Thursday, November 25, 2004

We Need Sanctified Thinkers (Part 1)

We Need Sanctified Thinkers

THE CHURCH TODAY IS LANGUISHING for men who can bring to the problems of religion reverent, courageous minds intent upon a solution.

Unfortunately fundamentalism has never produced a great thinker. One may examine the output of the religious press since the turn of the century and not find a single book written by a fundamentalist Christian that gives evidence of any real independent thought. And as for those Christian scholars who, while thoroughly orthodox, yet do not care to be classed with the fundamentalists, they have done little better.

Let it be understood by everyone that I am now and have always been an evangelical. I accept the Bible as the very Word of God and believe with complete and restful confidence that it contains all things necessary to life and godliness. I embrace the tenets of the historical Christian faith without reservation and am conscious of no spiritual sympathy with liberalism in any of its manifestations.

Yet it is my painful duty to record not only that I have not been challenged by the intellectual output of the evangelicals of this generation, but that I have found evidence of genuine religious thinking almost exclusively on the side of those who for one or another reason are in revolt against fundamentalism. We of the gospel churches have sat quietly by and allowed those on the other side to do all the thinking. We have been content to echo the words of other men and to repeat religious clichés ad nauseam.

By this I do not mean to assert that there have been no good or useful books produced in gospel circles in the last fifty years. Undoubtedly there have been. Many good doctrinal books have appeared, mainly expositions of the Pauline Epistles. Some excellent devotional works have also been written, as well as some good Christian biographies and a number of fine books on foreign missions, not to mention a whole raft of books on revival, written usually by persons who never saw a revival of more than local proportions. All these books have served some good end, no doubt, and we may in all sincerity be grateful for them; but the trouble with them is that they are no more than rehashes of other works that have appeared before them. They carry no evidence that they are in any sense original. They were put together out of pieces borrowed from others rather than born out of the anguish and joy of personal experience. They cost the authors nothing beyond the mechanical labor of writing them.

After committing myself to the foregoing sweeping statements I suppose I should provide myself with an escape hatch in case someone drops a depth charge in my vicinity. I admit that I am forced to speak within the framework of my own limited experience, and it could be that some great evangelical thinker has appeared unknown to me and written a masterpiece of which I have not yet heard. If this is so, then I am in error.

Again, if some of my readers should consider such a man as C. S. Lewis an original thinker, I might explain that I would classify Mr. Lewis as an apologist rather than as a creative religious writer. He brings to the defense of historic Christianity a mind as clear as sunlight and an amazing ability to make the faith of our fathers appear reasonable. His weakness, or rather the weakness of his books, lies in an almost total absence of moral urgency. One may read his arguments, admit their soundness and remain completely unmoved by the whole thing. In short, his books persuade the intellect but never get the conscience in trouble. For this reason C· S· Lewis must remain an apologist; he can never be a reformer.

While I am in my spiritual sympathies wholly on the side of the orthodox Christian faith, I am nevertheless forced to acknowledge that evangelicalism as it has been held and taught over the last half century has tended to paralyze the critical faculties and discourage vigorous thinking. Modern gospel Christians are parrots, not eagles, and rather than sail out and up to explore the illimitable ranges of the kingdom of God they are content to sit safe on their familiar perches and repeat in a bright falsetto religious words and phrases the meaning of which they scarcely understand at all. Another generation or two of this and what is now evangelicalism will be liberalism. No living thing can subsist for long on its yesterdays.

The Christians of this generation must see and hear something for themselves if they are to escape religious stultification. Effete catchwords cannot save them. Meanings are expressed in words, but it is one of the misfortunes of life that words tend to persist long after their meanings have departed, with the result that thoughtless men and women believe they have the reality because they have the word for it. That's where we are now.

From the book "God Tells the Man Who Cares" by AW Tozer

1 comment:

Jane said...

maybe if the bearers of the light were more inclined to penetrate out of their comfort zone and into the darkness and there debate there would be more challenge to exercising the brain, the guidance of the spirit and the study of the Word, world and theology.
Yet it is a tightrope, for the moment the intellect cease to bow at the foot of the cross it is in such danger of making itself a god.
Sanctified is a key word. How can our tiny brain imagine it can contain god and that is where so much of critical theological debate has gone over the years, so that puny man asks "Is God dead?'
J B Phillips wrote "Is your God too small?"
memories flit of the vigorous debate of the coffee shop era.
Now how few Christians debate their faith......and can we be more in the era of the Agora?