Dangerous Assumptions

This CT article on a new document regarding evangelism produced jointly by the World Evangelical Fellowship, World Council of Churches, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is both fascinating and frustrating. It is fascinating in the way it speaks so easily of evangelicals beginning to view themselves as fitting into the “classic” Christianity represented by the mainline and Catholicism. Maybe I am just exposing myself as living deeply inside the separatist ghetto, but the tone of the article is so nonchalant that it fascinates me. It almost seems to be a given that this is a good thing with a few kinks that need to be worked out.

My list of frustrations with the article is longer than fit a blog post, but at the top of the list is the incredible danger of faulty assumptions. The largest and most dangerous assumption is that all three of these groups represent genuine Christianity simply because they bear that religious designation, i.e., they are Christian in contrast to Muslim. The assumption shines brightly in the words of a former president of the National Association of Evangelicals which are quoted in the article, “we’re seeing each other for who we are rather than who we’re against.” Granting that assumption inevitably leads to others which undermine the very fabric of biblical Christianity. It is at least a little encouraging to see that some evangelicals interviewed for the article see some of these weaknesses.

To me, the wrongness of this project is magnified by its uselessness. “What’s valuable about the document is that Christians are letting the world know that they are intending to be respectful, loving, and transparent in their approach to missions and that they do not intend to be seen as violent or coercive,” claims Craig Ott from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Seriously? Publishing this document will do that? Is “the world” really reading documents put out by groups like this? Why do evangelicals keep chasing after the elusive dream of getting the world to think differently about them? Why do they keep chasing that elusive dream with ecclesiastical tokens like documents and statements?

The view from the separatist ghetto looks like this: professing evangelicals keep getting hoodwinked into publishing documents that never accomplish their purpose, but do in fact erode the boundaries of the faith. The world will not even notice this document, but the World Evangelical Fellowship and the World Council of Churches will feel better for playing nicely with each other, and Rome is happy that they are doing on their way back home.

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