Friday, September 22, 2006

Why evangelical Christianity is exhausting (and why John Piper is bad)

The September issue of Christianity Today is both excellent and exhausting. It's a whirlwind tour of various corners of evangelicalism: Cover story "Young, Restless, Reformed" on the resurgence of Reformed theology among young evangelicals, a profile of Dallas Willard and his influence in spiritual formation, an interview with Bob Webber and his Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future, plus articles on charismatic issues, social justice, global mission and much more. It's almost dizzying and makes me think that this is both a strength and a weakness of evangelical Christianity. We believe in the lordship of Christ in all areas and are concerned about all these different dimensions and spheres of Christianity's heritage and influence. But does this spread us out too thin? How much can any one of us, or any one church, really do? How can we possibly embrace and do all of this?

This is where a good 1 Corinthians 12 ecclesiology saves me from evangelical fatigue - I don't have to do everything (and can't) because that's what the body of Christ is for. Different folks will naturally gravitate toward different aspects of Christian faith and practice. Some of us are more contemplative by nature, others more theologically minded, others more activist, others more missional. It's a matter of calling and how we're shaped and gifted. I find it liberating and something of a relief to realize that I can't do everything, but that I can do a few things. And I can cheer on others who do the other things that I can't do, even as I seek to do as much as I can.

Of course, some folks use calling as a copout - "I'm not called to this or that (whether missions or social justice or whatnot), so I don't have to care about it." Each of us will probably champion one cause or another in particular, depending on our experiences, theological heritage and personality. But we can affirm the "big tent-ness" of the Christian faith and support all that our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ do even as we pursue our particular callings.

Christianity is big enough to handle the differences in emphasis and style - some like John Piper and others like Bob Webber, but all of us follow Christ. And by the way, if you haven't heard this yet, check out why "John Piper Is Bad." It's hilarious. And all of you young, restless and Reformed Jonathan Edwards fans out there, you might want to know that the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale has secured the rights to produce the "Jonathan Edwards Is My Homeboy" T-shirt featured on the CT cover.


Missional Jerry said...

Great Stuff!

Phil Hoover said...

Al....I know John Piper, John Piper is a friend of mine...

"let's just leave it there, okay?"

GREAT usual

Steve McCoy said...

Yeah, agreed. All counts. Especially agree at Piper's bad-ness. ;)

Dave said...

I had the privilege to meet Piper when he came back from Sabbatical - humble, approachable and meek person. He's the real deal!

May more Young, Restless & Reformed Asians influence culture and do mission in word and deed to the glory of God and joy of nations! Will link up to ur blog

Anonymous said...

I found a book written by you at You have an interesting blog! :)

Soli Deo Gloria.