Evidence Of Problems In Evangelicalism

“Evangelicalism is not the solution to America’s problems; evangelicalism is America’s problem.”

Doug Wilson, October 21, 2009, Blog and Mablog.

“Evangelicalism is a day-old donut.” (ibid.)

And my take? Well, with Wilson and atheist Christopher Hitchens storming the airwaves and clogging bookstores with their debate on the good of Christianity, and with this summer’s mostly-favorable profile of Wilson in Christianity Today magazine, he has been elevated to statesmanlike status in U.S. conservative Christian circles.

That Wilson is considered a reasonable, articulate, informed spokesperson for evangelicalism is, I think, more than sufficient evidence of the mainstream evangelical movement’s impotent and irrelevant place in American society. And that’s a shame.

The Gospel message it preaches is timeless, as profound and absolutely necessary today as in centuries past, and that message is much better represented by scholars and preachers you’ve likely never heard of, but who understand and, just as important, live out the Gospel with greater passion and clarity than a man who, in private conversation and in public debate, I have not found to be particularly adept and informed. In fact, I think his Federal Vision theology is as misguided and lacking as his witness to his neighbors on the Palouse. With multitudinous evangelicals doing life-changing and Church-challenging work for Christ across the country, Wilson really, in my mind, ought not be held up as a powerhouse of either scholarship or ministry.

Sour grapes on my part? Nope. Of course Doug Wilson and his attendant organizations — I balk just a bit at “ministries” — will be more famous than I am. I don’t care that more people hear him than hear me. I do, however, care very much that his bigotry, his theological shortcomings, and his cringe-worthy approach to ministry and community have been glossed over so that he’s repackaged as a viable spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ. He’s not.

But a movement lead, in the media and in the eyes of the watching culture around it, primarily by affluent Anglo men will continue to run the race only at half-speed. Nonetheless, the Evangelical Movement that is so visible and so consumed with itself isn’t the same as the Christian work, ministry, life and culture of the millions and millions of Americans who, in anonymity and under-appreciation, get up every day to do the work Christ calls them to. You don’t hear of them, and you don’t hear of the countless scholars and preachers who speak with them or come from their ranks — none of whom, I imagine, would be willing to have a man who defends slavery in the American South as the spokesman for the faith they cherish and work for with all their hearts.

6 Responses to “Evidence Of Problems In Evangelicalism”

  1. Ashwin says:

    Your only problem with Mr. Wilson is that Southern Slavery thing and maybe his interpretation of the incident with the Syro-phoenician woman.

    In both cases he has presented his point of view very insightfully and cogently. He is hardly a bigot. Far from it.

    In fact, I think he is G. K. Chesterton restored to us. And we need such a person.

    You should be encouraging his defence of the Gospel.

  2. Ashwin says:

    As for his theological shortcomings, John Piper disagrees with you. This should give you pause.

  3. Well, Ashwin, those aren’t my “only” concerns, but wouldn’t you think that defending slavery is an act egregious enough that, barring apology and repentance (humility Wilson seems not to demonstrate often), it would disqualify you from being thought of as a qualified Bible teacher and representative of the faith?

    Except that you probably wouldn’t actually think that. And that’s a shame. I don’t know how you can be so comfortable with that much compromise.


  4. One other thing, Ashwin. Yes, Piper has declared Federal Vision theology to be safely within the bounds of orthodox (small “o”) Christian doctrine. On the other hand, Calvin Beisner and other Reformed theologians have criticized FV. We could go on like this forever, each one of us picking a theologian who affirms or denies his views.

    So here’s what I’d like you to do — read the 2004 collection of pro/con FV essays coming from the Knox Theological Seminary Colloquium on the Federal Vision. Rather than defending it based on who’s on Wilson’s team or not, read his and other FV proponents’ essays. Read the dissenting essays. And always, but always, use your Bible to determine if this doctrine is correct or not.

    Finally, I’ll say that I cheer on anyone, Wilson included, as they preach and defend the Gospel. The problem is that I don’t believe he does, and that he does enough unfortunate things to muddy up the clear, Nicene Creed-like teachings that I believe are at the core of his theology — apart from the FV. I believe the FV to wrong and even dangerous for young people and children born to “Covenant parents.” My sons were both born to such a family, and yet I would NEVER have not “evangelized” them in the hope of bringing them to Christ. Most of us believe that Christ has no “grandchildren,” that each of us must establish our own relationship with him (and only because of his grace). Wilson, et al, seem to be preaching, here and elsewhere, something different.

    Explore it yourself, and if you cannot find a copy of the book, contact me via my kjajmix1@hotmail.com address and I’ll try to help.


  5. Ashwin says:

    Ms Mix: I don’t know how you can be so comfortable with that much compromise.

    Ashwin: I am more than comfortable with that “compromise”. In fact I am delighted that someone had the guts to give things their proper name. Slavery in the American South was pretty foul – but worse than serfdom in Imperial Russia? Or untouchability in India? What about the condition of the peasants in the Sun King’s France?

    Mr. Wilson has a wonderful gift of not being afraid of speaking his mind. And he does not do it with the intention to provoke – though I suspect he enjoys a good argument. But then so did G. K. Chesterton.

    I will read the essays you mentioned. Thanks for guiding me to them.

    God bless you.

  6. All of the examples of human exploitation that you mention were, indeed, awful — but they all have one other thing in common as well. They didn’t happen in “Christian” America, weren’t supported by “Christians” then or now, and are not now subjects of his defense. Slavery in the antebellum South was, though, and if you’ve read the original “Southern Slavery As It Was,” you would, I imagine, be horrified at not only his contention, but the immature, sloppy, hermeneutic he uses to arrive at it. Please contact me if you’re not able to find the book of essays I mentioned; I would be more than happy to send it to you.

    As always, thanks for your comments, Ashwin.


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