Dr. David Fitch has just released a new book entitled The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission: Towards an Evangelical Political Theology from Wipf and Stock publishers. David is a bi-vocational pastor at Life on the Vine and the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary and blogs at Reclaiming the Mission. In a series of posts, I want to explore Fitch’s argument and discuss his conclusions.
In this post, I want to sum up my experience with David Fitch’s new book.
First, I want to say that he took on a daunting task. He critiqued evangelicalism. That task was made even more daunting by applying the ideas of one of the most difficult philosophers of the 20th century, Zizek. I believe he did a masterful job.
I honestly cannot comment on Fitch’s application of Zizekian philosophy. I’ve read a tad of Zizek and went away a bit dumbfounded. I know other reviewers have been able to critique that application and had some issues but I choose not to attempt it. I will take at face value Fitch’s understanding and application of it.
In his critique of evangelicalism, however, I believe he led us to see the proverbial nail being pounded on by the hammer. One of the main criticisms I have had and one of the questions that I have been wrestling with over the past 10 years is “Why is there so little transformation in the lives of those who have made a decision for Christ and who claim to believe in the Bible?” The truth is that no one takes us seriously because we do not really understand what we believe and often do not put into practice what we mouth with our lips. Just consider the prediction of the rapture and the end of the world made by Harold Camping. That prediction bypassed us this past weekend and there were many scoffers present to ridicule Christianity as the result of this man’s predictions. In a world where people are interested in someone who looks, talks, and acts like Jesus, evangelicalism has mostly found itself lacking. Fitch’s critique was a needed wind through the sails of evangelicalism. Hopefully, it is a course-correcting wind.
I will note one criticism of the book, particularly in chapter six where he describes how the evangelical church can recover its core. In a chapter that is theoretical, I would have really appreciated concrete examples. I know Fitch pastors a church so it would be nice to hear how his church practices these changes. He provided concrete examples of his criticism’s so it should only be fair to provide concrete examples of his prescriptions. By not doing so, it could be considered one man’s theory that cannot be implemented.
Because of its content and approach, the book is not an easy read. Fitch is a first-rate theologian who draws on some very interesting and profound readings. I know because I have begun to read Vanhoozer and Balthasar and I have already read Wright (both NT and Christopher J) and Michael Gorman’s work. The book will stretch you philosophically and may even challenge your own concepts and beliefs. I know that because I was having dinner with someone over the weekend who had read my posts on the book (and who will purchase and read it as a result of the posts). He noted that he never understood the depth of evangelicalism within the culture and the depth of the emptiness of evangelicalism.
Unless our beliefs are challenged, we may never see the blind spots in our own belief. Fitch provides us this great service. If you have not read the book, please consider reading it and deciding for yourself if there is an emptiness within evangelicalism in these three specific areas. Ponder how you can make them real again and relevant not only to your life but the life of the church you participate in God’s mission with.