Sunday, May 18, 2008

The New Pragmatism

In his last written book Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?, Dr. James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) gave us a perceptive and timely message that the evangelical church today so critically needs to hear and heed. Dr. Boice has given us a three-fold message, calling us as Christians: 1) to repent of our worldliness; 2) to recover the great salvation doctrines of the Bible; and 3) to live a life transformed by the essential truths of the gospel (Adapted from the Publisher's Foreward in the book).

The first chapter is entitled, The New Pragmatism in which Dr. Boice describes how evangelicalism is seriously off-base today because it has abandoned its evangelical truth-heritage and pursued the world's wisdom, embracing the world's theology, following the world's agenda, and employing the world's methods.

While I would like to address each of these areas, today I especially want to address the area of following the world's agenda and one of its major proponents in our day.

"The world's agenda. In the liberal churches the words, "the world must set the agenda" were quite popular. That had been the theme of the 1964 gathering of the World Council of Churches, and it meant that the church's concerns should be the concerns of the world, even to the exclusion of the gospel. If the world's main priority was world hunger, that should be the church's priority too. Racism? Ecology? Aging? Whatever it was, it was to be first in the concerns of Christian people" (pg.23).

"But here is the important thing. What has hit me like a thunderbolt in recent years is the discovery that what I had been saying about the liberal churches at the end of the 1960s and in the 70's now needs to be said about evangelical churches too." Can it be that evangelicals, who have always opposed liberalism and its methods, have now also fixed their eyes on a worldly kingdom and have made politics and money their weapons of choice for winning it? I think they have. About ten years ago Martin Marty, always a shrewd observer of the American church, said in a magazine interview that, in his judgment, by the end of the century evangelicals would be "the most worldly people in America." He was exactly on target when he said that, except that he was probably a bit too cautious. Evangelicals fulfilled his prophecy before the turn of the millenium" (pages 23-24).

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