November 20, 2006

Populist Evangelicalism's Problem

As I ponder how Sen. Obama could possibly get a platform in Saddleback Community Church and how McLaren could be embraced by Christians when what he believes is the embodiment of postmodern relativism, I come to realize how exactly this happens.

In the brevity of my own evangelical experience, I've encountered deep-seeded animosity toward what the academy might have to offer the church. I've been told that the nuances of particular doctrines are not necessary for women to worry their pretty little heads about. No one cares that I received a master's degree in theology, when I pursued it for services in the church. I've been told that academic theologians only live for themselves, they offer no real ministry to the church. I've been told that academic theologians might not even be Christians because their work is so impractical. I've seen church administrators retain power at the expense of the Word being taught by a competent pastor. I've seen the context of scripture take a back seat to application (trust me, I don't understand how that works either.) I've seen women pursue encouragement and snub their noses at theology and serious bible study. Noll is correct, there is no evangelical mind.

Because the evangelical community has set itself apart from scholarship, it has created itself in the likeness of the pragmatic, therapeutic culture that seeks to envelope God's people. Instead of seeking God, evangelicalism seeks common ground at the expense of retaining its distinctiveness from the world. Perhaps I'm overstating the fact that scholarship could have saved evangelicalism from itself, but I can't help coming to that conclusion when solid, uncompromised teaching and writings exist in the seminary.

What is the purpose of the church? I believe the church goes beyond its intended role in culture when it accommodates men like Obama. The transformative role of the church is lost when all is embraced. But the church began to lose it's transformative nature long before Obama. In the small little sphere of the world, I see such self-centeredness in ministry, teachers teaching feelgood-ism above all things.

"They will know we are Christians by our love..." is nothing more than a useless cliche when it is divorced from the rich content of our faith, that which defines as as Christians. Women exhorted to adorn themselves in good works (1 Tim. 2:9) does not suggest that the content of faith is to take a back seat to acts of mercy. Rather, the content of faith is the basis for all that can be called good. The object of our affection, the reason for the adornments, is Jesus alone.

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