Posts Tagged ‘evangelical’

Thanks to Kendall for picking this up.  One of the things that I commend Mouw for articulating a view that is rarely picked up by the media.  While one can say that some conservaties have left the Episcopal Church, you cannot say that they have departed from the faith.  Rather they’ve preserved it.  Their positions on Christology, soteriology, and yes, sexual ethics far better reflect the historic view of the catholic church as well as the current view of the Anglican Communion.  You could say they’ve left (TEC) without going anywhere (the historic faith).  The question people are currently asking in South Carolina is can you stay in TEC and still stay in the historic faith? Our Bishop, Mark Lawrence, seems to think so

This is a complicated issue for many of us who worry about the theological direction of the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA). For one thing, I hate to see conservatives leave over women’s ordination. What that means, among other things, is that they are abandoning many dedicated women clergy who are themselves conservative on the other two issues: biblical authority and homosexuality. But we do have to be clear that it is not enough to say that the departing conservatives are simply setting up “a separate denomination.” In this case they are aligning themselves with the growing majority of Anglican churches around the world–an alignment that liberal Episcopalians are choosing to abandon by their recent actions.

For me, though, there is a further complication. The evangelical seminary that I lead was founded six decades ago to counter the “separatism” of much of the evangelicalism of the day. One of the founding purposes, then, was to prepare persons for evangelical ministries in mainline denominations. While I respect and support those who sense God’s call to depart from a denomination like ECUSA, I also want to respect the call of those evangelicals who choose to hang in there. I don’t want to see ECUSA left without an evangelical presence.

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Question: Dr. Packer, you have done a great deal of writing and speaking on the subject of the need for a new reformation, a new awareness of the sovereignty and grace of God in our day. How do you assess the condition of the state of evangelicalism as it presently exists, and what do you think we can do about that condition?

Packer: I see evangelical strength needing desperately to be undergirded by Reformation convictions, otherwise the numeric growth of evangelicals, which has been such a striking thing in our time, is likely never to become a real power, morally and spiritually, in the community that it ought to be. I mean by Reformation truth, a God-centered way of thinking, an appreciation of his sovereignty, an appreciation of how radical the damage of sin is to the human condition and community, and with that, an appreciation of just how radical and transforming is the power of the Lord Jesus Christ in his saving grace. If you do not see deep into the problem, you do not see deep into the solution. My fear is that a lot of evangelicals today are just not seeing deep enough in both the problem and the need. But Reformation theology takes you down to the very depth of the human problem. And actually, the Reformation itself was a recovery of the tremendous contribution that the great St. Augustine made back at the turn of the fourth and fifth centuries. He was the man who, more than anyone else in Christendom, saw to the heart of the real problem. He saw how much damage sin had done, how completely we were oriented away from God by nature. He is the one who left us that phrase ‘original sin’ which he got from the text of Psalm 51:5: ‘Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.’ He also saw in response to our sinful condition, how great a work of transformation was needed by the grace of God in human lives. The sixteenth-century Reformers stood on Augustine’s shoulders at this point. Of course, they clarified the great truth that justification by faith is the way in which the grace of God reaches us. We need, even today, a Christianity that is as deep and strong as that. And this, it seems to me, is where modern evangelicalism is lacking.

Question: Would you say that there is a connection or a similarity between the man-centered theology of evangelicalism and the general humanistic spirit?

Packer: Yes, although I think that it is an indirect connection. Secular humanism, you see, is very man-centered. It encourages every individual to regard his or her own personal happiness as the supreme value. And the kind of evangelical religion which does not challenge this self-centered, self-absorbed standpoint, but, rather, reinforces it by making one’s religious experience the most important thing in the world, or God’s gift of personal contentment, happiness, joy, good feelings, or that kind of thing, is simply echoing the tenets of this type of modern humanism. A Reformational emphasis, however, challenges this by asserting that God is the centre, not man. We must recognize that he is at the heart of things and that we exist for his glory, that is to say, we exist for him, not he for us. And it is only as we set ourselves to glorify him as the one who supremely matters that we are going to enter into the joy and fulfillment which being a Christian brings. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it so well: ‘What is the chief end of men?’ answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The enjoyment comes as we set ourselves to glorify God. But if our concern is with the enjoyment, then we won’t be glorifying God.

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Innovative Type: Following up-tempo entertainment, Bible verses are presented as tools to solve life’s problems. In varying fashion, either the sermon or the Bible acts like a tool box. If you go to the tool box knowing which tool you need, you can fix any problem. This type may present itself with a can-do attitude and a determination to try harder to make life work.

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Another story. In 1919, Trinity Great Court in Cambridge saw a meeting between Rollo Pelly, the Secretary of the liberal Student Christian Movement, and Daniel Dick and Norman Grubb (President and Secretary of the evangelical Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union). The meeting was to discuss the re-unification of the two movements that had split in 1910.

After an hour’s talk, I asked Rollo point blank, ‘Does the SCM put the atoning blood of Jesus Christ central?’ He hesitated, and then said, ‘Well, we acknowledge it, but not necessarily central.’ Dan Dick and I then said that this settled the matter for us in the CICCU. We could never join something that did not maintain the atoning blood of Jesus Christ at its centre; and we parted company.’

In its earliest days the SCM believed and proclaimed the atoning blood of Jesus. The next generation assumed it but did not make it central.

Proclaiming, assuming, denying. This description of a movement’s history is admittedly something of a caricature – any such development would always be the result of many complex factors. Nevertheless, it is a useful way of attempting to identify defining decisions that profoundly shape a movement’s evolution and it has lessons for us about the dangers and challenges facing other similar movements.

In this article, I want to suggest that evangelicalism – Christianity that gets its definition from the gospel, the good news (Greek: the evangel) – is exactly one such ‘movement’, and to try to examine what evangelicalism in the middle stage, the assumed stage, looks like. This article suggests that individuals, churches, movements and institutions that use the name evangelical, and which are therefore claiming an important commitment to the gospel, are all susceptible to the very subtle drift that can take place from proclaiming through assuming to denying the gospel.

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