The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission; towards an Evangelical Political Theology

Article excerpt

The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission; Towards an Evangelical Political Theology. By David E. Fitch. Eugene, Ore.: Cascade BooL·, 2011. Pp. xxvi, 226. Paperback $28.

The chorus of voices criticizing political evangelicalism in the United States has reached a highpoint. That this decline in the fortunes of evangelicalism is greeted with a smug harrumph by news organizations such as the New York Times is understandable, but that so much of the criticism comes from within the ranks of evangelicals past and present is particularly notable. David Fitch is Lindner Professor of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois.

Fitch's End of Evangelicalism takes the criticisms seriously, but he is also intent on seeking models for Christian engagement with the broader American body politic on grounds that lead to authentic Christian missional practices and that are in touch with solid insights from political philosophy and science. His book is essential reading, particularly as evidence piles up that - to all outward appearances - a range of Christian political choices are made on the basis of predetermined cultural attitudes rather than by Christian sociopolitical and ethical discernment. That situation raises the question, "How does one avoid the trap of making up one's mind on issues first and looking for biblical and theological warrants later?" Fitch is fully aware of this problem and the danger of we-group, Christian narcissism as he proposes that evangelicalism is a political ideology in need of a carefully constructed political theology. As for what evangelicalism is, he follows David Bebbington's and Mark Noll's well-known markers.

The most important intellectual move in Fitch's book is his argument that the Slovenian philosopher and social theorist Sia voj ¿izek can help sort out the causes of evangelicalism's becoming a "hardened" complex of positions that paper over hidden "antagonisms" and that cripple evangelicalism's Christian identity and effectiveness in achieving its real mission. Fitch's explication of Zizek's positions is subtle and convincing. Summarizing that material would take us beyond the prescribed length of this brief review, however, and I can only say that reading his explication is well worth the effort, despite the charge by radical orthodox theologian John Milbank that ¿izek is a mystical nihilist. …