Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Is John's Gospel Particularly Relevant for This Age? (part 2)

Does the current atmosphere in North American evangelicalism "call for a reinstatement of John's sectarianism with its masterly, totalizing, but divisive Christology of the Word"?

To Gundry, such a response would be "extreme? Yes, but there are times for extremes" (71).

Gundry offers a number of arguments for extreme measures:
  1. The dangers of accomodation (rising from nonevangelicals' recognition of evangelical scholarship) have contributed to a philosophy "of only whispering the Word instead of shouting him, speaking him boldly, as the Word himself did" (74).
  2. Seeker-sensitivity caters to felt needs so that "the gospel message of saving, sanctifying grace reduces to a gospel massage of physical, psychological, and social well-being that allows worldliness to flourish" (78).
  3. "[M]uch of the popular literature that stocks the shelves of evangelical Christian bookstores deals with present human existence . . . The present-oriented Jesus of this literature--and of most evangelical preaching, too--begins to look and sound not a little like the non-eschatological, present-oriented Jesus of the Jesus Seminar, and also not a little like the self-actualization in ancient "Gnosticism" such as formed a background for Johannine literature" (81). (In other words, the softpedaled evangelicalism of Warren and Osteen is nothing less than a neo-liberalism.) "The cost of discipleship goes on sale for a discount" (83).
  4. Evangelicals heeded the call to political involvement and humanitarian activity that had been set forth in Carl Henry's The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. This led to "the proportional decrease in expenditures on saving souls for eternity, and the proportional increase of experditure on fleshing out what used to be called "The Social Gospel" (85). (This is a scathing indictment of Henry that is rare in non-fundamentalist evangelical writing. For an even more scathing indictment, see Gundry's criticism of Mark Noll in a footnote on page 89.)
  5. "Sermons and Bible studies began to concentrate more and more on the practicalities of Christian life in the here and now, so that today one rarely hears about heaven and hell, eternal life and eternal damnation" (87).
Gundry's conclusion is the essence of his vision of paleofundamentalism:
Like that early fundamentalism and unlike the fundamentalism which evolved in the 20s-40s, this new old fundamentalism, comparable in its neopaleoism to the new old commandment in 1 John 2:7-11; 3:11, would be culturally engaged with the world enough to be critical rather than so culturally secluded as to be mute, morally separate from the world but not spatially cloistered from it, and unashamedly expressive of historic Christian essentials but not quarrelsome over nonessentials. Such a renewed fundamentalism would take direction not only from fundamentalism at the very start of the twentieth century but also, and more importantly, from the paleofundamentalism of John the sectarian, whose Christology of the Word has Jesus come into the world (there is the engagement with it), sanctify himself (there is the separation from it), and exegete God (there is the message to it) (93-94).
That, to me at least, sounds like a fundamentalism worth saving.

8 comments:

NeoFundy said...

Or neofundamentalism? LOL...

Don said...

Ben, you quote Gundry's ideal as "culturally engaged with the world enough to be critical rather than so culturally secluded as to be mute, morally separate from the world but not spatially cloistered from it, and unashamedly expressive of historic Christian essentials but not quarrelsome over nonessentials"

I am not sure this is at all realistic. If you are proclaiming the confrontrational truth of heaven and hell, the depravity of man, the necessity of faith, etc., how will the world react?

Except for those converted, the world will react by either trying to ignore you/isolate you, or persecute you. The notion of a 'culturally engaged' Christianity that the world will tolerate and allow to have a voice is an utter pipe dream.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...

So why try, right?

Don said...

Hi Ben, no, not why try, but try for something the Bible actually commands. That would be faithfully proclaiming the Gospel to a lost culture, no matter what happens. The world might ignore me, might attempt to isolate me, or might persecute me. It doesn't matter. Keep proclaiming.

But be realistic. What the world will not allow you to do is be acceptable.

At least, if you are faithfully proclaiming the Gospel, it won't.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...

Don,

I'm not sure what Gundry is saying that you're actually disagreeing with. Gundry says that we should live in the culture of this world in a manner that is morally separate. I think that is being salt (that has not lost its saltiness) and light (that is not hidden).

Some believers have abandoned the moral separateness and ceased to demonstrate any distinctiveness. Others have hidden their light by creating a parallel Christian world that seldom crosses paths with the world where unbelievers live. I see both of these ditches as real problems. Surely you don't disagree with that.

Don said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Don said...

Hi Ben

I tried to post agreement with your last comment but it disappeared... But yes, I agree that both the ditches you describe should be avoided.

And I may well be misunderstanding Gundry. Your review makes me want to add his book to my stack of stuff to be read, but your bio makes me worry a little about him also.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...

Don,

I don't think this book will cause you to fall away into errantist redactionism. And it's only 100-ish pages, so you could knock it off in a weekend.