Scot McKnight – Liberation Themes among Evangelicals

Scot McKnight continues his analysis of Molly Worthen’s book Apostes of Reason. The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism, which, he contends, ‘will become a potential watershed in that she has revealed why the coalition mindset that many of us want and believe in struggles to find genuine centrality among evangelicals because the gatekeepers would prefer less diversity at the table while also wanting the numbers for support in the movement’.

Here is the beginning of his new blog post, which I hope will convince you it is worth reading the whole of it on the Patheos platform.

* * *

“The culture wars, of the late twentieth century began, in part,” Molly Worthen contends, “as a civil war within evangelicalism” (177). So she states in her study of the “gospel of liberation” among evangelicals in her fine study, Apostles of Reason. In the 1960s some American evangelicals looked to the church’s precedents in dealing with the social tensions at work in American society. Two points: (1) “left”-leaning thinkers found resources in the martyr tradition, in the Reformation models of communes to the social welfare pushes of the 19th Century. (2) “Right”-leaning thinkers saw in these proposals traitors to the tradition while the leftists saw the rightists as caving into modernity. There the culture began.

To be sure, 19th Century Evangelicalism was a coalition, and one of the themes was social progress and justice for all. But the rise of the social gospel pressed conservative evangelicals into less social engagement, and connect this to burgeoning interests in the Second Coming and dispensational thinking and the culture war of the American church took on potent significance.

In 1960 at the NAE meeting these social issues, therefore, were at the front: communism, the RC situation, IRS pressure on ministers who preached politics, providing alcohol on planes, and Hollywood’s attacks on evangelicalism (Elmer Gantry). It cared about relief in the world for starvation but did not concern itself with racism or systemic approaches to poverty. Patriotism was important.

But there were some more social-conscience evangelicals, like TB Matson, JB Weatherspoon, Richard Caemmerer, Vernon Grounds, Richard Pierard, Timothy Smith, and David Moberg. Politicians like John B. Anderson and Mark Hatfield broke ranks. Sherwood Wirt’s work belongs here too.

This gave rise to what many call the “young evangelicals.”

Read HERE the whole blog post.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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