Just because someone criticizes the Church does not make them a “church basher.” Indeed, healthy criticism is necessary for God’s people. After all, Jesus drove the money changers out of his “house” with regularity. But the ever-increasing spate of books by “recovering fundamentalists” seem less like “house cleaning” than they do “demolition.”
It’s one thing to criticize the Church because you want it to get better. It’s another thing to criticize the Church because you want it to go away.
As I said in my previous post, I’m an unapologetic member of and advocate for the Christian Church. Yes, I admit that some things are very wrong with American Christianity. Indeed, we may be in need of a Second Reformation. Yet I also believe that the fervency (and volume) of the ongoing criticism says as much about trends in culture as it does deficiencies within the Church.
As I wrote in What’s Behind America’s Changing Religious Landscape,
This is the first generation that’s grown-up in a thoroughly postmodern American culture. The philosophical engine that drives postmodernism is relativism — the belief that truth is not absolute. Relativism undermines most traditional religious beliefs because it makes the individual the primary arbiter of truth, not a holy man, holy book, or church.
What troubles me most about many of these “recovering fundamentalists” is their apparent abandonment of Absolutes for this more relativistic worldview. As a result, they question not only historic orthodoxy and its particular definitions within various faith traditions, but they possess an underlying skepticism about the nature of Truth in general. Many critics of contemporary evangelicalism doubt the foundational doctrines of Christianity (in particular) because they have come to doubt Truth (in general).
One reason I’m not on the “bash the Church” bandwagon is that it is intellectual and spiritual suicide to make ourselves the arbiters of Truth. Of course, this does not automatically validate the Christian faith. Many groups believe in Absolutes and act like absolute idiots. At the least, the Christian Church has a logical basis — if not a divinely inspired charter — for life and doctrine. Furthermore, this charter has been sustainable for generations, been affirmed by the greatest of thinkers, contributed to the betterment of civilizations and societies, and aligns with the nature of things. So how far can one go in hammering the Church before compromising the theological girders that have framed her?
The Bible assumes there are Absolutes, which is why the deconstruction of the Bible is foundational to much criticism of the Church. However, this is exactly what a postmodern view of Christianity demands! It’s why — whether or not the charge is accurately levied — some emergent leaders are viewed as veering dangerously close to heresy. It’s also why the American Church’s historic opposition to homosexuality and abortion is discarded by postmodern Christians. Does anyone else think it’s weird how “recovering fundamentalists” all seem to share this more liberal view of Scripture and society?
Yes., the Christian Church may go to extremes, she may not practice what she preaches, she may squabble unnecessarily about minutiae, she may at times be rude, obnoxious, mean-spirited, and out-of-touch. But as long as she believes a certain set of Truths are divinely-inspired and non-negotiable, and is determined, however awkwardly, to live by them, I’m on board.
The moment the Christian Church in America abandons Scripture is the moment I will abandon her. Which is part of the problem, because “the Christian Church in America” is so very, very, diverse.