The recent Evangelical Manifesto
One who did not sign: Al Mohler
Review by Alan Jacobs of Wheaton
Interesting notes on fundamentalism:
Sixth, Evangelicalism should be distinguished from two opposite tendencies to which Protestantism has been prone: liberal revisionism and conservative fundamentalism. Called by Jesus to be “in the world, but not of it,” Christians, especially in modern society, have been pulled toward two extremes. Those more liberal have tended so to accommodate the world that they reflect the thinking and lifestyles of the day, to the point where they are unfaithful to Christ; whereas those more conservative have tended so to defy the world that they resist it in ways that also become unfaithful to Christ.
The fundamentalist tendency is more recent, and even closer to Evangelicalism, so much so that in the eyes of many, the two overlap. We celebrate those in the past for their worthy desire to be true to the fundamentals of faith, but Fundamentalism has become an overlay on the Christian faith and developed into an essentially modern reaction to the modern world. As a reaction to the modern world, it tends to romanticize the past, some now-lost moment in time, and to radicalize the present, with styles of reaction that are personally and publicly militant to the point where they are sub-Christian.
Christian Fundamentalism has its counterparts in many religions and even in secularism, and often becomes a social movement with a Christian identity but severely diminished Christian content and manner. Fundamentalism, for example, all too easily parts company with the Evangelical principle, as can Evangelicals themselves, when they fail to follow the great commandment that we love our neighbors as ourselves, let alone the radical demand of Jesus that his followers forgive without limit and love even their enemies.
Whereas fundamentalism was thoroughly world-denying and politically disengaged from its outset, names such as John Jay, John Witherspoon, John Woolman, and Frances Willard in America and William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury in England are a reminder of a different tradition. Evangelicals have made a shining contribution to politics in general, to many of the greatest moral and social reforms in history, such as the abolition of slavery and woman’s suffrage, and even to notions crucial in political discussion today, for example, the vital but little known Evangelical contribution to the rise of the voluntary association and, through that, to the understanding of such key notions as civil society and social capital.
“The problem in evangelicalism as an “-ism” of which Southern Baptist are an example, sometimes an egregious example, is the threat of pragmatism. If it works we go for it. If it attracts people we throw ourselves into it. Often, if not always, genuinely for the cause of wanting to reach people with the gospel. The question is once we’ve reached them, is it with the gospel? I find myself in a place of wanting to be very careful and not take cheap shots because its very easy to say ‘I don’t have any pragmatic considerations.’ But of course we do. I mean we have to have pragmatic considerations. After all we are meeting in a building. It is well lit, good acoustics. There are certain pragmatic issues to which we appropriately give attention. The question is, is it a pragmatic issue or means that distorts the gospel, that compromises Biblical truth? Obviously having a building and a sound system and lighting does not. But there are some evangelistic techniques, some programs, some understandings of what the church is all about that just doesn’t have anything to do with the Scriptural understanding of the church or the Biblical gospel. I want to be real careful because I hear some people speak about how unpragmatic they are. When that really isn’t the issue. You know we print nice periodicals. And we want them to be graphically appealing. That’s a means. Even the periodical itself. We use the internet. There are pragmatic considerations. The question is, is it a matter of methodology that does not violate the gospel, but is consistent with the proclamation of the gospel? Or just something requires a compromise? And the pragmatism of which the brother speaks is often a pragmatism that just violates the gospel. It violates true worship. It violates authentic evangelism. It threatens to violate the gospel itself. Usually not by what it states, but what it fails to state or proclaim.”
Al Mohler during a question an answer time following his address “Courage in Christian Ministry” at the Desiring God National Conference
“In 1987, two years before the Evangelical Affirmations conference, Kenneth Kantzer wrote:
Evangelicalism, as in the past, will present a cacophony of many voices. During the battles against liberalism, a common enemy held dissonant factions together. Yet this uneasy alliance seems unlikely to endure. Evangelicals will drift apart into two broad categories. The small group, more nebulous in doctrine and ethics, will seek rapprochement with the near-evangelicals so widely represented today in the top leadership of mainline denominations. The larger group, encompassing conservative evangelicals, both in and out of the mainline denominations, will join forces with the less truculent of the fundamentalists. On each side and in the middle, will significant groups that for one reason or another cannot quite stomach either group.
Kantzer was precisely right and wrong. He was right that evangelicals would split into two different parties. It is not at all certain that he was right, however, in the numerical distinctions he made between the smaller and the larger party. It may well be that the reformists will outnumber the orthodox evangelicals.”
Quoted from “Reformed Evangelicalism: A Center Without a Circumference,” by Albert Mohler as found in A Confessing Theology for Postmodern Times, edited by Michael Horton.
Every generation worries about the next — and usually with good reason. Here is another reason for worry about today’s adolescents and young adults — they don’t read. That is a generalization, of course. But the generalization seems to be holding true.
Thomas Washington, librarian at a Washington, DC area private school, recently contributed a “lament” to The Washington Post. The kids are privileged and have no problem of access to books, but they do not read. As he reports:
I’m a librarian in an independent Washington area school. We’re doing all the right things. Our class sizes are small. Most graduating seniors gain admission to their college of choice. The facilities are first-rate.
Yet from my vantage point at the reference desk, something is amiss. The books in the library stacks are gathering dust.