Friday, January 13, 2006

Eccentricities of Evangelism: the Lowest Common Denominator Factor

One of the weird traits I've noticed of evangelicals is our propensity for lowest common denominator Christianity. In our beliefs, we often gravitate toward the simple and basic. This is in some ways a positive thing. It's good, I think, to emphasize the essentials and major on the most important. Such action stirs up unity and reminds us of our basic identity: we are Christians.

But this tendency has its drawbacks, too, namely that we tend to cling to what it simple and works best and causes the least fuss. We don't like difficult doctrines, often. We don't like change a whole lot, particularly when said change involves moving to complexity in our theology or church structure. Though we worship the God of all wisdom, we often prefer our carefully constructed ghettos to theological travel through the mountains of truth. Though God has given His church a delicate touch, forming it with great care and nuance, we all too often seize upon a cookie-cutter organizational formula. God has given His church great theologians, but they often are ignored, their books (if they get in evangelical bookstores at all) collecting dust while the latest bookish fad flies from the shelves. So very much of what sells in evangelicalism is sugary and sweet but without substance. This is a sad fact of our little corner of the world.

It's not so with every group of the world. In politics, smart people dominate. Or, more sensitively, smart thinking dominates. Sure, there are populists, but they often go as quickly as they came. Of course, the American academy is predicated upon the exercise of intellect, a quality that has its own drawbacks, for sure. But it remains true that in most spheres one can think of, good thought rules. In evangelicalism, however, good thought often takes a back seat to easy truism. This is part of what plagues evangelicalism. It's also part of what makes it eccentric.


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