Archive for the ‘Evangelicalism’ Category

The following reflection appeared in The Mennonite blog at this address on February 22, 2018, the day after Billy Graham’s death.

Billy Graham was first and foremost an evangelist, someone who proclaimed the Gospel. And, Dr. Graham was an outstanding example of one who did so boldly. What about Anabaptists? Anabaptists are right to “win over” others “without a word,” but “by conduct” (1 Peter 3:1). However, there also is a place for “proclaiming the Gospel,” for “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Mark 1:14; Rom 1:16). May we Anabaptists take inspiration from the example of Billy Graham and then dare to discern when and how to share the Gospel boldly with a world in desperate need of it.

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Does evangelical emphasis on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible strengthen or diminish the authority of Christ and the Bible? 

By Joseph Bayly, 1968.

If there’s been one doctrine strongly taught and defended by evangelicals during the past several decades, it’s the inspiration of the Scriptures. Among many, perhaps most, who taught the doctrine, verbal inerrancy of the original manuscripts has been upheld.

Now with all this emphasis on inspiration and inerrancy, you’d think that young people who have grown up in an evangelical milieu would be firmly grounded in the Bible’s authority.

They’re not. In my experience, at least, I don’t usually find the reflex, “The Bible says it and so it must be true,” among young men and women.

The reaction of a student in a Christian college, from an evangelical background, on being reminded that the Bible forbids premarital intercourse, is rather typical of the attitude I’ve found. “Maybe the Bible says it, but if it does, that isn’t what it means.”

The element of doubt about what the Bible teaches in areas of less emotional involvement is also significantly high among our evangelical teens and students. Does God have purpose in human suffering? Is God powerful enough to act today? Will Christ return to this earth? For a large number of evangelical young men and women, such questions are not settled by what the Bible says.

If my impressions are correct, we are in danger, period, since it is questionable whether morality and ethics—even faith (Rom. 10:17)—can stand, apart from the support of accepted biblical authority.

How do we explain this weak attitude toward the Bible’s authority? Have we unwittingly undermined confidence in the Bible?

I think we have got things out of the right order, at least as far as ordinary Christians—especially the young—are concerned. We have stressed the Bible’s inspiration and assumed that authority would take care of itself. But it hasn’t.

Theologians may conclude that inspiration is the ground of authority, and therefore must come first. And they are probably right in a theological context.

J. Gresham Machen once said that theology begins with the doctrine of inspiration, while apologetics ends with it. I suspect, if this is so, that we have made the mistake of treating our young as theologians rather than as potential converts or young Christians.

I believe that the debate about biblical inerrancy during recent decades has had the unfortunate result of weakening the Bible’s authority in the minds of the young. The possibility or impossibility of infinitesimal error has tended to obscure the great, overarching areas about which there is no question.

By arguing about whether there is dust on the piano, or whether the kitchen floor is completely clean, a husband will lower his children’s overall impression of their mother’s faithful loving service and diminish her authority in their eyes. When they are older, the children may see things in true perspective; then they are likely to blame the picayune, judgmental father. But meanwhile the harm has been done.

So it may be with the authority of the Scriptures in the eyes of the young. We argue about whether 3,000 or 30,000 soldiers fought in a battle and we lose a greater battle.

Children, teens, and students need to be brought into Christ’s kingdom by faith, by their own personally exercised choice. From a human standpoint, they need examples, adults who say and live the principle, “I believe the Bible.” And I think this is the really important thing to communicate to the young—complete submission to the Bible’s authority—rather than, “I believe in the inspiration of the Bible.”

I know that full conviction of the Bible’s authority over all of life comes through the Holy Spirit’s work. But it is often, perhaps usually communicated through the Christian community.

Perhaps this low view of Scripture’s authority is related to a low view of Christ’s authority. We may be reaping the results of recent decades when we appealed to young to “receive Christ as Savior,” bypassing His demand of absolute Lordship and doing violence to His Person.

A fresh breath of submission to the authority of Christ and the Scriptures in the Church, and in the lives of Christians—especially the young—could be the catalyst needed to change the world’s drift toward anarchy and nihilism.

And I am not usually a prophet of doom.*

*Note: Have the intervening 42 years proven Bayly right or wrong?

Joseph Bayly, “Out of My Mind,” Eternity, August 1968,  37 . Bayly’s column ran continuously from October 1961 to October 1986.

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The following essay was written by Michael Clawson, Department of Religion, Baylor University. It was posted on a blog moderated by Roger Olson on January 19, 2012.

Young, Restless, and Fundamentalist: Neo-fundamentalism among American Evangelicals

A New Fundamentalist Reaction

In his 2007 book The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception, influential evangelical pastor and author, John MacArthur wrote the following:

“The evangelical movement as we speak of it today is already doomed. It stands roughly where the mainstream denominations were in the early part of the twentieth century when those denominations began formally excommunicating conservative voices of dissent from their midst – and sounder evangelicals began actively separating from those denominations en masse. . . . It is time for the faithful remnant to redraw clear lines and step up our energies in the Truth War – contending earnestly for the faith. In light of all the biblical commands to fight a good warfare, it is both naïve and disobedient for Christians in this postmodern generation to shirk that duty.”1

I contend that this growing concern expressed by MacArthur and many other evangelicals represents a new movement within evangelicalism toward what I have termed neo-fundamentalism. This is not simply a return to the original Protestant fundamentalism of the early-twentieth century, though it is analogous to it. Instead, I argue that some conservative evangelicals are reacting to the contemporary influences of postmodernity in much the same way that the original fundamentalists did towards the influences of modernity a century ago – namely through hostility towards the broader culture, retrenchment around certain theological doctrines, and conflict with, or separatism from others within a more broadly defined evangelicalism.2 Because of these similarities, I want to suggest that fundamentalism as a scholarly category (as opposed to its more derogatory uses in the popular media) is a useful framework within which to understand this contemporary phenomenon.

The driving force behind neo-fundamentalism, as with historic fundamentalism, is a “remnant mentality.” Neo-fundamentalists believe they alone are remaining true to the fullness of the Gospel and orthodox faith while the rest of the evangelical church is in grave, near-apocalyptic danger of theological drift, moral laxity, and compromise with a postmodern culture – a culture which they see as being characterized by a skepticism towards Enlightenment conceptions of “absolute truth,” a pluralistic blending of diverse beliefs, values, and cultures, and a suspicion of hierarchies and traditional sources of authority.3 Because of this hostility toward postmodern ways of thinking, neo-fundamentalists have little tolerance for diversity of opinions among evangelicals on any issues they perceive as essential doctrines – which are most of them – as opposed to the broader evangelical movement which historically has allowed for a much wider range of disagreement on disputable matters.4 Neo-fundamentalists thus respond to the challenges of a postmodern culture by narrowing the boundaries of what they consider genuinely evangelical and orthodox Christianity, and rejecting those who maintain a more open stance.

While similar, this new movement’s primary concerns are typically not the same as those of more traditional fundamentalists. In regards to behavioral standards, for instance, neo-fundamentalists are less concerned about the sort of moral restrictions that animated conservatives of a century ago: drinking, dancing, card playing and the like.5 Instead they typically focus on contemporary social issues like (more…)

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Not to Read Love Wins, by Rob Bell

  • The imbroglio surrounding the publication of Love Wins, by Rob Bell, has all the trappings of what will lead to the creation and application of litmus tests, which the guardians of evangelicalism will use to decide who is “in” and who is “out” of the groups they purport to lead.
  • It will be difficult, however, for the guardians of evangelicalism to apply these litmus tests to those who cannot have an opinion of the book.
  • One cannot have an opinion of the book, if one does not read it.

To Read Love Wins, by Rob Bell

  • Each guardian of evangelicalism probably will interpret one’s refusal to read Love Wins as an admission of one’s failure to pass the litmus test which that guardian promotes.
  • Not to read the book, then, runs the risk of being excluded by everyone in evangelicalism.
  • Reading the book, however, will allow one to endear oneself to at least one group within evangelicalism. However, the group to which one endears oneself may not be the faction in which one wants to hold membership.

Not to Read Love Wins, by Rob Bell

  • One should choose the evangelical faction in which one wants to hold membership.
  • Then one should formulate an opinion about the book which the guardians of that faction hold.
  • Then one should broadcast that opinion or at least express it without equivocation when asked for it.
  • Finally, in an attempt to hedge one’s bets against wrongly navigating these treacherous waters, one should also state that if he or she can be proven wrong, the opinion will be revised.

Lessons from Japan: Flee the Inevitable Fallout

  • Hunker down at home with plenty of canned food and bottled water.
  • Shut and seal the doors and windows, draw the shades, and turn on your newly purchased HEPA air purifier.
  • Cancel your internet and phone service for the next year or so.
  • Turn on the TV, grab a beverage, tear open a bag of chips, and watch basketball until the baseball season begins.

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