Evangelicalism: A Diagnostic Exam

There is a submerged bronze statue of Jesus Christ seventeen meters deep in the Mediterranean Sea. Unbeknownst to its creator, Guido Galletti, the statue, Christ of the Abyss, is an allegory for the present-day church, which too is submerged differently, under a sea of historical ignorance bred by theological indifference. When it comes to church members, they know very little, if anything at all, about the history and theology of the church. This is often not their fault. They eat what is put before them. The very things they haven’t been taught are the very things needed to create a faithful and healthy church.

Generally speaking, the modern-day church has never really understood what the church is about. They read little of the Bible, uncomfortably claiming it is divinely inspired while giving preference to Netflix. And they have certainly read little of the Christian classics: Augustine’s Confessions, Athanasius’s The Incarnation of the Word, Calvin’s Institutes, Luther’s Bondage of the Will, Edward’s Freedom of the Will, Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Jesus Christ, not to mention Hodge, Warfield, Machen, Chesterton, or Lewis. They do not know its history: the two hundred plus years of persecution at the hands of Roman Emperors, Constantine, the rise of the Roman Catholic Church, Scholasticism, the Reformation, Puritanism, The First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, and the profound difference between the two.

The average member of the average evangelical church in the average town is simply unable to enter into an intelligent conversation about what Christianity is and what a Christian is.

A corollary to this is often a profound misunderstanding of what the Christian Worldview should think about justice, law, war, welfare, history, economics, or stem cell research. To fill this void, church members often superimpose their political preferences as a placeholder (or worse, a substitute) for a Christian Worldview. They have lost the whole idea of being the church in the first place, of thinking and feeling Christianly.

Another corollary: If the Christians of the twentieth century were too buttoned-up, formulaic and governed by traditions of their own making, the Christians of the twenty-first century have overreacted and become too casual, governed by pugnacity toward tradition and holding firm on one law, namely, their life will follow no laws. As such, the modern-day church has little clue of the worshipful-instructional value that something like liturgy provides. Quoting the Apostles Creed doesn’t go well with the kick drum. And so the urgent question becomes, do twenty-first-century Christians possess enough Christian truth to form a worldview that can self-correct when it overreacts?

We wish to have a church that stands on the authority of Scripture, respects the history of the church, and thereby isn’t tossed by every wind of doctrine or the latest whim of cultural opinion.

First Corinthians 14:8 says “If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” A bugle is used to call troops into battle position. But the signal will not be understood unless the bugle gives a distinct sound. Paul’s narrow point is that whatever takes place in public worship should be clear and intelligible. The broader point of the trumpet call in Scripture (Num. 10:9; Job 39:25; Judges 7:16-18) is that the Christian church is in danger when its trumpets give off the same sound as the enemy. Could it be that the Christian church is overrun with secularism because they aren’t ready for battle? And could it be that they aren’t ready for battle because the Christian trumpets give off an indistinct sound from the sounds of the world?

In response, we say, as does Nehemiah 4:20, “In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

Jason Cherry is a teacher and lecturer of literature, American history, and economics at Providence Classical School in Huntsville, Alabama. He graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with an MA in Religion and is the author of the book The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call, now available on Amazon.