Dead Evangelicalism Walking

Dead Evangelicalism Walking October 15, 2019

Darrell Lackey wrote a post that has so much rich and provocative detail that I felt I should highlight it here on my own blog, and not just share a link to his post on social media. He writes:

Only pride would ever lead a religious group or tradition, produced by an enormously complex matrix of historical events, to believe (as if similar events could not arise in the future) they were somehow a permanent feature of temporal time–blessed above all others.

He is referring to the demise of Evangelicalism, about which he writes a number of insightful criticisms including this:

The good news isn’t turn or burn.  That’s the message of a sociopath.  The good news, as just noted by Christ in Luke’s gospel, is truly good as it announces a new paradigm, a new Kingdom, a way of life that subverts whatever structures and powers were in place (including our own hearts), that led to the creation of the categories of persons he identifies, in the first place.

It is primarily something lived and not just, “shared.”  One cannot bring such a message without doing something about these very categories making up the audience, the recipients of this good news (otherwise, we are hypocrites).  This is something evangelicals have always reversed, putting mouth before foot, with a view toward a supposed future hell, rather than any present ones.

The good news isn’t about saving people from a future hell of eternal torture, but about the announcement hell has been harried and all the gates and locks have been destroyed by the death and resurrection of Christ.  The “how” or strategy of this announcement is in the loving and serving of others, especially our enemies—thus, the Kingdom comes.  What will evangelicals do when they realize the so-called “social gospel,” is really…just…the gospel?

Much of what he writes in the post is memeworthy. Read the whole thing, and share quotes from and links to it however you best see fit. But please do also discuss his diagnosis and prognosis for Evangelicalism’s future in the comments section below. Do you agree that Evangelicalism is terminally ill?

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  • It’s certainly lost tons of credibility and relevance in America and Europe.

    I’ve told this story before, probably here, but one of my friends is an atheist who, for a while, hosted a weekly gathering of atheists and Christians at his house to discuss various issues. Most of the Christians were from a local evangelical church. And then me. One night, as we were all heading back home, he pulled me aside and said, “I think your version of Christianity is the only survivable one.”

    I took that as a big compliment, but it’s also a keen observation of the future of Christianity in America. Our fundamentalist undergirdings and the remnant of that power structure may make the dissolution a lot slower than it has been in, say, Europe, but that does definitely seem to be the trajectory. We’re probably not too far from evangelicalism being in the same place that fundamentalists are, today. They’re practically the same as it is.

  • Nimblewill

    The “how” or strategy of this announcement is in the loving and serving of others, especially our enemies—thus, the Kingdom comes. What will evangelicals do when they realize the so-called “social gospel,” is really…just…the gospel?

    Would he or you consider Evangelicals your enemies? How are you serving them? How are you loving them? A lot of ink is used degrading Evangelicals.

    • Gary

      No kidding.

  • Jim Kinnebrew

    “Turn or burn . . . is the message of a sociopath” (Brilliant Blogger)

    “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish . . . eternal gehenna, where the fire is not quenched and the worm does not die . . . they will say ‘did we not do all these things?’ and I will say ‘depart from me, for I never knew you’ . . . fear God who is able to send both body and soul to Hell . . .” (Sociopathic Son of God)

    • emncaity

      Absolute money.

      But it’s true that this was not the only emphasis.

    • janet pesenti

      4 decades as a fundygelical taught me “If you’re going to say ‘thus saith the Lord,’ you better know what the Lord is saying,” meaning that if you can point to a bible verse, you just pointed to the truth. As I labored in vain several years ago to find a program, even a distance one, to learn Classical Greek I was astonished to learn not one existed in the US, except for a vanishing few in some university Classics Departments, for enrolled students only, and several in the UK and Australia. But in the US, they exist only in seminaries, which teach survey-level ancient languages to the pastors that teach us and who learned (a version of) Koine Greek that supports that institution’s theology; in other words from an institution with a theological axe to grind. This long paragraph is intended to suggest that in areas of provocative doctrine, no one trust the English words in their chosen translation/version as a scholarly treatise, and certainly not their pastor’s personal conclusion. Because, for example, no self-respecting translator would translate three different proper nouns from the same source as the same common noun. But most English versions of the bible still do this with Sheol, Hades and Gehenna. And the word aionios, almost always appears in English bibles as eternal or forever and almost never means this in the original; it describes exactly the opposite: a finite period of time. This is good news, Jim! Consider the possibility that God the father and God the Son are of one mind, and that you don’t have to twist your brain in a knot to resolve the cognitive dissonance of monster-God. (Signed, Still Ignorant but a Helluva Lot Smarter Than When I Was an Evangelical)

  • I would not say that evangelicalism is terminally ill, but that this particular form of evangelicalism is terminally ill. We are experiencing worldwide the gradual shift to a postmodern worldview. The authoritarianism of the older modernism is being chipped away. Fundamentalist Christianity fits into the older, top down authoritarian structures of the distant past. Old habits die hard, and we are seeing a resurgence of authoritarian, populist movements globally. The church is no different. Fundamentalism was one of such reactionary movements to the postmodern attack of Liberal Christianity and textual criticism. It was also at odds initially with the movement for women’s rights in America, as well as further integration of Blacks and other people of color.
    At core, fundamentalism, and by that I mean evangelicalism as a whole (there is virtually no difference), is a status quo movement. Any change is seen as a threat…but this is also a characteristic of conservatism as a whole. Are conservatives eventually going to die out? I think not. What we do see among conservatives is gradual change as a result of the push of progressives. We push, they resist, but slowly they change. It is not steady change and experiences setbacks, such as the fundamentalist hostile takeover recently of the UMC and some decades ago among the SBC.
    The SBC is a good example though, of how evangelicals eventually have to face the skeletons in their closest. Will the SBC eventually address their misogyny and sexual misconducts? I believe so.
    But here’s the thing, the church is supposed to be a change agent, yet time and time again it is the women, those of color, progressives, gays…the “least of these,” that push for change among conservative religious groups like evangelicals and Catholics. The change seems to seldom come from the leadership, but from the bottom up. Even so, change is inevitable. And of course, the old guard is dying off. I haven’t totally written evangelicals off yet.