Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Shallow and trendy and transient"

Nathan Martin at Evangel has transcribed an interview he did with Os Guinness and titles it "Where Have All the Evangelicals Gone?" Guinness, an old associate of Francis Schaeffer [and a member of the brewery family], has some interesting things to say about the state of American Evangelicalism. It's a lengthy interview that is being posted in parts. These are a few of the questions and answers from the segment today [I have reformatted somewhat]:
Many of these agnostics/atheists turn to Genesis when they are trying to undermine the foundations of Christianity, should we meet them in Genesis or should we be focusing on the character of Christ and moving out?

We have to do both.

There’s no question that the relationship between faith and science is one of the great weaknesses in the American church. You’ve got three positions, the young earth creationists, most of whom are frank embarrassments to actual scientists, and yet the majority position among most Christians. Then, you’ve got the intelligent design, and there are very many serious believers and scientists in that. My quarrel with them is that they are politicizing this issue and you’ve got lawsuits and things. That is a science issue and it should be fought humbly and graciously between scientists. Then there are theistic evolutionists like Francis Collins and most serious thinkers in Europe, and I think that the real argument is between Theistic Evolution and Intelligent Design. But that is not an argument that should be politicized, like in the Dover case and so on. So, overall, the American church, mainly Evangelicals have made a huge issue over this and we have to put it right. ....

Now looking back at the Jesus movement, you were optimistic about it…?

Actually I didn’t, I criticized the Jesus movement. I was a strong critic of the counter-culture and all those movements in the 60s, but I was the strongest critic of the Jesus Movement because it was very shallow and trendy and transient, and that’s what it proved to be. I’m critical of a lot of these trendy and transient things, including the extremes of the emergent church which are equally trendy and transient.

What are some of the biggest problems of the emergent church?

I have two main criticisms of those extremes. One, they were much stronger on the negative than the positive. Now, the Reformers, for example, were very strong on the negative, the selling of grace by indulgences, they attacked it up hill and down dale, it was vile. At the same time, they were even stronger on the positive, Sola Gratia, by grace alone.

Whereas a mark of the emergent church, its extremes and the work of some people, whom I won’t mention, they are still getting over the hang-ups of the churches that they grew up in, and they aren’t as strong on the positives of the gospel, and that’s tragic. My other problem is that they are very critical of modernism, quite rightly, but they are uncritical of post-modernism, wrongly. ....

R.C. Sproul was asked what the greatest theological problem facing the Christian church would be, he answered with regards to Christology and the personhood of Christ, what would you see as the greatest problem facing the church?

The biggest problem is not specific theological issues, like grace or Jesus or whatever, it is theology itself. In other words, modernity shifts theology from authority to preference. Karl Barth used to put it like this, “Theology once had binding address,” it addressed you and then bound you, so there was a link between belief and behavior. Now, that link between belief and behavior has eroded. So now, what people believe and how they behave, who cares?

Take Evangelicals, Evangelicals have never had a higher, sharper, clearer view of Scripture, things like statements of inerrancy. But Evangelical behavior on the ground is permissive chaos. The fact is, it’s just a matter of preference. And everyone describes their freedom, including the emergent church. As soon as you can say the views you don’t like, the uptight, stuffy traditional views, legalistic or whatever and you throw out what you don’t like, it’s just a matter of preference. And you get what social scientists call a cafeteria spirituality, or a salad bar spirituality. In other words, you can go down the bar, and decide you like cabbage not lettuce? Fine. You like radishes not carrots? Fine. You like love, not hell? Fine. Check out hell, take out love, that’s fine. .... [more]
Where Have All the Evangelicals Gone? » Evangel | A First Things Blog