Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Evangelical Church of What’s Happening Now II – Scripture Fads

In beginning this series on The Evangelical Church of What’s Happening Now (TECoWHaN), I emphasized the American Evangelical penchant for fads.  (And something I should have mentioned yesterday: this series will focus on the American Evangelical scene.) 
Now fads are not all bad, particularly when they focus on good things.  And what is better than scripture?  There have been a number of TECoWHaN fads focused on scripture through the years.  I will mention two.
During my teen years in the mid-1970’s, I heard again and again and again Philippians 2:3-11.  Yes, that is a particularly important passage. Yes, focusing on it was good. But as a young teen, I heard that passage so often, I got sick of it.

And that was not because I was not eager to read the Bible and be taught from it.  In about two years, beginning at 13, I read the entire Bible and kept on reading it just about every day. No one suggested that to me either. And I not only heard good Bible teaching but sought it out.  Still, I got really tired of hearing Philippians 2:3-11 or portions thereof.
Now, granted, little harm was done.  I did take some years before I began to appreciate what an excellent passage that is.  And it would have been better for me and for others in evangelical churches to get more balanced teaching on scripture.  But if focusing on such an important passage was the worst Evangelical fad of the past fifty years . . . well, then I wouldn’t be bothering to write this series.

A scripture fad that was more questionable is The Prayer of Jabez.  I can hear the groans now.  But wait, it gets worse: I bought and read the book back in the day (It was published in 2000.) . . . and liked  it.  Please don’t hate me.  Yes, it was in my pre-Anglican days when I could be caught up in what TECoWHaN was selling as bad as anyone.  And it sold – about nine million books.
But let’s give credit where credit is due. The book certainly got people reading a scripture that had been ignored, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.  And it did not contain any obvious heresies, although perhaps I would find one or two if I re-read it now.  (NO.  I will not re-read it.)
The problem is it fed American evangelicalism’s penchant to be about ME (and God).  It fed Prosperity Theology.  And the book encouraged people to focus on that one passage, which many did, instead of reading and studying the Bible as a whole, which too few do.  What makes that worse is that versions of The Prayer of Jabez were written for children.  Anything for a buck, even distracting children from learning the basics of the faith.
Hey, if The Prayer of Jabez motivated people to pray and God answered, then praise God.  But it is safe to say that this fad, a craze really, was unhealthy, focusing on one small passage in a way that distracted from the truth of scripture as a whole and in a way that fed self-aggrandizing tendencies in American evangelicalism.  Personally, I now know that at that time in my life there were many better things for me to read.
And that is probably the biggest problem with scripture fads.  They enable neglect of scripture as a whole.
But having ranted a bit on that, I do freely acknowledge that it is certainly true that there are worse fads than scripture fads, far worse ones.  We will get to those in The Evangelical Church of What’s Happening Now.

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