Over the past few months, as I have written about various issues arising in evangelicalism at large, and at Harvest Bible Chapel in particular, I have repeatedly come across comments that are disturbing on a number of levels. Take, for instance, this recent comment by a man identifying himself as “Bob”:
“You over complicate and analyze things. Its fine if you are into theology, and have your own views, but the Bible is no text book, and I don’t believe that Christianity is as complicated as you make it. Its a relationship with Christ that matters.”
While I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of Bob’s convictions, or even those of others who have offered similar comments both in public and in private, I do find myself growing increasingly concerned. And it is for this reason that I am beginning a new series on David F. Wells magisterial text entitled No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? Eager to jump right in, Wells pulls no punches and begins with a stark, sobering assessment:
“I have watched with growing disbelief as the evangelical church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy. Many taking the plunge seem to imagine that they are simply following a path to success, but the effects of this great change in the evangelical soul are evident in every incoming class in the seminaries, in most publications, in the great majority of churches, and in most of their pastors. It is a change so large and so encompassing that those who dissent from what is happening are easily dismissed as individuals who cannot get along, who want to scruple over what is inconsequential, who are not loyal, and who are, in any case, quite irrelevant.”
Having first encountered this text over a decade ago, I was stunned to see these words when I re-opened the book to start this series. What Wells was diagnosing in 1993 seems all the more relevant in the here and now, nearly 20 years down the road. Indeed, with the rise of the mega-church movement, the celebration of the celebrity pastor, the decrease in biblical literacy and the move towards statistically-backed efficacy, pragmatism and attractionally-based ministry models, one has to wonder whether Os Guinness has it right when he comments on the back of Wells’s book:
“Wells’s trenchant analysis is a devastating CAT scan of American evangelicalism. Unless it is responded to as well as read, the diagnosis might as well be a postmortem, for evangelicalism has no future if this condition is not remedied.”
What do you think? Are you encouraged by the state of the modern evangelical movement? Or do you find yourself agreeing with Guinness?