re now discussing. We’ve just been better at hiding it.

      That’s why, contra Michael (but respectfully), I don’t believe it’s going to collapse. It’ll just evolve, same as it always has, into something that keeps preaching Jesus, holds to traditional Protestantism, and simultaneously lurches from fad to fad.

      • Ross from KY says:

        “The idealized-past belief of course includes the idea that Evangelicals were at one point a unified whole, fully in agreement with doctrines, objectives and goals.”

        But until we got cable TV and the internet most of the disagreements never made news. Of any kind. One thing TV, then cable, and now the internet has done is expose warts all over everywhere that no one admitted existed.

        Don’t blame your parents. In the 50s even with national TV the news from the networks was 15 minutes each night. And your local paper filtered a lot.

        • I don’t blame my parents. Parents should keep their kids away from things they deem inappropriate. (Though they should pay better attention to when the kids are finally mature enough to be told the truth, but that’s another rant too.)

          And yes, there was a pretty big nanny-state mentality in the media at the time. They were stuck in WWII propaganda mode for nearly three decades after that war was over. Watergate finally snapped them out of it, and the 24-hour news cycle multiplied it by three.

          It’s understandable that people want to be sheltered again, and evangelicalism promises to do that. But it’s a false promise.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        K.W, the “idealized-past belief” is one of the three elements of a Grievance Culture — a culture whose only reason for existing is Revenge on the Other. The three elements are:

        1) The Idealized Perfect Past (when WE were the ones on top).
        2) Changes that turned the Idealized Past into the Sucky Present (when THEY came and took it away from us).
        3) PAYBACK TIME!

        I’ve seen this “group mythology” pattern in the Ku Klux Klan, the original Nazis, the original Communists, the Afrocentrists, the Raza Boys, and the Islamic Jihadists and Palestinians. And I see the same pattern developing in American Culture War Christianity, especially as things change farther and farther from their Idealized Perfect Past and they become more and more marginalized, more and more desperate.

    • The Guy from Knoxville says:

      I think there is some validity to your statment on returning to the 1950s. At my last church where I was organist for 7 1/2 years the 3rd music director (we had 5 different music guys counting intrerims during those 7 1/2 years) came in and during his short time the pastor decided to have two Sunday morning services – one early “traditional” and the later one “blended/contemporary”. The folks at the early service (mostly 55+ age group) had really been desiring a more traditional service and the music guy, and to some degree the pastor, really disliked the idea of having to “give in” to “those people” and so the music guy stated if they wanted traditional, he would give them traditional and proceeded to use the oldest hymns where possible, no choir, organ only accompaniment (I enjoyed that aspect by the way) a sermon, invitation and it was over. Neither the pastor or the music guy liked or wanted to do that service and it was oh so obvious which contributed to its eventual demise. Now both guys (pastor and music guy) were, without question, wrong in their approach and attitude towards doing that service and were really guilty of the very same things they liked to accuse “those people” of doing – they were both hard nosed and unyielding and, believe me, “those people”, for the most part, were not nearly so hard nosed and unyielding as the pastor and music guy were about all this.

      Now, all that above to say this, those folks in the early service did not what that kind of traditional and I told the music guy as much. What they wanted was the post WW2 (1945-1965) model of SBC worship with the hymns and songs that they were familiar with, choir, solid gospel preaching etc. All that I was fine with and I do enjoy that even though I was born in 1963 – my rural SBC church was still very much in the post WW2 model through most of my childhood as were many others even in town.
      The point of all my “rabbit chasing” is that you are correct – a good many evangelicals, esp the older generation, would most certainly go back to that 1950s church model if given the chance and suprisingly I’ve noted in the last year or two that some, NOT ALL BUT SOME, of the late teens and newly turned 20 somethings would not be put off at all with a similar approach because they are becoming rather put out with the entertainment mentality of the mega churches and the rural churches that try, unsuccessfully, to imitate them. They want more depth than is offered in that mess these days.

      Well, that probably didn’t make much sense but, it’s my contribution to the discussion….. at least this particular response post anyway.

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    In this respect, evangelicalism’s true believers resemble the faction of the Republican Party that asserts with a straight face that returning to “core principles,” and not a radical restructuring of priorities, will bring waves of Americans back to the right wing.

    I’ve always thought they resemble mid- to late-period Soviet Communists, whose answer to any problem was “Increase Political Consciousness of the Masses.” Until you had all the Soviet school system and media “Increasing Political Consciousness” 24/7 (and the KGB making sure All Were Sufficiently Indoctrinated) while the USSR crumbled anyway.

    But as long as they are busy drafting manifestos in their barricaded salons, hubristic rationalism will continue charging unchecked into the 21st century.

    Because when you have no future (or turn your back on the future), the future happens anyway. Without you. And you find yourselves Left Behind.

  16. I want to like Patrol a lot more than I do. It’s much better than it was years ago as a kid yelling “You Suck!” to all Christian Music not aimed at 20-year-olds, but there’s still that Pitchfork-like hipster attitude. You can kind of guess how they’ll look at each album and issue (Sufjan = Genius. Jars of Clay = okay, but CCM. Ashley Cleveland = who?) But on this one they show impressive insight.

    My biggest frustration about the Evangelical name debate is that it assumes that “Evangelical” means “Certified Real Christian” and Evangelicalism means “100% Certified Christian Doctrine.” Everyone else is suspect at best. The other issue I’ve had is that I somehow survived 20+ years in the Evangelical church and movements (and another 10 in a fairly conservative mainline church) without needing a bunch of different groups telling us what Evangelicalism was. I didn’t even know that an Evangelical wasn’t just a Christian group who was prone to Evangelism until my mid 20s. It wasn’t until 5 years ago I heard the hand-wringing about evangelicals from both conservative Christians circling the wagons and a panicky media writing alarmist headlines and books.

    • L. Winthrop says:

      I thought Sufjan was a Subudian…? (He got his name from parents who were/are followers of Subud, an Indonesian spiritual movement.) Did he convert or something?

  17. There’s an old saying: If your horse dies, dismount.
    And maybe Western Evangelicalism shouldn’t spend too much time and effort trying to resurrect our dead horse. And maybe we shouldn’t even go looking for a new horse or try jumping on someone else’s bandwagon. Maybe we should just try walking for a while. I think the exercise would be good for us. And let’s keep only what we can carry on our backs — by which I mean those central elements of Evangelicalism that are in keeping with the central truths of the gospel. As far as all the religious/political/cultural BS — I say just let it all die of natural causes.
    Still, that dying process is likely to be ugly and (to a certain extent) heartwrenching to watch — kind of like the unraveling of the RCC’s position as a major world political power in the three centuries following the outbreak of the Reformation. But I don’t think God intended for evangelicals to be the protectors and preservers of upper middle class, white, American piety anymore than He intended for the Papacy to crown and depose emperors and kings. Political wrangling and cultural power positioning just aren’t going to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth. Only the gospel of Christ being truly believed and lived out in the lives of His people will ever get us there.

    • Patrick Lynch says:

      “But I don’t think God intended for evangelicals to be the protectors and preservers of upper middle class, white, American piety anymore than He intended for the Papacy to crown and depose emperors and kings.”

      Yeah, seriously.

  18. This article is true but like a lot of commenters on evangelicalism if the author does not offer some realistic solution then he is just whiny. I am in the military and when I go to the boss to address a problem with a person/program/system/schedule/etc I am expected to not just remark on the problem but to address some possible solutions. To do otherwise just leads to a bad day. The article hints at the possibility that the author has some recommended solution with the phrase ” should be leading the way on the meta questions that are already besieging society” but he does not bother with even stating what the “meta questions” are. He simply lobs another round at the evangilicals who are trying (wrong headed yes, but trying) to offer some kind of solution. Again, the article is well written, on the mark and bluntly lays out the problem with others addressing the issue but fails to offer any solutions. Would like to see such a thoughtful author use some of that talent and energy to address some solutions or at least tell us what the “meta questions” are, if not then he is just another whiner tickling his own ears.

    Could the “meta questions” be: how do we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, care for the widow and orphan, preach the gospel, respect our husbands, love our wives as Christ loved the church, train up our children in the way they should go or some other strange teachings we might have read about once or twice but can only vaguely recall because we spend so much time with our technology/sports schedules/landscaping/gossiping about our neighbors/etc. Failing to address those questions is what is wrong with evangelicalism. It is not just what evangelicals are doing, it is what they are NOT doing that needs to be discussed in these forums.

    • Jeremiah Lawson says:

      KYReserve, my observation (for what little it is worth) has been that evangelicalism has divided unnecessarily into groups that focus on either the first half of those eight tasks or the second half. These are the divides that Americans typically divide into “liberal” and “conservative”. When I have seen people in church traditions that focus on the last four suggest dealing with the first four the suggestion is usually met with “We are called to preach the Word and are not supposed to wait on tables”, replete with warnings about “social gospel”.

      The groups that focus on the first four don’t always do a good job adding the last four and can get upset that if those are brought in that “pursuing social justice” is being neglected. It is interesting how people devoted to one half or the other look with suspicion on the group that embraces that other half in American evangelicalism, generally for both theological and political reasons. Setting aside the supposition that conservative theology had to lead to conservative politics and vice versa was one of the most liberating personal discoveries I made in the last twenty years.

      Both the “liberal” and “conservative” versions of American evangelicalism have adopted “social gospels” where people preach and teach toward the social agendas they want to see in society. The best idea I can come up with is we challenge ourselves to repent of the “social gospel” we are most tempted to call the whole of the good news about Jesus. Instead of lamenting how other people have compromised the Christian life and Christian teaching by focusing on their 4/8 we should examine ourselves regarding the 4/8 that we aren’t living out. The hands are trying to get by without eyes and the eyes are trying to get by without hands. Neither the mythic 1950s nor the mythic 1960s is what American evangelicalism needs to get back to. As Ecclesiastes put it so beautifully, don’t ask yourself where the good old days have gone because that’s a foolish question to ask. Let’s bring to God the idols we worship and try to be less bent out of shape about the idols we think others have. That’s tough, and painful, and I most assuredly suck at it.

      • Jeremiah,

        I don’t know if this observation is American Catholicism or Catholicism overall. I’ve made the identical one on the parish level the last ten years that I’ve been one. The friendliler parishes tended to do more social type outreach, but not nearly as good with orthodox theology or ritual and the reverse.

        I’m selfish, I want both. GRIN

        • Jeremiah Lawson says:

          As a Protestant I admit I want both, too. I know just enough church history to know that people have been greatly helped when Christians and Christian communities embrace both halves.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Unfortunately, these days we usually have to choose between a Social Gospel without personal salvation or a Fundamental Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation. Both of which call Jihad on the other as well as all comers.

    • I am in the military and when I go to the boss to address a problem with a person/program/system/schedule/etc I am expected to not just remark on the problem but to address some possible solutions.

      I work in the corporate world in IT and when I see a problem its perfectly ok to say “Hey! Here’s a problem.” Now, the next step should be a willingness to address the problem and come up with a solution – whether it be something I do or finding the right people for the job.

      Different worlds, I suppose. But actually acknowledging the sickness seems like a valid first step.

  19. On “solutions”:

    I hear this over and over from certain commenters. I respect you, but I don’t agree.

    1) To lament and protest is part of the solution.

    2) To end the silence and acknowledge our true situation is part of the solution.

    3) A big part of the solution for evangelicalism is just to STOP what it’s doing. Stop it.

    4) Some of you are parts of denoms and churches that exist as a rejection of evangelicalism. I respect your choice. I suspect that behind your call for a “solution” along with a protest is a desire for your solution to be nominated as the best one. That’s a very mixed bag, as this column points out. Joining a church where we spend all our time nailing down theological fine points isn’t the solution many of us are looking for.

    5) If you’ve read me for 8 years or 2 years and don’t know the direction of the solution I’ve made, then I don’t know what to say. I can’t post everything everytime. It’s somewhat of a conversation here.

    6) Evangelicals are enlightenment modernists who are all about “solutions.” That’s part of the problem.

    • My solution is “Come, Lord Jesus.”

    • “Solutions”

      Why isn’t Jesus enough?

      Didn’t Abraham go out not knowing where he was going? Heb 11:8

      Trust and obey. NOT think and decide.

      Why isn’t Jesus enough?

    • I think asking for solutions is exactly part of the issue. I have much of an engineer’s mind, even tho I’m not an engineer, and I’ve learned much from my wife who definitely has a different mind. (as well as from counseling class)

      Sometimes when people are asking questions (or stating problems), they’re not necessarily looking for answers. Sometimes they’re just looking for someone to listen. Healing can take place without someone ever having been told a “solution”. Sometimes I think we underestimate God.

      Maybe western Christianity has existed for so long in a world that was used to people asking questions and Christians giving answers, and now the world is shifting so that this is no longer a fitting response.

    • The reason Jesus isn’t enough is because you can’t control Jesus.

      The reason we look for solutions instead of looking to Christ is because we can implement the solutions and don’t have to wait on Christ.

      Every denomination has been created to institutionalize a move of the Holy Spirit. Notice how there’s a lot of them? It’s because the Spirit is awfully busy. But rather than follow Him from good work to good work, we keep trying to cage Him.

    • Awesome.

    • Love point #6): some trust in chariots……some in horses……some in reasoning fueled on Red-Bull and loud music…… ironic that we howl at Voltaire and Russell for not being aware of their rationalistic limits. Nice list.

      Greg R

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        You can keep your “reasoning fueled on Red Bull”; I’m running off with the Last Unicorn…

  20. Something just struck me about all this.

    Isn’t everyone in the Evangelical discussion just being reactionary and then complaining that the people who don’t agree with them are wrong?

    Some reacted by trying to make church more entertaining.
    Some reacted by saying we need more of the ancient church.
    Some reacted by saying we need more Bible or more theology.
    Some reacted by saying theology needed to change.
    Some reacted by saying we need to train more Christians in the Bible.
    Some reacted by saying we need more spiritual disciplines.

    Now people are reacting by saying all the previous reactions were wrong and stupid.

  21. Okay. Here’s my question: Where DOES one go?

    I mean that seriously. I have lamented and been frustrated for a long time with the anti-intellectualism, the ‘left behind’ escapism, the simplistic biblical interpretation (the ‘drive-by Scripture tossing’ comment was great), the young-earth creationism, the bunker mentality, the legalism and non-biblical restrictions on life, the political activism (but only on a very narrowly-defined set of issues), and the general ‘us against them’ attitude of evangelicals. Okay, I’m sold already.

    My question is – what alternatives are there? Is there any place (church, demonination, maybe commune for heaven’s sake ?) where one can find honest people living in real biblical community, who take the Bible seriously and interpret it accurately (not like it’s ‘God’s love letter to you’ but an ancient book written to ancient people with an ancient world-view through which God conveys his truth and redemptive plan), aren’t afraid of the world (and their shadow), who have a solid ‘creational theology’ (it isn’t ALL about what happens when you die – we have to live, and in fact I want to live – here for a little while longer), who aren’t tied to (and still fighting) the debates of 500 years ago (the Reformation), who want to listen to and engage the culture rather than run from it or turn back the clock, and so on? Where does one go?

    • Well . . . I come here.

    • Well, four out of your five points describe the Protestant mainline. (You might be uncomfortable with the dominant mainline approaches Scripture.)

      • Christiane says:

        So first, you determine your approach to Scripture,
        and then you find a denomination to match?

        No offense, but is it supposed to be that way?
        ?

        • Alas, I’ve been cryptic and therefore unclear.

          I don’t think one’s approach to Scripture should determine one’s church affiliation. Actually, I am a member of the United Methodist Church, a denomination that embraces people with a fairly wide range of opinions on Scripture.

          I was just responding to the content of Greg’s post. He listed five things he’d like to see in a community. I pointed out that at least four of those elements characterize mainline Protestantism. And I pointed out the one possible mismatch: his wording suggests he might not be comfortable with mainline approaches to Scripture. It was an FYI, not a statement about whether that factor should ultimately determine what church one attends.

          • Actually, how one approaches Scripture is a major factor in determining what church I would affiliate with. I do have a high view of Scripture, but I have a low view of most evangelicals’ hermeneutical methods and interpretations (and I know that sounds terribly elitist). I could not, in good conscience, belong to a church that, officially or practically, did not have a high view of Scripture, which unfortunately would eliminate many of the mainline churches.

            The problem is that most (and I don’t think that is a generalization or exaggeration – just visit your local Christian bookstore) evangelical churches and pastors that loudly proclaim their belief that the Bible is ‘inerrant’ (usually in a narrow, wooden way) don’t really treat it that way. It’s just a source for proof texts to preach pet peaves or support pet doctrines or causes but their preaching shows little real concern for authorial intent, historical context, or rigorous study for that matter.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Last week I got desperate enough to search for Christian dating services on the Web. First one I found in my area had blog threads onsite where they kept denouncing Darwin. Seems like even in the Lonely Hearts industry, Christian = Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles.

            And the Webmasters’ “About Us” bios being Bible-verse-sprinkled Certifications For True Christian Culture Warriors didn’t lift that impression.

    • Kenny Johnson says:

      Are you trying to avoid this among these traits among the congregants or among the leadership? If it’s the latter, I say do some church ‘shopping’ if you really feel your spiritual walk is being harmed by staying where you are. I’ve NEVER been a part of a church where the leadership promoted young earth creationism, legalism, or political activism. Ever!

      If it’s the former, you’re likely out of luck. I’m sure there are churches were you will find more like-minded people and some where you’ll find less, but you can’t assume that you’re going to find any place where everyone agree with each other’s theology unless it’s a cult.

      The church I’m currently a part of is part of the Evangelical Covenant churches:
      http://www.covchurch.org/

      I really like my church, though I can’t assume all ECC churches are the same, but I believe they’re stated doctrine is only (or not much more) than the ancient creeds. My own church is very involved with social justice issues. My pastor is well-educated (PHd from Fuller) and church planting (we’re a small church – about 100, but have planted 2 churches in the last 5 years).

      • Thanks for the suggestion. There is an ECC church nearby (well, 20 miles) I intended to visit last year but they had no pastor at the time. I’ll give it a try this weekend.

  22. “Confined to the paramaters of liberal rationalism, it has mounted no challenge to the present political order and offered no intellectually acceptable explanation for how one is to live and think in the postmodern world.”

    “Evangelicals are enlightenment modernists who are all about ‘solutions’ That’s part of the problem.”

    I think fundamentalism as a reaction to modernism is also hopelessly trapped within the gravity field of modernistic rationalism; therefore, it does not offer any meaningful answers.

    I don’t think the answer is for the church to become more post-modern I’m no opponent of the emergent church (I’m even on the “Theooze” email list); however, I think post-modernism will ultimately kill the emergent church movement.

    I am actually intrigued by the interest in paleo-orthodoxy expressed recently at BHT. It may not be the complete answer, but it may have some meaningful contributions. Albert Outler is another name associated with paleo-orthodoxy.

    Another discussion on BHT regarding eschatology is also relevant. When Tyndale published Hanegraaff’s “The Last Disciple”, based upon a very non-dispensational view of end-times, LaHaye blew a gasket, that anyone would entertain a view that disagrees with his cash-cow empire. I think this is why there are so few alternatives to pre-millennial dispensationalism, but also why evangelicalism is struggling to get out of this death spiral. There is an old guard which controls evangelical publishing, broadcasting, and on-line media, and therefore controls evangelical thought..or what little thinking is actually taking place. They will not go quietly. The Mosaic Bible is a bright sign of hope that evangelical publishing is listening. But real change will take place through the grass-roots, through forums like this. Someday, the bronze statues of that old guard will come down, perhaps along with some of the walls which currently divide us.

  23. So are we just about to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Are those poo-pooing evangelicalism just as obsessed with labels – only defining themselves in negative terms with respect to the same labels.

    This editorial makes the usual mistakes on being Americano-centric. Evangelicalism is much more than just North American cultural cringe.

    There is much to critique within worldwide evangelicalism, but also much that is good.

    It’s a load of crap in my opinion that there is such a thing as post-modern. Even the most ardent postmodernist still thinks in propositions and truth claims in their everyday life. The howling void that is postmodern Christianity is not one that I am in a great hurry to leap into, no matter who post-evangelical I wish to be.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Faith, just think for a moment as to what the word means: Post-Modern.

      It means “something after the Latest”. As in somebody before them declared themselves “The Modern Age”, implying Nothing Can Exist After My Time.

      Except something did.

    • Patrick Lynch says:

      “Even the most ardent postmodernist still thinks in propositions and truth claims in their everyday life.”

      Nope.

  24. [2nd attempt with spelling and grammatical mistakes corrected]

    So are we just about to throw the baby out with the bathwater? Are those poo-pooing evangelicalism just as obsessed with labels – only defining themselves in negative terms with respect to the same labels?

    This editorial makes the usual mistakes of being Americano-centric. Evangelicalism is much more than just North American cultural cringe.

    There is much to critique within worldwide evangelicalism, but also much that is good.

    It’s a load of crap in my opinion that there is such a thing as post-modern. Even the most ardent postmodernist still thinks in propositions and truth claims in their everyday life. The howling void that is postmodern Christianity is not one that I am in a great hurry to leap into, no matter how post-evangelical I wish to be.

  25. PatrolMag is pretty good at critiquing evangelicalism as it is, not so good at replacing it with any kind of coherent ministry of its own. It strikes me as a very wanna-be magazine, albeit in a unique, post-modern way. But its still wanna-be.

    Sure evangelicalism is in bondage to some pretty bad ideas. But exchanging them for different bad ideas doesn’t seem like much in the way of progress.

    For an example of what I’m talking about, read the article http://www.patrolmag.com/times/1734/not-doing-it. A good critique of what’s wrong with evangelical attitudes and strategies, followed by a stupid attempt to make sex sound nearly unimportant. Replacing trite, glib oversimplifications with trite, glib oversimplifications (or alternatively, complicated verbosity that means pretty much nothing) is not any kind of an answer or a help.

  26. Some have commented on the pessimism of the article and how it offers no solutions. I respectfully disagree and after reading the article, believe it offers quite a few “solutions”. Maybe it’s my personality, but when someone or something prophetically reveals sins, mistakes, misconceptions, biases, blatant idiocy, false premises, irrational methods, un-Christ-like habits etc within the church; I feel as if I have been gifted with a list of things to avoid, forsake or retool. I learn how to think differently and more critically (or in evangelical lingo- ‘discern’ truth from error) To me that is part of a solution. In other words, revealed negatives give me a better idea of where the positive might be. Way to go Patrol mag and IM. Keep up the pessimism and critical thinking. It’s liberating and inspiring.

  27. Donald Todd says:

    Interesting thread.

    Can’t we all just follow Jesus? It probably depends on which Jesus we want to follow. The myriads of arguments, theologies, scripture cites as the basis for a position, history, and the local yellow pages tell us about people who want to follow Jesus. They decide how Jesus is to be followed, which leads back to the arguments, theologies, scripture cites, history and the yellow pages once again.

    Peter asked Jesus about John’s fate and Jesus said to Peter, “what is that to you? You follow Me.” It is recorded outside of scripture that Peter was leaving Rome to avoid being condemned to death when he ran into Jesus again. Jesus asked Peter why he was leaving. Peter understood then what his fate was and went back to Rome. It is recorded, outside of scripture, that Peter was crucified upside down at his own request. He did not deem himself worthy to be crucified upright like his Master.

    Peter knew Who was in charge. Obedience is a difficult concept but Peter had bought in..

    I watched a small Baptist congregation split. No theology was involved as everyone there believed the same things. It was a personality struggle which split that congregation. Half the congregation knew who was in charge, and it was them. Too bad. The pastor was a good man and I write objectively. I knew him, I was not part of that congregation, had no axe to grind, nor was or am I a Baptist.

    I remember learning that every split is a “return to the early church” by people who haven’t a clue about the early church. They want to be primitive (and the primitive Baptists even grabbed the word as an adjective) but lacked the means to travel back through time to Thessalonica or Rome or Jerusalem. So they settled primitive by a vote.

    Revivals are needed, but in what manner? St Francis of Assisi loved the Lord and the church and brought about a revival that did not split the church but rekindled hearts and minds. The Wesley’s sparked a revival and Methodism split with Anglicanism.

    Jesus in John’s gospel prays for unity. That they may be one. It appears that the “one” part is working real well. It is the unity part that appears to be in great trouble and is a scandal to those outside the church (and should be a scandal to those inside the church as well).

    The early church found problems, such as the Judaizers and the push for knowing Moses and requiring circumcision before being allowed to know Jesus. The apostles were of one mind (see Acts and the Jerusalem council) and no one was required to know Moses and submit to circumcision based on the revelation given to Peter before he got to Cornelius and that household.

    Does anyone remember what happened to the Judaizers? I have done a lot of reading and I don’t have a clue. They were around for a while but then history swallows them and they disappear.

    Eve took the apple and bit it and then gave it to her husband.

    Pandora opened the box.

    Luther nailed his theses on the church door. What if he had appeared in Rome? What if he had defended his position to those able to bring about correction? What if he had been willing to be corrected in any area where his understanding was deficient? What if Luther had been like Peter or St Francis of Assisi?

    Original sin had an effect on the will, and on the faculties of the mind. TULIP anyone? (Not me. Grace is intended to perfect nature. Wrapping manure in snow finds the snow getting crappy.)

    One cannot go backwards and undo what has occurred, but one might go forward and end up in the right place.

    There is the short view and the long view. The comments I have been reading are about the short view. Maybe the long view, which recognizes grace in the face of human weakness and hope if one can merely step outside of one’s self and one’s self-importance, would be a better fit.

    We all want Jesus. Peter was not looking forward to martyrdom but he knew Who was really in charge if this endeavor is to succeed, so Peter submitted himself by an act of obedience. Peter’s state of life was to be an apostle and we all recognize him as exactly that. Peter recognized Who he was an apostle to, and responded appropriately.

    It is not my state of life to lead in that manner. It is not my state of life to presume to be able to answer the thorny questions that occur. It is my state of life to be obedient to the One Who said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

    I am not excused from using my mind. It was given to me for a reason, so my initial response which took about four years, was to determine Who He is and where He wanted me, and to trust that He would bring that to fruition. So long as I was obedient, I would be directed. If I decided against obedience, then I would be rebellious. I could join Eve, Pandora and Luther (whose failure was to stand up for what he had written in a place where it could be used to reform problem areas in the life of the church, and to accept correction on those ideas which were wrong).

    We are being judged for obedience, not success. The Holy Spirit did not enlighten every man with the ability to interpret and expound on scripture. First there are apostles, then prophets, then teachers… That was not my calling. I was told to work out my salvation in fear and trembling because it is God’s good purpose to will and to work in me, and in the process to find out that His grace is sufficient. I am expected to make an effort, for the grace being given to me to find fruition at least in part through my own response to that grace. If you like” I had to take what He gave me and do something with it, and even then it was Him doing it through me.”

    I had to split a lot of hairs before I was able to bend the knee. It has become much more flexible over time. I no longer automatically assume that I can interpret what I am seeing. It is a great benefit not to be the pope anymore and to wonder if perhaps I might not clearly understand what I am seeing.

    My prayer for you is that you find this. No end of difficulty but a place of rest for the weary laborer in the midst of everything, and a long view both forward and back.