It takes a lot of old-fashioned gumption to pick a fight in order to clear the air with loved ones. But, to have a good relationship, problems have to be addressed before they fester and become impossible to heal. In his new book, Warren Cole Smith begins a “Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church.” He makes it quite clear that he is an evangelical and that his intention is to build up rather than tear down. And, except for getting overly personal by unfairly singling out specific people for criticism and too often painting his criticism with too broad a brush, he provides piercing observations given in a caring spirit about where the evangelical church needs to do some soul-searching and repentance. He identifies specific areas where the church needs to be renewed and revitalized.
Smith describes the evangelical movement as “the richest, most powerful religious movement in history.” But, he also describes us as having fallen “ever deeper into moral and spiritual confusion.” There will be plenty of people who, like me, disagree with one or another of Smith’s points, but the overriding theme is the necessity to go deeper into Scripture, the necessity of returning to spiritual orthodoxy in our worship, and the necessity to conform the way we live out our faith to Biblical priorities and parameters.
Smith bases his critique on Richard Weaver’s book, “Ideas have Consequences,” and he shows how ideas and the lack thereof have influenced the evangelical movement. He identifies a “new provincialism” that focuses on numbers of converts instead of basing our faith on the historical fact of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection. These, Smith declares, “are not merely ideas,” they are historical events. If not, our faith is in vain (I Corinthians 15:17). A major concern in Smith’s book is the growing tendency of the evangelical church to be a virtual church via the airwaves or a megachurch with its emphasis on “power building.” He warns that without the community and accountability found in a vibrant fellowship of believers, evangelicals don’t have the necessary “roots” for vibrant growth.