"...the strong timber of the tree of evangelicalism has historically been the great doctrines of the Bible--God's glorious perfections, man's fallen nature, the wonders of redemptive history, the magnificent work of redemption in Christ, the saving and sanctifying work of grace in the soul, the great mission of the church in conflict with the world and the flesh and the devil, and the greatness of our hope of everlasting joy at God's right hand. These things once defined us and were the strong fiber and timber beneath the fragile leaves and fruit of our religious experiences. But this is the case less and less. And that is why the waving leaves of success and the sweet fruit of prosperity are not as auspicious to David Wells* and Os Guinness* as they are to many. It is a hollow triumph, and the tree is getting weaker and weaker while the branches are waving in the sun." (John Piper, God's Passion for His Glory, 1998, p. 78)
"In one generation the evangelical movement has experienced a sea of change: It has moved from being, in large part, confessionally defined to being a fraternity of institutions to being virtually a coalition of causes to being a movement in plain disarray. Worst of all, there is neither an agreed defining character of 'evangelical' around which reformation and regrouping can occur nor any evident leadership willing or able to assert it...The truth is, for those who think, the present state of American evangelicalism is appalling. As a spiritually and theologically defined community of faith, evangelicalism is weak or next to nonexistent; as a subculture, it is stronger but often embarrassing and downright offensive" (Os Guinness, Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and What to Do About It, 1994, p. 15; as quoted by John Piper in God's Passion for His Glory, p. 78)
"Don't bemoan the condition of evangelicalism because it is hollow and therefore weakening--as if the real goal is lasting prominence rather than temporary prominence. Instead, bemoan the condition of evangelicalism because it contradicts the truth of God and belittles His worth." (John Piper, God's Passion for His Glory, p. 78-79)
*Wells is the author of Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision, 1998. Guinness of Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and What to Do About It
These quotations date from 1994 and 1998, and one hopes that over a decade later the situation has improved. I see signs of it nationally as well as locally and I think that the advent of podcasting, theological blogs, and maybe even social networking have helped both lay people and pastors to be challenged to love doctrine and stand on the foundation of Scripture as they have had access to preaching and teaching from some of our age's most faithful pastors and teachers. What do you think?
I'm reading God's Passion for His Glory as a part of my recent efforts to read Jonathan Edwards's writings. I stumbled through Edwards's Freedom of the Will as best as possible on my own. In preparation for reading The End For Which God Created the World, a book of Edwards's that is included in full in Piper's God's Passion..., I am reading God's Passion for His Glory. This book is meant to assist modern evangelical's in tackling Edwards's book, which is a difficult read but worth the effort.
Image of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) from Wikipedia, public domain.