Some of you might have noticed this, but I thought it appropriate to point out on Evangel that First Things has produced its first video, The Creed: What Christians Profess, and Why It Ought to Matter. It is a documentary about the Nicene Creed. I stumbled on this because I was looking for something like it for my 11th Grade theology class. Here is the advertisement by First Things:
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A few years ago Pope Benedict XVI gave a series of lectures on the early church fathers, and they have been collected into a book: Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine. In one of the lectures on St. Augustine, the Pope mentioned something significant about Ambrose’s influence on St. Augustine:
The great difficulty with the Old Testament, because of its lack of rhetorical beauty and of lofty philosophy, was resolved in Saint Ambrose’s preaching through his typological interpretation of the Old Testament: Augustine realized that the whole of the Old Testament was a journey toward Jesus Christ. Thus, he found the key to understanding the beauty and even the philosophical depth of the Old Testament and grasped the whole unity of the mystery of Christ in history as well as the synthesis between philosophy, rationality, and faith in the Logos, in Christ, the Eternal Word who was made flesh. (171)
Interesting…Biblical Theology via a typological interpretation of the OT was part of the breakthrough for St. Augustine in understanding the Scriptures. The Old Testament is a way to Jesus Christ, the eternal Word made flesh.
Evangelicals have been blessed with the recent increase of studies on the early church fathers. For example, Michael Haykin’s Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church and Bryan Litfin’s Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction both come to mind as recent good introductions. Another book that caught my attention is the edited work by Bradley G. Green, professor at Union University in Jackson, TN: Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy: Engaging with Early and Medieval Theologians (if interested, WTSBooks has it on clearance for for $15.00, which is 50% off here).
This edited work examines eight key theologians in the Christian tradition who have shaped what we believe today. The theologians included in this volume are the following (with the author in parenthesis):
- Irenaeus (W. Brian Shelton)
- Tertullian (Gerald Bray)
- Origen (Bryan Litfin)
- Athanasius (Carl Beckwith)
- The Cappadocians (Robert Letham)
- Augustine (Bradley G. Green)
- Anselm (David Hogg)
- Aquinas (Mark W. Elliott)
Each entry contains a short biography introducing the theologian, an introduction to specific writings, and a theological analysis. The individual sections close with a bibliography for further research.
To take an example, Brad Green’s chapter is a good introduction to Augustine’s thought. Covering almost 60 pages (pp. 235-292), Green provides a glimpse into key aspects of Augustine’s life and theology. After surveying Augustine’s life, Green examines some of the major points of his thought: God, Creation, Providence, Man, Grace and Salvation, Incarnation and Redemption, Church and Sacraments, Bible and Knowledge, and Civil Authority. In each case, although Green cannot go into detail, he does go to the important sections of quotes in Augustine’s writings (such as the Confessions for aspects of salvation and City of God for issues related to Civil Authority). What I found helpful about the chapter is that it gives you the ability to see where something is in Augustine’s massive writings, and go there for yourself. That is the benefit of an introductory volume like this, and each chapter does something along these lines.
Here is an endorsements by First Things own Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School: “This is a superb collection of essays on the greatest theologians of the Great Tradition during the first thirteen centuries of church history. It is encouraging to see such fresh and creative engagement with the development of Christian doctrine seen through the prism of its major shapers. Highly recommended!”
Teaching high school for a year at a very interesting little Berkshire boarding school got me onto shared class reading projects–the kids I was teaching were very smart, but, like most kids these days, just didn’t have much experience reading. So we read and read out loud together, stopping from time to time to talk about the language and the ideas and so on. I have very fond memories of doing that with “Song of Myself” in winter time, the whole class clustered around the wood-burning stove in our otherwise unheated classroom. When spring rolled around, we lay on the grass and read Gatsby together. Part of me felt guilty about spending class time on such a pleasant and low key activity–but you really couldn’t argue with the results. Kids got turned on to the language, read closely, loved talking about what they were reading as they were reading it, and greatly improved their comprehension and their close reading skills along the way. When the most reading-averse kids in the class are spontaneously picking out “favorite” passages in Whitman, you know something cool is happening.
So when I returned to college teaching the next year, I imported this teaching model and adapted it to Ivy League undergrads–which actually didn’t take much adapting at all. Once every couple of weeks, we’d read something together in class, going around the room, taking turns, everyone reading as much as they felt like reading and then leaving off for the next person. I worried that Penn students might think this was “beneath” them–might find it a silly or infantilizing activity. But they never did, and in fact, I think the class dynamic benefited a great deal from the relaxed, shared, contemplative quality of those sessions. Certainly they brought the literature we were reading “to life” in a way that silent, solitary reading can never do.
[HT: Alan Jacobs]
G. K. Chesterton had a way with words. Some of my favorite quotes come from him, and that includes a quote about fairy tales. The quote is usually stated like this: “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.” I actually heard it once on Criminal Minds (the TV show) of all places. Although Chesterton seems to be the original source for this idea, the quote is not exact. As best I can tell, the original source comes from Chesterton’s essay “The Red Angel,” in Tremendous Trifles (Amazon has a free Kindle version):
Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
A helpful reminder about evil, and while we are on the topic of Chesterton, I noticed that several of his individual works are free on the Kindle, but there are a few sets of his works that are worth a look that cost only 99¢. The Classic British Literature series has this one: Works of G.K. Chesterton, 29 books in a single file with active table of contents. It is one of the best because it has an active table of contents. Also, don’t miss the new Chesterton volume: The Everyman Chesterton, edited by Ian Ker. It was just published on April 5, 2011, and it is 952 pages of the best of Chesterton.
Reviewing a book titled The Son of Man written by François Mauriac (a French Roman Catholic who wrote about the problems of good and evil in human nature and in the world), Flannery O’Connor writes:
He proposes in the place of that anguish that Gide called the Catholic’s ‘cramp of salvation’ — obsession with personal salvation — an anguish transmuted into charity, anguish for another. Thus for Sartre, ‘hell is other people,’ but for the Christian with Mauriac’s anguish others are Christ. We realize that this way of looking at life was so completely left out of Mauriac’s youthful Catholic education that it has had to come to him as a discovery of later life. (The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews by Flannery O’Connor)
What caught my attention is that quote about Sartre, that “hell is other people.” The Christian perspective, informed by the reality of Christ and the work of grace, is that “others are Christ.” That is one of the best descriptions of a sacramental worldview that you will find in one sentence.
Many years ago my late friend J. Christy Wilson was pastor of the first ever Christian church in Kabul, Afghanistan. Through the good offices of President Eisenhower permission was granted to build the church, attended by Christian expatriates. The time came when the Afghan authorities revoked permission and announced they would knock the church down. When the bulldozers arrived what did the Christ followers there do? They served tea to the workers who were destroying their church building!
In a lecture on Introductory Theology, Kevin Vanhoozer describes how ministers were once considered Masters of theology, but now are considered Managers of programs for whom theology is only peripheral. He explains:
The pastor is the Manager of resources, financial and personal – no wonder the MBA may be more appealing than the MDiv. Note, however, that this picture of leadership is taken from other social institutions. The Israelites wanted a king like the other nations; we evangelicals want managers of megachurches to be like the megacorporations of our age. On the institutional level, the pastor is a professional manager of organizations. On the individual level, minister function as Therapists, applying psychological technology to individuals. The Manager and the Therapist are the dominant social paradigms for leadership in our times: the question is, to what extent should the Church follow suit?
Hopefully we will start asking the question more frequently, but the answer to it is a bit more complex. For example, some of this depends upon the size of a church. In a smaller, independent-type church, the pastor will often have to wear the hat of not only the minister, but the secretary, occasional janitor, administrator, etc. Now I know (or rather believe) it is not supposed to be that way normally, but it is nevertheless the case in smaller settings.
My friend Tim Russell, headmaster of Westminster Academy in Memphis, TN, pointed me to a fascinating article in the New York Times by Judith Shulevitz titled, “Creating Sabbath Peace Amid the Noise.” Shulevitz writes:
But what if you wanted to revive something like the Sabbath today? What if you coveted some of that sweetness and slowness and went looking for ways to get it? What would you do? Would you commit yourself to the Sabbath’s rituals and laws? Would you transform yourself into an Orthodox Jew or latter-day Puritan? How much would you be willing to change?
The article is not specifically Christian because it engages a broad range of religious choices, but it is a cultural evaluation of our current situation in this technologically crazy world.
Speaking about the value of catechism…Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI, and one of the bloggers here at Evangel, recently agreed to an interview about his new book The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism, which is on the Heidelberg Catechism. I originally posted the interview at In Light of the Gospel, but thought I would share it with the readers of Evangel.
James Grant: Let’s start with the obvious question: what is a catechism? And isn’t this some Roman Catholic thing?
Kevin DeYoung: A catechism is simply a tool for teaching the fundamentals of the faith. Unlike a creed or confession a catechism uses questions and answers. Many Protestant confessional traditions, like Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Reformed, have used catechisms for centuries. Initially, most catechisms were intended for children. Though we probably aren’t as biblical or theologically astute. So our adults need them too.
James Grant: What would be the benefits of using a catechism in the life of the church?
Michael Ives maintains a blog called “West Port Experiment.” It caught my eye some time back because of the emphasis on parish ministry. The title of his blog comes from the work of Dr. Thomas Chalmers, who tried to implement a parish model of church ministry in one of the worst slums of Edinburgh in the 1840s: the West Port.
I first met Timmy Bishop in January of 2004 when he and his parents, Tim and Jennifer, came to our house for a meal. Timmy was four at the time, and his father Tim was something of a new Calvinist looking for a Reformed-type church, so we invited them over to talk.
In the process of the conversation, Tim and Jennifer explained that Timmy had a rare nerve disease. This disease was causing his body to break down. At that time, Timmy could crawl and talk, and he had a small vocabulary, but over the course of the next six years, Timmy’s body started to deteriorate. He stopped talking and crawling. He also lost the ability to eat and needed a feeding tube. He lost his hearing and sight, and in 2008, he had surgery to remove one of his eyes.
That summer, we talked about Timmy’s life and his future death. We talked about his funeral and things that would take place when Timmy finished his course in this life. Tim and Jennifer also asked about the possibility of baptizing Timmy. I didn’t have a problem with it and thought it was an important decision. So on August 9, 2008, we had a baptismal service for Timmy at our church. It was a wonderful service, and it stands out as one of the most significant worship experiences of my own life.
Last Tuesday, April 13, 2010, around 3:15 pm, Timmy finished his course in this life. He was eleven years old. I was with Tim and Jennifer when Timmy died at the hospital, and although the grief was real and painful, it was very obvious that they had a hope beyond what others could see. Back in 2008, they had decided to stay with Timmy and his body until the end, so in the hospital, we explained to the nurses that we would wait until the funeral home arrived before we left. This came as a surprise to the nurses and some of the doctors. They thought this would be too hard on the parents. But with a quiet confidence, Tim and Jennifer explained that they had taken care of this little body for eleven years, through sickness and pain, and they were going to stay with him until he was transported to the funeral home.
Once the funeral home arrived, they followed the body out of the hospital until the funeral director left. The next day we met at the funeral home. They brought Timmy’s clothes and made the arrangements for the funeral, which was held at our church on Friday. Jennifer fixed Timmy’s clothes and hair, and the funeral home brought Timmy’s body to our church on Thursday afternoon, where he remained through the night. Tim and Jennifer had decided back in 2008 that they would also remain with the body that evening. During that time, they decided to cloth him with the baptismal robe we had used back in 2008. It was a special moment because that baptism defined Timmy and this moment more than his sickness or death. The funeral was Friday, April 16th, at 2:00 pm.
Why did Tim and Jennifer care for the body of their son, even after his spirit had departed? What was the point or reason for all of those decisions and actions? As Christians, we believe in the resurrection of the body, the body that was cared for in the hospital and at the funeral home and at our church. We believe that Timmy’s body, the body that was broken and weak because of his sickness, that body will be raised from the dead to a new life, with strong bones and strong muscles. Tim and Jennifer’s care for that body is a witness to the resurrection. As they walked down the hall of the hospital, they were witnessing to the resurrection. As they dressed him for the funeral, placing his baptismal robe on him, they were witnessing to the resurrection. And as we finished the ceremony and placed him in the tomb, we were witnessing to the resurrection. The tender care of that dead body was a witness to the resurrection at each step of this journey.
Timmy’s body is now resting until the day that Jesus returns and makes all things new. On that day, Jesus will wipe away the tears from Timmy’s eyes, and Jesus will wipe away the tears from his parents’ eyes. On that day, there will be no more pain or dying, for those things will have passed away. But until then, may God the Father, who created his body, may God the Son who by his blood redeemed his body, may God the Holy Spirit who by baptism sanctified his body to be His temple, keep his remains until the day of resurrection and provide hope for his parents to trust their Heavenly Father and be confident in the hope of the resurrection accomplished by Jesus Christ.
The beginning of a New Year is a time to reflect on God’s kindness and goodness to us, but we are often concerned and fearful about the future. What will happen this year? Will we make it through another trial? Can we survive another hard year?
In the face of an uncertain future, our hope as Christians is rooted in what older generations called “Providence.” Providence is the term we use to explain that God is so sovereign that everything takes place according to his purpose. If you affirm the providence of God, you are confessing, even in the face of all appearances to the contrary, that God cares for you and is in control of your life. One of the important passages describing the providence of God is Romans 8:28, where the Apostle Paul says, “All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose.”
The word providence actually comes from two Latin words: pro, which means before or in front of, and videre, which means to see. The concept of providence is that God not merely looks at human affairs, but he looks after human affairs. Watching after us is the heart of the doctrine of providence.
One of the early examples of Providence occurs in Genesis 22, when God tells Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. As they are going up the mountain, Isaac sees the fire and the wood, but he wonders where the lamb is for the burnt offering. Abraham says, “God will provide himself a sacrifice.” Indeed, God did provide a sacrifice in the place of Isaac, and Abraham called the name of the place, “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14), which is where we get the older name Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides.
About two thousand years after God provided a sacrifice for Abraham, He again acted to provide a sacrifice through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The cross is at the center of our hope for the future, and the Apostle Paul explains it this way: “If God did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). If God has given us His Son, He will surely see us through the coming year. You can trust the Providence of God, for He has already provided for your greatest need: He has given you His Son, which is good news indeed.
With some of the discussion regarding the gospel, I wanted to point out a recent post by Mark Jones titled “The Gospel and Sanctification.” Mark did his doctoral work on the Puritan Thomas Goodwin, so some of the essay references Goodwin’s work regarding the nature of the gospel. Mark concludes the post by explaining:
All of this is to suggest that just because many in the church today have a faulty idea of “living the gospel”, we need not over-react to this principle by making the gospel to be totally outside of us. Such an idea would have been foreign to Thomas Goodwin, and I’m sure the Apostle Paul. Based upon the above, any charge of moralism towards those who make the gospel larger than simply justification by faith is utterly groundless. Indeed, in my opinion, moralism is best avoided when the gospel includes the whole Christ, who is both for and in us, the hope of glory.
Read the whole post here.
Ligon Duncan, a signer of the Manhattan Declaration and president of The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, explains that they have received a number of requests concerning the Manhattan Declaration and why some have signed it with leaders from Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. He responded with a statement that has been posted at the Ref21 blog. He concludes with these words:
The issue boils down to a matter of judgment, not a disagreement in principle, between those Council members who signed and didn’t sign. The non-signers believe that the content of the document and the associations of the primary authors imply an ECT-like confusion about the Gospel. The signers believe that the explicit assertions and emphasis of the documents relate only to areas of principled social-ethical agreement between evangelicals and non-evangelicals. Further, they believe that it is important for individuals from the major quadrants of the historic Christian tradition to speak on these pressing matters in solidarity.
The Council members have had good, robust discussions on these things among ourselves about this whole matter. We continue to love and respect one another, and we all want to continue to serve and work with one another. The bonds of our fellowship are unbroken. Our commitment to the mission of the Alliance is unchanged. Our unity in the Gospel, and in the great solas of the Reformation is stronger than ever.
You can read his whole statement here.
Touchstone recently posted the weekly newsletter from Father Patrick Reardon, Pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, IL, and a signer of The Manhattan Declaration. In the newsletter, Reardon addresses two of the specific concerns over the document: the articulation (or lack thereof) of the gospel, and a call for repentance, using John MacArthur as an example of the former, and Father Jonathan Tobias as an example of the latter. After explaining both of these objections, Reardon concludes:
The objections of MacArthur and Tobias are curious in their evident presumption that Christians, when they speak in public, should limit their discourse to the proclamation of the Gospel and the summons to repentance.
This may be a legitimate view, though it was neither shared by many Christians over the centuries nor obviously favored by the prophets. Jonah, for instance, preached judgment—not repentance—at Nineveh, nor did his proclamation include one syllable of Good News. If this was true of Jonah, what shall we say of Nahum, whose own message to the Ninevites was just an expansion of Jonah’s meager half-verse?
Respectfully, these objections to the Manhattan Declaration (including its rhetoric) could easily have been made against any one—and perhaps all—of the biblical prophets. Our modest Declaration, as a statement of social concern, invites the endorsement of Christians who share that concern. The matter is truly as plain as that.
You can read his article here. I personally think Reardon is right, and I found his reflection on this quite helpful and a wise caution against evangelicals who never seem to find any reason to agree with those who are Roman Catholic or Orthodox.
When our hard copy of Touchstone arrived in the mail, my wife told me that I had to read John Granger’s article on the theology behind the Twilight series. The article is titled “Mormon Vampires in the Garden of Eden,” and it is now online here.
Granger gives us a reading of these books in light of Meyer’s Mormon faith, arguing that she is providing something of an apologetic for Mormonism. Granger explains:
Indeed, I think that resolving her misgivings and interior conflicts as a Mormon woman in a land of non-Mormons was a major impetus of Mrs. Meyer’s writing. In her books, she lays out defenses, often as inversions or compensating reversals (such as one would find in dreams), for at least ten specific Mormon beliefs, practices, and historic events that most outsiders would see as evidence that Mormonism is a fraud and a cult. One example from each category will illustrate this point.
Read the rest of his article to see how he argues for this interpretation and how this subtle message pervades the Twilight books.
I recently listened to an interview with Ken Myers at Ordinary Means, and I transcribed one of the questions and Myers’ answer from the interview at my blog. The question had to do with the two kingdom view of culture and the church. Justin Taylor picked it up on his blog, then Hunter Baker posted it here.
Readers could assume that Hunter is interacting with Myers’ view, and that Myers was saying that there is not a Christian view of politics (or whatever). Hunter responded to what the interviewer called the “high two-kingdoms view.” Myers was assuming the view for the sake of argument. If you read the whole answer, you will get some more of what Myers is trying to explain. Here is the whole exchange for context:
Question: One of the arguments out there by what I am going to call a “high two-kingdoms view,” is that there is not a distinctively Christian way of doing “X” vocation, even that we should resist that because that would be to mix the kingdoms, and if you were to, for example (this would be the anti-Abraham Kuyper position), be a politician, your Christian thought should not come in. Could you interact with that a little?
Myers: First of all I would agree…I am a believer in natural law. Let me put it this way. Let me say for the sake of the argument that I’ll agree with that, there isn’t a distinctively Christian view of politics and art, or anything. But there is a distinctively human view; that is there are de-humanizing possibilities in those spheres; Christians we are necessarily humanists. That is, Christians are necessarily interested in sustaining the best for human beings as human beings.
Now, having said that, I also do believe that any effort to understand the human apart from Christ falls short. Not that it is wrong, but I do think that we only understand our humanity fully by understanding [Christ]…I think that the biblical account of life helps us understand our humanity. So I think there are insights into humanity that come from all sorts of cultural sources through general revelation, but I do think that there are correctives that Scripture offers to understanding our humanity that are just not available elsewhere. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is distinctively Christian.
Let me put it the other way. What does Paul mean when he says in Colossians 1 that all things are through him and for him and to him in. That whole passage, that whole hymn from Paul seems to be that creation cannot be properly understood unless you understand it in a Christocentric form. And I think that it has as much to do with Christ’s identity as creator as it does Christ’s identity as redeemer.
This is where I challenge my two-kingdom friends. I think there is a danger in two kingdom thought of separating Christ as creator and Christ as redeemer, at least more than the New Testament does. I think that the New Testament speaks, just as the Old Testament, about the identity of God as creator and redeemer in a non-modalistic way. God is both creator and redeemer at once, and Christ is both creator and redeemer at once. In fact, redemption is a recovery of creation; redemption is a restoration of creation. So I think that we need to be careful from separating creation and redemption too starkly.
So I would say that there ought to be a Christocentric politic and aesthetic. Christians will not be the only ones who can recognize properly human and hence Christocentric realities. I think that is what the Reformed idea of common grace means. That non-believers will have the capacity to see that because they perceive things that are built into the structure of creation, built in there by Christ. So there is no getting away from Christ.
I became excited by this when I read Colin Gunton, who points out that there has long been a tendency by Christians to view creation as Unitarians, in other words, an impersonal and non-Trinitarian view of creation. So we think that God the Father made everything, things got screwed up, God the Son came and paid the penalty, and God the Spirit comes along and affirms it. So there is a type of sequential Trinitarianism. But Scripture affirms over and over that creation is a Trinitarian act, and so we don’t separate Christ from the fact of creation and the ordering of creation. To do that too starkly is to make a mistake.
For more of Myers view on culture, you can check out his book All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture, or you can visit Mars Hill Audio. He is the host of that audio journal.
Ken Myers, host of Mars Hill Audio Journal, was recently interviewed on the podcast Ordinary Means about the topic of culture and the church. During the interview, Myers talked about different ways that the church must be counter-cultural in our current cultural environment. He outlined five main areas:
- Inter-Generational Relationships
We have been trying to do some of this at my church. We are cultivating an appreciation for the history of church music by learning a new Psalm and an older hymn each month. We have certain times of the year when we have days of feasting (Christmas, Easter, etc.). We are also committed to not segregating our younger people from our older people, and strategically planning times for them to work together. Anyone have other ideas?
Given our discussion(s) about this blog (among other things!), Collin Hansen’s article at Christianity Today, posted this morning, caught my attention: “Not All Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” Hansen documents some of the conflicts between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, and how it has developed over the past 10 years or so.
UPDATE: If you click through to Hansen’s article, you will find that he discusses a recent controversy at George Washington University regarding the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and its cooperation with Roman Catholics, so you will also want to check out this response from InterVarsity president Alec Hill (HT: Justin Taylor).
There is a debate among evangelicals as to whether Christians should fast with Muslims during Ramadan. At Christianity Today Ruth Moon asked 10 church leaders to comment on the debate, and their different responses are…not sure what word to use here…unbelievable? I’m still looking for the right word. Several said it was fine as long as it was done appropriately, but Doug Wilson, in his typical style, gets to the heart of the issue:
“It is not appropriate to fast alongside Muslims. I wouldn’t make a point, if I were in a heavily Muslim state where everybody is fasting during the day, of fixing a hot dog and walking outside and eating it … but to observe Ramadan along with your Muslim neighbors and friends, letting them know that you’re observing Ramadan as an act of some sort of religious or spiritual solidarity, is simply a fundamental compromise. They’re observing Ramadan in the service of a false God and a false gospel, and we shouldn’t be trying to express our solidarity with that.”
You know, there is nothing like putting a matter in perspective. Some things that we come up with in the American church just wouldn’t go over very well in the Middle East, or for that matter, when you are surrounded by those who worship Baal, or those who burn incense to Caesar.
Fred Sanders makes an important point about the dangers of assumed evangelicalism and the drift we all have to guard against, not only in movements but in our own life. We do have to keep the gospel central in order to guard against this, and although I am glad for the current emphasis upon a “Gospel-Centered” life (and everything else) that is taking place in evangelicalism, I am also worried. There is an important distinction that must be made and maintained between the gospel, the good news regarding the life and death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the historical event never to be repeated, and the “work” of the Christian life that flows out of it. When everything becomes the gospel (gospel life, gospel work, gospel parenting, gospel speech, gospel this and that, etc…..), then at some point, nothing is the gospel.
Joe Carter started this discussion by asking, “How would the bloggers here at Evangel define the term? What is is that we all have in common that allows us to share the label?” Timothy George provides a helpful short and concise summary:
At its heart [evangelicalism] is a theological core shaped by the Trinitarian and Christological consensus of the early church, the formal and material principles of the Reformation, the missionary movement that grew out of the Great Awakening and the new movements of the Spirit that indicate “surprising works of God” are still happening today (“Foreword,” in The Advent of Evangelicalism).
I like the fact that George starts with the early church and its foundational theology, which is not something we always do well as evangelicals, but I often wonder how Trinitarian we really are in practice. How many of us open our worship service in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Or have any confession of the Triune name during worship? Hmm…