Church planting doesn’t really lend itself to a book budget right now so I’ve been going back through my shelves reading “third books.” I call them third books because I usually try to order books in threes to minimize shipping. Often, the third book ends up on a shelf without having been read because (a) I don’t read fast and (b) by that time something else has caught my attention. So on my way to Atlanta last week I picked up an old “third book,” Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray. I know this will just confirm my geekiness to an already suspecting world but I really get into the history of Evangelicalism.
For many so-called Evangelicals today “narrowness” in regards to faith is to be avoided at all costs. Murray traces the history of how we got here in the book. From the outside not much seems to have changed among evangelicals over the last 50 or 60 years. In actuality, as many among evangelicals have been falling all over themselves to appear open-minded very few among those they have been trying to impress have taken notice. Various groups from the academy to mainline denominations still consider Evangelicals to be in an isolationist ghetto in spite of their loud protests to the contrary. Of more concern is the effect of all of this on the heart of Evangelicalism. Murray explains that:
“…evangelicals, while commonly retaining the same set of beliefs, have been tempted to seek success in way which the New Testament identifies as worldliness. Worldliness is departing from God. It is a man-centered way of thinking; it provides objectives which demand no radical breach with man’s fallen nature; it judges the importance of things by the present and material results; it weighs success by numbers; it covets human esteem and wants no unpopularity; it knows no truth for which it is worth suffering; it declines to be a fool for Christ’s sake. Worldliness is the mind-set of the unregenerate. It adopts idols and is at war with God.” (p. 254-255)
If I seem to be throwing stones let me hasten to say worldliness isn’t just a rare disease. Worldliness is an epidemic. Man-centered thinking is the air we breathe and who among us hasn’t recently placed undue importance on material things or coveted human esteem? At this point I’m less interested in assigning blame than in doing all that I can to avoid the spirit of the world. How do I fight an enemy that is not only invisible but to which I am constantly submitting both “unwillingly and unconsciously”? Sorry to leave you hanging but this post is already too long. Ponder the question and we’ll get back to it soon.