Sometimes a notion or a concept can seem insightful upon its initial articulation, but after additional consideration it seems rather vapid or out of touch with reality. For example, published in the December 2016 edition of “Christianity Today” is a column titled “Christianity Without An Adjective”.
On the surface, such a goal seems laudable as it is a reminder not to sublimate Christ to any particular ideology or social philosophy. However, such an admonition fails to take into consideration why many today feel the need to articulate a modifier when describing their particular brand of Christianity and how this admonition to avoid doing so just as easily plays into the hands of the adversary.
“Christianity Today” began in the second half of the twentieth century in order to defend sound Biblical Theology in an intellectually respectable and rigorous manner before a public whose institutions of thought had already turned markedly hostile towards religiously orthodox ideas and perspectives.
In particular, “Christianity Today” was intended to stand as an alternative to more leftist publications such as “Christian Century”, “Commonweal”, and “Sojourners Magazine”. These publications often tended to promote a more liberal outlook on a variety of social, cultural, and theological issues to the point where the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith were denied but the Christian terminology retained as a way to understand reality even if these definitions were reconceptualized in compliance with the radical fads of any given moment of the lengthy print runs of these respective publications. Coming briefly to mind was an article published a few years ago suggesting in violation of Hebrews 9:22 that the shedding of blood really wasn’t all the necessary for the remission of sins after all.
Those holding to a more traditionalist understanding of the faith once delivered unto the saints were not the ones that attempted to alter the rules in the middle of the game or the very game itself. As such, why are we obligated to be the ones verbalizing a flagellating remorse in order to differentiate ourselves from those that deny essential doctrines such as the Incarnation of Christ, His Resurrection, and heterosexual marriage as the only valid form of carnal relations between human beings?
From the article, the discerning reader also comes away with the impression that this crusade against descriptive modifiers is also a front through which to ensnare Evangelical Christianity in the leftist fads of White privilege and racial guilt.
K.A. Ellis writes, “A Christianity qualified by any adjective now feels restrictive for good reason.” That means that, .by tying Christianity to any one particular understanding, one ends up feeling guilty when making common cause with universalists, moral subversives, and any number of garden variety unbelievers.
The author continues, “…As I mentioned in a previous column, that is why some are calling themselves ‘Christian Americans’ rather than ‘American Christians’.” In other words, the truly pious or devout (those truly “sold out to Jesus” as they used to say hoping to manipulate prospects into “surrendering” to full time missionary work) have severed all meaningful ties with an identity other than their Christian one.
Yet while this is praised with one hand, the author turns around and ignores this ideal with another. What the writer probably intended to convey was that this condemnation of Christians identifying themselves in part by their particular nationality is only to be applied to those that invoke the term to signify a sort of benevolent sternness that, while desiring to advocate as much goodwill as possible to the external world, when the time comes is not going to be passively kicked around by the advocates of malevolence and tyranny.
For example, K.A. Ellis referred to Stanley Hauerwas as an “American theologian” and not as a “theologian from America”. It should be pointed out that Hauerwas is noted for markedly leftwing views.
Those that like to pat themselves on the back by playing word games in the attempt to trip people up but in the process expose just how devoid of actual wisdom and commonsense those whose primary purpose in life is to put on display just how broadminded they think themselves to be will no doubt make a fuss that in this particular instance the word “American” was paired with the word “theologian”. As such, this new standard being advocated does not apply.
However, this was not the only instance it was violated in this particular article. Ellis writes, “…we are more in concert with the orthodoxy of the two-thirds world Christians, especially those in the underground church.”
Shouldn’t Ellis have formulated the phraseology as “Christians in the two-thirds world”? So if we are to so despise America that we get jacked out of shape upon hearing the linguistic combination “American Christians” why ought those living elsewhere get an easy pass?
Worthy of note is the admonition to be “in concert with the orthodoxy of two-thirds-world Christians, especially those in the underground church.” Just what exactly does that consist of?
Does Ellis mean the strong stance against homosexuality and similar carnal lifestyles that have prompted a number of ecclesiastical functionaries to take a bold position against the wanton licentiousness allowed to fester in certain branches of the Anglican Communion by seeking their apostolic oversight under a select number of African bishops rather than traditional Western prelates? Or instead, is this sentiment articulated more in solidarity with the tendency of some in these less developed lands to prefer a less than free market and more communal distribution of resources where profit does not so much accrue to those that earned it but rather to those that shout their grievances the loudest or are perhaps the most proficient at acts of violence?
It is imperative that Christianity be articulated in such a way as to grab the attention of those that are spiritually adrift. However, their eventually comes a point where those attempting to reach the lost by adopting much of the way that the lost view the world around them become virtually indistinguishable from the lost and end up losing much of their way as well.
By Frederick Meekins