Liberalism and Evangelicalism

Social Engagement Between Evangelicalism and Liberalism

The difference between Evangelical and Liberal social engagement is best summed up by looking at intent or authority. Both groups intend to make an impact in the world. The Evangelicals wanted to call people to join the orthodox Christian position without compromising that position. The issue really comes down to Biblical authority and inerrancy. The Evangelicals “… retained their belief in biblical inerrancy, but were more willing [than the fundamentalists] to engage the culture …”[1] On the other hand, Liberalism left behind the idea of inerrancy and “… made many new claims into which traditional Christianity had to be assimilated.”[2] The differences between Evangelicals and Liberals is the question, why Christianity? The Evangelicals in holding biblical inerrancy accepted the simple, biblical understanding that God intended the salvation of people “… to the praise of his glory.”[3] The Liberals, on the other hand, saw Christianity as the way to right the wrongs of the world. Machen was correct when he called Liberalism “a different religion from Christianity.”[4] In the liberal view, the general moral principles of scripture were first and foremost about making people better. The person need not even believe in the existence of God as long as religion gave them something to ground their life and moral decisions. For example, Paul Tillich (1886 – 1965) spoke of God as “being itself”[5] and many charged him with being practically an atheist.[6] Tillich’s God had been lost in transcendence to where he had no personality or power to do anything. Tillich’s Christianity was simply about helping people explain their existence. Tillich perfectly exemplifies the liberal purpose in using Christianity to engage social issues; making man the center of the question. Evangelicals on the other hand call men to make God the center of everything.

Similarities and differences between Carl F. H. Henry and Walter Rauschenbusch

Carl F. H. Henry

            Carl Henry was one of three great personalities behind the New Evangelical movement; the other two men were Harold J. Ockenga and Billy Graham.[7] Carl Henry was a Theologian and his emphasis was on maintaining an orthodox understanding of scripture without compromise while still engaging the world in a meaningful way. During his time at Fuller, he helped create the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) that welcomed Christian scholars in a “trans-denominational forum of evangelical scholarship.”[8] The one requirement for this society was the agreement on Biblical inerrancy.[9] Carl Henry’s reasons for helping to create this ecumenical  society were laid out in his work, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism in which he depicted the fundamentalist as having retreated from “the full gospel mission.”[10] Carl Henry engaged with scripture as the authority for Christianity and therefore he understood that the world needed a personal savior, because of personal sin.

Walter Rauschenbusch

If Carl Henry represented the new Orthodox Evangelicalism, Walter Rauschenbusch was the poster boy for Liberalism. Well known liberal Baptist pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick who preached a sermon titled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”,[11] said of Rauschenbusch that “he opened a new era in the thought and effort of American Christianity.”[12] The Liberal idea of Christianity, and certainly Rauschenbusch’s idea, was that Christianity was for social reform: righting the wrongs of the world. Reinhold Niebuhr referred to Rauschenbusch as “… the real founder of social Christianity …”[13] All of the men, Fosdick, Niebuhr and Rauschenbusch saw no need for orthodox beliefs and did not believe in inerrancy. Rauschenbusch’s approach to scripture was a mix of myth like Rudolf Bultmann,[14] and existentialism like Schleiermacher and Tillich. In Liberal theology, sin was a corporate thing and Rauschenbusch sought to “… reclaim the ‘sinner,’ America, for the kingdom of God.”[15] Rauschenbusch sought to use the church as a platform for justice reform to the end that the world would be changed for the better.[16] Rauschenbusch saw sin as a corporate malady that needed to be corrected.

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Both Approaches

Liberalism

The sides represented by Carl Henry, New Evangelicalism, and Walter Rauschenbusch, liberal, social Christianity, have, at the core, very different ideas about the purpose and application of Christianity. The Liberal goal was to “make Christianity palatable to a mindset that could no longer accept traditional orthodoxy.”[17] To do this, the liberal needed to reinterpret scripture in the light of modern thought and reappropriate orthodoxy.[18] This has the effect of more engagement as there are many who would call themselves a Christian for the purpose of change and would never believe what is traditionally Christian. The problem is that now, the liberal has redefined Christianity, so that fairly leaves open the critique that it is no longer Christianity, but something different. Liberalism becomes something that uses the words of Christianity, the ideas of Christianity and then perhaps some of the morals of Christianity, without the millennia-old meaning of Christianity. Put simply, Liberalism’s weakness is that it is not Christianity in the traditional sense. It may have some social application, but it is not concerned with real guilt before a real God.

Evangelicalism

            What is the nature of God? If the critique of Liberalism is that it does not deal with real guilt before a real God, then the question is what is this God? Carl Henry in speaking for the new Evangelicals based his arguments on the nature of God. If God was real with a mind and a will and that God had revealed himself, then scripture was about understanding and relating to God.[19] The strength of this approach is that it is traditionally Christian. It allows for the Word of God to be used as God intended it. It makes the person morally responsible before a personal God. This approach might be harder for the modern mind to digest; however, a traditionally Christian view, informed by the Bible, is that in the end, any form of Christianity will eventually just be foolishness to the world.[20]

Evangelicals and Fundamentalists

It is a difficult task to maintain an orthodox position and be culturally engaged. The reason that Evangelicals and Fundamentalists split was the difficulty engaging the world in a way that was conducive to conversation without leaving orthodox Christianity. At one time the words Evangelical and Fundamentalist were synonyms. The core tenant that both the Evangelical and the Fundamentalist movements held was that of the inerrancy of scripture. The differences came at first in the method of cultural engagement. Because of this difference about cultural engagement, “Carl Henry, along with others such as E.J. Carnell, George Eldon Ladd, and Paul K. Jewett, decided to launch a revised evangelicalism.”[21] The Fundamentalists would simply make inerrancy the dividing line and would not engage people that did not already accept inerrancy. On the other hand, Evangelicals felt constrained by scripture to be engaged without compromising. The Evangelicals, “… sought to defend and expound Christian evangelical orthodoxy in a way that avoided the vicious polemical tone of the past.”[22] Since the separation the Fundamentalist movement has further separated itself. At one time Fundamentalism was the new hope, but now, even in some Evangelical circles, it is a dirty word. Likewise, since the split, some accuse the Evangelicals of becoming more liberal. Future generations may find themselves with a need to redefine again.

 

Bibliography

[1]. John Woodbridge and James A. Frank III. 2013. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 807.

[2]. D. Jeffrey Bingham, Pocket History of the Church, The IVP Pocket Reference Series (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2002), 149–150.

[3]. Ephesians 1:12, ESV.

[4]. John Woodbridge and James A. Frank III. 2013. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 797.

[5]. Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997). 124-125.

[6]. Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997). 124-125.

[7]. John Woodbridge and James A. Frank III. 2013. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 807.

[8]. Ibid, 809.

[9]. Ibid, 809.

[10]. Ibid, 808.

[11]. John Woodbridge and James A. Frank III. 2013. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 800.

[12]. Ibid, 215.

[13]. Charles W (William)Weber. 2014. “The Relationship of Walter Rauschenbusch to Foreign Missions: The Social Gospel and Cultural Change.” American Baptist Quarterly 33 (2): 215.

[14]. Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997). 89.

[15]. Charles W (William)Weber. 2014. “The Relationship of Walter Rauschenbusch to Foreign Missions: The Social Gospel and Cultural Change.” American Baptist Quarterly 33 (2): 215-216.

[16]. Scott E. Bryant. 2008. “The Optimistic Ecclesiology of Walter Rauschenbusch.” American Baptist Quarterly 27 (2): 117.

[17]. D. Jeffrey Bingham, Pocket History of the Church, The IVP Pocket Reference Series (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2002), 149–150.

[18]. Ibid, 149–150.

[19]. Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997). 294.

[20]. 1 Corinthians 1:23.

[21]. Carl Trueman, “Uneasy Consciences and Critical Minds: What the Followers of Carl Henry Can Learn from Edward Said,” Themelios 30, no. 2 (2005): 33.

[22]. Ibid.

What Brush Should one use?: a brief look at historical and current Pentecostalism

What Brush Should one use?

Aaron T. Hale

Why did the “… fledgling Pentecostals considered the Azusa revival, … to be Pentecostalism’s central point of origin?” (Creech, 1996. p. 405). This is the central question to answer when talking about Pentecostal history. It is an interesting question since there have been charismatic’s in every century. The Quakers, those that John Calvin wrote against in his institutes, the ones Pope Gregory the Great mentioned, and there were certainly at least 120 charismatic’s in the first century who were accused of being drunk while they praised God. So, what sets Pentecostals apart from charismatic groups of history? Since there are so many theologies, many of them errant, that make up Pentecostalism and very little oversight, defining just what Pentecostalism is becomes difficult. If a person visits two Pentecostal churches their experience could be vastly different. This is really the reason Pentecostalism’s central point of origin is Azusa street. It is the only place in time that there is one central Pentecostal theology. Time space and the location in L.A. all converged to create as Cox called it an organism that would produce through “mitosis” and cover the globe (Cox, 2001 p. 55).

The dream was dying in the city of Angels, those that had come there to get rich learned they had been sold the worlds dream, just another lie, so, when William Joseph Seymour arrived in the late 1800’s, the population, especially the poorest, was looking for something new. After being rejected from preaching in other churches Seymour started his own house meetings that quickly grew to more than the house could hold. Moving quickly, Seymour and the other leaders rented on old church on Azusa street that had been used as a warehouse and stable since the last congregation left it. That building would see services night and day for two decades. In the early 1900’s the division started. First Parham and then Durham came with dissenting opinions and theology. Cox makes a good case that Parham’s dissent was driven by racism however, even though Cox tries to make the same case of Durham, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the U.S., the Assemblies of God, might disagree. Those were just the first splits, but with the splits over the next six decades, hundreds of permutations of Pentecostalism became the fastest growing sect in the U.S. As the U.S. expansion grew so did the missionary potential of this new monster. It was the worship and the testimonies that attracted Cox, and millions of others, to Pentecostalism: Hollenweger says (Hollenweger, 1998). Aikman tells of the daring exploits of Pentecostal missionaries  hiding, sometimes in coffins, to be smuggled into China (Aikman, 2003). Today, there is hardly a country in the world that does not have some Pentecostal presence in it. The history of Pentecostalism is not over, the “… battle raging between fundamentalists and experientialists within Pentecostalism” will have to be dealt with either by further splits or by capitulation. Fundamentalist Pentecostals from within predict the likely split of fundamentalist Pentecostals and experientialist Pentecostals to widen until there is a clear distinction between.

South Korea has not escaped the fervor of Pentecostal missions. Cox in 2001 said there were already as many as 5000 Pentecostal churches in South Korea (Cox, 2001). When talking about Pentecostalism in the Asian rim Cox focused his efforts in South Korea. Cox quoted Dr. Chung that said “I no longer believe in an omnipotent God”. This is the issue where what brush should be used needs to be clearly defined.  A fundamentalist Pentecostal would quickly say that rejecting such a doctrine of historical Christianity places the person outside Christianity and labeling someone that is outside Christianity as a Pentecostal is an insult to actual Pentecostals. There is historical precedence for this argument and that really begs the question what brush is being used to paint the South Korean Pentecostal movement if a chief leader of it can hold such an a-historical Christian position and still be painted within Christianity. Cox does this all over the book as he without question accepts Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, and others as Christian simply because they seem to identify as that. The narrow gate and other verses of scripture come to mind at this approach, however, it can be a useful approach as long as the reader understands it and the objections that can be raised against it. So, what does broad gate Christianity look like in Korea? Ma, a South Korean Pentecostal, in 2013 wrote “we Pentecostals were taught that only the small group of saints who were “baptized in the Holy Spirit” were the true saints of the latter days” (Ma, 2013). This is a very traditional Pentecostal doctrine, alive and well in South Korea in 2013. Yet, the picture Cox paints of Pentecostalism in that country is far more liberal and even dangerously pagan. This is due to the mitosis that Cox used to describe the Pentecostal system. Just as in the U.S. in South Korea there are obviously many permutations of Pentecostalism. The two primary results of Pentecostalism in South Korea, according to Cox, are that Pentecostal missionaries stream from that country to all over the world and that, because of the larger influence of Christianity, South Korea had become a capitalistic economy (Cox, 2001). The notable feature of Pentecostalism, Cox pointed out, is its ability to adapt to the culture it is in (Cox, 2001). It has done that all over the world, sometimes maybe a little too well.

Pentecostalism is not done, unless there is a change it will be the most dominant version of Christianity in the world. This is because, as Cox said, Pentecostals are driven to proclaim the good news. In this noetically affected state there has never been one Christian that got all doctrine right. Even Paul commiserated his inability to get it all right. The line is the gospel. There are definitely problems with Pentecostal theology, and even a problem identifying just what is Pentecostal theology is. Ten different churches might each answer that question differently. Is Christ properly proclaimed? That is the question, and in reality, that is the brush that really matters.

 

References

Aikman, D. (2003). Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is transforming China and changing the global balance of power. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc.

Creech, J. (1996). Visions of Glory: The Place of the Azusa Street Revival in Pentecostal History. Church History, (3). 405

Cox, H. (2001). Fire from heaven: The rise of Pentecostal spirituality and the reshaping of religion in the twenty-first century. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Hollenweger, W. J. (1998). Fire from Heaven: A Testimony by Harvey Cox. Pneuma, 20(2), 197-204.

Ma, W. (2013). Life, justice, and peace in the spirit: a Korean Pentecostal reflection. The Ecumenical Review, 65(2), 225-243. doi:10.1111/erev.12038

 

Isms Create Schisms: American Evangelicalism Essay

All isms are based on human understanding. The goal here is to see the link between many isms and how they affected the world and Christianity in their time. The first and probably the loudest in terms of bloody wars were Marxism, Communism, Nazism, and Totalitarianism. These Isms are connected because they share a commune ideology however when people turn power over to the state commune it is not long before the state becomes totalitarian. The next set of isms that find a home together are Liberalism, Positivism, or Idealism, and Darwinism. In truth these ideals lead to a kind of scholastic totalitarianism. The two outliers are conservatism and ecumenism. For the most part the reason these two do not fit in with the others is that they are Christian-esc in nature. Conservatism holds to a traditional set of values so while conservatism is not specifically Christian, there certainly is quite a bit of conservatism in any orthodox Christianity in that Christians must hold some kind of traditional set of values based on scripture. Ecumenism actually is related to all the other views in that it is a specifically Christian ism that deals directly with bringing unity across groups that hold to one or another ism. Shelley, pointed out that one of the immediate responses to ecumenism was that it “… overlooked the Trinitarian basis of Christianity prized by Orthodox churches” (Shelley, 2013, p. 459). The purpose of ecumenism in the mind of the Church was to heal the scars created by other isms. Each ideology brought with it a shift in thinking that some followed and some rejected and this splintered the church; in the attempt to find common ground the ecumenical movement was born, but in the end it too will fail, for as long as there are isms, there will be divisions.

Marxism, Communism, Nazism, and Totalitarianism are the natural progression of commune ideology. Marxism is the ideology that became political reality in Communism from there, it was not much of a leap to go from Communism to Fascism(Nazism). There is not a big difference between all people are equal in a shared community to our people are equal in our community. However, once people buy into the community it is not long before that community becomes totalitarian. 1933 Nazi Germany is a microcosm for understanding the relationship between Christianity and Marxist, communist, fascist, totalitarianism. In 1935 there were 700 Christian pastors, members of the confessing church, arrested for speaking out, or being part of a body that spoke out against the peoples part (Shelley, 2013, p. 440). By this time the racist, fascist regime of the Third Reich was well underway. Separation and segregation of Jews and enemies of the state was underway. Just one year prior in 1934, the Confessing Church had, in the “Barmen Declaration”, become outspoken against the totalitarian Third Reich calling all Christians back to the ideas of compassion and Gospel centered walk. Jordan, in speaking about Communism in the twentieth century, said “… a new militant and fundamentalist fellowship developed, which was separatist in theology, pre-millennial in eschatology, and Calvinist in its conception of government and salvation” (Jordan, 2014, p. 957).  Lawson follows that same thought process when he points out that in reading history it is clear that Christians were the most outspoken against Nazism because they most clearly saw its dangers (Lawson, 2004. p 146). Looking at the evidence two things become plain, first Marxism, Communism, Nazism, and Totalitarianism are inexorably linked and second is that Christianity cannot stand linked to them. Therefore when some Christians stand for these ideologies, like in the 1930s, and others do not there is unavoidable division.

Liberalism, Positivism, or Idealism, and Darwinism are scholastic versions of Marxism, Communism and Nazism. In brief the intentions behind Liberal ideologies are very similar to the Marxist intentions. Marx did not mean to create a way of thinking that led to the Holocaust nor did Liberalism mean to lead to strict enforcement of Darwinism on young minds. However, both are known by their results. Just as Communism leaves the door open for Nazism, Liberalism leave a big hole that must be filled and that is the issue of authority. This is where Positivism and Idealism come in. Positivism states that the ultimate authority is the laws of nature while Idealism, as Voorhoeve, During, Jopling, Wilson, Kamm explain, seeks to find authority for self in “I think therefore I am” (Voorhoeve, During, Jopling, Wilson, Kamm, 2011, p. 134). Both ideologies stem from the need to find the missing authority in Liberalism. However, both are left with the problem of explaining the created order for which they are without excuse (Romans 1:20, NIV). Just like the battle against Marxism, Communism and Nazism is not over for the Christian, simply look at Christianity in China for proof of that; the battle for the hearts and minds against that totalitarian scholasticism of Liberalistic, Positivistic, or Idealistic, and Darwinist ideologies is not over.

Conservatism and Ecumenism are really Christian reactions to twentieth century ideologies. Conservatism, in a Christian context, is a reaction against the ideas of the world with traditional biblical values and Ecumenism is finding a common denominator for church unity in the face of world ideologies. Noll points out that Pope “John XXIII” said when speaking of the intent of the Vatican II counsels was to bring unity to the church for the purpose of increasing the effectiveness of the church in meeting the needs of the people (Noll, 2012, p. 290). But even though the church was reacting to the world with traditional ideas and seeking unity the question quickly arose, unity at what cost? By 1961 the new ecumenism was being criticized for overlooking the Trinitarian definition of Christianity in favor of unity (Shelley, 2013, p. 459). So, while Conservatism and Ecumenism are good goals for the church the question will remain whose ism is important enough to fight over and whose should fall for the sake of unity.

The modern church, especially in places like Europe and America, are left struggling with how to remain true to the roots and principles of Christianity in the face of so many isms from both within and without the body. Some say the West is now “post-Christian” and that the future of Christianity has no more power to affect the state and therefore it is uncertain (Shelley, 2013, p. 481). However, there is a quality to truth that cannot go away. As certain as the sun rises is also the fact that every ism and the scars they have caused will be corrected when every knee bows to the King whose totalitarian reign will be forever.

Solomon’s America

According to Horton Solomon’s reign started near 930 B.C. (Horton, 1961,  p. 3). Solomon reigned for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42). That means he reigned until about 890 B.C. The physical thing that marked, or marred, Solomon’s reign and ended in dividing the country was taxes. In 1 Kings 10:14 it says “The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents,”. The exact talent used in Israel in the time is not really sure but an Attic talent, was 57 lb, a Roman talent was 71 lb an Egyptian talent was 60 lb, and a Babylonian talent 67 lb. Taking the smallest one of these is 57 x 666 = 37962 pounds of gold Solomon collected each year. Solomon’s heavy taxes led the people to ask his son to lighten the taxes; Solomon’s son Rehoboam refused and the people revolted (1 Kings 12:1-24). This led to a divided kingdom. But those are just the physical happenings. Behind the scenes the spiritual battle had been lost long before.  Solomon had left his Love for Yahweh and started worshiping the gods of his exotic wives. Solomon was known for loving exotic women (1 Kings 11:1). When Solomon left God, God left him and took the kingdom from him. This was the real reason the kingdom was divided. It was the same reason Moses could not enter the promised land: “… This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'” (Leviticus 10:3).

 

This exact scenario is being played out right now in the US. Never before has there been such a presidential race in US history. The seeds of the disaster that are evident today in the presidential campaigns were sown years ago when America left her first love for the very same gods Solomon fell for, the god of sexual autonomy and self autonomy.

In the United States today, what spiritual reality has shaped the political climate that we face and what is the solution?

In the United States today, what spiritual reality has shaped the political climate that we face and what is the solution?

The last part of the question needs an answer first I think. The plan fact is that there is no solution. Jesus told us the days will only get darker until His return (Luke 17:25-28). So we should expect to see sin growing in strength in the world. And this is not sin or Satan winning a battle against God, but rather God judgments. See, sin is synonymous with destruction. Most of the time God’s judgment on the sinner is more sin. You see abortion, homosexuality, rampant violence, and just plain sexual immorality have always been with us. So getting back to the first part of the question, “what spiritual reality has shaped the political climate that we face?” the reality is that we face the same sin Ezekiel did and that is rebellion against God (Ezekiel 2:3). The believer has two things however that provide them with a personal solution and a corporate solution for the body of Christ. There is no legislation, no words, and no people powered referendums that will get the world a solution. The world is dead, Jesus made that clear when he said let the dead bury the dead you come and follow me (Luke 9:60). The believer on the other has holiness. That means to be set apart, to be taken out of the world and that is the only solution for any of these that will work. Create a community completely separate from the world in the way we think, talk and live and then go into the world and invite others to join that community. This solution has to be personal before it can be corporate. A person must leave the world, violent, sexual, and human exalting TV shows have to become offensive. Church, study, and prayer have to become the daily norm. The solution, which only the believer can have, is to truly become NOTW. I am not afraid to say that if a person does not hate sin they do not love God. I am not talking about hating sinners, I am talking about hating sin in one’s own life. More than all that Jesus said we will know them by their fruit, the fruit of the Sprit is holiness. If a person’s fruit is not holiness then they are not a child of the God for they do not have His Spirit. And if they do not have his Spirit their destination is not likely to be heaven.