One big reason why Christianity has gotten a bad rap in post-world WWII Europe is that increasingly it began to be seen as hypocritical and disingenuous. Partly, as a result, the churches saw massive losses in the 60s and 70s. Statistics show that in my own country the Netherlands, for instance, the decline has still not come to a halt. I realize that a reduction to a single cause of any historical phenomenon is asking for trouble. But I’m not a historian and my purpose in this article is not to give an exhaustive overview of the decline of Christianity in Europe. Rather, I want to address a similar problem in evangelicalism where the accusation of hypocrisy points to a weird tension between evangelical theology and justice.
Religious Trauma is a real thing. I know it. I feel it. I see it in others. And there is official recognition these days! A few years ago, I interviewed Teresa Mateus. Our Skype connection did not work so I had my computer record the squeaky voice that came through the speaker of my iPhone 4s. It worked. As I spoke to her, Teresa seemed to discuss people who have undergone serious abuse in the church. I did realize that such abuse happens in many different forms and intensities. I suppose in the back of my mind I even realized that I was affected too but I was mainly thinking about people other than myself.
Bonhoeffer’s theology is multifaceted. It can be approached from many different sides and applied for different purposes. In part, this is because Bonhoeffer developed such a rich theological narrative, in part, because his theology addressed people in their context, in part, it is because his theology stands under the influence of many, often opposing voices. It is no wonder that there are many interpretations of Bonhoeffer’s theology that often conflict with each other. There is even a [book] out that addresses the problem of the many different Bonhoeffer’s that are paraded as the original in support of this or that theological or ethical stance.
Vanaf het moment dat de moderne wereld van zich liet horen is christelijke theologie in de verdediging geweest. Gaandeweg nam die verdediging steeds meer het karakter aan van crisismanagement. Steeds meer mensen vonden dat God niet incarneert, geen wonderen doet, en geen historische realiteit kan zijn. De bijbelse God werd alsmaar meer terrein ontnomen. De resulterende “God of the gaps” had steeds minder onverklaarbare zaken waar die garant voor kon staan en zo de toevlucht toe kon nemen.
I recently got interviewed by Clint Heacock from the MindShift Podcast about the deconstruction of my evangelical faith. Clint also asked me about the theological process involved and if there was any reconstruction after it all fell apart. I did retain something—or better, found something new—after all. It is called the theology of the cross.
By the way, the theologian I refer to but whose name eludes me (as always) during the interview is Justo L. González.
My friend, Dwaine Sutherland, was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) this weekend in Minnesota. I’ve known Dwaine for some years and from the first moment I met him in the library of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, I realized, by observing his body language and listening to his Southern accent, that he was not your typical Lutheran. Like me, he has a background in evangelicalism. This is the story of his struggle away from double predestination Calvinism toward becoming a Lutheran pastor. Congrats on your ordination Dwaine! May you be a faithful shepherd of God’s flock.
I have opened many sermons, preaching at congregations that had not met me before, with a humorous, “No I am not from Minnesota”. My southern accent does stand out and it is a novelty for some to hear the liturgy done with a Tennessee country accent. So, how did a small-town Tennessee boy end up as a Lutheran Pastor in the Midwest? I get this question quite often.
This article is the fourth and final installment of my series on evangelicalism. The central question is whether there is faith after evangelicalism and a theology to support it. Obviously, there is; there are post-evangelicals. If understood purely temporally, there are a lot of people who once were evangelical but are now “post,” i.e. “after.” They’re done. It is also obvious that there are plenty of post-evangelical theologians when we understand the “post” in post-evangelical temporally. I happily call myself a post-evangelical theologian in that sense. I once was able to dig the gig and then I couldn’t and then I didn’t. I became “post.”
A few years ago, I saw a post on Facebook that asserted that what makes Christianity stand out from other religions is that Christian have a personal relationship with God. It irked me and I was ready to fire off a response but I stopped with my fingers hovering over the keyboard. There was no point in getting broiled in yet another fruitless Facebook dispute.
This article was published a few years ago as two shorter articles at Relevant.com.
Waking Up to A Non-Christian World
We live in weird times. Almost every day we are shell-shocked with news about terrorist attacks and the international export of islamic terrorism through ISIS’ worldwide network. While we ask ourselves where all this is going, some politicians tell us we can no longer trust our muslim neighbor. They also tell us we should build walls to protect us from villains crossing our southern border. And as we wonder what to make of such calls, we are surprised to find evangelical leaders rallying in support of those that make these claims, all in name of the culture war we’re engaged in as Christians.
Today I will tell a little more about what I want with this blog. It is my hope to initiate an impietist tradition. As you can perhaps guess, impietism is something like the opposite of pietism, the well-known movement of personal devotion and sincerity of faith within 18th century Lutheranism. In truth, the difference is actually more subtle, since the Pietists got a couple things right. My impietism is intended for the degenerate, for those who feel like they are un-born-again. So let’s have a little impietist talk.