Evangelicalism, neo-fundamentalism, and the next generation

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Three articles caught my eye today: 

The first comes from Frank Viola, who argues that there are now four major streams within evangelicalism, particularly among Christians in their 20s, 30s, and 40s: 

1. The Systematizers
2. The Activists
3. The Emoters
4. The Beyond Evangelicals 

Based on this previous post, I suspect I fall into that fourth stream, mainly because I’m tired of fighting over labels.

The second is an excellent essay from Mike Clawson, shared by Roger Olson, about neo-fundamentalism. 

“The driving force behind neo-fundamentalism,” writes Clawson, “as with historic fundamentalism, is a 'remnant mentality.' Neo-fundamentalists believe they alone are remaining true to the fullness of the gospel and orthodox faith while the rest of the evangelical church is in grave, near-apocalyptic danger of theological drift, moral laxity, and compromise with a postmodern culture – a culture which they see as being characterized by a skepticism towards Enlightenment conceptions of 'absolute truth,' a pluralistic blending of diverse beliefs, values, and cultures, and a suspicion of hierarchies and traditional sources of authority. Because of this hostility toward postmodern ways of thinking, neo-fundamentalists have little tolerance for diversity of opinions among evangelicals on any issues they perceive as essential doctrines – which are most of them – as opposed to the broader evangelical movement which historically has allowed for a much wider range of disagreement on disputable matters.  Neo-fundamentalists thus respond to the challenges of a postmodern culture by narrowing the boundaries of what they consider genuinely evangelical and orthodox Christianity, and rejecting those who maintain a more open stance.” 

Clawson identifies three major figures in the neo-fundamentalist movement: John Piper, Al Mohler, and Mark Driscoll. 

The third comes from David Fitch, who writes about Mark Driscoll and “what the latest flap teaches us about the neo-Reformed Movement.” 

He identifies three major emphases among the neo-Reformed:

1.) The Focus on the Substitionary Atonement
2.) The View that Authority is Hierarchical. 
3.) The assumption that “success” is best measured by the number of people who show up to hear a male preacher preach. 

Then he explains why these sort of teachings fall flat in a the post-Christendom culture of Britain:  “In the post-Christendom world, authority is flattened in the church and pushed outward,” he writes. “Positional authority of anyone over someone else is not the way things work in the Kingdom (read Mark 10:42). Instead we work alongside each other out of our giftedness in the communities appreciating one another gifts and mutually submitting one to another in each one’s gifts (read Eph 4, Rom 12:3-8). The authority lies in one’s recognized gift. The idea that women are over men is as unthinkable as the idea that men are over women.”“Flattened authority structures push leadership out amidst the organic work of ministry in context. Hierarchy pushes church ministry inward and upward for approval. Hierarchical authority inhibits dispersed missional engagement.”

What do you think? Do you agree with Viola’s assessment? Clawson’s? Fitch’s?

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