Evangelicals: Are we merely speaking to ourselves?

wpid-wp-1395868938417.jpgFrancis Schaeffer explains in the first chapter of his first book, that there has been titanic shifts from the old medieval era into the modern age. Philosophers were the first and are typically always the first to speak of this shift and to accept it. Then it can be traced into art, music, and then the general culture. Then the sub-culture holding off the longest against the tides of modernism are the theologians. Though those to have had their day and the shift has made its way into theology.

As we consider this shift we also may be considering the shift into the Post-Modern era. This shift has begun and taken affect in the sub-cultures of Philosophy, Art, and Music, as well in the general culture. We can also see its effect in theology as the church begins to ’emerge’ from its modern, and/or pre-modern nature.

The-God-Who-Is-There(1)Schaeffer’s point in the first chapter of his first book, is that if we do not understand this shift in the culture, academia, art, and theology then when we speak we may only be speaking to ourselves. We are like the ostrich who buries his head in the sand thinking he has hid himself from the danger and is soon devoured by the lion. We have shrunk deeper into our own circular thinking, safe inside the bubble of our own theology. This is Darrow Miller description of the evangelical community following the enlightenment, and the emergence of Darwinian Science and secular humanism in western culture. While evangelicals might assume they are above the line of despair they are fooled. Their optimism for theological worldview is wounded by its inability to engage in what has been deemed secular culture, secular philosophy, secular arts. Theology itself has fallen below the line of despair, it is as Ranald Macaulay says, a one-legged Christianity.

These assessments of Christian faith and its inability to relate to culture is because we have made our faith something private, not appropriate for public life. We are in large part responsible for this style of wounded Christianity.

Another analogy for modern evangelicalism is, the museum. Instead of being an active soldier who defends and goes on offensive to fight for the aims of the superior the evangelical community is like a private museum. Evangelicals have lost ground to this modern tide because of their inability to defend the gospel at the forefront of the spheres of life as well as their failure to think and act as an educated person, understanding and at war with the tide.

We need to get better. We simply need to begin fixing what we have screwed up. I want to conclude this post by recommending a few Christian figures I believe have been getting this right. I think that the next step is outward, into unfamiliar fields of study and discussion. Philosophy, Science, Sociology, History, Art, Music, and the general culture.

My suggestions for doing this are to start with literature and biblical worldview. Educate yourself. Address false dichotomies of sacred and secular.

Use these authors, read their books, find their audio and video lectures online.

C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, N.T. Wright, John H Walton, Rodney Stark, Vishal Mangalwadi, Darrow Miller, Francis Schaeffer. Study Philosophy and its history, study the history of science, study history.





Categories: Authority, Church, Culture, Enlightenment, Faith, History, Medieval Period, Modern, Philosophy, Post-Modern, Science, Society/Culture, sociology, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Evangelicals: Are we merely speaking to ourselves?

  1. It has always been a problem for Christians to get into the secular culture. St. Paul had his famous moment at the Areopagus where he attempted to get the Athenians to understand that their Unknown God was the very God he tried to preach. St. Paul is famous for saying that he tried to become all things to all men so that some might be saved. The same apostle quotes the tragedian Euripides twice in his letters to try to get his point across.

    I suppose the main problem for Christians is that there is so much wrong with secular culture that a Christian does not wish to even look at it. But, there is a part of man which is always seeking God, even if he does so in a twisted manner. (G. K. Chesterton famously wrote that even when a man is going to a brothel, he is seeking God.) The whole question revolves around how to turn the understanding of the post-modern man to seeing the vacuity of his actions and the happiness he might find in Jesus Christ. This very goal is what makes T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland so worth reading.

  2. Nice work. Have been studying HSWTL by Schaffer and am feeling a deep sense of conviction. I am ashamed of how fearful I am of breaking out!

  3. Doesn’t God redeem everything, environment, man, culture? Doesn’t He use us for that? How can we do that without engaging with it? I never understood. It’s like the debate around alcohol – we’re either completely against it, or delighting in it like teenagers doing something ‘bad,’ when our fathers and forefathers in the faith delighted in it and drunk it to His glory, when God Himself referred to it as evidence of His blessing. We lose perspective far too often defending doctrinal hills that Jesus would have left (or moved) to go fight the greater war.

  4. George Fyfe-Taylor (Thoughts for Thought Blog)

    Thanks for the post! I find it an exciting yet challenging task to engage with the culture around me. It’s a case of keeping in tune and in constant dialogue with the shifting thoughts and ideas that people continue to bring to the table. As Christians the ability to adapt in all situations, and engage with the people you encountered, are skills much needed! Tough but all altogether rewarding and necessary.

    I think listening is a key apologetic tool when engaging with the culture. It’s only through listening to others and their worldviews that you can begin to deconstruct their view, and then reconstruct a Christian one in it’s place. The apostle Paul listen to the needs of people, and had different approaches for different types of people. This is a method clearly seen within his epistles. If we’re not listening to the culture, and we don’t have a clear understanding of particular worldviews, situations or needs, then we may just get the approach completely wrong when we try to engage and talk about our faith with people. Our message then can run the risk of becoming irrelevant to the culture around us.

    Thanks again for the post.

  5. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12987401-bad-religion

    Nicely stated. I’m totally on board with you. Some of my favorite authors and thinkers were cited in this post. Have you read Ross Douthat’s “Bad Religion”? I think you’d dig it. The link to an overview I wrote about it is above.

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