Thursday, October 05, 2006

Conservative Iconoclasm?

As we've seen, the assumption by both church historians and sociologists of religion is that revivalistic Protestantism (evangelicalism) is a conservative form of Christianity. Yet as Hart points out, this view fails to take into account the fact that the forms such piety takes -- an emphasis on conversion, small group Bible study, evangelistic crusades, and altar calls -- all represent a very novel approach to the Christian faith. In other words, the way most believers today seek to "get religion" is starkly different from the way their forebears did.

The "pietist" and "confessionalist" paradigms for growth in the Christian faith are made into bedfellows, however, by the insistence that whatever is not evangelical is liberal, and whatever is not liberal is evangelical.

Beside the obvious inconsistency behind labeling the religion produced by iconoclastic trailblazers as "conservative" stands the equally obvious question, "If evangelical spirituality consists largely of quiet times and Vineyard-style praise and worship, what does Reformed spirituality look like? And why the insistence that these two brands of piety must be distinct rather than blended?"