Here is a book review from internetmonk.com, the blog from which I first adapted the term post-evangelical to post-orthodox. The problems of emphasis on body count and any technique or argument is good is it makes someone religious are obvious in the Orthodox community. The sentimentality and materialism of the community are standard critiques of Orthodoxy. His first problem of provincialism takes a bit more imagination to understand. Provincialism means that Orthodoxy means following the opinions of Teaneck, Riverdale, or YU and not the full gamut of the tradition. It also means that Orthodoxy is following the social enclave and mores of frum neighborhoods more than following God. The blog notes that now we need a book of solutions.
By Chaplain Mike
Warren Cole Smith’s book, A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church has a title with which I resonate. If you’ve been reading Internet Monk for any length of time, you’ll know that we describe ourselves in two ways: We are evangelicals. We’re having struggles with the church. We are engaged in a critique of the church which bears Jesus’ name. We have become convinced that it is not very Jesus-shaped these days.
Many of us call ourselves “post-evangelical”—that is, we no longer feel comfortable within the system known as the American evangelical church.
In this book, Warren Cole Smith sets forth the question many of us are asking: What is it about evangelical theology or evangelical practice that is both so appealing and so troubling? (p.8 )
One of the great contributions Smith makes is that he gives names to the chains that bind us in cultural captivity. These are:
• The New Provincialism: Evangelicalism has so cut itself off from history and Biblical and church tradition that, “the evangelical church risks ceasing to be a Christian church at all.” (p. 60)
• The Triumph of Sentimentality: “Sentimentality is the result of our unwillingness to realign our desires with the reality of the world, but rather to remake the world in accordance with our desires” (p. 67). Having rejected history and our theological legacy, today’s evangelicalism is all about creating an alternate reality—through highly efficient, full-service megachurches, through technologically-generated “worship experiences,” through therapeutic, positive-thinking, and prosperity-Gospel preaching.
• The Christian-Industrial Complex: The “Christian market” has expanded so dramatically over the past generation, that a vast industry has grown up to supply products to satisfy its desires. It’s the American way. Now, many aspects of church life are driven by target marketing rather than by theologically-informed, pastorally-sensitive ordained and accountable leaders.
• Body-Count Evangelism: As any evangelical will tell you—size matters. Smith shows how today’s evangelicalism, fueled by such trends as the growth of the parachurch movement, has bought fully into the revivalist tradition with its emphasis on numbers, scale, and spectacle.
• The Great Stereopticon: Rejecting the long understood fact that “the medium is the message,” evangelicalism has adopted the philosophy that any means is OK as long as one is communicating the right message. However, as Smith observes, “When you change the medium, you change the message, whether you intend to or not and though the words remain exactly the same. It is a lesson the evangelical church has not yet learned.”
I would love to see Warren Cole Smith write a second book for us—A Lover’s Proposal for the Evangelical Church—in which he might flesh out these suggestive ideas and help guide evangelicalism back to a more Jesus-shaped way.
From the Amazon review
Smith argues that we evangelicals are just as prone to being power-hungry, materialistic and being builders of our own empires as anybody else, to the detriment of community.
Evangelicals are also often guilty of a new provincialism. Provincialism usually means our outlook is narrowly determined by our small localized setting. For evangelicals, our narrowness is due to being stuck only in the “now.”
Now how would we solve each of these? What would be the chapters of the book about orthodoxy?
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