Wednesday, November 19, 2014


In quite a lot of Western evangelicalism, there is a worrying tendency to focus on the periphery. I have a colleague in the Missions Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School whose analysis of his own heritage is very helpful. Dr Paul Hiebert laboured for years in India before returning to the United States to teach. He springs from Mennonite stock, and analyses his heritage in a fashion that he himself would acknowledge is something of a simplistic caricature, but a useful one nonetheless. One generation of Mennonites believed the gospel, and held as well that there were certain social, economic, and political entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel, but identified with the entailments. The following generation denied the gospel: the entailments were everything.

Assuming this sort of scheme for evangelicalism, one suspects that large swathes of the movement are lodged in the second step, with some drifting toward the third.

What we must ask one another is this: what is it in the Christian faith that makes you excited? What consumes your time? What turns you on? Today there are endless subgroups of confessing Christians who invest enormous quantities of time and energy in one issue or another: abortion, home schooling, the defence of a particular Bible version, pornography issues, women’s ordination (for or against), economic injustice, a certain style of worship, and much more. The list varies from country to country, but not a few countries have a full agenda of urgent, peripheral demands. Not for a moment am I suggesting we should not think about such matters and throw our weight behind none of them. But when such matters devour most of our time and passion, each of us must ask, in what fashion am I confessing the centrality of the gospel?

D A Carson in Basics for Believers (reflections on Philippians) pages 26-7
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