Watch Evangelicals Lose Their Young

Watch Evangelicals Lose Their Young January 24, 2013

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:

But the questions that have weighed most heavily on me these past ten years have been questions not of the mind but of the heart, questions of conscience and empathy. It was not the so-called “scandal of the evangelical mind” that rocked my faith; it was the scandal of the evangelical heart…

I heard a theology professor explain the other day that he had no problem whatsoever with God orchestrating evil acts to accomplish God’s will, for that is what is required for God to be fully sovereign! When asked if this does not make God something of a monster, he responded that it didn’t matter; God is God—end of story.

Some will argue with Rachel, saying that the Calvinism she criticizes is just one stream of evangelicalism. Scot McKnight will tell her to look also to anabaptists, and Roger Olsen will tell her to look at Arminians. But the problem for those guys is that Calvinism is so regnant, so dominant in evangelicalism these days that it’s all that Rachel and others hear. Even here in Malaysia, no one knows Scot or Roger, but they know DA Carson and Mark Driscoll and John Piper and Tim Keller and Al Mohler. Every one of those names is well-known among the pastors I’m meeting.

***

And there’s a similar thing going on on a new blog that I hope you’ll follow.

I first met Darrell Dow on my August trip to Sri Lanka. I quickly determined that he and I had exactly 0% in common. Several members of that trip had grown up, like the trip leader Matthew Paul Turner, in a very conservative branch of evangelicalism. They knew all the same names, attended the same colleges, and were mad at the same people. And while a couple of the trip members had rethought their faith and politics, it seemed to me that Darrell had rethought neither. He mocked the dysfunctional culture of fundamentalism, but he had not reconsidered the theology and politics that gave rise to it.

Until now. Darrell has undertaken a courageous and possibly platform-destroying experiment. He is spending a year supporting President Obama.

In light of what we heard this week from Mark Driscoll, it’s clear the absolute and unmitigated antipathy with which many conservatives Christians hold the president. Darrell was among that number, and he’s writing about it quite honestly:

You see, there was a time (a.k.a a couple months ago) when thirty seconds of the President’s voice coming out of my radio was enough to make me want to switch the station. It set my teeth on edge listening to “that liberal” talk and I just assumed that whatever he said would be lies and spin.

Currently, Darrell is listening to BO’s autobiography, read by BO himself. And what Darrell is experiencing is empathy, even sympathy:

It turns out that there much that Obama and I held in common than I had known. He grew up on an island. So did I. He spent time abroad absorbing a completely different cultural context. So did I. Suddenly as I listened I wasn’t hearing “that Democrat” anymore, I was hearing the story of a boy who they used to call “Barry” who had hardworking Midwestern grandparents and a dad from Kenya. He was a child who grew up seeing poverty and struggling with his identity in a world that can be a very cruel and unjust place to live. So was I.

***

Years ago, I was invited to speak for a day at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was introduced to the assembled professors and PhD students by Professor Dave Adams (now at Liberty University) with these words: “As Southern Baptists, we don’t learn well from those with whom we disagree. And that is a problem. Today we’re going to listen to Tony Jones. We’re not going to argue with him, and we’re not going to debate him. There are other days for that. Today is a day to listen, and to learn.”

And they did.

But I doubt that would happen today. Few members of that tribe would think they have anything to learn from me.

But you know who they should listen to, and learn from? Rachel and Darrell, two members of their own tribe who are rethinking, well, just about everything.

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