Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Deadly Dangers of Subtle Media Messages

In a panel discussion with Greg Beale, Carl Trueman offers a provocative analogy at the end of a longer conversation on media and materialism. The entire panel is worth a listen. The concluding minutes are particularly pastoral. This particular quote begins at the 1:21:19 mark:
Pornography and violence—it's like the guy running down your street wielding a chainsaw wearing a ski mask. You see him coming. You get into your house. You lock the door. You phone the police. Commercials, things like that—it's like sitting in your house and the chimney's blocked, and the house is slowly filling up with carbon monoxide. And by the time you realize the deadly dangers there, it's too late. You're already dead.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Two Carl Henrys?

So far as I know, I never met Carl Henry, but posthumously he had substantial impact on the last ten years of my life—not so much because of what he wrote or believed, but because of whom he influenced. I've lived those past ten years between two worlds. In one, Henry is lionized, and in the other—something more like demonized. Perceptive leaders in both worlds understand that few people shaped the present landscape of evangelicalism more than Henry.

Those who published their reflections on his influence earlier this week recognized that fact. Two of the most notable reflections were from Albert Mohler and Russell Moore, President and Dean at Southern Seminary. What struck me about these two is that both accurately captured essential elements of Henry's ideas and influence—but at the same time it seemed to me as though they could have been writing about two different men with drastically different primary concerns.

Moore focused on the young Carl Henry and one of his early books, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Moore called Uneasy Conscience his best work, in direct contrast to Henry's six-volume magnum opus, God, Revelation, and Authority. Uneasy Conscience painted a picture of a Church that preaches a gospel of the kingdom by speaking "to the whole person, to spiritual lostness, to physical sickness, to material poverty, to the need for community." Moore takes the opportunity to criticize "the ongoing efforts to divide concern for evangelism from a concern for justice, the mission of the church in caring for people’s souls from caring for their bodies." If you're keeping up with that discussion, that reference might seem thinly veiled.

Mohler writes more broadly, acknowledging the influence of Uneasy Conscience among other pivotal aspects of Henry's life and ministry. But nearly half of his essay bears down on the need for and effects of Henry's God, Revelation, and Authority, completed in Henry's 70th year. In those volumes, Henry had attempted to present "a magisterial defense of Christian truth against the challenges of liberal theology, modern secularism, and contemporary philosophy."

I've read and heard enough from Moore and Mohler to sense that these distinct aspects of Henry's theology are the very aspects that have most gripped and shaped Moore and Mohler, respectively. But Henry expressed concerns late in life about the state and trajectory of the evangelicalism that he had helped create. I wish we could ask him today for deeper reflections on a number of points, Uneasy Conscience among them. But then I stumbled across a provocative and perhaps enlightening little snippet from Henry in the "Part 4" video at this link, quoted at the bottom:
“The important thing right now is for Evangelicals to learn what the church truly is. Because if we are unsure of the nature and purpose of the church, we can get involved in all sorts of tasks trying to save the world or the culture that can miscarry us into a distortion of what Evangelical Christianity ought to be.”
That's all he said. Discussion turned to another topic. I don't know how to read that comment as anything less than a qualification of Uneasy Conscience, and perhaps something more. At the very least, it sounds like something these guys might have said.