Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reinventing English evangelicalism

I've just started reading Rob Warner's Reinventing English Evangelicalism, 1966-2001: a theological and sociological study. It's his PhD, completed at Kings College under Andrew Walker. Andy Goodliff and Jim Gordon have both blogged reviews in great detail, so I'm not going to that, though I will be commenting on things that strike me as I read it.

The first of these is something that Warner notes from studies of American Christianity. He suggests that despite their numbers, American evangelicals have made precious little difference to American life.

'Notwithstanding the high proportion of Americans professing evangelical beliefs,' he notes, 'these may not be the primary or dominant convictions in the personal lives and socio-political convictions of American churchgoers.'

In other words, faith is a private matter that might influence personal morality but has nothing to say about business ethics, buying and selling, military policy or any other political issue. It seems that Christians have settled for the enlightenment division between the public and private realms - faith belongs in the latter and is not allowed to set foot in the former.

Sadly, I suspect the same is true in the UK as well. Too many Christians bolt Christian faith on to their ordinary trust in the way things are, trusting God in their personal lives, but trusting the military to keep them safe and their bank balance to keep them secure.

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