Jump directly to the content
The Feel-Good Faith of EvangelicalsRicardo Camacho / Flickr

The Feel-Good Faith of Evangelicals


Jun 18 2013
Are we really as “biblical” as we think we are?

Think of how evangelicals may describe the Bible: unchanging, inerrant, authoritative, truth.

Well, "in the world we are entering, the concept of the Bible will be completely different," said David Parker, theology professor at the University of Birmingham. Speaking recently at the Hay Festival in England, Parker predicted that technology will prompt personalized digital versions of the Scripture, "like an individual copy" of the Bible.

If Parker is right, we evangelicals might have some major questions. How would this editorial control affect our faith? Could it lead to an eventual erosion of sound doctrine? Would the capacity for changing our sacred texts ultimately diminish their authority?

Biblical has become the evangelical "brand." We read the Bible; we quote the Bible; we live by its truths and teachings. For us, much would be lost if biblical authority eroded and eventually disappeared.

However, according to T.M. Luhrmann's recent book, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, there may be a difference between how evangelicals perceive their commitment to the Bible and to what extent it actually influences how they articulate and live their faith.

Luhrmann, a psychological anthropologist at Stanford University, did years of research within the Vineyard movement and discovered a Christianity that was more therapeutic than theological. She provocatively suggests that American evangelicalism has scripted a new narrative, reformulating both problem and solution. "The [new] problem is human emotional pain and the human's own self-blaming harshness;" the gospel is that "God loves you, just as you are, with all your pounds and pimples."

The biblical brand may not be as accurate as we imagine.

Before we dismiss her findings, we should first consider that Luhrmann observed evangelicals at close-range, not only interviewing hundreds of them, but embedding herself in the life of a church for Sunday worship and weekly small group meetings. She even had a prayer accountability partner and met regularly with a spiritual director.

Sure, we might argue that her sample, while deep, was unfortunately narrow. The Vineyard is hardly representative of evangelicalism. However, I found her conclusions to accurately describe, at least in part, what has been my experience in evangelical churches. In the Baptist, Presbyterian, charismatic Episcopalian, and non-denominational churches I've attended over the past 20 years, I've often found—as Luhrmann did— that "what people want from faith is to feel better than they did without faith."

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

The church can model a more inclusive community, one that doesn’t divide over marital status.
Why Google and BuzzFeed Need the Church

Why Google and BuzzFeed Need the Church

When big corporations make big moral decisions, where is the church’s voice?
Timehop Helps Me See God’s Providence

Timehop Helps Me See God’s Providence

How a social media app reminds me of God’s faithfulness in my life.
How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

This Father’s Day, I celebrate my parents’ choice to move close to my kids.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

I’m a Woman Who Got Kicked Out of Women’s Bathrooms

Our zealous policing of gender norms can have unintended and hurtful consequences.

Twitter

  • RT @PropelWomen: Learn from the mistakes of others. You can2019t live long enough to make them all yourself. 2013Eleanor Roosevelt
  • The church2019s moral position gets a lot more competition https://t.co/eTFFuEHjlc
  • RT @DailyKeller: 201cGod doesn't just love you unconditionally. He loves you counter-conditionally-in spite of your conditions.201d
  • RT @michellevanloon: What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. - @AWTozer_
  • @JBsTwoCents d83dde17 Keep up the great work!


What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
The Feel-Good Faith of Evangelicals