JERUSALEM: Evangelical Sociologist Says Christianity Must Engage Seriously with Secular Age
The Episcopal Church has gone from sola scriptura to sola cultura
By David W. Virtue
World renowned evangelical scholar and author of 25 books, says evangelical Christians must engage secularity with integrity, credibility and civility and blasted The American Episcopal Church saying its leaders have denied the fundamentals of the faith, making them worse than the Borgias, who, at their moral worst, did not deny the faith.
"We are seeing an assault of the deepest and saddest kind coming from within the Church today. Soren Kierkegaard called them 'kissing Judases'", said Dr. Os Guinness while addressing 1,200 pilgrims who are in Jerusalem to reaffirm the historic faith.
Guinness, one of America's leading evangelical sociologists, said there is a need to stand firm in faith in this secular age, as we see the advance of the modern global era, and cited eight challenges for Christians.
"We need to face up to the grand cultural challenges of our age. The essence of the modern world is choice and change. There are many watersheds. Some are claimed every five minutes. It is not all hype. Globalization touches all human beings; there has been a huge shift from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. Globalization is about speed and the scale and scope of our modern communications. We live in a world that is accelerating at the speed of life and faith is profoundly affected by it. In Christ, we dare not turn away."
Guinness said the second great issue is transformation. "We are shifting from single to multiple modernities. "We live in a polycentric world." Guinness said another aspect of transformation is the rise of the Global South (GAFCON), yet another example of the grand transformation taking place in our generation."
Guinness said we need to be prepared for wars of the spirit. "Nietzsche saw it. He said there would be wars of the spirit. He saw the myth of secularization. Religion is as furiously alive as ever."
Guinness said the Public Square is torn by strife with religious extremism on the one hand and exclusive secularism on the other, with each demonizing the other. "There is the same warring spirit from both revisionists and extreme fundamentalists. The secularized world says the unseen world is unreal. It is not true." Guinness cited conservative sociologist Peter Berger who said, "we live in a world without windows."
"We must never underestimate the profound anti-Christian assumptions of secularity which is relegating religion to the world of the private. Public life is portrayed as a neutral arena of self- interest and proceduralism. Faith is being squeezed to the sidelines."
Guinness said secularization is a process. "We must stand against the lethal distortions of religion in the modern world. Modernity is a one- word summary of this extraordinary world thrown up by the industrial revolution. Modernity has brought us many blessings with privileges of health and more, but Modernity makes discipleship harder. Modern people are conversion prone. Evangelism is easy but discipleship is hard."
The sociologist added that the integration of faith is the challenge to the fragmentation of faith. "People are living fragmented lives. They don't live that way from day to day. We have shifted from authority to preference. What people believe and how they behave is now two different things."
Guinness cited U.S. Roman Catholic politicians who said they are personally opposed to abortion, but vote for it because of women's rights and pressure from society.
Blasting evangelicals, Guinness said that never has behavior on the ground become so permissive. "There is no difference between Christians and non-Christians in the statistics we are seeing."
"We have moved from exclusives about absolutes to syncretism. There is a cafeteria of faiths in the marketplace, along with the spirit of consumerism."
Guinness said we must recognize the oddities of communication in the age of communication. "We have greater inattention. Never have our technologies been cheaper and more democratically widespread. Everybody is speaking. No one is listening. Western culture is suffering from attention deficit disorder. Modern technologies won't cut it. The modern world suffers from an inflation of ideas. Sources with less and less are becoming invaluable." Guinness condemned ghost writing.
"Another oddity is inertia. Modern technologies need, now more than ever, the Word and power of the Holy Spirit. We must make sure our people have the needed tools for faithful teaching and living."
Guinness said that as a result of post modernism, Christians have become uncritical. He cited an African proverb that says, "All westerners have watches, but westerners do not have time."
Consumerism is having a tremendous impact on us all. "We need to take our stance in the modern world with care. The pressures of the modern is forcing us into extremes. We are in the world but not if it. Every religion has a form of fundamentalism. It has become a modern reaction to the modern world. Jesus told us to love our enemies. Fundamentalism demonizes our enemies. Many evangelicals are compromising with the world. The tendency is to be in the world and of the world and surrender to it.
"The Episcopal Church has surrendered to the spirit of the age. It has lost its authority. It has gone from sola scriptura to sola cultura. When you lose continuity with the past, you lose your brothers and sisters. We should be the last to lose our Christian identity as those who are called to follow Christ. Such persons are 'kissing Judases.'"
Guinness said the Global South should not be complacent. "The last to be infected by modernity are those furthest behind. You are better off, but only if you use the time lag to make your people prepared. Modernity will be everywhere, it will adapt in its own way. You will be there before you know it. Africa and Asia will both have their own brands of modernity."
A panel of speakers said there is an urgent need to re-evangelize the West, which many fear faces extinction. "The Anglican position has the best way to re-evangelize it," said one Nigerian Archbishop.
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