Sunday, March 06, 2011

This is a review of Wright's "hate-filled hypocrites" book

This passage in the review is especially interesting from the point of view of some of the things we have heard of late. 

Fourth, there is a modest apologetic aspect to Wright's book. Wright does not try to persuade people to convert to Christianity. He does not gloss over the many shortcomings he finds in the way Christians think and act. But he does not hesitate to debunk the myths—David Bentley Hart would say delusions— proffered by critics of Christianity. Is it true that "everyone knows" Christianity is dying? Are Christian claims widely discredited? On the contrary, Wright's findings suggest Christians in the United States need not panic or overhaul everything they are doing. He cheekily includes this summary judgment in the conclusion. "You know, I'm kind of enjoying this oversimplification, so let's take it a step further. That's right, after about a year of reading the scholarly literature and analyzing scores of data sets, I am distilling my evaluation of Evangelical Christianity to a single grade. I give American Evangelical Christianity a B." The reports of Christianity's demise continue to be regularly exaggerated, as Books & Culture readers will be well aware (cf. John G. Stackhouse, Jr.: What Scandal? Whose Conscience? July/August 2007. Jon A. Shields: A Scandal of the Secular Conscience? January/February 2008. Andy Crouch: Transmission Routes: World Christianity and American churches. January/February 2010). What stands in the way of fruitful Christian life? Not massive problems that defy all efforts by Christians, but rather unsurprising obstacles (like institutional bureaucracy and people's penchant for sin), perennial problems that individual Christians and churches empowered by the Holy Spirit continue to faithfully address.


unkleE said...

I think I may have to read this book. Because from where I sit (Australia) US christianity has some very encouraging aspects, but much of it seems immature and self absorbed, and some even seems pretty scary. I'm sure most US christians are lovely people, but the institution seems to be out of touch.

Perhaps I'm quite wrong, seeing things from too great a distance. If so I apologise.

Crude said...

unkleE, I'm curious of something. Does the words "Westboro Baptist" have any familiarity to you? And if so, without googling, how large or popular of a church would you guess that is in the US?

Shot in the dark here, but I have to ask.

unkleE said...

G'day Crude, I have heard of that church and I understand why you might ask, but I know it is a minority. I think hatred of gays is a problem, but I was thinking of things like the apparent confusion of christianity and patriotism, the discourteous behaviour of many christians on the internet and the treating of disbelievers as enemies rather than people to be loved, the current fuss about Rob Bell and all the parochial doctrine wars, the suspicion of global warming and evolution, the apparent lack of awareness by many that they consume far more than their share of the world's resources, the penchant to kill enemies rather than pray for them as Jesus commanded, and so on. Some are problems with the whole western church, some seem to be peculiarly US.

GREV said...

Like I said in another place, Wright's book remains on my wish list to obtain and read.

One question though to unkleE -- when are doctrinal issues important?

Your list of concerns was very good I might add.

unkleE said...

Grev: thanks.

I don't have any rule to decide when doctrinal issues are important. But I think:

(1) agreement on some doctrines is essential for our mission, but agreement on others is not;

(2) often the fights are over NT interpretations that are not clear (except to each combatant) and thus require some humility; and

(3) we have to follow the very clear NT teachings on how we deal with the issues - praying for the Spirit's guidance, not demonising our opponents, speaking the truth in love, speaking with gentleness and respect, and leaving judgement to God.

I find it common that people who are strong on the debatable doctrines are not strong on the behavioural teachings which are much clearer.

GREV said...


Appreciate your response.

This Sunday as part of the message I am preparing, I am making reference to a book published a few years by a minister arguing for the redefining of so much of Christianity that a secular reviewer of the work offered the opinion that Christ is being taken out of Christianity.

And then asking the question how can we be committed to Christ when we keep redefining the Christ we are committed to? Mind you conservative Christianity is not out of the loop for a critical eye as the wonderful book Jesus:Made in America makes clear. If you have not read it I commend it heartily.

So, yes we are called to contend for a faith, once for all delivered and agreement on that faith is essential but liberty on other things is okay.

For example, regarding the Atonement, many are surprised that Calvin was agreeable to many ways of understanding the Atonement yet argued they all must find their grounding in the Substitutionary Model of Explanation.

Humility on Interpretative Issues is needed. But when things are being redefined out of all recognition then we will have an issue. The Pastor of a major church in my denomination offered his hearty declaration at our Annual Assembly that the Church he is Senior Pastor of stands in agreement with the other churches over defence of the Scriptures and adherence to them. Yet this church will proceed with the performance of 2 or 3 same sex marriages over the next year.

I can assure any reader that 99 % of the churches in this Denomination would not agree that such a stance shows adherence to or defence of the Scriptures as understood by the rest of yes.

I would agree strongly that hardly ever is prayer utilized in our Church settings. I recall one younger leader saying to me we don't have to pray.

Regarding the demonization of our opponents, I am of the following --

“let your gentleness be evident to all.” Paul

“do not cast your pearls before swine.” Jesus

And the repeated instances of Jesus being very angry with the religious know- it- all's who should have known better.

I am all for leaving ultimate judgement to God, but what do you do with the admonitions to guard the flock against savage wolves who would come in and destroy the church – Acts 20? Such verses speak of some judgement and required action.

Over and above all of this, there does remain the requirement to be a person who shows Christ in us, transforming us because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Such living will go a long way to attracting people to wanting to hear the Gospel.


Crude said...

I have heard of that church and I understand why you might ask, but I know it is a minority.

Well, minority meaning 'one tiny church mostly attended by suspiciously well-funded family members'. I just was curious if the international perception of WBC was that they were something larger than that.

That's all I wanted to investigate, so thank you.

unkleE said...

Hey Ed, you need to read Vic's blog post before firing off a fusilade. He was talking about a different Wright!!! : )

Edward T. Babinski said...

My bad, I actually know the other Wright and read his blog.

unkleE said...

"I just was curious if the international perception of WBC was that they were something larger than that."

I doubt there's all that much "international perception" of Westboro Baptist. I would guess if you asked a hundred Aussies about that name, maybe only one or two would have heard of it.

Crude said...

I would guess if you asked a hundred Aussies about that name, maybe only one or two would have heard of it.

Fair enough. The problem is they seem like the most commonly referenced church over in the states, which made me wonder 'When someone hears about Christians in the US at any given moment, what are the odds it's the WBC?' International media is a mystery to me, other than knowing the brits are still good with sketch comedy.

Anonymous said...

So an atheist says to the Pastor, "
I can't ever join the church because it is full of hypocrites".

The pastor says, "That's OK son, we always have room for one more!"