Pietism and Her Children

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As Phil has commented, the Christianity Today list of the 50 most important Christian books of the last fifty years shows a decided tilt towards Christian experience over Christian truth.  In other words, it depicts a pietistic era spanning a half-century (not to be confused with piety itself, pietism is an over-emphasis on feelings and experience).  It has often -- and rightly -- been said that pietism is always the mother of liberalism.  If we were to compile a list of the most influential books of the last ten years, they would chronicle a tilt to what has generally been known as liberal theology.  The point is that when the church ceases to proclaim, explain, and vigorously defend the Bible's great truth claims, a generation arises in Israel that knows not the Lord. This poses a challenge especially to those who occupy pulpits in the church.  Well I remember a day when Phil and I were praying together right after the death of James Montgomery Boice.  Dr. Boice was our senior minister and Phil and I were among his associates.  Upon his death, the preaching duties at Tenth Presbyterian Church had fallen to us -- Phil in the morning and me in the evening.  During this particular time of prayer, one of us -- I really don't remember which -- commented on our duty to proclaim the doctrines of our faith every bit as clearly and forcefully as Dr. Boice had done.  There would be a tendency, we thought, for us not to take it upon ourselves to so blatantly "step into his shoes."  But, we realized, if we did that -- if we assumed that because James Boice had been preaching clear doctrinal truth for 32 years, that our congregation therefore could get by with a less pointed approach to preaching -- our church would forget the great truths of Scripture just as quickly as any other church.  Such is the nature of the flesh, that the ministry of the Word must always be pointed in its proclamation and defense of truth.  We both knew that we were not James Boice, but so long as we stood in that pulpit we determined that we would preach the Bible in a way that continued to emphasize its great doctrines.  In that way, Phil has ably carried on the long-standing commitment of that outstanding church for six years.

The same is true for those in a different situation, where doctrine has previously not be emphasized.  This was the situation I entered when I departed from Tenth in 2002.  There will always be legions of people telling you to avoid controversy and doctrinal demands.  But their counsel should be discarded.  And there will be plenty who will not abide straightforward doctrinal teaching, and they will depart for the multitude of other churches that emphasize experience only.  But, as the CT book list and today's mounting liberalism circles illustrates, unless we stand for clear and pointed biblical truths, no one else will either.
Posted October 10, 2006 @ 2:08 PM by Rick Phillips
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