Saturday, October 27, 2007

Two Recent Articles at CT

Over at Christianity Today there is an article on Taking Revival to the World about Australia's largest church, Hillsong (AOG). This church is somewhere between a denomination and an empire. It has off-shoots across the world esp. in London. It produces some funky worship music ('Shout to the Lord' is a classic), Hillsong does some good work with the poor and underprivileged in Sydney, they run a big annual conference, and politicians of all stripes court the favour of the church (all the more significant since in Australia the church is normally a political non-entity in Australia, so the fact that this church has captured political attention means it now captures media attention and secular fundamentalists complain that this is a sign that we are turning into a GWBush theocracy). But Hillsong is not exactly known for its wonderful Bible exposition and their prosperity gospel is about as edifying as a Hillary Clinton pro-abortion speech. For American readers, Hillsong is perhaps understood as a cross between Crocodile Dundee and Joel Osteen. I know some lovely Christian people who have come from Hillsong and their music is somewhere between inspiring and wish-washy depending on the song. The article by Cassandra Zinchini is worth reading.
The other CT article, The Crisis of Modern Fundamentalism by Collin Hansen. AllI can say is that if you think that John Piper is a dubious or dangerous character then your theology is about as messed up as can be imagined. I find it ironic that Fundamentalist leaders are crying foul that many of its ranks are joining evangelicalism (perish the thought) and yet some evangelical leaders are urging their peers and people for the need to return to Fundamentalism (go figure). As an external observer, American Fundamentalism is not really a return to the Bible as much as it is an indigenized American religion with roots in revivalism, it is a philosophical response to the Enlightenment and a political response to secularism, it is a culturally contingent form of Christianity that owes its beliefs and tenets just as much to its own cultural environment as to the Bible, and its has its own doctrines that cannot be derived from anything near Scripture. The separatist and sectarian ethos of Fundamentalism means that it has more in common with Qumran than with Jesus, Paul, Luke, and John. Let me add these caveats: I am not using the word 'American' for all things bad with religion and Fundamentalism has rightly tried to resist assimilation with a post-Christian culture, and they did it well. I want to affirm the fundamentals of the faith and stand in the tradition of historic orthodoxy and the Rule of Faith. But I'd rather be stripped naked, tarred, feathered, and paraded around Tenessee Temple University while wearing a sign saying "I am Bill Clinton's love child, so make me governor of Tenessee" before I became a Fundamentalist. I have no great love for liberalism, and I know that my own brand of evangelicalism ain't perfect either, but I'm concerned and confused as to why some leaders are telling us to be more like Fundamentalism. Rather they should be telling evangelicals to be truly evangelical in their worldview, ethos, politics, and theology.

8 comments: said...

Qumran separatist? Tell that to Norman Golb.

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Bryan L said...

Speaking of Hillsong, have you ever heard Hillsong United's "Shout Unto God"? If listening to that song full blast doesn't give you goosebumps and make you want to shout unto God then you don't have a pulse. Check it out if you haven't.

Bryan L

T. Baylor said...


Having been raised in American fundamentalism myself, I am generally in agreement with you that Fundamentalism is every bit a cultural manifestation as it is a revivalist heritage.

Personally, I think that though Postmodernism may be a devestating development for some sections of the Church, it is actually reconciling many younger Fundamentalists with greater Evangelicalism. In that sense, Pomo is offering a good corrective to fundamentalist epistemology. said...

The churches that will survive are those in which the members don't ask too many questions about 'isms' or 'ists' but simply get on with a good social life. The Methodists seem very good at it. God is always there in the background of course.

Jonathan Robinson said...

I've been to hillsongs london, after the service i went up to the pastor (gary) and pointed out to him that he hadn't mentioned Jesus once in his entire sermon, he went NUTS at me. The next week (according to friends, i didn't go back) he preached on church protocol and how you must never question the speaker after a message, he also labbelled me a 'bozo', a label of which i am now inordinately proud. Some of their songs are great, and i can only hope that the gospel comes through in the music cos the preaching might have well have been Anthony Robbins. Sounds like a cult to me.

Speaking of cults I also think that seperatism of Christian Fundamentalism is classic cultish behaviour, or just plain childish: "if you dont agree with us you cant be our friend."

And Geoff, if the church is just a social group with God 'in the background', it hasn't survived at all.

abcaneday said...


For an Aussie, you surely do have a superb grasp of American Fundamentalism. Your portrayal is spot on.

DCH said...

You guys may want to follow the comments about the CT article here:

Those comments might enlighten your understanding of Fundamentalism or at least Evangelicalism's rejection of it.

Jeff said...

Well, as a fundy, I must disagree with both Michael and my friend A. B. Talk about painting with a broad brush. You caricature of fundamentalsim, IMO, shows how little of the "movement" you really grasp. You entitled to your opinion, but perhaps it might be better nuanced.