Having made such impressive strides toward racial reconciliation, The Gospel Coalition asks three of its favorite celebrities to waffle on about the intricacies of speaking about sex “to our culture”.
What could possibly go wrong here?
Russell Moore says we shouldn’t panic, DeYoung informs us that people are people, and Tim Keller advises us to address the theological and philosophical foundations of the topic.
Yeah, I know that when I want to understand theological and philosophical foundations of a thing, Evanjellicles are the first people I think of.
I wonder if this think tank is taking into consideration that it is, as Ed Stetzer says, speaking not from the center but from the periphery.
As I ask, what could possibly go wrong?
These days are what is known as a hard patch; times that are tough sledding for mature, stable, quiet, rational people. It is almost impossible to look out the window without seeing an apt subject for Bosch or Dali or Billy Childish.
We are in the middle of the Gadarene Sweepstakes and we know that no matter who survives this political spasm, we will have made exactly the wrong choice.
In the confusion Evanjellicles work to misinterpret some Bible verses in the light of current events, and they can’t stop offering some clownish interpretation as they “unpack” an oafish epoch. They persist in thinking they are here to help God bring social reform, racial harmony, emotional well-being, sexual vitality, financial security, theological reformation, resolution to the heartbreak of lost thigh gap, feelings of self-worth, human flourishing….
We visited a church recently, Time Capsule Baptist Church I think the name was, where we were confronted by a woman who said she attended this church because she “liked” the old-fashioned preaching, and by old-fashioned preaching we all know she didn’t have in mind Savonarola, Luther, Whitefield, Spurgeon, or Tozer.
What is inevitably uppermost in the mind of an Evanjellicle is the reassuring feud between the old-fashioned and the new-fashioned, the war between the tired and the desperate, the change of wrinkles and the fierce alignments they demand of us.
There is a difference between the eternal and the perpetually ephemeral; I wonder if the Christian religion will ever recover that distinction.
If you’ve done any architectural modeling, military modeling, model railroading, or movie special effects modeling, you are familiar with the concept of kitbashing, wherein the modeler buys an off-the-shelf product and cannibalizes it, repurposes it, re-proportions it to suit his needs.
So for instance if some religiously disposed people took home brewing, modernism, queer theory, pidgin wordsmithing, weak-minded activism, and bargain bin graffiti, and imposed it on the minds of dysfunctional people whose skills were required nowhere else, you would get Emergence. No one who’d been to school would recognize it as real theology, or real philosophy, or real liturgy, or real art; they would see it as kitbashed Liberalism.
Emergents aren’t the only ones who did this, of course, but they did it so badly, so crudely, so ineptly, that they make the easiest illustration of the phenomenon. They are not so much unique as conspicuous. They are a socially disheveled and morally bewildered lot, so they look strange, but what they do is typical of all modern, perplexed people.
If you were to take a look at the contents of any random issue of Christianity Today, you would see an equally directionless herd of shuffling followers. If you take a look at any random day at The Gospel Coalition website, you would get a similar impression: lost people trying to appear aware of the zeitgeist and competent to address the issues that concern us all.
From today’s #Right Now listing:
Is Black Lives Matter the New Civil Rights Movement?
Singing a New Song: The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation
I’m Not Safe; No Black Male Is Safe
Southern Honor and Evangelical History: An Interview with Robert Elder
Christian Music Radio is More Theological Than You Think
7 Common Mistakes Search Committees Make
This of course is alien to the New Testament church; Peter and Paul and James and John and Luke especially, I think, would wonder whatever happened to the Gospel.
It is also alien to historic Christianity; Augustine and Tertullian and Thomas More and Luther and Zwingli and Zinzendorf and Edwards and Wesley and Tozer would be irritated at what happened to their religion.
The church I normally attend fancies itself within the Reformed tradition. They’re not, obviously. As individuals they are indistinguishable from the world. They don’t work like Puritans, they don’t preach like Puritans, they don’t pray like Puritans, they aren’t disciplined like Puritans, they are not entertained by things that entertained Puritans, they don’t talk like Puritans, but in their meetings they like to quote from The Valley of Vision.
The last handful of weeks I’ve visited a couple different churches, one a satellite church with two kinds of services, a creepy Contemporary Service which caters to preadolescent intellects, and a Classic Service which is even creepier. Here was a sad collection of retired people few enough they wouldn’t even have packed out the janitor’s closet, and they tried desperately to relive the warmth they enjoyed during their last viewing of a Gaither&Friends Homecoming.
Another church, also “reformed” (in the worst possible sense of that word), lost its pastor and is now misled by two lay preachers who view themselves as competent apologists for Christianity. Under the new leadership, the piano-banger thinks of himself as a jazz pianist and his morning service as the way God likes to relax after a hard week.
But the only kitbashing that we notice is others’. That’s what disturbs me most.
We seem, somehow, unable to share in a pursuit of true judgment. This community doesn't know what motives it depends on, nor does it possess the art of feeling.
“The shift in the last few years has really been stunning," said Ed Stetzer, executive director of Lifeway Research, an evangelical consulting firm in Nashville, Tennessee. "Nobody would have guessed the pace of change. That's why so many people are yelling we have to take our country back.”
"We've lost our home field advantage," Stetzer said.
What has caused Stetzer and his tribe of faux skollers, bean counters, and political wonks to feel stunned, to feel alienated and anxious? Why, declining political clout, of course! That should tell you an awful lot about Evangelicals.
Evangelicalism’s devotion to pop entertainment, its obsession with celebrity, its moral disgraces, its criminal materialism, its conspicuous worldliness, its doctrinal infidelities, were not shocking enough for “Special Ed” Stetzer and friends, but knock them on their sanctimonious fundaments, and you will have gotten their attention.
Apparently they really did think America was their “home field”.
But this is a good thing, an excellent thing.
This is a really hopeful and encouraging development. Let’s hope the “sharper” Evangelicals—if that’s not too hilarious an oxymoron—will sit up and take notice for once.
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