A plea and a warning for evangelism | Jesus’ Creed
A plea and a warning for “evangelization”
“I’m surprised people are still trying to run in these circles.”
This is what my colleague, a New Testament scholar who adheres to all ecumenical beliefs and staunchly defends the inspiration of Scripture, told me. And by “people,” he was specifically referring to the Bible and theology teachers who ran in conservative evangelical circles.
It is simply assumed – and we see this again and again in practice – that if you get the academic training you will find life in many evangelical churches difficult, if not impossible.
But why? Why do most Bible scholars and theologians say, “I give up. I’m exhausted. It’s time to become Anglican / Episcopalian / Methodist / Presbyterian etc. “
Is it because higher education necessarily makes you liberal? Is it because academic theology beats people’s Christian commitment? Is it because, in order to be a distinguished scholar, you must disavow conservative Christian commitments?
This is because much of evangelicalism – when it comes to philosophy, theology, and hermeneutics – is at least 30 years behind. And I’m not talking about “progressing” with culture. I’m not talking about the complex debates about gender and sexuality.
I’m talking about things like (to name a few):
- Young Earth Creationism
- Women in ministry
- Assimilate neo-reformed Calvinism to “orthodoxy” (without worrying about ecumenical beliefs)
- To equate all concerns for social justice with submission to liberals and / or an uncritical and naive acceptance of Marxism.
The sad thing is that most Bible scholars and theologians I know – many of whom are conservatives or moderates and deeply love the Church and care about its future – agree: the mark of evangelism. which exists in many evangelical conservative churches has about 30 years of life left. Its national influence has been declining for decades.
He buys more life by sacrificing the next generation on the altar of the fundamentalism of a previous generation.
A few points about this:
- Training is important. You shouldn’t be sitting under a pastor who doesn’t have any serious Bible or theological training (and there are, of course, many different types of training).
- MacArthur, Sproul, Piper, etc., are not reliable Bible scholars or theologians. There’s a reason they’re almost universally regarded in universities as unreliable Bible or theological guides. It is not because “academia is liberal”. This is because most experts recognize that people like this, no matter how good they have done for the kingdom of God, do not demonstrate the skills to deal with complex historical, biblical, and theological issues. with competence and nuance. There’s a reason many have flocked to Wright, McKnight, Bird, etc. It is not only because they have found in these scholars a balance and an undertone of good taste. This is because they recognize a required skill.
- Rediscover the great ecumenical creeds of the Church as markers of authentic Christianity. Stop making doctrine 89 of your church a “gospel problem.”
And this is, for me, a plea and a warning. There are some merits to “simple evangelical Christianity”. But he must beware of falling prey to some of the worst unintended consequences of Luther’s Reformation.
The priesthood of all believers does not imply the “schooling” of all believers. And that’s something Luther would have absolutely agreed with.
And, if you want to keep the specifically Reformed influence, I would say this:
More (for example) Vanhoozer, Moo and Schreiner, and less MacArthur, Sproul and Piper, etc.
But, better yet, no more Wright, no more McKnight (and now Barringer!), No more Richter, no more McCaulley, no more Bates, no more Edwards (Dennis, not Jonathan), plus Warren (Tish, not Rick) , and more Bird, just to name a few.
Chris Kugler (@chrisryankugler)
Assistant Professor of Theology
Houston Baptist University