While I’m clearing the decks of my Weblog backlog, I thought I’d comment on Michael Brooks’ article at The Christian Post–which is oddly familiar to my last post about revisionists.
Brooks, who I assume is an evangelical Protestant (in line with CP’s general character), takes on revisionists who are trying re-package the gospel message to make it more relevant. His basic message, contra those who want to modify the Christian gospel, is that “simplicity is at the heart of the Gospel, not innovation.” To which I respond, “Hear, hear!” The church’s job has always been to conserve and transmit its simple message to the next generation and to an unbelieving world.
I hope Brooks wasn’t just aiming his fire at liberal revisionists in liberal denominations, though, because there are many church leaders in Brooks’ own evangelical camp who have modified the Christian message in their ultimate quest to be “relevant” to the culture. I could name names, but I will protect the guilty. Just think of all the feel-good, prosperity-gospel-loving, personal-fulfillment
life coaches preachers on TV. The liberal revisionists are an easy target, of course, but there are scores of evangelicals who could take Brooks’ message to heart.
It also struck me as odd that Brooks referred to evangelical Christianity–what some used to call “biblical Christianity”–as small-o “orthodox Christianity.” I have also noticed this trend in Christianity Today, one of the few paper magazines I read: substituting “orthodox” for “evangelical” or “biblical.” (Albert Mohler uses this word frequently, too.) This is a curious word choice, since we Protestants, while being ostensibly centered on the basic gospel message, are not “orthodox” per se. Or maybe I should say we’re not capital-O “Orthodox.” (Here’s a good question: Is it possible to be little-o without being capital-O?)
I have to say this delicately, but we Protestants are on thin ice when we accuse others of modifying or innovating Christianity. (We’re also on thinner ice when we accuse others of dividing the church or engaging in schism.) Yes, the basic Protestant narrative says that our reformers reclaimed the simple gospel message and returned to the New Testament church. But there are plenty of innovations we have made to Christianity since then: liturgical, theological, ecclesiological, missional. Sola scriptura, the sinners’ prayer, the evangelistic meeting, inerrancy, dispensationalism, having a printed Bible are all innovations. There are lots of terms we use that don’t correspond to the earliest church, either: “getting saved,” “accept Jesus into my heart,” “surrender,” “washed in the blood,” and “make a decision for Christ,” to name a few.
So an exhortation and a question:
Let’s be careful when we accuse others of being revisionists when we are often blind to our own revisions.
And what would it look like if we (Protestants) truly conformed our message to the basic, nascent, apostolic gospel, propagated in the second half of the first century, before we had Bibles or inerrancy or TV preachers? (Or is that even possible? Oh wait, that’s two questions.) Discuss.