• Evangelicalism •
November 29, 2005
The Walt Disney Company and Walden Media are set to release The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on December 9 — so get ready for a major cultural event. I’ll provide much more material about the series, the movie, C. S. Lewis, and the cultural impact of this film in coming days. For now, I want to draw attention to two excellent articles published in the new edition of Reformation 21, the online journal of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.
October 25, 2005
My commentary published yesterday, “Why Isn’t ‘Spirituality’ Enough,” included a look at what professor Leigh E. Schmidt of Princeton University now proposes — an affirmation of “spirituality” as an antidote of sorts to what he sees as overly-dogmatic forms of Christian faith.
October 24, 2005
October 21, 2005
Just a few days ago, the Air Force announced that it had withdrawn a set of newly-issued guidelines that allowed chaplains to evangelize non-affiliated Air Force personnel. The Associated Press reported that the Air Force rescinded the guidelines in response to a lawsuit field by Mikey Weinstein, a Jewish graduate of the Air Force Academy.
October 5, 2005
As reported yesterday, Harriet Miers is member of Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, Texas. President Bush’s most recent nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court has attracted a great deal of media attention, and at least to major newspapers have published articles on her Christian faith.
October 4, 2005
President George W. Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers as the new associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court caught almost everyone by surprise. After all, Harriet Miers was — at least until yesterday — relatively unknown outside of the White House. Given the importance of this nomination, observers were left wondering what the President was signaling by his choice of Miers.
September 30, 2005
William Murchison takes a good look at the tragic collapse of Christian belief in Europe, describing Europe’s vanishing faith in poetic terms: “Centuries of Christian belief swept away in a great cosmic sorting-out; history stood on its head.”
The evidence is irrefutable, and the future of European civilization is very much in doubt. After all, the population growth in Europe is not coming among secularists, but among Europe’s fast-growing Muslim population. These are not secularists looking to build a post-Christian Europe.
Nevertheless, Murchison’s gaze also falls upon the United States, where Christian belief often appears more substantial that it really is. Consider these words of analysis:
Meantime, it seems necessary to advise against Americans’ giving themselves pious airs. Ours is a culture that puts more trust in supernatural religion than does Europe’s–but not that much more. On the way to church, my wife and I sometimes joke about the comings and goings on the road: joggers, bicyclists, the lounging crowds at Starbucks. Guess they’re getting a quick refill for the ride to First Methodist, we might say with a wink, well knowing the patrons to be occupied with latte and laptops rather than Bibles.
The legacy of the Enlightenment weighs upon us, as upon our European co-religionists: religion as claptrap and show, churches and cathedrals as places you repair not for physical and spiritual connection to Reality itself but for the satisfaction of habits or social needs or goodness knows what else. Anyway, how to present Christian realities in the context of a culture wedded to choice, change, and the satisfaction of personal wants? The immediate satisfaction, I should add: not deferred to some Better Time. Now. And preferably with as little pain and inconvenience as possible.
Christianity–we should admit it–is un-modern. Or, rather, it is modern in the sense that it encompasses all eras: past, present, and future. What we might call the “modern spirit” is in fact detached from the Christian spirit.
See “Vanishing Sea of Faith” in the October 2005 issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity.
September 26, 2005
September 22, 2005
September 13, 2005
September 10, 2005
Allen C. Guelzo has written an insightful and argumentative review essay on recent interpretations of Jonathan Edwards. In “Unpalatable to Modern Sensibilities,” Guelzo reviews Jonathan Edwards: America’s Evangelical, by Philip F. Gura – and then goes on to raise larger questions.
Guelzo’s article addresses several controversial issues in Edwards scholarship of recent years, and he steps on many scholarly toes. But his essay makes what I consider to be a very important point. Many recent works on Jonathan Edwards are attempts to turn him into what he certainly was not — a theologian who would fit nicely into the world of modern and postmodern thought.
Gura concedes that “Edwards couched his vision in language that many today would find offensive, or at least unpalatable.” That is an understatment. Just try reading “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” at the local Rotary meeting (or at many churches, for that matter).
Guelzo counters Gura: Still, there is a very real sense in which Edwards, if he cannot be stretched so thin as to provide a theologian for the age of therapy, still has reason to be considered “America’s Evangelical.” But even this is because the Edwards who survived the apparent death of his reputation in 1758 acquired his outsized standing over the following century at the expense of the very things the historical Edwards thought were the most important.
More: Gura is astute enough to see how American evangelicalism has re-made Edwards into something it can admire and “trumpeted him as the progenitor of a remarkable American spirituality”; but apparently that only gives Gura permission to do likewise for those today who are “unaffiliated with any explicitly religious tradition” and who simply want to “reconceive the tenor of the spiritual life.” And there is nothing which Jonathan Edwards would have found more bleakly abhorrent.
Guelzo criticizes Iain Murray for a lack of primary research in writing his Edwards biography, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, but he also concedes that Murray is “by the way, quite a good writer and quite well-read in Edwards’ published works and the secondary literature on Edwards.” He then went on to argue that it is Murray who comes closest to presenting Edwards as he actually was, “an utter partisan of Calvinist orthodoxy with the brains and inclination to confront the most abstruse intellectual challenges to that orthodoxy, a man of the most solemn integrity who would rather be broken by the storm than bend to the self-serving wishes of his own times and his own congregation, a man of ideas for whom personalities come in a distant second.”
From the real Jonathan Edwards:
Whoever thou art, whether young or old, little or great, if thou art in a Christless, unconverted state, this is the wrath, this is the death to which thou art condemned. This is the wrath that abideth on thee; this is the hell over which thou hangest, and into which thou art ready to drop every day and every night. If thou shalt remain blind, and hard, and dead in sin a little longer, this destruction will come upon thee: God hath spoken and he will do it. It is vain for thee to flatter thyself with hopes that thou shalt avoid it, or to say in thine heart, perhaps it will not be; perhaps it will not be just so; perhaps things have been represented worse than they are. [From "The Future Punishment of the Wicked: Unavoidable and Intolerable."]
The greater the mercy of God is, the more should you be engaged to love him, and live to his glory. But it has been contrariwise with you; the consideration of the mercies of God being so exceeding great, is the thing wherewith you have encouraged yourself in sin. You have heard that the mercy of God was without bounds, that it was sufficient to pardon the greatest sinner, and you have upon that very account ventured to be a very great sinner. Though it was very offensive to God, though you heard that God infinitely hated sin, and that such practices as you went on in were exceeding contrary to his nature, will, and glory, yet that did not make you uneasy; you heard that he was a very merciful God, and had grace enough to pardon you, and so cared not how offensive your sins were to him. How long have some of you gone on in sin, and what great sins have some of you been guilty of, on that presumption! Your own conscience can give testimony to it, that this has made you refuse God’s calls, and has made you regardless of his repeated commands. Now, how righteous would it be if God should swear in his wrath, that you should never be the better for his being infinitely merciful!. [From "The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners."]
There also the hateful nature of our sins is manifested in the most affecting manner possible: as we see the dreadful effects of them, in that our Redeemer, who undertook to answer for us, suffered for them. And there we have the most affecting manifestation of God’s hatred of sin, and his wrath and justice in punishing it; as we see his justice in the strictness and inflexibleness of it; and his wrath in its terribleness, in so dreadfully punishing our sins, in one who was infinitely dear to him, and loving to us. So has God disposed things, in the affair of our redemption, and in his glorious dispensations, revealed to us in the gospel, as though everything were purposely contrived in such a manner, as to have the greatest possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move our affections most sensibly and strongly. How great cause have we therefore to be humbled to the dust, that we are no more affected! [From "A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections," Part One, Section Three.]