Thursday, November 03, 2005

Exploring a Parallel Universe - Christianity Today Magazine

Exploring a Parallel Universe - Christianity Today Magazine:
Why does the word evangelical threaten so many people in our culture?
"For almost ten years, I have participated in a book group comprising people who attended the University of Chicago. Mostly we read current novels, with a preference for those authors (Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, J. M. Coetzee) who have a connection with the school. The group includes a Marxist-leaning professor of philosophy, a childhood-development specialist, a pharmaceutical researcher, a neurologist, and an attorney...."

Philip Yancey writes about a problem that has been troubling me for a long time -- every since I realized that I was an "evangelical" Christian. Many people assume that Evangelical = Fundamentalist = Right Wing = Narrow-minded = Anti-intellectual = Hate.

Nothing could be further from the truth, but it still jars me when I see people withdraw into their shells of prejudice when they hear me characterize myself as evangelical, even when they know me and know that I do not meet their stereotypes.

This is all the more ironic when one looks at the Book of Confessions and sees that there is nothing in our core beliefs that is at odds with what most evangelicals believe. It is my contention that, on paper at least, the PC(USA) is squarely within the evangelical tradition.

Yancy relates some of his interchanges with members of his book group, and how difficult it is to correct misconceptions. In the examples he gives, sweeping statements are made by scholars, but when asked for concrete examples, they fall silent.

In his final analysis, he asks rhetorically whether it is good idea to spend the massive amount of effort required to change society's perceptions, especially when it distracts us from our primary mission.


Gruntled said...

I think the Confessions are evangelical. Some Presbyterians don't believe them -- which is a different matter.

I think many (most?) academics, secular and otherwise, like to be against "evangelicals" without reference to what anyone actually believes because it allows an easy convergence of a belief in their own intellectual superiority and their moral superiority.

Denis Hancock said...

I appreciate your comments.

In some of my more cynical (and snide) moments, I refer to the academic view you describe as "taking the path of least intellectual resistance".

The first three questions that all deacons, elders, and ministers must answer make it clear that Jesus is Lord, that the Scriptures are authoritative, and that the Confessions reliably reflect what Scripture leads us to believe and do.

I have a strong suspicion that this all revolves on what "I do" means to those being ordained, and this may have some overlap with your interest in the social and religious dimensions of marriage.

Michael W. Kruse said...

This article gave me flashbacks to being in graduate school at Kansas State

Denis Hancock said...

Thanks for dropping by, Mike.

I'm not sure what exactly it was that triggered your flashback, but I have to acknowledge that much of my spiritual development dates from the Manhattan years.

I was already pretty much an evangelical when I arrived at Manhattan in 1983, but not quite ready to admit it yet. This was in large part due to the stereotypes about evangelicals that were even then pervading the so-called mainline denominations. When I left in 1986 I saw myself as evangelical, and that freed me to continue to grow.

Michael W. Kruse said...

I was thinkin of my experience in the sociology department at KSU. All the Marxist and such. That is what this article reminded me of.

Denis Hancock said...

Ahhh. I think that your experience is pretty common in university settings. We have a friend who has encountered a similar thing in her department -- people who assume that an educated professional woman HAS to be a left-winger. It makes life interesting when she raises logical issues with some of their rhetoric.