This Question That Haunts Christianity series is now an occasional series, as opposed to weekly. But I’ll still field questions and do my best to answer. Directions on how you can submit a question below. Today’s question comes from reader Pat, and it concerns a contentious post by Roger Olson last week:
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.
Roger Olson recently posted a piece on why he’s not a “liberal Christian.” He said that he came to this conclusion after reading a bunch of liberal/progressive Christian blogs. Roger’s a great blogger, but one of his failings is that he never provides hyperlinks. This post is no exception. He doesn’t name the blogs or tell us who is a liberal blogger, in his opinion, and who is just getting over their fundamentalism (like he is).
Probably some readers think I’m hanging out on the far left, but you only need to read the comments to find a bunch of liberals who think I’m a raving conservative (on some issues). That’s why I’ve fought repeatedly to be listed among both the progressive Christian bloggers and the evangelical bloggers here at Patheos.
(Excursus: It bugs me that in the Patheos channel listings, “Evangelical” is its own category, but “Progressive Christian” is the name of the other channel. Why not “Evangelical Christian” or “Progressive.” This isn’t just a grammatical plea for parallel construction — I think it says something.
A lot of us know that neither “progressive” nor “liberal” is quite right. That’s why I waged a campaign to be called “Incarnational Christians.” Let the conservatives have “evangelical,” but let’s use a similarly theological signifier for ourselves.)
Since Roger doesn’t tell us who is who in his list, I’m left to guess about myself. I was never a fundamentalist, and I was only vaguely evangelical — anyone who attended Fuller Seminary when I was a student will tell you that my relationship with evangelicalism was an uneasy one. So I’m left to go through Roger’s rubric to see if I am, indeed, a “liberal.” Here’s his list, and my responses:
Two posts of note today.
I don’t often re-post stuff from Rachel Held Evans, mainly because I assume that you all read her already. Her posts are, almost without exception, worth reading. But today’s post was, I think, a watershed post for her (and probably for many post-evangelicals). The talk for many years has been around Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. His conclusion: There isn’t an evangelical mind.
Well, that was nearly 20 years ago. Evangelicals have done their best to mitigate that, starting Books & Culture and academic societies and the like.
But, Rachel tells us, that’s not the real problem. That’s not what’s driven her from evangelicalism.
Rachel leaving evangelicalism because evangelicalism lacks a heart: