Evangelicalism


What an impact a true Christian can be.

Vodpod videos no longer available. How much do you have to hate sombody to NOT proselytize?”

more about “Penn Says: A Gift of a Bible“, posted with vodpod

Matthew Riley, over at MER Christianity has produced an excellent article dealing with the fear of cultural interaction within the evangelical church.  I recently posted on this same topic but I think Matthew’s post probably proves to be a more worthwhile and thought-provoking read.  I just wish more Christian blogger/authors would engage in more thoughtful analysis concerning this subject.

btw. we have also added his blog to our sidepost as well

 19 Votes and counting… Click here or in the sidebar if you would like to join in.  Feel free to comment as well.

If you need definitions for the terms below then check out this previous post.

Click here if you would like to tour our gallery of Christian kitsch.

Dispensational Premillenial 11% (2 votes)

 
One of the ‘other’ votes is basically an ‘undecided’ between the first three choices, the other ‘other’ vote is for Hope/Kingdom eschatology which I think [if the voter is referring to the popular notion of ‘Hope” theology] would be a kind of Marxist postmillenialism.

Well I know you’ve been waiting for it!  Here’s more Christian kitsch!

horses

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Disclaimer: To any who might be offended by visual representations of the rapture:  We are not making fun of the doctrine of the rapture…we are making fun of PICTURES of the docrine of the rapture.

I originally saw this on the Mabe family’s website.  It is unspeakably infuriating to see God’s Word abused and God Himself blasphemed in this way. To think of all the time my pastor spends, and our youth pastor spends, and I (college pastor) spend trying to correctly handle this precious book and teach our students God’s truth, then to see this heretic treat the Scriptures like a bathroom tissue is almost too much to handle.

 I saw this on another blog today and really enjoyed it.

Christ the Redeemer (of culture)

The relationship between Christianity and Culture (especially the arts) has been a topic of great interest on Quadrivium here lately.  Beginning with a post on Christianity and Culture (that linked to this blog) and continuing with posts on a North Carolinian art museum, the value of fantasy literature, and the validity of “Christian” art.  Sadly, as the last post demonstrates, modern evangelical Christianity is woefully out of touch with the art and culture of society.

Why are Christians this way?  Well, we do know that they have not always been.  For centuries, the Christian faith informed and inspired some of the greatest artistic achievments ever to be accomplished.  Yet, in the past couple of centuries, the church has endured a self-imposed isolation from culture.  There are signs of change, however, and I believe that as the church continues to understand what caused these problems, she will eventually remedy them. 

Allow me to share a few reaons why I think that Christians have ignored culture and the arts for so long.

  1. A Fundamentalist Overreaction to Liberalism-  The late 19th and early 20th centuries gave rise to a bitter battle in Western universities (especially American) between two theological factions: Liberal and Conservatives.  The latter group came to be known as fundamentalists (taken from a series of conservative theologial articles).  While liberal theologians eventually triumphed in the battle for the university, fundamentalists were tenacious defenders of orthodox Chrisitianity.  However, because fundamentalism was a reactionary movement, it unfortunately went the way of most such movments: it overreacted to the opposing ideology. Since liberal theology placed a strong emphasis on the so-called “social gospel” (that is, the responsibility of Christians to engage, improve, and create culture), by the mid-20th century, fundamentalism had almost completely isolated itself from the culture.  Christians were taught to keep themselves separated from the world, and things like art, film, literature, and the theater were considered to be “worldly”.  Evangelicalism – fundamentalism’s younger sister -was born around this time and sought to correct these problems in the church (evangelicals are sometimes known as “fundamentalists with PHDs”).  While some progress has been made, the damage done to the idea of cultural involvement within the church was severe.  We have a long way to go.
  2. An Overemphasis on the Apocalypse- The 19th and 20th centuries also saw the emergence of “rapture fever” in the church.  Prophecy conferences and “End-Times” analysis became one of the most popular forms of theological study for the church at large (to the neglect of many other theological studies).  Ministers would stand (and still do) before their congregations or tv audience with the past week’s newspaper for their text and proclaim fulfilled Bible prophecies as their sermon.  Popular authors began to set dates for Christ’s return and their was an overall sense of impending doom.  Now, while the church had her eyes on the sky, she forgot the culture at large.  Why become bogged down in cultural involvement if Jesus is going to come back in the next five minutes?  Besides, it’s so much more fun to wildly speculate about what Daniel and John were talking about, then seriously engage the culture on an academic level.
  3. The Emergence of the Christian Subculture – America is a country driven by consumerism, and the church has incredibly exploited this fact in the past fifty years.  Consequently, Christianity has been polished and packaged in a multitude of ways.  Now there are “Christian” films, books, paintings, musical groups, clothes, bumper stickers, department stores, plush toys, ad infinitum.  As a matter of fact, there is no need for the average Christian to encounter his culture because he has all that he needs within his own “safe” subculture.  Hence, we have really bad movies and books that are produced and then marketed by slapping the “Evangelical Approved” label on them.  Christians devour these products and become more culturally inept in the process. 

I’m sure that there are many more things that can be said about this matter than just the few problems that I have pointed out.  What I am interested in is if their are any good answers to these problems.  What can Christians do to change this? 

roadkill.jpgFrom a local evangelical church, I recently received, via the flag on my mailbox, a bag of information. In this little baggie were three pamphlets of religious nature. One was a generic, mass produced bi-fold concerning the family-friendly, loving, caring atmosphere of the church. The second was an interesting booklet on the seven greatest questions in life; some great questions were ignored, and some that were included were unnecessary. The third was another bi-fold, this one an evangelistic tract with a call for conversion. The first was, as I said, generic and I won’t deal with it in this post. It was the other two pamphlets that disturbed me.

I’ll begin with the booklet. The answers to the questions were deflating to my hopes that the author and I would be engaged in a stimulating discussion on metaphysics.
Here are the questions and their corresponding answers listed in the booklet:
1. Why do I exist?
     Answer — You need to get saved.
2. Is there a God?
     Answer — You need to get saved.
3. Am I unique?
    Answer — You need to get saved.
4. Why is life unfair?
     Answer — You need to get saved.
5. Why do I feel so alone?
     Answer — You need to get saved.
6. Why don’t I do what I know I should?
     Answer — You need to get saved.
7. Is there life after death?
     Do I really need to tell you his answer?

Why do Christians detract from intelligently answering these questions? Honestly, I’m not sure our faithful parishioners, and even worse our church leaders, know the answers to these questions! I don’t think the church as a body really understands the impact these questions have on unbelievers’ lives and the enormous stumbling block we can be if we turn their legitimate questions into a time to throw a sermon at them. Christ never dismissed an opportunity to intelligently examine a man’s worldview before speaking to him. Francis Schaeffer said if you have 1 hour with a man, spend 50 minutes asking him questions. Instead of demonstrating love and genuine interest in their fellow humans, Christians have for so long plowed over unbelievers with evangelistic Mack Trucks, leaving them suffering and dying like forgotten roadkill 

The booklet had as its last question, “Is there life after death”- a fair question, and one that needs serious addressing in our postmodern, existential culture. The author however, instead of dealing with the question from a logical, intelligent, or even wholly Biblical stance, took the opportunity to give an answer that is not the answer to the question asked. The question asked whether an existence after physical life ceased was a reality, not whether or not we should prepare for that event. Can’t we at least agree that the church has been embarrassed enough by publicly demonstrating our ignorance?

Adoration of the LambThe Adoration of the Lamb

I came across an interesting post today on a blog ran by Dale Fincher (I have also added this highly recommended blog to the sidebar by the way).  In the post, Dale referenced a recent article in Christianity Today by Philip Yancey.  The thesis of the article, as well as Dale’s post, is that the church (especially in the past couple of centuries) has largely abandoned cultural engagement and the arts.  Rather than paraphrase, allow me to quote a portion of his post:

While progress is being made to correct [this] theological misunderstanding and attitude in the church, it is slow…Humans, especially those who love and know their Maker, aren’t merely to engage culture, but to create it. It can’t be helped. Are we creating quality or poor culture? Those are our only options.  

I found the final two sentences to be particularly piercing.  I’m afraid that evangelicals have done quite a poor job in regards to creating quality culture.  And if we’re not creating quality culture then there is only one other option…

Also, check out this series of mp3 lectures by Jerram Barrs courtesy of Covenant Theological Seminary.  Besides the excellent teaching concerning apologetics and evangelism, Barrs does an excellent job communicating the same theme as above.

This is an article I posted in the church bulletin several years ago.  I still stand in wonder at the likes of Carey, Judson, Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, and the host of others who went and have made such and impact on this world for the Cause of Christ.  Who were willing to spend and be spent in order to preach the kingdom to every creature.  

As we begin our week of Mission’s Revival, I bring to a close the excerpts from the book “The Judson Offering.”  My own heart has been stirred and brought under conviction as I have followed the father of American Foreign Missions from the “Haystack Prayer Meeting” to the shores of Burma.  The imprisonment and the trials that those pioneer missionaries endured, not for vain glory or self gain but all for the Glory of God and to be allowed the privilege to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the benighted lands of the pagan heathen.  They held not their own life dear but lived only to do the will of God, counting themselves already dead to this world.  Where is that consecration today?  Where is that abandonment to God and His good pleasure today?  O, God where is that burden for lost souls today?

I submit the following poem written by Rev. James D. Knowles.   The original preface reads: “the following stirring appeal on behalf on the mission cause, is founded upon the eager inquiry once made by a poor heathen to Dr. Judson: ‘Art thou Jesus Christ’s man?’”

Art thou Jesus Christ’s man?

Redeemed by precious blood?Baptized into his death, and raised,In emblem from the flood?

Dost thou heed his last command-

“Preach my word in every land?” Art thou Jesus Christ’s man?His image dost thou bear-His love for guilty man, his zeal,His self-denial share?Canst thou see the Burman die,Hear unmoved his wailing cry? Art thou Jesus Christ’s man?Thyself hast freely given,To live for him alone, till HeShall call thee home to heaven.And wilt thou still refuse to go,To rescue men from endless wo? Art thou Jesus Christ’s man?And does He let thee live,Where freedom, peace, and plenty reign?And dost thou grudge to giveThy gold, to speed the gospel’s flight,And fill the world with truth and light? Art thou Jesus Christ’s man?This question must thou meet,When thou, with all mankind, shalt standBefore His judgment-seat.How wilt thou then endure His eye,And what! Oh! What, wilt thou reply?

Jesus never apologized for calling His disciples to a life of self-denial.  It is interesting to see the way He handled this teaching with those who offered to follow him.

 

He promised homelessness. We read in Luke 9:57 of an individual who bragged that he would follow Jesus wherever He would go.  But apparently he turned back when Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (9:58)

 

He promised broken relationships.  Another man said he would go but needed to bury his father first.  Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. (9:60)

 

He promised separation and loneliness.  A third would be disciple said, “Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at my house.”  Jesus replied, “No man having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (9:62)

 

It is obvious that Jesus will have no one among His followers who is wanting to put comfort, family ties or security in this world ahead of His Kingdom.  Jesus is saying, in effect, “I offer you what I have… hardship, hunger, labor, loneliness, rejection, sweat, tears, and death. I am a stranger and a pilgrim in this world, and if you follow Me you’ll have to breakaway from the clinging attachments of this present life.”

 

The Gospels give another example.  A rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus and asked what he would have to do to inherit the kingdom.  Jesus replied simply, “Go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor.”  The young man walked away sad. 

Jesus obviously loved him.  It must have hurt to see the young man go.  But in this case and in all the other similar stories, you never once see Jesus going after these would-be disciples.  There is no effort to pacify them or modify and soften the uncompromising demands of the cross.  It is either “give up everything and follow Me” or “don’t come at all.”

 

To all those who would follow Him, He gave the same basic message.  Those who save their own lives will lose them-those who lose their lives for His sake will find them.  The first shall be last and the last first.

           

There is no place in His band for those who are not willing to accept inconvenience, sufferings and uncertainty.  This is still the price for following Christ today, just as there was back then. 

           

I’m convinced the main reason why we are not impacting our generation for Christ is our refusal to be honest about Christianity.  We have offered the world a gospel without sacrifice and a christ without suffering.  We’ve done everything we can to apologize for Christ’s demands and explain them away.  We’ve told people that Jesus didn’t really mean what He said… and they can have heaven without His cross.

           

The result is all around us.  We have weak, defensive, shallow Christians whose faith can’t turn the next corner, let alone turn the world upside down.  Although we have millions of books and more head knowledge than any generation in Christian history, we stand powerless and defeated and weighed down by our comfortable religion. I am not advocating some sort of weird aesthetic approach to Christianity but a letting go of those things which we are clinging to in this world that hinder us from being truly Christ-like.  The world sees us taking comfort in the same “things” they do.  Our comfort should only be found in Christ.  When the wind howls, and the storm rages we should be as those stalwart Moravians, Jonathan Wesley sailed to America with, who, in the midst of the storm stood firm in the Peace of their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  By their testimony Jonathan Wesley came to know the Lord of Peace and by God’s grace impacted the world for Christ.  

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J. P. Moreland, well-known evangelical philosopher/theologian, purportedly dropped a bombshell at the recent annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.  Despite the sound and fury, however, it seems to me that everybody has really missed the point of his paper which is really not that controversial after all.  I’m not giving any hints because I want people to read it for themselves.  And to all the Moreland detractors out there, do try to read beyond the title of the paper.

p.s. Chris over at Nihil Fit has produced an excellent summary of the paper and the consequent controversy it ignited.