celebrating a victory

This is the conclusion from a section of The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education (by Zimmermann and Klassen) that analyzes how both liberal (or mainline Protestant) Christians (enamored with the Social Gospel) and Evangelicals (enamored with an intellectual defense of the fundamentals as well as the practice of an often private or individualistic faith and piety) are each inadequate responses to the secular humanism of the Enlightenment. Both parties within the church fall prey to several dualistic splits between the public and private life of the church, trust and reason, etc. that have left them weak and vulnerable in the modern secular world. In the last sentence, the “game [that American Evangelicals] really should not have been playing” refers to the way in which Evangelicals took on the mainline Protestant church and their secular counterparts on their own intellectual turf, without critically assessing some of the most fundamental flaws in secular scientific humanism before engaging it.

Undeniably, each of these reactions preserves important elements of Christianity orthodoxy. The Social Gospel upholds the church’s mandate to live the life of the new age, testifying to redeemed humanity and creation by social action. Evangelical Fundamentalism retains the church’s emphasis on evangelization and Spirit-filled, vibrant and relational Christianity. But both are incomplete halves of the full gospel. In the end the humanistic Social Gospel and fundamentalism would both be caught off guard by the collapse of Enlightenment ideals from the nineteen sixties onward. The one by finding itself bereft of its old intellectual buddies, the other by celebrating a victory it had not really won in a game it really should not have been playing.

The Passionate Intellect, Chapter 5.

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