Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fragmented Evangelicalism

Alan Jacobs in First Things illustrates how fragmented Evangelicalism is in his article, Do-It-Yourself Tradition. He focuses on how one branch finds doctrine not to be enough, (Remember Thomas Howard's, Evangelicalism Is Not Enough?), and refers mainly to four authors, Halter, Smay, McLaren and Wilson-Hartgrove. What he finds is a desire to pick and choose traditions and disciplines. He even has a little fun with McLaren and Wilson-Hartgrove in their affinity for a sort of monastic life with out the authority of the Catholic Church. These authors are very different from others who have embraced tradition while embracing Catholic authority, such as Kreeft, Howard, Hahn, and more recently, Francis Beckwith, in this way.

I find it interesting that there are other traditional churches, Anglo-Catholic, Episcopal, and Lutheran, yet these are not embraced by the authors Jacob points out. Perhaps it is part of our post-modern world that we want to pick and choose. I would think this would make it more difficult to live in community, which these authors desire, rather than easier.

Back to Jacobs, he ends by agreeing that we must change and proposing two models. The first is Kierkegaard's Knight of Faith, whose life is so devoted to Christ that what those around him can detect is that he becomes more solid. He adds that this is much harder than it appears because of having to live it out in the world and then points to the monastic life for those who are too weak to be devoted to Christ in the world. Finally, he calls us to truly look to the ancients to give us guidance for the times we are facing.

All this is interesting to me for a number of reasons. Mainly because I find tradition almost irresistible. There have been times when I so wished I could honestly embrace the doctrines of the Roman Catholic or the Orthodox Church. Alas, I'd have to set aside my true beliefs and understanding which I could not do with integrity. So, I understand the appeal of picking and choosing that McLaren and others advocate, but I see a real danger in this, and that is wanting to have everything ones own way.

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