I’ll be honest, I am probably a huge critic of Dr. McKnight. Secretly, I hope he actually hears my criticisms of him and gets the point. But he’s an acedemically proclaimed New Testament Scholar and these days, theological schools have abandoned their purposes in serving the Church. Actually, he blocked me from his blog a while back because I made negative remarks about the Evangelical Covenant Church which some interpreted as offensive.
He writes this post about the soul of evangelicalism. I probably wouldn’t feel so obliged to write a response about this if we were talking about Evangelical Christianity. But the problem is these days is the lower-casing of everything makes things more generalised and universal. For instance, the catholic church is the universal church whereas the Catholic Church is just the one ruled by the Pope (even though in all essence, it IS the Universal Church–and no, I am not a Catholic apologist, I am an High Anglican).
I have been asked whether or not I am an Evangelical (evangelical?) Christian before or even a Puritan (puritan?). The lower-case ones I accept that I would be. Evangelical comes from the Greek word “evangelion” meaning “good news” and it is part of the Christian message to spread the good news. There is no Church that is not evangelical and actively involved in spreading the good news. Puritan means one who proclaims and strives for the pureness and wholeness of the Christian life, the perfection, actively confesses sin, receives eucharist, strives to be ruled by God alone. But then there are also the Puritans who broke from the Church of England because it had too many Catholic rituals.
What Scot McKnight describes though is Evangelical. I am definitely not that because I am definitely not a Biblicist. But there seems to be something more sinister that McKnight is up to here when he lower-cases the term “evangelical” and then re-focuses on “Biblicism”. As he describes it in one of his statements, “this diminishment of Bible is the routine shrug of the shoulders with respect to creeds, confessions and theological claims” just before he goes and slams studies on the Reformation for not using enough Bible.
Biblicism is the idea of the Bible over the Creeds, the Bible over the Church, the Bible over Tradition. As I’ve described before, the Bible is not in a fight for authority over these things. In fact, it is a diminishment of the Scriptures to state that the Creeds of the Church are contradictory to the Bible because the Church gave life to the creeds, to the Bible, is the Tradition, and in turn these things surrender authority and share authority with the Church. It is not about reading more and more Bible but instead is about accepting more and more of the Bible’s message, it’s message to the Church, it’s message as preached by the Church.
The Reformation was not about the Bible as the Living Word of God. The Reformers’ reliance on that line was a polemic used to undermine the authority of the Catholic Church and to sway more people over to their side. The Catholic Church has always referenced the Scriptures as being the written word of God but Jesus has always been the Living Word of God. Indeed, the Bible receives its life and authority from God who gave authority to the Church to interpret it and spread its message.
You look at Luther and you see his mission was reforming the Catholic Church because of its abuses of indulgences by getting rid of indulgences. Then the Augsburg Confession was written–a creed. Then with John Calvin he writes The Institutes and forms a response to Martin Luther. As a result the Westminster Confession is written. Then the XXXIX Articles and so forth. The whole Reformation was not about “Bible, Bible, Bible” as McKnight thinks but it is instead about “how should the Catholic Church get back on the right track because I think it’s going in the wrong direction.”
It is interesting how he decries this “Bible crisis” and then asks where are the pastors going. It is indeed rather quite authoritarian of him. He writes “as I scanned my DMin cohort as we toured Israel I saw a gathering of faithful, hard-working, local church pastors who know the calling is hard and rewarding. I’m proud of their commitment to the Bible. They wanted a DMin but they wanted Bible, Bible in context, but Bible above all.” As a New Testament Scholar, this is his arena to imbue his useless and counter-Church doctrines upon the flocks. Pardon me if I am interpreting it as anything other than a scam but he’s the guy that gets to teach these doctoratal students what to believe and read about “Bible in context” and “Bible above all”. Which is not in actuality “Bible in context” or “Bible above all” but is rather the devoid and barren “New Testament scholarship industry above all”. There is nothing about how Jesus has revealed the message to babes any more and has silenced the learned and wise (Matt. 11:25-27) which is good news. Instead, there is “go for your doctorate and you’ll be able to have advanced esoteric knowledge in the Bible which the laity lack” which is bad news and a neo-Gnostic heresy.
Finally, he concludes with the political aspect. That Christianity is too politicised and is about running the White House. There are problems with this. America isn’t a perfect nation nor is it a Christian nation. It is a secular nation but is founded on core values consistent with the Christian faith. Such as freedom to practice one’s religion, freedom to say things other people find controversial or even offensive, freedom to be free from the intrusion of Earthly rulers on matters concerning religion and faith and even in a secular society as well. I feel many of these progressive “Christian” rulers have literally swamped Christianity themselves by lashing out against Christians who chose to vote for a certain politician over another that they deemed hateful. It seems to me that these “Christians” are actually causing more harm to evangelicalism themselves. Christians took issue and got heavily involved in this election particularly because one candidate vowed to abolish the Hyde Amendment which stripped much tax money from going to Planned Parenthood for their attack on human life of which the value of such human life is part of the evangelical message. Christians got heavily involved in this election because one candidate threatened to attack the sacred value of freedom of religion by forcing all tapayers’ money to go to Planned Parenthood and the birth control industry. One candidate threatened to use the government to intrude upon the private lives of citizens and threatened to change the essence of the Constitution (according to one Democrat, angry-Bernie, Trump-voter I know). The essence of the Constitution enables the Gospel message to be spread! The cross of Christ is foolishness to those who don’t believe (1 Cor. 1:17-18). The message of Christ is offensive!
The Constitution of the United States of America, though written by deists, proclaims the same message of Dignitas humanae in its defense of the free exercise of religion. Freedom to speak the Truth is fundamental to a functional human society. Christians realised that the essence of Christian virtue was at stake which is why so many decided to vote for a jerk over someone that so many progressive “Christians” thought was a relatively nice lady. The jerk got it. The nice lady used gestures and conniving manipulations.
But to be honest, I don’t think very many Christians but progressive ones are the ones bringing up the election still. That Christians are involved in politics will always be the case because Jesus created a kingdom not of this world to inherit this world that is also his. When there is a war between the State and the Church, there is a war of kingdoms and Christians are to be the evangelical bearers of light in this world. The Conquering Christ is our King and we are fighting a battle yet to be won. As Emmanuel Lasker has said, “The hardest game to win is a won game“.