Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The American captivity of the Reformed Church

Those who think that they have no traditions, are often the ones who are most blinded by tradition. In the same way, those who think they are above culture, are often blinded by their own cultures.

While working on and completing a project, this tweet by Craig Carter, Mr. "Great Tradition," alongside the promotion of Christian Smith's understanding of "biblicism" in The Bible Made Impossible by Josh Sommers, has been fascinating, if only for the fact that the current crusade against "biblicism" has taken on a life of its own. As opposed to dealing with the term academically, the term has become a proverbial slur by certain Reformed people against the inferior "evangelicals" who are obviously "so stupid" they have no idea how to actually read the Bible correctly. An honest analysis of the term "biblicism" must deal with the term impartially. However, in the hands of certain "Reformed" and especially ressourcement polemicists, the term has become a slur in a culture war waged by the ressourcement "historical Christians" versus the rubes in what they see as "modern American Evangelicalism."

It is certainly a major blind spot, but it is surely illustrative that, in a time when cultural analyses of "evangelicalism" is in vogue, little attention is paid to the cultural elements of the war against "evangelicalism." This is not to suggest that "evangelicalism" is spotless. Rather, it is to make the claim that the reaction to "evangelicalism" however defined has also its cultural elements, and this particular reaction is very American. Of the various cultural movements in American Christianity, perhaps nothing is more tied to culture than that of the current ressourcement movement, influenced by the Roman Catholic impetus of ressourcement, mediated by Hans Boersma to Craig Carter, and fueled by Richard Muller's disciples. It is also noted that the animus against "Evangelicalism" is mostly centered in America, where a backlash against "Evangelicalism" driven partly by partisan American politics provides the impetus to inweigh against "Evangelicalism" in America. In other words, it has become cool to be against "evangelicalism" in America.

Now, there is nothing wrong to analyze American Evangelicalism and notes its flaws. There is certainly nothing wrong with analyzing "biblicism." But it is surely revealing that the critiques of Evangelicalism and of "biblicism" in the American Reformed churches nowadays are less about doctrine and history, and more about cultural animus. "Evangelicals" and "biblicism" are attacked, misrepresented, and spat on with vitriol, showing forth that, for all the vaunted ideas of being "historical," "scholarly" and "churchly," many parts of the Reformed churches in American are in fact under cultural captivity, unable to see things objecticely and totally ignorant of global Christianity.