May 18, 2010

books: the next evangelicalism

The author of The Next Evangelicalism, Soong-Chan Rah, has garnished a reputation as being a bit of a firebrand. He has become known for publicly criticizing the racial insensitivity of Christian organizations on several occasions. But, let’s admit it, while they make us uncomfortable, we need firebrands now and then. Some would call them prophets.

Rah is more than a rabble rouser though. He’s a professor at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, has pastored urban, multi-ethnic congregations and is a respected associate of several social justice-oriented evangelical organizations, networks and publications.

Rah’s thesis in The Next Evangelicalism is that the future of American evangelicalism rests upon reconciliation and renewal through confronting of its past and present “white cultural captivity.” He places the data from Philip Jenkin’s The Next Christendom and Davild T. Olson’s The American Church in Crisis beside each other (both worth reading). Rah’s conclusion is the only American church in crisis is that which is bound by “white cultural captivity.” The church immigrating from the Southern hemisphere is thriving. Not only in the south but in America. Rah asserts that by confessing and letting go of the captivity mentioned above American evangelicalism as a whole will flourish.

I resonate with his thesis but I confess that I was dissapointed. With his title being a nod to Jenkin’s The Next Christendom I assumed that the book would contain significant data. Yet while willing to provoke the reader, I felt that Rah did not explain terms or defend conclusions as well as I thought a scholar would. I assume that he was aware that much of what he wrote would be received as accusation by many of those within “white cultural captivity.” Because of that I had hoped he would diffuse emotions with logic, confound his detractors with solid data. Instead, he teeters somewhere between anecdotal and academic throughout the book.

I probably wouldn’t be so critical if it were not for the fact that I think Rah’s argument needs to be heard. I don’t want him to be written off. But Rah is probably much smarter than I. He’s likely aware that data or emotions isolated will not heal the rift in the American church. We’ve got to talk. And by unapologetically taking on a wide spectrum of theological, cultural and ecclesiastical issues, while exposing racism and cultural dominance there he has certainly started a conversation. So, I say read the book. It may trouble you. If it does, know it was probably meant to.

Posted via web from jason evans

No comments :

Post a Comment