A Marxist Response to Evangelicalism

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Please don't think I am stalking Denny Burk.  I would not dare: he is bigger and stronger thanBig guy little guy.jpg me and probably packs heat; in comparison, I am just a small, unarmed Englishman. Still, at the risk of appearing to have an unhealthy interest in his life and career, I note that that he has drawn the attention of the Huffington Post for his comments about Rob Bell.

The article is interesting, particularly the following sentence:

"One thing seems clear: If evangelicalism continues to be defined primarily by a theological center, it will crumble -- especially if guys like Denny Burk get to decide who's in and who's out."
The assumption in this sentence is that there is such a thing as evangelicalism and that it is presently defined theologically.  That seems to me to be a huge stretch.  Given that evangelicals disagree on everything from God's foreknowledge to the ordination of women, it is hard to use the word in the singular in anyway other than as a descriptive term covering a very loose collection of institutions -- seminaries, colleges, publishing houses, parachurch groups and churches -- which have no formal principle which actually unites them all. 

unicorn.jpgIt also seems a bit much to blame Denny and his friends for deciding who is in and who is out. I am not sure that, beyond the bounds of the campus of Southern Seminary, Denny has much power to decide who is in or out of anything that has any actual reality.  And while we are talking exclusion, how many of evangelicalism's egalitarians are happy to open their conference platforms to complementarians or vice versa? Answers not so much on  postcard as on the back of a postage stamp, please. The movement will not split for the simple reason that there is no unified movement in the first place, whether you wish to define it with a theological, institutional or [fill in the blank] centre.  It is really just a large group of people who assume it does exist and who each define it as looking rather like themselves, from right to left. In the next decade, institutions and organisations might break apart; but 'evangelicalism,' like 'the good old days,' is something we all assume exists but which, on closer inspection, seems rather chimerical. You can't split Scotch mist.

Still, some may disagree and want to maintain that there is a self-conscious evangelicalismGroucho.jpg to which we all belong. I disagree, but, if there is, might I therefore suggest a peaceful solution?  Would it be permissible for me (and others like me) to exclude ourselves from this movement?   That way, I would be oppressing and marginalising nobody but myself and imposing my definition of evangelicalism on no-one but me. Indeed, I have always had some instinctive sympathy with the old Marxist maxim that one should never join any club that would have one as a member.  That's Groucho, by the way, not Karl. 

Please, sir, can I be excused?
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Posted February 25, 2013 @ 5:36 PM by Carl Trueman

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