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June 06, 2011

Comments

April

beautiful.
My friend Jim Henderson and I have been talking about writing a book called "The Myth of the Transformed Life" for years. Collecting material for the book has not been difficult!

Michael Laprarie

I'd love to read your book, April. And now I've got to get a copy of Fitch's. The main reason I walked away from fundagelicalism (and almost away from the church itself) was its utter failure to help the people that I knew intimately.

A small group of us that meet for a monthly book study have had a number of discussions about the fruitlessness of "making a decision", particularly in the fundagelical community context of peer pressure and political conformity, specifically through the guilt and fear mechanisms (where would you spend eternity if you died tonight?) so often employed by fundagelical churches. Our conclusion is that no one ever meaningfully transforms their own life if their primary motivation is fear.

It's not just Christianity of course. Just in the past 2 weeks we've witnessed Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the socialist who enjoys $3000 hotel rooms, $20,000 luxury suits, and abusing the domestic help; social justice champion Bono who scoffs at paying his own fair share of taxes even when his Ireland is in dire financial straits; and now the repulsive hypocrisy of Weinergate.

I think the fundagelical tradition lost its way when it made salvation into a magic act performed by God in some far away spiritual dimension, any time a mortal human said the correct words. If God saves us, then there is no need for us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling". In other words there is no need for us to be transformed in order to be truly saved. The holistic process of community-oriented justification and sanctification vanished, because God did all the work, and all we had to do was 'accept his free gift.'

And of course if you were raised in a 'second blessing' tradition you were taught that through the 'second blessing' God would magically give you 'abundant life' by erasing all the imperfections from your mortal life. Funny how that never works out in real life - just ask my 'saved and sanctified' Dad, who emotionally, verbally, and physically abused my mother until the day he died.

Leighton

When I read the story at the start of the piece, I wasn't thinking evangelical, so much as childish. Not that the two are mutually exclusive at all, as many evangelical churches appear to have taken scissors to 1 Cor 13:11. But her reasoning is something you would expect out of an elementary school student. What is it about evangelical faith that stunts people's emotional development?

I'm really wishing I hadn't picked the 5-9 business day free shipping option. Does Fitch goes into any detail on the psychology of tDfC, or is it mostly political? I'm wondering whether this utter failure to engage with reality on an individual level is sufficiently explained by the following factors:

1) Belief in God's protection or covering, which may lead to an expectation that unpleasant things won't happen, or will magically disappear with enough wishing and begging;

2) Giving God the glory for all things, where "glory" is interpreted in practice as "credit" and "responsibility," with an attendant inability to accept responsibility for one's own actions.

I want to say that these, combined with a dysfunctional church environment's strong reinforcement of Axis II personality disorders, would be enough to lead adults to reason consistently like spoiled children.

Trevor Palen

Leighton,

I think it may also have to do with EV understanding of the "spiritual" realm and the "physical" realm. It seems that EV culture promotes an understanding where the spiritual and the physical are separable. It's very "Pauline", Flesh vs. Spirit kind of thinking. So events, "growth", etc. can occur in the "spiritual" realm that don't immediately affect the "physical" realm. Couple this with the teaching that we are to "fix our minds on the (spiritual) world to come" and there is a departing that likely takes place in the mind of the EV that leads them to care less about the physical world than they otherwise would.

Leighton

Yeah, adding a third conceptual category like "focusing on heaven as an escapist fantasy instead of a goal to be worked for" might help flesh out that list. I do think if someone is viewing petulance as spiritual growth, and abdication of responsibility as storing up treasure where moth and rust do not destroy, there has to be some pathology going on besides just that dualism. Though the dualism just by itself probably does inform many evangelicals' approaches (or non-approaches) to social issues and politics.

Eric

I'm not sure what's being advocated here; whether some form of works-salvation, or that religion is a farce altogether. (Both views will denounce the claims of "tDfC" salvation).

Still, the point of the Gospel is Grace; that we're not saved by our efforts. Good works are to be done in love towards God, not to be saved.

Though it is true that evangelicals have taken this "changed life" concept WAY beyond reality; to an extent no one can or does live up to.
It's based on a misunderstanding of the pertinent scriptures, plus the removal of the context of the New Testament, where their sin was paid for (and they received a "downpayment" of salvation), but they were still under the Law (whose "age" was ended in AD70), and special revelation was continuing for the time. (To whom much is given, much is expected). So people had to choose either the Law/The flesh, or Christ, and persevere in the faith, to make it to the end of the "race".

What seems to have shaped this modern doctrine is a methodistic theology known as the Keswick "Higher Life" movement.

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