"All God's People: A Theology of the Church," by David L. Smith (BridgePoint Books, 487 pp., $22.99, hardcover); "The Church," by Edmund P. Clowney (InterVarsity, 336 pp., $14.99, paper); "What on Earth Is the Church? An Exploration in New Testament Theology," by Kevin Giles (InterVarsity, 319 pp., $16.99, paper). Reviewed by Robert W. Patterson, a frequent contributor to CHRISTIANITY TODAY, who formerly served on the staff of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Four years ago, Nathan Hatch, now provost of the University of Notre Dame, likened the legacy of modern evangelicalism to the altered landscape he had observed on a recent visit to Columbia, South Carolina, his hometown. In the 1950s, Columbia lacked fast-food restaurants and shopping malls; it also lacked the wildly proliferating parachurch organizations that evangelicals have pioneered and now take for granted.
As Hatch recalled, the religious landscape of Columbia "B.E." (before evangelicalism) was dominated by Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian steeples that graced almost every corner, reflecting the dominance of the organized church in Christian witness and nurture. Conceding that the institutional churches did not always exercise their market control responsibly, Hatch suggested that in breaking that ecclesiastical monopoly and replacing it with a consumer-driven ministry marketplace, evangelicals have inadvertently created a new set of problems. If evangelicalism has performed wonders in creating a thriving subculture of Christian this and Christian that, its legacy vis-a-vis "the church" is an altogether different story.
However the story is told, evangelicals are confused over the meaning of what the Apostles' Creed calls "the holy catholic church." ...1
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