Popular evangelicalism risks allowing the fashionable themes of our times to invade the center of religious life. Thus, managerial techniques and therapeutic concerns sometimes seem to occupy the citadel of faith, while theology appears to be in exile.
Critics such as David Wells and Os Guinness have rightly called for a restoration of theology's place in the church. However, in this essay, Reformed theologian Richard Mouw suggest that theologians can only do their part as they charitably examine the sometimes-tacky religion of the laity. By so doing they may discern what agenda the Spirit is suggesting for their work—and they can better address the common difficulties of human living.
At a meeting of theologians, one scholar reported: "I met this young manager type. He was as s recent convert to 'born again' Christianity, and he was eager to tell me about his newfound faith. He said he had come to think of God as his CEO, and that God was working to see that his special employees made a profit."
Then the theologian gave his assessment of the man's testimony (and typified many theologians' view of lay religion): "How tacky!"
I found this disturbing. When theologians dismiss as "tacky" the religious experiences, thoughts, and longings of the untutored, they risk missing their main target: serving God's people.
Even though this is a minor example, it illustrates a larger trend: many theologians today are suspicious of, and perhaps even hostile to, more popular expressions of the faith. Many evangelical scholars these days are publicly worrying about, for example, the popularity of recovery groups, Christian therapy centers, church-growth workshops, seminars in managerial methods for ministers, "signs and ...1
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