Conformed to a Rootless and Placeless Monoculture

‘There is a paradox in all this, and it is as cruel as it is obvious: as the emphasis on individual liberty has increased, the liberty and power of most individuals has declined. Most people are now finding that they are free to make very few significant choices. It is becoming steadily harder for ordinary people – the unrich, the unprivileged – to choose a kind of work for which they have a preference, a talent, or a vocation, to choose where they will live, to choose to work (or to live) at home, or even to choose to raise their own children. And most individuals (‘liberated’ or not) choose to conform not to local ways and conditions but to a rootless and placeless monoculture of commercial exploitations and products. We try to be ’emotionally self-sufficient’ at the same time that we are entirely and helplessly dependent for our ‘happiness’ on an economy that abuses us alone with everything else. We want the liberty of divorce from spouses and independence from family and friends, yet we remain indissolubly married to a hundred corporations that regard us at best as captives and worst as prey. The net result of our much-asserted individualism appears to be that we have become ‘free’ for the sake of not much self-fulfillment at all.”

-Wendell Berry in “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community” (from The Art of the Commonplace, Counterpoint, 2003), pp. 163-164

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Book review: Carson’s Intolerance of Tolerance

“Tolerance” has taken on an idolatrous golden calf status in our culture as of late, being the predominant ideology in nearly all areas of life. In his recent (January, 2012) book The Intolerance of Tolerance, D.A. Carson tackles the elephant in the room, arguing against the current form of tolerance, which ironically is no tolerance at all.

Birthed out of a series of lectures Carson has given across the Western world, the main argument of the book is that tolerance has come to be the prevailing mantra of our time. However, tolerance no longer means what it used to, and the new form of tolerance is not very tolerant at all; at its best it is veiled intolerance and at its worst it borders on the absurd. Carson describes the old tolerance as a stance that acknowledges the existence of both right and wrong, and discoverable, defensible truth. This tolerance accepts “that a different or opposing position exists and deserves the right to exist” (p. 3). This tolerance respectfully engages in debates and criticisms. However, as Carson deftly argues, a new tolerance has taken over that is intolerant of the old tolerance.

The new tolerance, Carson argues, is tolerant of all things on the surface, so long as no dogmatic, absolute, judgmental, critical, or disparaging remarks are made. This new tolerance has become part of the unquestioned plausibility structure; it accepts all opinions and renders them all equally valid. But under this new tolerance, right and wrong cease to have any meaning. It does not acknowledge any specific truth, and labels any religion or system of thought that claims to be true as intolerant. Thus, any disagreement – let alone claims to exclusive truth – is demonized as intolerant, leaving no room for anything but a spineless, tyrannical tolerance. The irony, not lost in the title of the book, is that the new tolerance is actually quite vehemently intolerant of anything that isn’t tolerant of the new tolerance: “no absolutism is permitted, except for the absolute prohibition of absolutism” (p. 13).

Of course, tolerance is not really an abstract, personified ideal, but is the dominant thinking of the Western world, and that’s not to our credit:

“Cultures in other parts of the world often see in Western (new) tolerance, not a mature and civilized culture worth emulating, but a childish and manipulative culture that refuses to engage with serious moral issues…Far from bringing peace, the new tolerance is progressively becoming more intolerant, fostering moral myopia, proving unable to engage in serious and competent discussions about truth, letting personal and social evils fester, and remaining blind to the political and international perceptions of our tolerant cultural profile.” (p. 139)

Well researched, engagingly written, and utterly reasonable, Carson provides myriad examples of how this new tolerance has influenced all areas of life. Copious examples of the absurd and maddening new tolerance are given in the religious, educational, political, academic, and news media spheres. But Carson isn’t a paranoid alarmist decrying the loss of the modern age or the takeover of secular humanism. Instead, he firmly engages with popular and academic sources, building his case throughout the book that the old tolerance is necessary for a truly free society, while the new tolerance spirals into inconsistency and even tyranny.

The final chapter offers some practical reflections on what to do about the new tolerance, which was helpful. On a personal note, I especially enjoyed his section on the demise of postmodernity, as well as his discussion of the rampant narcissism in our world and in the church. On a more minor note, it was also refreshing to read an “outsider” lamenting the “moralistic therapeutic deism” that Michael Horton, Christian Smith, and others have been drawing attention to.

Though it is a shorter book, Carson’s argument is so tight and his argument so cogently intertwined throughout the book, I find it difficult to review. The only blemish in it is his minor digression on democracy and his reflections on the separation of church and state. He lost me a little bit with his church/state discussion.

I really enjoyed it, as it is intellectually stimulating without being stuffy or overly academic. It is also written from a Christian perspective without being overtly so. It reads like how his lectures would be: given to a mixed audience of academics and the public, Christians and skeptics. Carson is a gifted writer with deep insight. I’d heartily recommend it to Christians and non-Christians alike.

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from Eerdmans in exchange for an objective, but not necessarily positive, review.

The emperor’s lack of clothes

Fortunately, postmodernism is on its way out. But much like the devil being bound in Revelation and destroying half the stars with his tail on his way down, postmodernism is still exerting influence even as it draws its final breaths. It knows its defeat is imminent, and it is raging to wreak as much havoc as possible before its demise. What will arise in the vacuum it leaves might be equally as vacuous, absurd, or annoying; but one victory at a time. As we are still picking spoiled remnants of the Enlightenment out of our beards, we will be straining out postmodern influence for many years to come. This is especially true in the church at large, as the church always lags a few years behind academic and cultural thought.

In his recent book The Intolerance of Tolerance, D.A. Carson explains that though postmodernism as a movement is dead, its influence is still widespread. The premise of his book is that “tolerance” has come to be the dominant idiom of our time, even as its definition has changed over the centuries. The old meaning of tolerance is defined as holding to the truth while acknowledging the reality of other people holding to other truth claims, with room for respectful disagreement and criticism. The newer definition of tolerance is that of  claiming that all truths are equally valid except for those that are intolerant. In more extreme cases, the new tolerance does not acknowledge any truth, and labels any religion or system of thought claiming truth as intolerant. Thus, voicing any disagreement, criticism, or claims to exclusivity is ironically demonized as intolerant, leaving no room for anything but “tolerance,” which is no truth at all. Full speed ahead to the absurd. The following quotation is worth reading, and Carson uses “tolerance” here in the newer way.

“Regardless of the widespread inability to agree on what it is, postmodernism has exerted incalculable influence in much of the world. Disagreement over the essence of postmodernism cannot blind us to its effect. Almost all sides agree that as a movement postmodernism is dead. Except in some American undergraduate programs, its luminaries are no longer read – certainly not in Europe, whence most of them sprang. Yet the effluents of postmodernism, however defined, are still very much with us, shaping our thoughts and cultural values. What cannot be denied is that, in its wake, countless millions of people find it difficult, at least on some subjects, to think in terms of truth and error, much preferring to think in terms of differences of opinion, of varying perspectives. The dawning of postmodernism coincided, at least in part, with the increasing diversification of the populations of many of the world’s metropolises. The impact of this increasing empirical pluralism is multiplied many times over by the digital revolution: with minimal effort we find ourselves exposed to an incredibly broad diversity of cultures, opinions, interpretations of history, languages, and so forth. Moreover, in the virtual world we can create our own realities. All of this conspires to push questions of truth to the margins while magnifying the importance of tolerance…Regardless of the terminology pragmatism now commonly eclipses both nature and religion as cultural authority. But if in its most aggressive forms postmodernism has declined, it has left a residue of subjective eclecticism that fosters the elevation of tolerance to the enthroned status of supreme virtue.” (pp. 73-74)

Further, to borrow a C.S. Lewis-ism, postmodernism is built on ladders in the air. The postmodern emperor has no clothes, to mix metaphors. The absurdity of postmodernism has been staring us right in the face, and it is finally starting to show. As leftist scholar Terry Eagleton writes:

“For all its vaunted openness to the Other, postmodernism can be quite as exclusive and censorious as the orthodoxies it opposes. One may, by and large, speak of human culture but not human nature, gender but not class, the body but not biology, jouissance but not justice, post-colonialism but not the petty bourgeoisie. It is a thoroughly orthodox heterodoxy, which like any imaginary form of identity needs its bogeyman and straw targets to stay in business.” (qtd. in Carson, pp. 82-83)

We must keep fighting to expose the bogeymen and straw targets of postmodernism for what they are. The best ammunition against such absurdities is the gospel, and especially the “foolishness” of the forgiveness of sins and the incredible triumph of the resurrection.

Christianese buzzwords

I have been described as an old soul. I have also been described as a grouch. I don’t think they are necessarily exclusive of one another. Something that amuses me in a grouchy way is the employment of Christianese buzzwords, as I’m sure it does to others as well (like Stuff Christians Like). We all hear them on a regular basis, and most of us have probably used them (me included). Here’s a list of Christianese buzzwords I’ve come up with over the years with some accompanying grouchiness:

-Authentic – See: The Authenticity Hoax. If you have to describe something or someone as authentic, it probably isn’t.

-Christ-follower – As this list goes, it’s fairly innocuous, but crosses into buzzword territory when smugly used over and against “Christian.” It’s what all the cool middle class white kids use to avoid the so-called baggage associated with “Christian.”

-Fellowship/community – Mostly used as a jazzed up way of saying “hanging out,” “good conversation,” or “sense of place/belonging/connectedness.”

-Journey (and all its accompanying descriptors, e.g. faith journey) -This word needs to journey on over to the landfill of meaningless, overused words. Coincidentally, the band of the same name seems to have run its course as well.

-Living the gospel – Often stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what the gospel is (good news), even if used innocently. This recent article uses it well, describing it more frequently as “gospel living” or “representing the gospel.”

-Missional – Does anyone really know what this means or entails?

-Organic – Please use this word to mainly refer to foodstuffs from now on.

-Post-[anything] – Can’t someone coin a new term for our philosophical age instead of mooching off the last couple eras? Or are we in the process (journey?) of moving past the post- era into the post- post- era, and on and on ad absurdum. Bonus points for using parentheses, as in (post)modern.

-Praise song/praise team/praise x – An unfortunate leftover from the CCM era. Related: worship song. Worse: “praise and worship music.” Someone make sure to tell David, Asaph, and Isaac Watts in heaven that Psalms and hymns aren’t songs of praise or worship.

-Relationship – Many who admirably want nonbelievers to “have a relationship with God” might not realize that this isn’t a biblical descriptor of salvation. In fact, everyone already has a relationship with God (as R.C. Sproul is fond of saying). It’s just a matter of a grace relationship or a wrath relationship.

-Relevant – See: Authentic. If you have to say something’s relevant, that’s a tell-tale sign that it probably isn’t.

-Solid – Used especially to describe a guy/gal one is friends with. I’m guilty of this one frequently. My wife says this word reminds her of going to…nevermind.

-Winsome – I love this word, but to modify a line from The Incredibles, if every author/speaker is winsome, nobody is. C.S. Lewis is arguably the best modern example of a winsome writer, but not everyone is Lewis-like.

Now please don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we should completely abolish these words from our collective vocabularies. Some of them are good (solid?) biblical words with great etymologies. What I’m advocating for is either a re-appropriation of some of them (e.g. winsome, solid, and relevant), a boycott of some of them (e.g. post-, praise x, and journey), or substituting clear thinking and more precise language for some of them (e.g. living the gospel).

Christians (Christ-followers?) are notoriously fuzzy or vague in their language. I’m guilty of this as much as anybody. We use Christianese in our everyday language without actually saying what we really mean, oftentimes without saying much of anything at all. Perhaps it is to sound cool or different (relevant?); words like missional, resurgent, and winsome come to mind. Perhaps it is to build up one’s language to sound extra biblical or intellectual. I think “community” falls into this category, especially when used as an adjective or abstract noun instead of a concrete noun referring to a place. These types of words are favorites of the young, restless, millennial crowd. Elizabeth and I love to play the Pomo Christianese Buzzword game, in which whoever sounds the most like Rob Bell wins.

My point is to draw attention to the need for clear language and clear thinking. Asking “What do you mean by that?” is a valid question when faced with Christianese. There is no substitute for clarity of thought. As my brilliant college roommate would say: PRECISION! Language is a powerful tool for good or ill, but it can also be wielded vaguely, obtusely, or misleadingly. Our speech should not be a stumbling block to those around us; thus we should avoid Christianese when speaking with nonbelievers as well as fellow believers.

Language matters. Words matter. God breathed Scripture as a book of words, and we believe in the perspicuity of Scripture. The Second Person of the Trinity came as The Incarnate Word, not a word with vague definitions or applications. The apostles continuously challenged their churches to defend the Word of Truth. The gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, is given primarily through the preaching of the Word. I’m not a cynic. I’m aware that language is progressive and evolves over time. “Fundamental” and “evangelical” used to be meaningful, strong words before they became negatively or politically charged, for example. But the fact of the evolution of language is not license to utilize an impotent Christianese vocabulary.

To close, I thought it would be fun to come up with a list of words that I would like to see become buzzwords. Not buzzwords in the negative sense, but words that I would like to see be understood, embraced, and used more widely (by me, too):

-Catechetical
-Confessional
-Covenantal
-Justification
-Sacramental (already bordering on a buzzword, but could be re-appropriated)
-Reformed (in the historical, comprehensive worldview sense, not the mere five-points of Calvinism or sovereignty of God sense)
-Trinitarian
-Union with Christ

What do you think? Are there any Christianese buzzwords that you love to hate? Are there any that you would like to see authentically emerge to an organic preeminence, or ones that used to be prominent but need to embark on a resurgent journey?

Culture is for tourists

Andrew Potter’s Authenticity Hoax: How We Got Lost Finding Ourselves is an engaging look at the quest for the authentic life in the wake of modernity. It is equal parts historical analysis, cultural critique, philosophical pinings, and pop culture bromides. Potter argues that

“the whole authenticity project that has occupied us moderns for the past two hundred and fifty years is a hoax. It has never delivered on its promise, and it never will. This is not because we aren’t trying hard enough or are looking in the wrong places, or because the capitalists, politicians, and other purveyors of the fake are standing in our way…My argument is not that once upon a time we lived authentic lives – that we used to live in authentic communities and listen to authentic music and eat authentic food and participate in an authentic culture – and now that authenticity is gone. This is not a fairy tale. Rather, the overarching theme of this book is that there really is no such thing as authenticity…There could never be an authenticity detector we could wave at something, like the security guards checking you over at the airport.”

Instead of an abstract concept of the authentic that we pursue, Potter argues that most of the search after authenticity is really a “disguised form of status-seeking” (p. 15). As a result, the jargon of authenticity has taken on religious aspects, and the striving after the authentic is a striving after wind. In fact, when one embarks on the quest for the authentic, he ultimately gets lost on the way and loses any semblance of what authenticity really means. As part of the status-seeking hoax, the search for authenticity takes many forms, and Potter examines this search in the realm of history, consumerism, politics, technology, media, and culture.

On this last point, Potter’s chapter on cultural tourism is especially poignant, as he argues that much of what we think of as authentic culture is for status-seeking tourists. He refers specifically to reenactments, period dress, and other “theme park” atmospheres where we have tried to conserve “authentic” culture. For that matter, even the slow-food and organic food movements are heavily influenced by status-seeking. Wonder why the most outspoken proponents of organic food quietly stepped off their soap box once organic food went mainstream and Wal-Mart jumped on the bandwagon? Potter explains an aspect of this status-seeking by asking,

“is there anyone out there who does not consider him or herself to be an antihero of authenticity? Anyone who embraces authority, delights in status-seeking, loves work, and strives for conformity? Living inauthentically is always something other people do. In which case, what is surprising is just how much apparent inauthenticity there is out there.”

To cement his point, Potter argues several times that as soon as one brands something or someone as authentic, then chances are it probably isn’t.

Mixed with his his cultural criticism, Potter traces the history of the quest for the authentic life and authentic self from Plato and the Greeks to Rousseau, Kant, Hume, Descartes, Marx, Benjamin, and more. Potter does a commendable job in discussing the philosophies of these philosophers in an accessible way without dumbing it down. He melds many different aspects of life into his critique of authenticity. On the way, he takes intelligent but scathing shots at Sarah Palin and President Obama, capitalism and socialism, Fox News and the liberal media, Oprah and beat poets, designer pre-ripped jeans, suburban and urban living, and modern art. You may not agree with everything he says, but one can’t disagree that he stimulates much thought.

While I enjoyed this book, I would have liked to see more of a discussion on religious matters. Potter argues that the search for authenticity has religious aspects of it, but he mostly stays away from Christianity and other religious movements’ adoption of authenticity jargon. I’m especially thinking of post-modern Christianity, the Emergent movement, etc. I think he would have had plenty of material to critique. I also think he would have benefited greatly from pulling the book of Ecclesiastes into his criticism, as much of his argument was based on the fact that there is truly nothing new under the sun.

The gospel and the mind: book review

In an age of anti-intellectualism, scientism, and mind-numbing electronic media, how are Christians to live, learn, and glorify God? In The Gospel and the mind: recovering and shaping the intellectual life (Crossway, 2010), Bradley G. Green explores the connections between the Christian gospel and the pursuit of knowledge. In his work, Green leans heavily on such Christian intellectual heavyweights as Calvin, Aquinas, Athanasius, and especially Augustine to respond to other philosophers like Derrida, Nietzsche, and Saussure. Spurred on by the perception that “wherever the gospel goes, it seems to generate intellectual deliberation and inquiry,” Green has written a fully-orbed and persuasive apologia of the Christian intellectual life as the primary and best context from which to study the world.

Since Christ died to redeem all of who we are, this includes our minds. Thus, “any sort of meaningful intellectual life will be rooted in Christ and the gospel” (p. 178). To flesh this out, Green examines five interrelated theological themes and their relevance to the intellectual life: the realities and necessities of creation and history; the concept of a telos or goal to all of history; the cross of Christ; the nature of language; and knowledge, morality, and action. He presents a twofold thesis: “the Christian vision of God, man, and the world provides the necessary precondition of the recovery of any meaningful intellectual life; and the Christian vision of God, man, and the world offers a particular, unique understanding of what the intellectual life might look like” (p. 13-14).

It is obvious from the start that Green is well-read and painstakingly researched this book.  He writes clearly and professionally, bordering on the scholarly. Green offers persuasive arguments for the Christian intellectual life, and I was very encouraged and challenged by this book. The sections on the five above themes dovetail with each other nicely, and Green effectively weaves together these themes to serve his thesis. While doing this, he interacts with beloved philosophers of the anti-Christian world, discusses the importance of history and creation, shows how modern and postmodern thinkers have taken away any type of hope for life by rejecting the telos of history, points out the destructive influence of sin on the mind, and more. He quotes extensively from myriad thinkers and philosophers to make his point, and the book is filled with excellent quotations. At times it reads like a string of quotations with Green’s voice just filling in the gaps and giving structure to the arguments.

Perhaps the most persuasive, challenging, and insightful section is the closing chapter on the moral nature of knowledge. Knowledge is not neutral, as many contemporary thinkers would have us swallow. Green expounds here on Calvin’s conviction that to know God is to honor God, and “the honoring is included within the knowledge itself” (p. 150). Thus, as Calvin writes, “our mind cannot apprehend God without rendering some honor to him.” From Calvin, Green launches into a biblically saturated discussion of the moral nature of knowledge, supported by the Psalms, Proverbs, prophets, and Paul. The conclusion, drawn also from Calvin, C.S. Lewis, and Cornelius Van Til, is that all knowledge is more than just knowing facts, but is actually personal and moral. Thus, “to live in this world is to face a moral responsibility and duty” (p. 161). This responsibility is to know things truly, as they are known and understood by God. Though we are finite beings and cannot know omnisciently as God knows, we can know in light of who God is and what he has spoken to us in his word. This is how, as Kepler wrote, we are able to think God’s thoughts after him. And if this is the case, then

“as we have seen, God has revealed himself to all persons in the created order, then all persons know God and are engaged in the moral, willful, ethical submission to or rejection of the God of Holy Scripture at virtually all moments of their existence…Thus, nothing can be truly understood unless it is understood in relation to the God who created and currently sustains the world.” (p. 161-162, emphasis his)

The gospel comes into this discussion of the moral nature of knowledge in that when our hearts have been changed by the Holy Spirit and our minds are renewed by Christ, our moral wills and our natural loves will also be different. Following the Apostle Paul’s and Augustine’s discussions of this, Green argues that we cannot really know what we do not love: “Augustine seems to be saying that the reason we can know only what we love is that only in love are we able to understand what something is really like in terms of what it is ultimately capable of becoming…God is to be loved, while all other things are to be viewed in relation to that ultimate love” (p. 166-167).

Thus, we serve a “personal, relational, triune, and rational” God, who is

“not primarily sensed or felt – although that is part of our experience – but known. This, the fundamental goodness of knowledge is at the heart of a Christian understanding of the intellectual life. This God has made a world, and this world reflects the one who made it. We humans as image bearers reflect God in a unique way, but the world as a whole ultimately reflects the God who made it. And hence, the Christian faith encourages attention to the world, its structures, and its mysteries.” (p. 178-179)

While one of its strengths, Green’s precise scholarship and philosophical interactions might also be one of the book’s downfalls. If one of the purposes of this book is so that Christians will be spurred on by the gospel to recover intellectual pursuits, I’m not sure this book is the starting point. It does not score very high on the accessibility meter. The chapters on the nature of language are especially technical and dense (as admitted by Green). I am afraid that Green’s valuable work will mostly be read by the “choir” – Christian intellectuals and Christian lovers of knowledge – and not by those who might need this book. Green’s scholarly, philosophical, and sometimes technical discussions is not the best introduction to those Christians seeking to recover intellectual pursuits. I wish it were, though. It is sadly ironic, but if “non-intellectuals” are the audience, this would not be the first book to give them. But I do hope this important book receives a wider audience than it probably will.

Note: Crossway provided me with a copy of this book for review purposes.

Trueman on Postmodern Evangelicalism

As the author of Ecclesiastes says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” That is the underlying tone of Carl Trueman’s first essay in Minority Report, an eclectic collection of his essays.

In this essay, “Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light,” Trueman (dean of faculty and professor of historical theology and church history at Westminster) examines the arguments and purposes of postmodern evangelicalism, and finds them wanting. By postmodern evangelicalism, he does not merely mean emergents/ings, but the general state of evangelicalism that has been influenced by postmodernity. Postmodernism, as an ideology driven by advanced consumerism, has unassumingly made its way into the evangelical church. Trueman explains that postmodern evangelicals know next-to-nothing about postmodern aesthetics or philosophy, nor have they made any attempt to learn more. Instead, they just care about being revolutionary.

One quick look at the “religious” section of Barnes and Noble easily shows this, with titles like Barna’s Revolution or Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution as examples. The irony, as Trueman points out, is that these revolutions are neither revolutionary nor radical, but are repackaged attempts at conservative “mere Christianity” and have been radically influenced by the postmodern cult of consumerism. Further, no one outside of the intended audiences of these messages takes them seriously. Trueman’s point is that these postmodern Christians, who think they are saying something new, when viewed critically through the lens of history and Scripture, are not new nor revolutionary:

When one approaches the major texts of postmodern evangelicalism and asks what they are saying, the answer is exciting: they claim they are opening up radical new directions for theology; but when one approaches the same texts and asks what they are doing, the answer is somewhat more prosaic. Far from pointing to new ways of doing theology, these texts are on the whole appropriating an admittedly new idiom, that of postmodernism, in order to accomplish a very traditional and time-honored task: they are articulating a doctrinally minimal, anti-metaphysical ‘mere Christianity.’ Like pouting teenagers in pre-torn designer jeans and Che Guevara tee-shirts, they look angry and radical but are really as culturally conformist and conservative as a tall latte from Starbucks. (19)

There is nothing new under the sun, as postmodern evangelicals, in their attempt to create a radically new way of “following Jesus,” are really just repackaging attempts at mere Christianity to a radically consumerist culture by being radically consumerist themselves. To modify an old cliche, if everyone is a revolutionary, no one is.

By mere Christianity, Trueman means the minimum beliefs required for salvation. Trueman isn’t using “mere Christianity” like C.S. Lewis does (more on that later), and he’s not saying mere Christianity is bad in and of itself. But the problem is when Christians through the ages, including postmodern evangelicals of our day, take this concept and attempt to build ecclesiastical structures from it. Mere Christianity rejects traditions and confessions as too narrow or boring, and attempts to recreate church without them. And therein lies the problem:

Postmodern evangelicalism, like much of postmodernism, presents itself to the world with all the smug self-importance of a radical revolution. Yet this is an illusion, because the end result at which it aims is as old as the hills, as exclusively doctrinaire as it can be, and as traditional and conservative as it comes: an old-hat, mere Christianity, articulated in a contemporary cultural idiom which actually renders it utterly powerless to challenge the dominant culture and yet impervious to criticism. (23)

By capitulating to the postmodern cultural context in which it stands, postmodern evangelical “revolutionaries” have no power to challenge the status quo of the postmodern world. And by rejecting the validity of tradition and history, these “revolutionaries” avoid any standards of criticism. Mere Christianity is good to have common ground to fight side by side with other believers in parachurch ministries and the like, but it is woefully incompetent to uphold an ecclesiastical body.

To return to Lewis’ mere Christianity, Lewis likened it to a hallway in which Christians of different traditions and backgrounds could mingle with some common ground. But even in Lewis’ metaphor (remember that Lewis was decidedly not an evangelical), there are doors to other rooms which hold distinctive confessions, beliefs, and traditions. If the doors from the hallway were eliminated, as many contemporary postmodern evangelicals would like, we would be left with a bunch of loiterers in the hallway with a vapid, shallow, uninformed and definitely unrevolutionary faith that is powerless against the powers of this world.