Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Western Christianity

Stephen J. Nichols wrote a book called "Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ." The book opens up American, and indeed Western, Christianity, and shows that even while it runs very wide across American society, it actually is only an inch deep.

Collin Hansen wrote a review of the book here.

As a foretaste, here is an excerpt from the review:
"'Today's American evangelicals may be quick to speak of their love for Jesus, even wearing their devotion on their sleeve, literally in the case of WWJD bracelets,' Nichols writes. 'But they may not be so quick to articulate an orthodox view of the object of their devotion. Their devotion is commendable, but the lack of a rigorous theology behind it means that a generation of contemporary evangelicals is living off of borrowed capital.'

"Nichols's declension narrative begins with kind words for the Puritans. He shows how Jonathan Edwards, the Connecticut pastor who preached 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God' in 1741, paired deep devotion to Jesus Christ with meticulous theology. He introduces readers to Edward Taylor, another Puritan pastor serving on the colonial American frontier. In between raids by neighboring Native Americans, Taylor wrote breathtaking poetry extolling his love for Christ in rich theological language. As Nichols's story unfolds, Westminster Theological Seminary founder J. Gresham Machen emerges as another hero who defended the historic creeds as they testified to Jesus."

R.C. Sproul has also written an article about the condition of the modern church in America, and of course the whole of the western church.

Sproul wrote:
"I've often wondered if Luther were alive today and came to our culture and looked, not at the liberal church community, but at evangelical churches, what would he have to say? Of course I can't answer that question with any kind of definitive authority, but my guess is this: If Martin Luther lived today and picked up his pen to write, the book he would write in our time would be entitled The Pelagian Captivity of the Evangelical Church.

"Luther saw the doctrine of justification as fueled by a deeper theological problem. He writes about this extensively in The Bondage of the Will. When we look at the Reformation and we see the solas of the Reformation-sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, sola gratia-Luther was convinced that the real issue of the Reformation was the issue of grace; and that underlying the doctrine of sola fide, justification by faith alone, was the prior commitment to sola gratia, the concept of justification by grace alone."
You can read Sproul's article, "The Pelagian Captivity of the Church" here.

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