Wednesday, September 10, 2014

UnChristian?

The greatest danger [to the Church and the Christian faith] lay in a [movement] that insisted on defining professing Christians out of Christianity. ... [Name withheld said,] In the midst of a world situation that "smells to heaven," in the presence of "colossal problems, which must be solved in Christ's name and for Christ's sake, [a certain group of professing Christians] propose to drive out from the Christian churches all the consecrated souls who do not agree with their [doctrine]. What immeasurable folly!"

Quick quiz, is this statement referring to

  1. watchbloggers,
  2. "haters"
  3. all how disagree with John Frame over "evangelical reunion"
  4. none of the above
  5. all of the above

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Answer: 4 (none of the above).

The full citation goes like this:

The greatest danger [to the Church and the Christian faith -DHC] lay in a fundamentalism that insisted on defining professing Christians out of Christianity. "Just now," Forsdick said, "the Fundamentalists are giving us one of the worst exhibitions of intolerance that the churches of this country have ever seen." In the midst of a world situation that "smells to heaven," in the presence of "colossal problems, which must be solved in Christ's name and for Christ's sake, the Fundamentalists propose to drive out from the Christian churches all the consecrated souls who do not agree with their theory of inspiration. What immeasurable folly!" [William R. Hutchison, The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 275]

Defining "professing Christians" as being non-Christians is not a new thing. It is in fact the traditional practice of both Reformed and Evangelical Christianity. Reformed Christianity defined heretics out of the Church, no matter how outwardly pious they might seem to be. Evangelicals with their revivalism define all without a "born-again" experience as being practically unregenerate, or at least that was what they traditionally did. This idea of defining professing believers as being non-Christians is clearly practiced by the early 20th century Fundamentalists, and this sort of "intolerance" is what the Liberal Harry Emerson Forsdick saw as "intolerance." Forsdick's view of course is not atypical. It was also the view of the 18th century mainstream Anglicans towards John Wesley, George Whitefield, and the Methodists.

Of course, without the context, the answer to my quiz could very well be 5 (all of the above). In fact, if you have actually thought through the quote without scrolling down for the answer, you might actually have thought 4 is the answer. This only goes to show how unbiblical 21st century [Neo-] Evangelicalism has become. The "unpardonable sin" among many Christians nowadays it seems is the sin of stating that such and such a person is NOT a Christian because of what He believes (or disbelieves). But of course, we have seen that this attitude of judging is integral to the Reformation and integral to the founding of Evangelicalism. So what exactly has changed since then? Who exactly is the one who's unChristian: the one who claims that those who do not believe in cardinal doctrines are non-believers, or the one who attacks those who do so? From a historical point of view, I think the answer is self-evident.

Next time anyone utilizes this same critique of "intolerance," inform them they are in the same camp as Christ-denying Liberals like Harry Emerson Forsdick

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