I’m envious of Chad Lakies. He got to attend the conversation between Rachel Held Evans and Roger Olson on the “Future of Evangelicalism” recently at George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Sounds like it was a great conversation. But, as much as Chad resonated with what he heard, he also found something missing in the conversation:
Has evangelicalism, emerging as it has out of its originary concerns for the practical, been complicit in the emergence of therapeutic religion? Indeed, yes. But, but, but….not just evangelicalism. The problem of therapeutic religion is much bigger than evangelicalism. It has affected all of American religion. It goes even beyond Christianity.
Perhaps then, a better question, since it is a more pressing concern, and was not addressed in the conversation today, is this: how will the future of evangelicalism face the contemporary challenge of therapeutic religion? How will the Gospel be preached faithfully in a world where the hearers’ ears are already tuned to hear things a certain way, who already desire a certain kind of religion? This is as significant an issue as the one about the disentanglement with politics, if not bigger, because it runs deeper in our social imaginary and has been there longer.
Yet, this is not just a question for evangelicals. This is a question for Catholics, confessionals, and all Christian leaders. This is indeed a question for all of us. As we forge ahead into the postmodern future, we might not end up with religion without religion (whatever that is), but if we don’t face the issue of therapeutic religion, we might end up with “church” without church.
If Chad’s final question interests you, I suggest you join me next month at Subverting the Norm II.