Christianity vs Evangelicalism

Maybe you saw this linked from The Gospel Coalition, but if you haven’t read President of Asbury Dr. Timothy C. Tennent’s fall convocation entitled, “The Clarion Call to Watered Down Evangelicalism: Our Mission to ‘theologically educate,’” well then you should go read it now.

Tennent starts off by noting, “Tragically, Niebuhr’s devastating critique [of liberalism] is on the brink of being equally applicable to contemporary, evangelical Christianity.” From there, he turns both barrels on the current state of evangelicalism in America today. Here are some of the heavier quotes:

If liberalism is guilty of demythologizing the miraculous, we have surely been guilty of trivializing it. If liberalism is guilty of turning all theological statements into anthropological ones, surely we must be found guilty of making Christianity just another face of the multi-headed Hydra of American, market-driven consumerism. If liberalism can be charged with making the church a gentler, kindler version of the Kiwanis club, we must be willing to accept the charge that we have managed to reinvent the gospel, turning it into a privatized subset of one’s individual faith journey. I realize that there are powerful, faithful churches in every tradition who are already modeling the very future this message envisions, but we must also allow our prophetic imagination to enable us to see what threatens to engulf us.

But he doesn’t let up from there. Tennent zeroes in on three weak spots in the foundation of evangelicalism: 1) worship (“The worship style choice lines reminds us how deeply we evangelicals have become commodified and ‘market driven.’”), 2) informality, and 3) trite, bite-sized theology. He clearly perceives our incremental defeats.

You see, liberal Protestants never woke up one morning and said to themselves, “Hey, let’s adopt an Arian Christology, shall we?” No one said “Wouldn’t it be just wonderful if we could devote the next 50 years to undermining the apostolic faith.” No! I’ve read their writings. They were deeply concerned, as we are, to make the gospel relevant to modern people. Evangelicals have not openly abandoned apostolic Christianity…

Evangelicals have become experts in finding a thousand new ways to ask the same question, “What is the least one has to do to become a Christian.” That’s our defining question. We’ve become masters at theological and soteriological minimalism. We are the ones who have boiled the entire glorious gospel down to a single phrase, a simple emotive transaction, or some silly slogan. It is time for a new generation of Christians, committed to apostolic faith, to declare this minimalistic, reductionistic Christianity a failed project! …

Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to capture a fresh vision of the great meta-narrative of the Christian gospel for our times! The bumper sticker ‘God is my co-pilot‘ will not get us there…

If this is the quality of thought and call that is going on at Asbury Theological Seminary, then God bless them and their ministry. Read the whole article here.

Similar ideas were recently propounded at the last Westminster California annual conference: Christianity & Liberalism Revisited.

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