The Church’s Dumbing Down (Guinness)

 (This is a re-post from May 2013).

A person only needs to listen to contemporary Christian radio for thirty minutes to realize that the Christian faith has been extremely watered down in our day.  Since there is little talk of the law, sin, and God’s wrath, any mention of Jesus reduces him to a divine friend or perfect life coach rather than the sovereign Savior of miserable sinners of whom Scripture speaks.  For an intellectual discussion of this topic, one of the “go to” books is one I’ve mentioned here before: Fit Bodies, Fat Minds by Os Guinness.  This is a great resource on how evangelicalism has nearly lost its mind.

Part one of this book is called “A Ghost Mind.”  Guinness lists eight things that have dumbed down modern evangelicalism. The following list is my own summary:

1) Polarization: the focus on feelings at the expense of knowledge and reason.
2) Pietism: the emphasis on subjective experiential individualism at the expense of corporate and covenantal faith.
3) Primitivism: the romantic notion of going back to a simplistic innocent age of the past.
4) Populism: the idea of a religion of the people, for the people, and by the people.
5) Pluralism: the practice of affirming the lowest common doctrinal denominator, which leads to “deeds, not creeds.”
6) Pragmatism: the theory where “does it work?” is more important than “is it biblical?”
7) Philistinism: the blatant dislike of anything intellectual or scholarly.
8) Premillenialism [of the dispensational variety]: a theory of eschatology that nurtures anti-intellectualism by a fixation on the future and a disregard for the present.

That’s just a short snapshot of some outstanding chapters.  The second half of the book (called “An Idiot Culture”) discusses the cultural factors that also led to the dumbing down of modern evangelicalism:

1) Amusement: the modern love of (or lust for?) entertainment.
2) Consumption: the lifestyle which abides by the “gospel” of advertisements.
3) Image: the infatuation with trends, looks, weight, sex, skin, etc.
4) Visual: the ability to watch a three-hour movie coupled with the inability to read a serious three-hundred-page book.
5) Postmodernity: the loss of overarching truth, meaning, and morality.
6) Media: the twisting or ignoring of truth for the sake of entertainment and cash.
7) Generationalism: the separating of generations with labels and stereotypes.
8) Cybergnosticism: the blending of the virtual and what is real.

Again, I’ve summarized Guinness’ chapters in my own words.  I hope my summary gets your attention and causes you to read (or re-read) this excellent book.  This book is thoughtful, timely, and gives a straightforward diagnosis of a major problem in evangelicalism.  Reading it will not only give you an idea of evangelicalism’s anti-intellectualism, it’ll challenge you to strive more and more to love God with all your mind.

Here’s the info: Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994).

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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