Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pragmatism and Postmodernism in the Church (excerpted from Strachan and Sweeney, and Guiness)

With the rise of the financial market and the cultural abandonment of various tenets of a Christian worldview, many of our evangelical churches have shifted from a richly biblical and theological perspective to one driven by pragmatic concerns. Congregations often do not make this shift to spite doctrine; instead, they do it because they think it will bring health and growth. Though they may mean well, a concern for numbers over a concern for personal faith makes it easy for nominalism to creep into the church. When churches concentrate so much on bringing people in, they can lose sight of building people up. That kind of atmosphere can make it easy for people to adopt a half-hearted faith, a Christianity that may be no Christianity at all.
     Cultural critic Os Guinness has written persuasively about the pragmatic mindset in the church. He notes that: “The concern, ‘Will it work?’ has long over-shadowed ‘Is it true?’ Theology has given way to technique. Know-whom has faded before know-how. Serving God has subtly been deformed into servicing the self. At its worst, the result is a shift from faith to the ‘faith in faith’ which – along with faith in religion – is a perniciously distinctive American heresy. But even at tis best, pragmatism results in an evangelicalism rich in ingenuity and organization but poor in spirituality and superficial, if not banal, in doctrine. We have become the worldliest Christians in America.” Strachan and Sweeney, in Jonathan Edwards on True Christianity, pp 37-38, quoting Os Guiness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do About It, p. 59

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