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View Diary: A Critique of the Evangelical Movement (36 comments)

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  •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)

    I kept noticing that Southern Baptist students weren't catching Gospel allusions. Now, these are the kids who are supposed to be the scripture citers. In fact, they had verse calls memorized on various topics, but they were on issues. In church, they had gotten two sorts of sermon, it seemed: 1) Evildoers of evil doing evil and trying to get You, but You are saved and must go save the unsaved, 2) Have you been saved? come and get saved.

    They had gotten #1 or #2 pretty much only. Both were swinging on the idea of an attained state. The getting of "saved."

    When I then saw the evangelical churches within the Southern Baptist conference and independent of it, I noted that they honestly met every week with the same sermon structure -- "I was saved." Again, there was a static thing aimed at. Once there was "saved," then there was simply a question of "spiritual warfare" against the army of Satan and (not or) going out to save the "unsaved."

    I have met numerous young people who have been dissatisfied, wondering if there's something more. I have met more who are not dissatisfied: they just don't really have a category of ongoing duty. It's very strange and sad.

    Everyone's innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 12:16:11 PM PST

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    •  Yes, the 'saved state' according to criteria (1+ / 0-)
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      The Geogre

      of that particular church/sect, with 'signs following' (stretching the meaning slightly) of 'right living' also closely defined.

      I have to get ready to go out in a moment, or I'd love to discuss this further. I try to stay away from proponents of that kind of system, and I'm usually pretty successful, but last month I got caught in the cross-conversation space of three (same church) women and got a squirm-inducing earful.  Their talk was a mixture of 'Prosperity Gospel' jargon and just plain old psycho-babble, all of it gossip aimed at judging who was winning or losing the 'real believer' competition, based on whether or not an individual had or had not received the improved lifestyle that would be 'proof' of a 'good witness'.  Horrifying.

      This next bit is OT, but it kept going through my mind after you mentioned the 3 stages of 'Awakening'.  The confluence of Knox-based Scots Presbyterianism with North Carolina Methodism led to a change in the doctrine surrounding 'election' that has since become mainstream. William McGee was formally trained and ordained as a Presbyterian minister.  At about the time he began his ministry, his younger brother John McGee came home and announced that he had been converted to Methodism and was now a preacher.  Their Scots-Irish widowed mother almost disowned him.  Both brothers went west to TN and KY and preached at the big tent meetings.  William was approached by some men who wanted to remain Presbyterian but also wanted to live peacefully with their religiously-diverse neighbors, so they proposed starting a new church with William as its head.  The big question was:  How could the 'elect' Presbyterians have any truck (like intermarriage and contracts) with the non-elect Methodists, Baptists, and others?  McGee wen toff by himself to ponder this, and came back with a skillfully-threaded rhetorical and theological needle, in elegant phrasing that I can only paraphrase.

      William McGee's stance was to the effect that only God knew who the Elect were, and the duties of a Christian did not include making others achieve election (a contradiction in terms, anyway) or to guard their election.  In fact it was not possible for a person to know for certain whether he himself, let alone anybody else, was among the elect.  Election of non-election was not anybody's business but God's.  If God was choosing to guide a person along a path of salvation, that was God's business, and only God could know how He was working in a person's life.  The Christian, however, did have duties of charity and kindness and good works and honestly and fair dealing that he would be held accountable for, so it was best for a person to tend to his own knitting and  let God work as He saw fit.

      Very, very poor paraphrase, sorry.  He skillfully captured and re-strung all the right conceptual terms.  This philosophical foundation led to the creation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

      •  McGee's pragmatism seems sound (1+ / 0-)
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        More to the point, McGee, in your paraphrase, reads like what religious did throughout the second half of the 18th century in England: ending the factionalism by turning toward piety. In 1710, London street corners were the battleground of a pamphlet war over religion, and every book seller had row upon row of serious controversy. In 1750, book shops are selling out of A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life and various figures's "Meditations."

        I.e. after two centuries of fighting it out, the public, and the divines, embraced private piety. Having learned that they could not win, no matter which side they represented, all sides seemed to retreat to the home. Of course, a hundred years after that and religion would be something "impolite" to discuss in public at all -- thanks to the success of the people like William Law.

        I keep expecting and hoping for such a turn in the U.S., but we seem to have things backward, as the public religion and overly determined revelation seems to be in response to the private "spirituality" of the 1980's.

        Everyone's innocent of some crime.

        by The Geogre on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 05:59:24 PM PST

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        •  'McGee's Pragmatic Piety' - I can see it in print! (0+ / 0-)

          Good points all.  One thing I think both McGee brothers were trying to do was to provide for the religious needs of the 'far western' settlements in TN and KY, then the rapidly-expanding territories that had once been Virginia, after the Revolution.  (I say 'religious needs', because people were having children without benefit of clergy to marry them and having to bury people without 'official' prayers, and these people often had a real fear of 'being Lost' for eternity.)  In addition, some of the areas still had a strong Catholic presence from French or Spanish influence.

          William McGee had extensive theological training before his ordination, while John had only the training any upper-middle class child would receive in a stoutly Scots-Irish Presbyterian home.  Theological training was virtually impossible for the men of 'the West', and I've always marked one change in this ear as a significant change.  Men who had undergone a strong conversion experience would have a Bible slapped into their hands and be told to go forth and preach, without any grounding in the historical and theological traditions of the Church.  The only material they had to preach from was their own story -- the before-and-after of their own conversion story, the very drama that you describe as the 'theatrical' failing of evangelical churches.

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