Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Assumed Evangelicalism: Some reflections en route to denying the gospel

from David Gibson, postgraduate student & editor of

"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Hebrews 2:1


You may have heard the story of the Mennonite Brethren movement. One particular analysis goes like this: the first generation believed and proclaimed the gospel and thought that there were certain social entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel and advocated the entailments. The third generation denied the gospel and all that were left were the entailments. [1]

Another story. In 1919, Trinity Great Court in Cambridge saw a meeting between Rollo Pelly, the Secretary of the liberal Student Christian Movement, and Daniel Dick and Norman Grubb (President and Secretary of the evangelical Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union). The meeting was to discuss the re-unification of the two movements that had split in 1910. Norman Grubb's account of the meeting is infamous:

After an hour's talk, I asked Rollo point blank, 'Does the SCM put the atoning blood of Jesus Christ central?' He hesitated, and then said, 'Well, we acknowledge it, but not necessarily central.' Dan Dick and I then said that this settled the matter for us in the CICCU. We could never join something that did not maintain the atoning blood of Jesus Christ at its centre; and we parted company.' [2]

In its earliest days the SCM believed and proclaimed the atoning blood of Jesus. The next generation assumed it but did not make it central. The following generations have rejected and denied the apostolic gospel. [3]

Proclaiming, assuming, denying. This description of a movement's history is admittedly something of a caricature - any such development would always be the result of many complex factors. Nevertheless, it is a useful way of attempting to identify defining decisions that profoundly shape a movement's evolution and it has lessons for us about the dangers and challenges facing other similar movements.....

(Read the entire article.)


arc said...

"Reflecting on the state of Christianity toward the end of the first century one historian wrote, 'In the very first days of Christianity there was a glory and a splendor, a magnificence and a radiance in life. But now Christianity had become a thing of habit; it had become traditional, halfhearted, nominal. Men had grown used to it and something of the wonder had gotten lost. The first thrill was gone. The flame of devotion had died to a flicker" (quoted in the Introduction to I John in Swindoll's "Living Insights Study Bible," 1996, p. 1369).

In his commentary, "Exploring the Epistles of John," John Phillips discusses how the first generation is motivated by conviction. By the second generation, the conviction potentially softens into belief--the passion is gone. The third generation may begin to intellectualize their belief, and their belief may erode into opinion. This was happening in the church at Ephesus when I John was written. (How does that go??? Those who don't study history are condemned to repeat it.)

Rumi states, "The lovers of God have no religion but God alone."

Anonymous said...

Great and scary insights here. It isn't long before non-essential becomes simply non. I fear that in many circles history is repeating itself.