Ironically and providentially I posted on an excellent book by David Wells entitled "The Courage to be Protestant" a couple weeks ago. Wells offers a more thorough analysis of the evangelical landscape than Spencer. Read my post that references Wells' explanation of how he would label himself. It relates to the Spencer post I am currently reviewing here.
Continuing a brief analysis of Michael Spencer's widely referenced post. Let's consider some of the reasons he believes there will be a major collapse in evangelical Christianity.
Spencer lists as his first reason for an imminent collapse of evangelicalism-
"Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society."
The Church should be actively involved with shaping the culture she is in. Such shaping only occurs when Christians are working toward possessing and living a holistic biblical worldview. I have posted extensively on the matter of shaping such a worldview, click on "Worldview" on the right sidebar under Topics and you can peruse various thoughts on the importance of a Christian worldview in shaping culture. One of the most helpful resources currently available is Nancy Pearcy's book "Total Truth". She basically supports what Spencer says about Christians aligning themselves too tightly with a cause rather than holding to and living out a biblical creed. Nancy Pearcey wrote-
Genuine worldview thinking is far more than a mental strategy or a new spin on current events. At the core, it is a deepening of our spiritual character and the character of our lives. It begins with the submission of our minds to the Lord of the universe- a willingness to be taught by Him. The driving force in worldview studies should be a commitment to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind" (see Luke 10:27)
That's why the crucial condition for intellectual growth is spiritual growth, asking God for the grace to "take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). God is not just the Savior of souls, He is also the Lord of creation. One way we acknowledge His Lordship is by interpreting every aspect of creation in the light of His truth. God's Word becomes a set of glasses offering a new perspective on all our thoughts and actions.
One of the results from not possessing a biblical worldview has been a poorly thought out and explained activism. Christians oppose or promote this or that but seldom provide a thorough reason for the matter they are promoting. The general public grows tired with the lack of sound, developed arguments many Christians or Churches have. Spencer rightly observes a general alignment with political conservatism on the part of many Christians and some churches. Political conservatism doesn't equal biblical Christianity. Watching Rush Limbaugh, the tribal leader of modern conservatism, speak at the CPAC recently made me queasy. Sure I tend to agree with the historic ideals of political conservatism, however I'm not comfortable signing on point for point with Rush Limbaugh. My label as a Christian is more important than being identified as a political conservative. I don't think Christians should relish ideological identification with any unbeliever, even if they're is considerable agreement. Furthermore, what is political conservatism today? George Bush? John McCain? Sorry, while I have respect for these men, I would rather not be aligned with their worldviews. Aligning too closely with politicians and political movements can be counter productive for the cause of Christ. It's fine to be politically conservative, but raising that banner over the banner of Christian is a mistake that seriously hinders our ability to be salt and light, in my opinion.
Spencer finishes his first reason for the imminent collapse of evangelicalism by stating-
"The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith."
Spencer hits the nail on the head. The Church should speak against sins like gay marriage and abortion, but her lack of a cogent, pervasive, ideology (biblical worldview) makes us look like Amish kill-joys concerned only with condemning others and ruining their happiness. There are plenty of ways a Christian can argue intelligently and compassionately against gay marriage and abortion. It goes without saying, our words should also be backed by compassionate action.
Spencer really strikes hard when he says "The massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence," and he's right. If every Christian could give a coherent explanation of the gospel and how redemption touches every aspect of our lives and world, I think we would be witnessing a different situation in our country. Because of the total superficiality doctrinally and ideologically that is displayed by too many professing Christians, we are simply not taken seriously in the various cultural debates of our day. Spencer's final statement- We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith - underlies much of the ineffectiveness of so-called evangelicalism in our day.
The Church today needs a renewed, biblical understanding of three doctrines (at least)- Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. A biblical understanding and propagation of these key biblical doctrines serve to shape our worldview. Evangelicals have largely been concerned with only one of these- redemption, or "getting saved". To make matters worse, the popular evangelical view of redemption is largely human-centric (Arminian) and thus promotes too low a view of God. Christianity has been reduced to a "doctrine" about getting saved from Hell and that's about it. What about redemption as the bible displays it? To understand the need for redemption one must understand what happened to God's creation at the Fall in Genesis. No Christian can properly navigate the issues of our day and culture without recognizing the effects of sin in ourselves and the world we live in. Furthermore, to understand redemption one must comprehend what Christ came to redeem (His people and Creation itself). Nancy Pearcey covers these necessary components for developing a biblical worldview in her book "Total Truth", so I won't belabor the point here.
I'll review Spencer's second reason for the imminent collapse of evangelical Christianity next.
Two must reads on this topic:
"The Courage to Be Protestant" by David Wells
"Total Truth" by Nancy Pearcey