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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why Evangelicalism Is a Failure: A Critique of American, Australian and English Evangelicalism

The problem with broad Evangelicalism is that it has no doctrinal moorings or confession of faith to which members are faithful. This is why Evangelicals in the Church of England cannot decide if Anglo-Catholics are heretics or just separated brethren.


It is also why Evangelicalism in the US is selling out to cultural relativism, experientialism, subjectivism, and the church growth movement. Unfortunately, it looks very much like the Sydney Anglicans have bought into the Charles Finney pragmatism and pelagianism of the American revivalistic scene since the 19th century Evangelical revivals here.


The old adage that "doctrine divides" seems to be the clarion call of Evangelicals today. Unfortunately, those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. The Disciples of Christ have no creed but Christ and no emphasis on Scripture because of the idea that "doctrine divides." Amazingly, the Disciples of Christ developed out of the Cane Ridge Revivals just north of Lexington, Kentucky. If anyone looks closely at the Disciples of Christ today it is one of the most theologically liberal and relativistic denominations there is.



Here in the Orlando area we have Northland: A Church Distributed, led by Joel Hunter. Hunter is decidedly liberal in his political ideas and unwittingly liberal in his Evangelicalism. In his prayer for Obama's presidency, Hunter prayed that everyone should "acknowledge God however they conceive of Him." If this is not theological liberalism I don't know what is.


When Evangelicals sell out to pragmatism as Sydney Anglicanism is doing then the result is not deeper Christian relationships but superficiality and a selling out of the Gospel to popular culture. In short, Sydney is unwittingly going liberal by fighting liberalism with emotionalism, experientialism and an emphasis on experiential reading of the Bible.


We don't learn theology by osmosis. Simply reading Scripture without understanding is not preaching the Gospel. The Bible contains propositional truth claims and those claims must be seriously dealt with. Such understanding comes from human reasoning which is illuminated by the Holy Spirit and the new birth. Contrary to what Neil Macken, the minister of Northmead Anglicans, said in the Compass interview at ABC of Sydney, true Christianity is not an experience even if that experience is experienced through the Bible. On the contrary, true Christianity is understanding and believing the propositional truth claims recorded in the Bible. When we believe in Jesus we must also believe what Jesus said about Himself and what Jesus claimed to be true. This is not an emotional encounter or an "experience." Rather it is simply believing that what Jesus said is true and understanding it. When we understand the truth and believe it we can be saved through a new birth, a new way of thinking. In fact, the new birth precedes our change of mind and is given to us to enable us to believe in the first place.



Sydney's new emphasis on contemporary worship and being culturally relevant "works" pragmatically. What they don't understand is that such approaches, as Michael Horton and the White Horse Inn rightly point out, lead ultimately right back to natural religion, pelagianism, and theological relativism. We cannot afford to "dumb down" the Gospel, the Bible, or theology so that we can be culturally relevant. On the contrary, what we need to do is simply preach the Gospel faithfully!


One way to preach the Gospel faithfully is to adhere to a solid Reformed confession of faith. Confessions of faith keep preachers and congregations honest and call them to interpret Scripture consistently and to rightly divide the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15). Sydney Anglicans think throwing out the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and selling out to cultural relativism and experientialistic methods of evangelism is the way to grow as a denomination. However, if the Cane Ridge Revivals prove anything at all it is that dumbing down the Bible and confessional understandings of the Bible is the shortest route straight back to the theological relativism you are trying to avoid!



The theological roots of the church growth movement in the 20th century lie with Donald McGavran and Peter Wagner, both charismatic leaders. And their methods are grounded in the theological pragmatism of both Charles Finney and the Cane Ridge Revivals. Evangelicalism ever since has been infected with an inherent pelagianism and pragmatism which in effect is ultimately as liberal as the mainline denominations who keep traditional forms but re-interpret them in liberal ways. Ironically, McGavran was the son of Disciples of Christ missionaries in India. Is it any wonder then that McGavran uses social sciences rather that theological methods for his principles of church growth?



Throwing out traditional worship--out with the old, in with the new--may win short term gains but in the end it is simply sugar-coated liberalism hiding in the guise of Evangelicalism. If we follow the logic that traditional liturgy is bad, then traditional Scripture could very well be next. It is not the liturgy that is bad but the content and interpretation of the liturgy which is bad. In other words, we need a return to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles. I would not be opposed to translating these into modern forms of English but to sacrifice the theology of the Book of Common Prayer through reductionism is about as reasonable as cutting out the parts of Scripture one does not agree with. While the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is not inspired, it does contain about 90% Scripture.



Worship and liturgy are didactic. We are teaching people a worldview and propositional truths through the liturgy. To cut out the reading of the decalogue from the liturgy at communion removes the law--law and Gospel are intimately interrelated. One cannot preach the Gospel without also preaching the law. Evangelicals in their ignorance are in fact just promoting a new form of liberalism without realizing it. Northland: A Church Distributed and other such churches like Willow Creek are ample proof of where this sort of sellout to cultural relativism leads. History itself proves this out as well when we examine the Disciples of Christ and the idea that the only creed we have is Christ or the only creed we have is Scripture. Scripture must be interpreted and even the doctrine of Sola Scriptura does not mean that individuals get to re-invent Christianity. That sort of thinking is incipient relativism.



This is precisely where I strongly disagree with Phillip Jensen. He claimed at the recent Chicago conference, Gospel Growth/People Growth, that he is a "re-inventor." His approach is that "sheep are stupid and you have to tell them what to do." This is essentially top down authority much like that of Anglo-Catholicism. In other words, the sheep are stupid and let's keep them that way so they will do what we tell them to do. Nevermind the priesthood of believers and sola Scriptura!



To the contrary, we do not need to "re-invent" Christianity. What we need to do is to be faithful to the right preaching of the law and the Gospel. When liberals re-interpret the prayer book and the sacraments we need to remind them that the sacraments point to the Word and not the other way around, as Peter Jensen said in a recent interview.


There will always be a temptation to sellout the Gospel for the sake of success and pragmatic results. But what good is that if we win many disciples only to make them ten times more a child of hell as the liberals are doing? (Matthew 23:15). No, we need to be faithful to Christ not only in our interpretation of Scripture but also in the Reformed liturgies like the 1662 BCP and the Reformed confession we have in the 39 Articles of Religion. I would be interested in knowing if Sydney Anglicans are using the 1662 BCP and the 39 Articles as part of their catechism, training and discipling of new converts? If not, then what they are doing is simply producing more superficial sheep who know nothing about what Jesus truly said and nothing about who He really is.

In Christ,

Charlie

13 comments:

churchmousec said...

Thank you for this informative post. I fully agree with you. Unfortunately, many vicars, rectors and 'parish evangelists' don't see it in the same light. The laity would probably be interested, but their church leadership tells them that the 39 Articles are but a historic document, the 1662 BCP has nothing relevant for today's congregations, etc.

It would be helpful if there were a way to educate and inform Anglicans about these cornerstones of our faith. I suspect that many Anglicans today couldn't tell you what they believe, unfortunately.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks for your feedback, churchmousec. I am not your typical Anglican or even your typical Calvinist. I consider myself to be something more in the line of J. Gresham Machen or Carl F. H. Henry. I would call myself a "neo-fundamentalist" rather than an evangelical or "neo-evangelical." These days Evangelicalism is so broad that anyone can claim to be an evangelical, including Anglo-Catholics, whom I strongly oppose.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thank you for this particular post - very enlightening.

Not taking this short snippet at anything other than face value, I think the myth of Sydney as the unilateral "evangelical diocese of Anglicanism" has been burst once and for all.

Just a few comments:

Women deacons - no problem? On what theological basis are women denied the fullness of Holy Orders? The TEC and the C of E - with whom Sydney is "in Communion" - gave up on this approach years ago. Even ACNA and AMiA are backing away from it. No mention of the controversial "lay presidency" at "Eucharist."

"Glory be to You, O Lord" - just doesn't resonate. Whatever happened to the 1662 BCP alleged to be used in the diocese? "Eucharistic community" - what's that? Where does the word "eucharist" appear in the 1662 BCP? North end celebration - gone. Pectoral crosses, processional crosses, Gospel book processions, cinctured albs, coloured stoles, elevation of the "host?"

The clips from the "church of yesteryear" had a lot more appeal to me than a bunch of vapid looking teens with no Prayer Books sitting under the ministry of clergy in street clothes telling them that "reducing the Communion down to a bit of bread and wine was 'sterilizing' the experience of God." Is this what they learn in Moore College? No thank you.

Contemporary worship designed to welcome the community to "meetings" equivalent to everyday life? I don't think so. I don't spend much of my everyday life bobbing up and down in a theater listening to really bad pop ballads or asking shopkeepers for verification that my prayers for their business success have been answered.

If this is any picture - even a caricature - of Sydney's Calvinism, I want no part of it. And whatever happened to the Thirty-Nine Articles? Oh well......

I do sincerely thank you for sending this. It was an eyeopener for me and I hope it will be for others who have left this diocese claiming that we should be "like the conservatives in Sydney."

Respectfully,

Charles

[Charles Morley, bishop of The Traditional Protestant Episcopal Church]

churchmousec said...

Thanks -- I could figure out where you stood by reading your blog, which is one of the reasons I submitted my earlier comment. :)

I've been an Anglican for 25 years, and no one (in the US or UK)talks about the 39 Articles and many people, particularly clergy, do not like the 1662 BCP. 'That's all in the past', it would seem.

Given that this is the case, is there any way to surmount this obstacle corporately or individually? I believe the survival of the Anglican Communion rests on knowing our history and fundamental beliefs. My concern is the emergent programmes (e.g. Fresh Expressions in the UK) and the susceptibility many Anglicans will have towards it as well as an evangelicalism (very popular here) which is based on postmodern feel-good platitudes devoid of Anglican teaching and Scriptural truths.

Sorry -- just thought you might have some ideas or suggestions. Thank you in advance.

Charlie J. Ray said...

churchmousec,

Sorry if I mislabelled you. But I read something on your blog in which you said you were Anglo-Catholic. Here in the USA that is a dirty word among Presbyterians and Reforming Anglicans. There are very few Reforming Anglicans here. In fact, I'm the only one I know of in my area aside from my rector, who is a moderate from the Sydney Diocese in Australia.

My rector is very weak on theology and interpretation of Scripture. He simply reads the text and then reads all sorts of Sydney Anglican ideas back into the the text that are not there.

Sydney, to their credit, upholds the authority of Scripture. But they are essentially reading Scripture from an Amyraldian perspective which is man-centered rather than God and Christ centered. Cultural relativism is their theological premise rather than beginning with the text and the Articles and the 1662 BCP.

My advice to you is to do what you can individually. Start a home bible study and go through the 39 Articles. Look at all the prooftexts as they relate to the Articles. My second recommendation is for you to read the 1595 Lambeth Articles and the Irish Articles. Then read the Westminster Confession with the Larger and Smaller Catechism. Only as your read these will you fully appreciate what the 39 Articles are saying.

It might take awhile to work through it all but at the end of the study you will understand why I do not endorse Anglo-Catholicism. I can fellowship with Sydney Anglicans because they are still "Christian." However, even the Sydney Anglicans are idiots. They think they can re-invent the wheel. What we need to do is change the rubber on the rim and not re-invent the entire wheel!

The 39 Articles are not Amyraldian any more than they are Tractarian or Anglo-Catholic.

I am doing what I can to change my pastor's thinking but he is a stubborn anti-intellectual and his preaching shows this to be true.

I'm also teaching a Sunday school class using the 39 Articles as an outline for Systematic Theology. How long I will be permitted to do this is questionable since I am vocal in correcting what I see as errant teaching and wrong emphases.

Be ready to face persecution and misunderstanding in your church should you take on this task. The complacent majority never likes to be told they are wrong as your article on John MacArthur and postmodernism proves.

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Charlie

churchmousec said...

Thanks so much, Charlie, for your time -- I shall follow your guidelines for the blog. Much appreciated.

I'm already persona non grata among my local clergy (regardless of denom) and that's with relatively little personal comment to/on them from me. They're very much into postmodernism, social gospel and the emergent church. I write for my ecumenical parish newsletter as well, but those days will be coming to an end soon, I feel. I don't do a 'touchy feely', relativist Jesus. I shall be taking the choice to resign, so jump rather than be pushed.

All the best. God bless you and your work.

Churchmouse

Charlie J. Ray said...

May God grant you the grace to further His Gospel, churchmouse.

Romans 5:1

Charlie

Reformation said...

1. Toss the Prayer Book.

2. Toss the singing of the Psalms.

3. Toss clear-headed, vast and wide reading of the Scriptures.

4. Keep the sermon down to a little homilette.

5. Crank up the volume with the music.

Whala! Church growth. Whala! In one generation, you'll have a house of ignoramuses, confident of their own narcissistic assertions.

This post heads in the right direction.

Thanks.

Charlie J. Ray said...

This is PRECISELY what I have been trying to tell my pastor but he refuses to listen. His sermons are only 20 minutes long and superficial at best. He does preach straight from the text. I give him credit for that. But he never seriously interacts with the text, tries to persuade anyone of anything, or tries to teach the sovereignty of God.

I'm not the world's greatest orator. I get nervous and stutter and hum and haw too much. BUT I have preached with authority and challenged people to THINK and read the Bible. I have had more positive comments in a few sermons than he has since I've been there. Why? Because I preach the Bible with confidence knowing that God will not let His word return void.

I am not trying usurp anything from him or take people out of the church. BUT I have decided that at least when I preach I will do it without fear of what man thinks and let the chips fall where they may. Either they will get upset and run me off... OR they will start to read the Bible and be awakened to God's Word... and maybe even come to saving faith!

Not everyone who is a member of the church is a Christian!

In Christ,

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

Mark D Thompson has left a new comment on the post "What does it mean to be Anglican? V":

Hi Charlie,

I watched the program on free to air television last Sunday night and obviously, I know Peter.

I think at points you have misunderstood him and at other points you have created antitheses where there need be none,

The contemporary flavour of the meeting shown - why is that NECESSARILY a sell-out to pragmatism. Why couldn't you have a theologically shaped contemporary liturgy, at least in principle? We are, after all, trying to communicate the gospel to people living in the twenty-first century. We must not tamper with the gospel but we must make sure we communicate it clearly as well. Perhaps Cranmer's preface 'Of Ceremonies' is helpful here.

As to the emphasis on experience, why must this be opposed to propositional truth? Why can't I be firmly committed to propositional revelation (as Peter is) and still argue that the Christian faith is profoundly experiential - i.e. faith is never less than knowledge (so Calvin's definitiion) but certainly extends to confidence, rejoicing in God's provision, etc. Rather than being afraid of experience, why shouldn't we insist that we value experience more than anyone, it is simply that the gospel speaks of a particular type of experience, the knowledge of God (in the fullest sense) that comes from his word? What is meant by that is precisely what you mean when you say that supernatural special revelation is given to us and our minds are illumined (and our hearts are engaged as well) by the work of the Spirit. This is hardly anti-intellectual and to suggest that Peter would endorse an anti-intellectual approach to Christianity is just nonsense, quite frankly. Having said that, I don't like the expression 'experiencing God'.

As to the ordination of women, I am not quite sure what your point is here. There are plenty of women in ministry in our churches in Sydney. None are ordained to the presbyterate, though some are ordained as deacons. There is a lively debate about whether women should preach to mixed congregations (I am on the conservative side on that question) but no one doubts the propriety of women preaching to women or teaching children.

I hope this helps allay some of your concerns. Again, if I may be so direct, it is really important that we try to listen sympathetically to people with whom we might at first disagree BEFORE we argue with them or label them. In fact, labelling them is hardly something worth doing.

Sydney has a long history of Reformed evangelicalism which is keenly aware of the dangers of Pelagianism/Arminianism and seeks to avoid it. Calvin's Institutes are still the one theological text a student is required to read from cover to cover in our theological college. Pragmatism is an issue (and we are constantly bombarded with it, particularly by visitors from the States, I might add), but the remedy is not to simply retreat back into the sixteenth century. Pragmatism might be a danger, but reformed thinking about effective practice need not be.

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Posted by Mark D Thompson to Theological Theology at 5:45 AM

Charlie J. Ray said...

The trouble with Mark Thompson's view is that it confuses the biblical word "heart" with emotions. Gordon H. Clark has more than proved that over 70% to 75% of the biblical references to the "heart" in fact refer to "thinking" or the "mind."

Thus, by Thompson's definition, "experience" must mean the intellect rather than the emotions? Or maybe I'm missing something?

How can an "emotion" be linked to faith or belief in any way since faith and belief require assent to propositional truth? Jude 1:3-4

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

I hope you don't mind but I posted your comment in the comments under the article. I didn't mention women's ordination or the reduction of the sacrament to "mere memorialism" but these are serious issues for me as well. I think the Sydney approach is essentially to remove formal ordination, institute lay administration of the sacraments, and this will open the doors for women. Phillip Jensen said this and I heard my rector say this as well. In other words, they want to make the church bland, empty of traditional rituals (baptist), and then to allow women to minister as "lay" persons. Eventually women will become pastors under this model. If not in this generation, it will happen in the next generation. This is how naive it is to ignore the implications of broad evangelicalism. We don't realize that decisions made now affect future generations.

Charlie J. Ray said...

In fairness to Mark Thompson, I must admit that I did paint Sydney with a broad brush. Overgeneralizing is not justifiable. However, from the film clip from ABC of Australia I observed many of the same influences in Sydney which we have here in the US. Seminaries these days are emphasizing church growth programs rather than sound exegesis of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures etc. Contemporary worship removes much needed theological teaching from the hymns and other traditional forms in the liturgy. It is essentially a dumbing down of Christianity to make it palatable to unchurched people.

But in doing so there is an inevitable change in the sort of Christians your church is producing. Are they deep and knowledgeable of the Scriptures or are they merely superficially in touch with Scripture?

Sincerely in Christ,

Charlie

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