Friday, October 21, 2005

The Problems of Contemporary Evangelicalism Are Nothing New

Sinclair Ferguson compares the problems of medieval Christianity to the problems of contemporary evangelicalism:
  1. Repentance has increasingly been seen as a single act, severed from a lifelong restoration of godliness. ... The "altar call" has replaced the sacrament of penance. Thus repentance has been divorced from genuine regeneration, and sanctification severed from justification.

  2. The Canon for Christian living has increasingly been sought in a "Spirit-inspired" living voice within the church rather than in the Spirit's voice heard in Scripture. What was once little more than a mystical tendency has become a flood. But what has this to do with the medieval church? Just this: the entire medieval church operated on the same principle, even if they expressed it in a different form: the Spirit speaks outside of Scripture; the believer cannot know the detailed guidance of God if he tries to depend on his or her Bible alone. ...

  3. The divine presence was brought to the church by an individual with sacred powers deposited within him and communicated by physical means. Today an uncanny parallel is visible wherever cable TV can be seen. Admittedly it is no longer Jesus who is given by priestly hands; now it is the Spirit who is bestowed by physical means, apparently at will by the new evangelical priest. Special sanctity is no longer confirmed by the beauty of the fruit of the Spirit, but with signs which are predominantly physical. ...

  4. The Worship of God is increasingly presented as a spectator event of visual and sensory power, rather than a verbal event in which we engage in a deep soul dialogue with the Triune God. The mood of contemporary evangelicalism is to focus on the centrality of what "happens" in the spectacle of worship rather than on what is heard in worship. Aesthetics, be they artistic or musical, are given a priority over holiness. More and more is seen, less and less is heard. There is a sensory feast, but a hearing-famine. Professionalism in worship leadership has become a cheap substitute for genuine access to heaven, however faltering. Drama, not preaching, has become the "Didache" of choice. ...

  5. The success of ministry is measured by crowds and cathedrals rather than by the preaching of the cross and the quality of Christians' lives. ... The lust for "bigger" makes us materially and financially vulnerable. But worse, it makes us spiritually vulnerable. For it is hard to say to those on whom we have come to depend materially "When our Lord Jesus Christ said 'Repent!' he meant that the whole of the Christian life is repentance."
This is an abbreviated version, so you will want to read the entire article.

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