Topic: “evangelicalism”

The negative regard with which too many in the Free Church have approached the pre-Reformation church has prevented them from seeing that Christ’s promise to build his church and cause it to prevail against the “gates of Hell” (Matt. 16:18) pertains no less to this period [between the apostles and the Reformation] of church history. This promise was meant not merely for evangelical churches! Christ is himself the head of his body which is the church (Eph. 4:16). This is the church which Christ loves and for which he gave himself up in order “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27). To understand these words in solely spiritualist or eschatalogical terms would do an injustice to the present sense of the passage, by refusing to see that Christ’s establishing the church in holiness is a part of the process of every age since his ascension.

—Daniel H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants

Three Shots Across the Bow of Culture

Time for something unusual: a three-way book review. I’ve just finished reading James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World, N. D. Wilson’s Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl, and Andy Crouch’s Culture Making.

At least in my circles, there has been considerable hubbub over each of these books in their own ways in the last few years. Hunter’s volume is the most academic and the most far-reaching in its coverage of late modern Christianity, Wilson’s far and away the most playfully provocative, and Crouch’s the book in the middle. All three seek to cast a vision of engagement with reality, and all three share much of the same discontent with current Christian approaches to the world around us.

The flavors are unmistakably different, of course. Read on, intrepid explorer →

If you knew Jesus were coming back on Friday…

“If you knew Jesus was coming back at the end of this week, how would you live your life? Okay, so, why aren’t you living your life like that? He might come back at the end of this week!”

I’d ask you to raise your hands if you’ve heard a variation on this theme from a pulpit in your lifetime, but I’m blogging, so I couldn’t see your hands. It doesn’t matter: they’d all be up. We’ve all heard a variation on this theme. It’s a good theme, in a way: the people who preach this way usually have a strong sense of the urgency of the Great Commission and a real grasp on the doctrine of Christ’s imminent return – both good things. But as with many good things, they can become bad things when carried too far, or carried thoughtlessly without regard to other good things. Read on, intrepid explorer →

Our God Really Is Greater

Over at The Pangea Blog, Kurt Willems offers some provocative thoughts on Chris Tomlin’s “Our God is Greater”:

I agree with every line of this song. Nothing about it is theologically untrue in any way. But I think that singing “Our God is Greater” might make God seem less great….

To call God “great” is more than appropriate, but calling God “greater” invites a competitive and confrontational tone. So, in this sort of cultural climate, I make the claim that singing songs about how “our God is greater” actually makes God less great. Two reasons come to mind as to why this might be so.

The two reasons Willems proffers are: first, that it essentially proclaims that the Christian narrative should be central to society – a stance he clearly sees as imperialist and which he conflates with American nationalism; and second, that the proclamation of God as greater may be offensive, especially in an increasingly pluralistic and post-Christian culture.

I should note, right off the bat, that Willems thinks the theology of the song perfectly accurate (and says as much explicitly). More, I believe he is coming from the right direction as he approaches this question: he wants to make sure that God is most glorified and that people are drawn to him. We couldn’t agree more on those aims, but we differ quite a bit on whether this song, and the sentiments it expresses, will be salutary or detrimental in the pursuit of those goals. Read on, intrepid explorer →

An Aspen in a Forest of Pines

In an interesting piece in The Atlantic last week (“Life Without Sex: The Third Phase of the Asexuality Movement”), Rachel Hill highlighted David Jay and his organization, the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network:

But what all asexual people have in common — and what defines asexuality as an orientation — is that, while they may have a desire to connect with other people, asexuals have no desire to connect with them sexually. Asexual people are not the same as celibate people: it’s not that they are purposefully or unintentionally abstaining from sex they would otherwise like to have, but rather that they have no interest in it.

The article is fascinating on several levels: its examination of asexuality as a “sexual orientation,” its exploration of the idea that for some people, sex just isn’t that important (however odd that may seem in our society), and its recognition that a sex-defined culture is perhaps not always beneficial. Read on, intrepid explorer →

The best way for a white church to serve alongside black pastors is to first think of themselves in a subordinate role—to first listen to what black pastors say the needs are and then to submit to black pastoral leadership. Far too often white churches approach black pastors assuming they know what is best for communities in which they do not live and for people they do not know. It is the same posture that is needed in international missions: Americans go to other countries and follow the lead of people who are there on the ground. Cross-cultural relationships in America are not different. This posture of humility will yield amazing dividends for the Kingdom.

—Anthony Bradley, in “The Black Church and the Black Community: A Conversation with Anthony Bradley”,
Trevin Wax, Kingdom People

Church-switching is pernicious. Not only does the church “market” breed selfishness, it also makes pastors market-oriented… We cannot build institutions when our focus is on building the self.

—David French, “Evangelicals’ Collapsing Cultural Influence,” National Review Online, March 14, 2011