Far right movements and fascism are on the rise in Europe. History always repeats for fools. Liberal socialist governments always lead to a breakdown in societal cohesion and create an ethnic longing for purpose which ends in totalitarian nationalism. The one force that can fill this void of longing without being fused with ethnic nationalism is the Gospel.
In this post I’m going to finish my interaction with Michael Spencer’s essay, “The coming evangelical collapse.” In his last section Mr. Spencer falls into a trap that I think is self-defeating and self-fulfilling. That is the assumption that all is lost and the Evangelical church needs to go underground. He writes:
This drives me a little nuts because only in America would we find truly minor setbacks the end of the line. Our culture takes a sharp turn toward the post-Christian (largely because the church has been shallow and unengaged culturally) and we immediately clamor for catacombs to worship in and nervously look for spies who might turn us over to the pagan authorities. I want to scream, “Get a grip!” The church needs to take a deep breath, re-assess, and begin the work Ecclesia Semper Reformanda anew. In tandem with this, we need to vigorously re-engage the culture and seek for a “godly society”, something evangelicalism hasn’t done in a long time. “Godly society” has mainly meant creating a ridiculously impoverished counter-culture that is a sad reflection of the larger culture. We need to get back to the idea that the church is a culture and the church makes culture. For goodness sake, we have the right answers, we should apprehend culture as it was intended to be, and we’re on the winning side!
Next, Spencer says:
Ruins? Only for the pathetic squishy mega-church (and all its wannabes) end of the Evangelical spectrum. For the rest of us, we haven’t even begun to fight. The Faith is an existential age-long struggle. Only in America would we lay down after the first round. As far as vital house church ministries go, I have to ask “what is that?” It sound like an oxymoron. The church is the household of God but a house church, in as free a context as we have in America, is just plain silly. The early church met in house churches because they had no choice. They longed to build visible glorious structures and institutions. I ask the reader, did the church build hospitals and universities before or after the house church age? This house church movement is a Protestant phenomenon that will drive people into the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church when the novelty of pretending to be a persecuted sect wears thin. In the end, I believe the church (including the evangelical side of the house) needs to start acting more like the church. This includes an unabashed re-affirmation of the church as the cultural standard, a visible and vital institution, and the only government that passes from this age into the next.
Okay, I have a few free minutes so I’d like to continue interacting with Michael Spencer’s piece, “The coming evangelical collapse” from the CSM. Spencer continues his essay with this statement:
He is exactly right and if these two traditions weren’t problematic from a Protestant and biblical perspective, I’d join them myself. But why are these two communions so attractive to evangelicals? Some major reasons are that they are rooted historically, have identifiable magisterial authority structures, and have expressed themselves beautifully and profoundly in worship. The last two centuries have seen Protestants, and evangelicals in particular, divesting themselves of these things as quickly as possible. We’re nearing the end of this nominalist impulse and there’s nothing left in the house of faith. The question is not why someone would want to head to Rome or Constantinople but what’s left to make someone want to stay in evangelicalism? Fortunately, there are some rumblings of life in Reformed and Anglican circles that take all these things seriously. There is also a broad move across denominational lines that is questioning and taking a second look at more historic ways of being the church.
Next, the author says:
I, unfortunately, agree with him here. I thought the emerging church would offer more profound fruit than it has. There seemed at first, a serious re-consideration of tradition and the role of sign symbol in worship. But at the end of the day, the movement seems to be fragmenting along two lines: (a) really cool Reformed Baptists and (b) rather vapid overgrown house churches that brazenly commodify snippets of other traditions. These will simply fuel the current decay over time.
The final point I’ll interact with in this post is this:
This is a fascinating phenomenon. Charismatic-Pentecostalism is the rapidly growing expression of Protestant-Evangelicalism worldwide. It is also a tradition that is maturing in the West. Because of their lack of rigid doctrinal frameworks, the tradition is also is more flexible to change and growth. I’ve noticed in my town, the one group (across all traditional lines) that is serious about expanding the kingdom of God here and now and transforming our metropolitan context, are the Charismatic-Pentecostals. They are also very open to re-assessing worship, sacraments and eschatology often holding to an optimistic view of the trajectory of the world without having all the pieces laid down. This is important because a tradition that is cynical, sees active engagement with the culture here and now as futile, and believes the end of the world is coming in this generation, is also a tradition that is in its death throes in a post-Christian context. It is parasitic in nature and loses its power when it has no host.
Well, it looks like I-Monk, Michael Spencer, has made the big-time by being featured in The Christian Science Monitor and linked on the Drudge Report. Good for him. He has a very insightful essay linked here that I’d like to interact with. Spencer posits the collapse of American Evangelicalism in the next 10 years and on this count I think he is correct. I also believe his general assessments of the reasons for this collapse are correct but I believe he is wrong on some of the specifics. So let’s start.
To begin with, Spencer lists seven reasons why this collapse is happening and under the first of these he writes:
Here I believe Spencer has assessed wrongly in identifying Evangelicals problem as one of being too closely identified with a sub-culture within the American democratic landscape. In reality, American Evangelicals have identified themselves too closely with the American democratic landscape period. How often does one hear in American Christian circles, right, left and center, the postulation of the virtues of our political system and its origins as though this is the high point of history and no one will ever top it? Sorry friends, but this age began with the enthronement of a king, not the election of an administrator, and will end with the conquest of an absolute monarch. Evangelicals have lost sight of the fact that America (and its Evangelical sub-culture) is simply an historical expression of a province in the Kingdom of God.
Under the next reason Spencer says:
Indeed and in fact, because we have imbibed so deeply of the atmosphere of our age, we think discipleship of our children is democratically (and lazily) training them to democratically opt themselves out of our culture, the Faith. Instead, they should be trained to see themselves as royal heirs in training. Growing in maturity and preparing to lead in this age in preparation for the next. In a time and place filled with democratically confused slackers, they are to be royal warriors. This is not easily executed nor is it ever popular among the libertine-leaning multitudes.
Under reason four Spencer posits:
Here Spencer is totally correct including acknowledging that there are some tentative efforts to reverse the tide. Christian education in our country has been so poor because it mimics broader educational trends, just more nicely. Being the “Leave It to Beaver” version of the secular university isn’t going to move the Kingdom of God anywhere. Being the anti-status-quo will. Our Christian educational institutions need to be rigorous and uncompromising like the monasteries of the Middle Ages but aggressive and street smart like the early church was; filled with warrior saints of the highest caliber like Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Augustine. Evangelicalism looks like a nerdy kid on the verge of smoking his first marijuana joint under peer pressure in comparison.
Well, that’s it for now. I hope to interact some more later.
Last night I finally saw "Leatherheads", a film set in 1925. The troubles start right away with John Krasinski's character who is a college football star and Great War hero. So, what is the problem? Well, it's 1925 and he's still got a year left in college. He also dropped out of college, enlisted in the army in WWI and fought at the battle of Argonne Forest (fall of 1918). Okay, so he was already in college before WWI? That means he had at least one year in college before going to war, he still has one year left in 1925 and he has at least 5-6 years in between since most Great War vets were discharged in 1919. A 7-8 year college football career? C'mon.
Then we have Renee Zelweger's character who sports this doo. But in 1925, stylish women sported this doo. What Renee has going on there is a Lana Turner special from 1940's (20 years after the fact). In addition, half the men in the film are wearing snap-brim fedoras. Nice touch but again, the broad snap-brims didn't come into their own until 1940's.
Finally, the team has a black player. There aint no way in the 1920's. So, the country is biggoted (according to Hollywood blowhards) and doesn't want to deal with reality but when they make a film based in a particular time and place (1925 in the Midwest) they totally skip over real racism as though its not there.
So why do I think this is important? Well, the screenplay was supposedly written by George Clooney but it demonstrates a lack of historical knowledge and basic mathematics. Also, these folks spent buku bucks on this film but seem to be totally uniterested in the details. Sound familiar?
These are the types of geniuses that lecture us on politics and public policy.