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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Postmodernism & the Modern Church (III)

How Much Longer Can Modern Evangelicalism Last?
The evangelical Church, for some time, “has been slowly but inexorably stripping itself of its truth, doctrine, and discipline.”[1] In other words, “The majority of evangelicals are deliberately undoctrinal.”[2] I would add the following: the majority of modern and postmodern evangelicals are so deliberately undoctrinal that you have to wonder if they fit even a broad definition of what constitutes an evangelical anymore. Over the years, evangelicals have embraced more and more aberrant behavior and doctrines until it really is getting to the point where you have to wonder if it is wise to even want to be called an evangelical. Have far do you have to devolve before the gospel you’re preaching is a different gospel (cf. Gal. 1:8-9)? Not too long ago, Phil Johnson came out and called a spade a spade. Referring to Christianity Today magazine, he placed the tag of “apostate” on it. Good for you, Phil!
What is rapidly becoming the case in 21st century evangelicalism is what D.A. Carson calls “The Challenge of Definition.”[3] Carson proceeds to remind us that giving definition to evangelicalism “is not only difficult, but is becoming even more difficult as a wider and wider group of people apply the label to themselves. It may be, as some have suggested, that the term will eventually so lack definition as to be theologically useless—much like the term ‘Christian’ today, which, in Western countries, may mean no more than that someone is not a Muslim or a Hindu or the like, and not an atheist.”[4] A number of the large entertainment centers (read: mega-churches) would call themselves evangelicals. Emergent Church adherents/tribe members consider themselves evangelicals also as does their non-leader leader Brian McLaren. A controversy is currently raging in the Evangelical Theological Society as to whether an open theist like Clark Pinnock can remain a member in good standing. Was the late Stanley Grenz and his Open Theism an evangelical? He would say so.
The following observation from David Wells requires a great deal of thought: “So, while the cultural drift is one that is opening up a chasm between itself and Christian faith, Christians by their techniques for growth and their compromises with the spirit of the age are, in effect, trying to close that chasm in order to be successful! The more the culture abandons truth and goodness which are absolute, the less the evangelical Church speaks about truth and goodness which are absolute!”[5]
In this first installment I have attempted to outline a platform that will lead us into a fruitful, biblical exposition of what the Word of God says about the Church and then from there how the Church of Jesus Christ should live. In other words, we’ll also embark on a rather thorough discussion of Christian ethics, which is based on Christian doctrine. I intend to proceed this way because I’m convinced of a number of things.
First, as I mentioned above, the modern 21st century Church is currently facing almost two generations that are biblically ignorant—and in some cases, they are actually proud of it.
Second, both of these generations have been raised—ecclesiastically—on fluff and entertainment. The mega-church crowd was catered to and now the ECMers are tending in the same direction of making worship entertaining and fun—just with a different slant.
Third, both movements were or are rather anti-intellectual. John 3:16 still seems to answer any and all questions. I recently asked a number of “bloggers” to explain justification by faith to me and to support their views from Scripture. The answer was: John 3:16.
Whereas the Baby Boomers were entertained in their way, the ECM tribe is equally a consumer-driven entity when it comes to the (post)modern forms of entertainment and what passes for worship. In a very real sense, there is a hair’s breadth of difference between the mega-church and ECM tribe.
As we progress in these articles, I will continue to point out some of the obvious deficiencies of both the mega-church as well as the Emergent Church movements. In our next issue, we’ll delve more deeply into precisely why postmoderns are so exercised about Enlightenment thinking. What is it about the Enlightenment that upsets them so?
Without revealing everything that we’ll be discussing I’ll point out here that there will be many points of agreement between the postmodern assessment of Enlightenment notions of certainty and our own, but at the same time, due to the presuppositions of the postmodern mindset, there will also be many points of disagreement between us and them. In fact, we’ll ask if the cure proposed by postmodern thinking is not worse than the disease of Enlightenment concepts.

Pastor Ron Gleason, Ph.D.
Yorba Linda, CA
[1] David Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), p. 313.
[2] Ibid., 299.
[3] D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 444.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Wells, AAEP, 313-314. Italics mine—RG.


Blogger SolaMeanie said...

Very good stuff! In addition to the German philosophers, I think we also have an unhealthy dollop of Madison Avenue marketing technique involved. We are convinced that stadium-sized numbers are necessary in a congregation or the "church" is not successful. What better way to bring in the numbers than clever marketing and a good stage show?

I hear gasps when I suggest (on Scriptural grounds) that more people will be damned than saved. I ask what a "remnant" means and you get quizzical looks. They are surprised at Jesus' remarks about the way to righteousness and "few there are that find it."

I don't mean to suggest for a minute that we ought not to hope for large numbers of people to be drawn to saving faith, nor should we lessen in our evangelistic efforts. But the numbers are up to a sovereign God, and numbers alone are not indicative of success. These megachurches with their telegenic preachers may well pack the auditorium, but if the Gospel is never preached, what eternal good will it do? Those numbers will dwindle when the next "flavor of the month" comes to town.

9:05 AM  

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