October 27, 2022 Wayne Northey

Deconstruction or Reconstruction? Pastors Discuss a Reboot of Evangelicalism

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Bob Smietana

October 26, 2022

image above: Panelists Joel Lawrence, from left, Malcolm Foley, Gavin Ortlund, Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, Doug Sweeney and Kristin Kobes Du Mez participate in the Reconstructing Evangelicalism Conference, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois / RNS photo by Bob Smietana

WN: In light of postmodernist theory, Jesus is the Ultimate Deconstructor. In light of the doctrine of the Trinity, as stated in a lecture yesterday by Professor John Millbank, “Most Entanglings: The Trinity as the Root of All Being,” Jesus as Head of the Church keeps entangling humanity with who God is–at the root of all being.

As Contemporary Authors summarises his thought, “the Christian mythos alone ‘is able to rescue virtue from deconstruction into violent, agonistic difference.'”[32]

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excerpts:

OAK PARK, Ill. (RNS) — A conference about the future of the nation’s largest religious tradition began with a bit of honesty. “Nobody knows exactly what an evangelical is,” said Joel Lawrence, executive director of the Center for Pastor Theologians, at the opening of the Reconstructing Evangelicalism conference Monday (Oct. 24).

The conference, which drew about 400 pastors and other church leaders to Calvary Memorial Church in the Chicago suburbs, was inspired by a recent trend among evangelicals and other Protestants to “deconstruct” the faith they grew up with—examining core beliefs and often rejecting the conservative politics, sexism and racial divides evangelicalism has come to be known for.

The question “What is an evangelical?” led to a spirited, thoughtful and sometimes pointed conversation during the conference’s opening panel about the movement’s flaws and how to mend them.

[Kristin Kobes] Du Mez’s view of evangelicalism as a consumer culture is based on observation of churches that grow by giving people what they want, which of late has included hot-button conservative politics and culture-war rhetoric. Leaders who try to address racism, sexism or other social justice issues get pushback from inside the church and from social media.

She pointed to evangelicals like Beth Moore, a popular Bible teacher who became unwelcome in the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest evangelical group, for calling out sexism and abuse in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

“If you step out of line, you will be punished,” said Du Mez.

Du Mez said many pastors are good-hearted and have a clear grasp of theology. But they often lack an understanding of the broader cultural factors affecting the country and their churches.

“One of my favorite virtues is the virtue of wisdom or prudence—understanding of how the world works,” she said. “So that when you are pursuing your goals, you are doing so in a way that will bear the fruit. Because if you don’t understand properly how the world works, yeah, then good luck trying to live faithfully trying to bring positive change.”

Lawrence said the conference, which continues through Wednesday and is being streamed online, is meant to spark respectful conversations about Christianity, its challenges and the possibility for change.

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