A noble experiment has failed. Modern evangelicalism is now comotose, and thoughtful
observers are expecting word of its demise any day now. While historical eras
cannot be divided into watertight compartments, historians nevertheless need
markers to display their divisions. The close of the evangelical era will probably
be marked at the time when Billy Graham passes away.
At the beginning of the century, the rupture between unbelieving modernists
on the one hand and believing fundamentalists on the other, convulsed the established
churches. The modernists won, and the bruised but defiant fundamentalists retreated
to their enclaves in the hills. Modernism quickly deteriorated into a veritable
monkey house of fads and frenzies, while the separated fundies became increasingly
combative, isolated and ignorant.
Enter evangelicalism. The evangelical experiment sought to present "fundamentalism" with
a human face. The desire was to protect basic orthodox commitments to the authority
of Scripture, the Deity of Christ, His substitutionary death, and the necessity
of regeneration, and at the same time to avoid the schismatic and narrow mindlessness
which came to plague the fundamentalists. In all this, evangelicalism sought
to maintain and defend certain historic Christian claims, and to do so in a time
when it was most necessary. In the early days, Christianity Today was a magazine
with doctrinal backbone and a clearly needed mission. But today the magazine
is too painful even to read. InterVarsity Press used to publish wonderful books;
today, the catalog is urbane drivel.
The real tragedy is not the looming death of a noble movement. The history of
the church is filled with individual martyrs, and martyr movements. The Huguenot
movement in France died, but it died nobly. Our horror is that this once-noble
movement, evangelicalism in America, is incredibly wealthy and frighteningly
senile. The coming death is not an inspiring death at the stake for the name
of Christ. We shall bid farewell to our sister as she rails mindlessly at the
nurses trying to help her.
But will not God raise the dead? Can nothing be done? The history of the church
indicates not. However this history also shows us that those who survive the
demise of this movement will have to land somewhere. And their only real choice
is between those who will be former evangelicals, and those who will be Reformed
Militias on a Toot
By Douglas Wilson
We have a lot of guns in this country, and some folks out in the fever swamps
are starting to brandish them. Of course matters are not helped any by the monkeyshines
of assorted federal agencies, but the glory of a wingnut is that he is always
able to make his case whether or not the raw material is there for it. We happen
to live in a time of clear and increasing tyranny in our country; and so, of
course, the raw material is plentiful. The humanistic right-wing underground
press is therefore able to make conspiratorial hay out of it. Identifying tyranny
in a time like ours is kind of like hitting the ground with your hat, but illiterate
fanatics breathlessly do so anyway. The news is over a century old.
The politics of unbelieving modernity are defined by the terms left and right .
What few realize is that the historic and practical origin of both terms came
from the seating of representatives following the French Revolution. Those who
sat on the right were the moderate revolutionaries, and those on the left were
the radical revolutionies. But they were all revolutionaries. These categories
spilled over to our country when it came time for our "French Revolution"commonly
called the Civil War. In that War, the Old Republic died. The radical Republicans
of Reconstruction were the left-wing revolutionaries, and Lincoln was the moderate
"with malice toward none" revolutionary.
Even to think in such terms as left and right is to grant the central premise
of that Revolution. Right wing "radicals"Newt, Rush, et al claim to be fighting
for traditional values when they are actually trying to return to an earlier
phase of the Revolution. Why should we as Christians want to do that?
After the Fall, God established a redemptive antithesis in the world between
the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, between the righteousness
of law and the righteousness of faith. Those we call leftists and rightists consistently
misplace that antithesis, making the fundamental and undeniable division among
men tribal, or economic, or ideological. Befuddled liberals in the middle deny
there is an antithesis. "We're all saying the same thing, really! Maybe we should
sing 'We Are the World' a few more times."
The center of our culture is starting to give way, as all idols will, and as
one wag put it during a corresponding point in the dissolution of the British
Empire, "Everything is at sea except for the fleet." We are in this condition because
we do not want a sure word from Godwe do not want Christ to reign over us. We
love our relativism but are distressed by the fruit of it. Trying to scramble
back to an earlier stage in our disobedience is no solution, no repentance, at
The division is not right and left. Rather the antithesis is up and down, right
and wrong, biblical and unbiblical, believing and unbelieving, good and evil.
Christians are in far greater danger of being seduced by the right than by the
left. Repentance is long overdue.
By Douglas Jones
On Monday, December 11, 1995, Greg Bahnsen passed from this life into the next,
resting in the righteousness of Christ. Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen had a very powerful
spiritual influence on many of us here at Credenda/Agenda,
and we wanted to publicly note our deepest gratitude to God for the opportunity
we had to learn from him.
Most who know anything about Greg Bahnsen know that he had a keen mind and a
deep love for the honor of Christ. They know of his devotion to Christian apologetics
and his commitment to defending the eternality of God's law. But some of us also
remember him for his love of adventure movies, his fondness for Chinese food,
his love of laughter, his lightning fast typing skills, and his encyclopedic
knowledge of the history of rock and roll. No one could even come close to beating
him on the details of rock history.
He was a man of passion and controversy, and his life showed those scars in
too many ways. At times, he viewed himself as a romantic and idealist, describing
himself as a tired Don Quixote. His heart and mind were captivated by the importance
of loyalty, a virtue in the battle against the enemies of God. He also inspired
loyalty and boldness -- "humble boldness" not "obscurantist arrogance," as he would
put it. Though accused falsely, he was not an arrogant man. He simply knew that
Christianity was true and inescapable.
He taught many friends about simple things like organization. I've never seen
anyone so effortlessly organized in office and especially in essay. His mental
clarity lit up everything. But he taught us best about the antithesis between
light and darkness, without losing his appreciation for non-Christian insights.
(He admired Wittgenstein and even some Quine.) He taught us about careful exegesis
and a fair handling of texts. And though he taught us much about the beauty and
wisdom of God's commands, he at times half regretted having that banner placed
on his work. He was first and foremost a Christian apologist, and sometimes he
wished he could have served more in that capacity. For those close to him, who
knew his strengths and weaknesses, this is an extraordinarily sad time. For so
many unspeakable blessings, it will be hard to realize that he is not here anymore.
The world just won't seem right.
If you will excuse the personal for a moment, some of his current friends may
object to my voicing my appreciation here as I do. They know that Greg Bahnsen
and I were once very close but parted bitterly several years ago over what we
both thought were important issues facing a local church. I do not pretend to
anything here, except an appreciation that transcends those issues. I am eternally
grateful and indebted for all he gave me in heart and mind. The spectre of death
has a mighty ability to open doors, and just prior to his latest surgery, we
were able to talk fondly of our one-time friendship. We had planned to meet and
attempt reconciliation when he recovered from surgery.
Greg Bahnsen greatly admired J. Gresham Machen, and he often reflected on Machen's
final thoughts. Just before he died, Machen is said to have sent a telegram to
John Murray expressing his gratitude for the "active righteousness of Jesus Christ." Greg
Bahnsen had Machen's passion and humility, never trusting in himself but only
in the purity of Christ. Because of that same active righteousness from Christ,
Greg Bahnsen now bows in glory before the Lamb of God.
I will miss you, my friend and my father in the faith. You knew and baptized
my daughters, but, oh, how I regret that you never met my son. You would have
really liked him. May he have your best traits. Thank you forever. I will sorely
By Douglas Wilson
Was Christ honoring the Pharisees when He called them a bag of snakes? Yesthey
were created imago Dei , and He recognized their dignity through holding them
accountable for their hypocrisy. He was thus courteous in a scriptural sense,
although He may not have been polite according to the standards of decorum set
by the Pharisaical Debating League.
Courtesy and rudeness are defined for us in Scripture. Standards are not set
by our modern tryanny of the Informal, but neither are they set by socialite
manner-mongers. I have known some unpolished Christians who were truly kind,
and have seen some good manners that were the functional equivalent of a thumb
in the eye. When we speak, we are to honor one another. The Bible sets this requirement,
but the Bible also defines what it means. When John the Baptist rebuked Herod,
he was not neglecting this requirement of honor. And when certain oily flatterers
came before Christ to trap Him in His words, they spoke politely enough, but
their hearts were full of malice.
Our duty then is to speak the truth, and to do so in love. That love is defined
by God's law, and not by vestigial Victorian sentimentalism. To do anything else
is just plain rude.