About That Revision Blind Spot…

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.

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6 thoughts on “About That Revision Blind Spot…

  1. As Lutherans it has been said: We are orthodox (but not Orthodox), catholic (but not Roman Catholic), and evangelical (but not in contemporary movement sense). I think it helpful to use care in terms and also understand the historic understandings of each term that we do use.

    • I think it’s an interesting development (and maybe I’m just noticing this) that evangelical Protestants are admitting that there is a “Faith” that is not just “what’s in the Bible.” The NT frequently mentions “the faith,” which is an organized faith system of doctrine and teachings about Jesus what he accomplished (aka the gospel).

      And here’s my lingering question: Is it possible to go back and recreate first-century Christianity? Progressives would say that it doesn’t matter, because what we have now is better than back then. Traditionalists would say that yes we can and should. But there is another approach in there: that we reiterate the church (the Faith) in our time and place as faithfully as possible (which can be slippery, I’ll admit). If we could actually go back, we’d probably look like Seventh Day Adventists or Messianic Jews. It’s awfully hard to short circuit 2,000 years of history and get back to the fledgling movement of Christians (at least in form, if not in Spirit).

      • Indeed, in the Lutheran Confessions, we have the repeated phrase, “The Church has always taught…” Thus, what we “believe, teach, and confess” is what the Church has always taught. We avoid the deviations throughout history, and we can’t recreate the first century, but we maintain “the faith” of the first century, the 10th century, the 16th century, and the 21st century.

  2. These Emergents that repackage are not in the spirit of God. Neither are those that refuse his spirit. Leave them in the darkness they seek to create for us all. Postmodern children should not be exulted over the faithful. That might destroy every institution though. Since postmodernism has been established in the Mainline for destructions sake. Basically we need to understand that its the dead, some of the elderly and young reactionaries that are key to keeping the faith.

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