Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Book Review: The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

Let me throw a few stats at you...

The percentage of born-again Christians who have experienced divorce is the same as non-Christians. 90% of divorced born-again folk divorced after they accepted Christ.

In a 2002 study, it was discovered that only 6% of born-again adults tithe.

26% of traditional evangelicals do not think premarital sex is wrong. 13% say it is okay for married persons to have sex with someone other than one's spouse.

17% of evangelicals would object to having black neighbours move in next door.

Only 9% of born-again adults and 2% of born-again teenagers have a biblical worldview.

These situations and more are addressed in Ronald Sider's book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Why is it that we see so little life change amongst those who consider themselves "born-again" Christians? For me, growing up, being "separate from the world" meant don't smoke, don't chew, don't go with girls that do. And while I believed (and still believe) that most of our evangelical rules have very little to do with authentic Biblical faith, the issues above represent blatant disobedience to scriptural directives.

Have we really embraced what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace? Sider believes we have done exactly that, and have turned salvation into a no-lose insurance policy against hell. Just say the sinners prayer and you'll be forgiven forever and there will be no other expectations put on you - we have promoted a "costless faith" as George Barna puts it. In Sider's words, "Salvation becomes, not a life-transforming experience that reorients every corner of life, but a one-way ticket to heaven, and one can live like hell until one gets there."

Sider goes on to consider the concept of the "Kingdom of God" and how Jesus' teaching on the kingdom was far more holistic than our simple get out of hell free card. A concept that Brian McLaren also addresses in The Secret Message of Jesus.

Sider concludes the book by looking at some of the positives that offer a ray of hope for the future. While I appreciate his attempt to end the book on a positive note, I'm afraid the strength of Sider's argument doesn't leave me with a lot of hope for change any time soon.

Also posted to

No comments: