Ranters of Mow Cop

Ranters of Mow Cop

Friday, 20 October 2017

Book Review -The End of Evangelicalism

Book Review : David E. Fitch. The End of Evangelicalism: Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission. Eugene, or: Cascade, 2011. Pp. xxvi + 226. $28.00. isbn 978-1-60608-648-1.

Does evangelicalism have a future? In this book published in 2011 and therefore already overtaken by events, in particular the election of Donald Trump with the support of 81% of white evangelical voters, David Fitch offers a trenchant critique of evangelicalism in North America. Drawing on the theoretical insights of Zizek he describes a section of the church that is fixated on three master signifiers, the inerrancy of the Bible, the need to make a decision for Christ and the concept of the Christian nation. These issues although so poorly defined as to be empty of meaningful content, become the boundary markers by which evangelicals distinguish themselves from unbelievers, including liberal Christianity. The result is a section of the church which rejects science and scholarship, accepts cheap grace without the need for repentance , conversion,and transformation of lifestyle (think Donald Trump as “God;s anointed one”), and has sold out to right wing conservative politicians. For some of us these forms of fundamentalism have crossed the boundary from evangelical orthodoxy into heresy and idolatory.

Fitch, who continues to describe himself as an evangelical, would argue strongly for a more solid evangelical theology which is grounded in a Trinitarian understanding and demands a personal and corporate identification with the Living Christ. In a final chapter he sees some signs of hope in post evangelical movements of the emerging church and leaders such as Brian McLaren, peter Rollins, Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. However, he alerts us to potential traps in these new theologies such as de-incarnationalizing the word, over realized eschatology, and individual faith without roots in the historic and currently embodied church..

The situation in North America is somewhat different from that in the evangelical world in Britain. Yet there are similarities and in some sections of the church admiration, modeling and personal networks that could lead to similar problems in our churches. For example a failure to understand these issues and political naivety of church leaders has resulted in an invitation to the extreme fundamentalist preacher Franklin Graham to lead a mission in Blackpool that can only be described as divisive and provocative in the local context. Fitch's book is well worth a read but someone needs to write a similar book exploring the strengths and weaknesses, the common identities, theological disputes and internal tensions in the UK.

 

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