Neuhaus on the new New Evangelicals

In the October edition of First Things, Richard John Neuhaus uses an article in the New Yorker as the basis for a discussion of changes in evangelical political involvement.

Here are a few key paragraphs.

In the last issue I discussed “An Evangelical Manifesto,” with its palpable and touching eagerness to be accepted by those whom its signers view as their cultural betters. The message of the manifesto is: “Please, we are not that kind of evangelical.”

p. 62

But sometimes what passes for change is a replay of very old stories. Rick Warren is quoted by Fitzgerald as declaring to a Baptist convention that the great need is for  ‘a second Reformation,’ one that would be about ‘deeds not creeds.’ I hope he is misquoted . . . . The slogan ‘deeds not creeds’ was of course the rallying cry of the social-gospel movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was the “modernism” to which first fundamentalism and then its post-World War II reconfiguration in evangelicalism was the response. And now the New Evangelicals are hailed as the social-gospel movement redivivus. As one never runs out of occasions for mentioning, history has many ironies in the fire.

p. 63

The only reason a Frances Fitzgerald is interested in evangelicals or evangelicalism is that these people are political players. For people such as Fitzgerald, politics is “the real world.” In the perspective of Carl Henry’s 1947 manifesto and the emergence of that earlier instantiation of “the new evangelicals,” the so-called religious right of recent years may be seen as the first inning in the game of cultural and political engagement. The evangelicals didn’t always play it well, but at least they were playing in the big leagues. Now, impressed by their unaccustomed influence, some evangelicals are prepared to concede the game in return for a permanent pass to the stadium. If Fitzgerald and like-minded commentators are right, evangelicalism is joining liberal Christianity on the well-worn path to public irrelevance.

p. 63

Neuhaus, however, closes on a positive note:

It is a heady sensation to be exalted by the likes of the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, but it is an embarrassingly paltry reward for betraying the promise of evangelicalism in American public life, and I am persuaded that most evangelicals will not accept the deal.

p. 63

Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics

Rod Decker notes that a Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics met last week as a forum for traditional Dispensationalists to talk about a variety of hermeneutical issues.

In addition to the discussion questions for each session, the council website also includes a statement of affirmations and denials and three papers:

On why God does not grant immediate deliverance from sin

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained by any merely human effort. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal ting is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 94.

Paul warns Timothy, that a minister may not be a young scholar, ‘lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6), indicating that it is the special danger of ministers to have high opinions of themselves because of the high dignity of their service. To prevent this, God in his mercy has planned that all true ministers will by some means or other be humbled and emptied themselves. They will be driven to such fear and amazement at the sight of their own wickedness, that they will throw themselves down at Christ’s feet, and deny themselves wholly, acknowledging that anything they are, they are only in him, and rely and trust only on his grace and help.

William Perkins, The Art of Prophesying.