This weekend I had the chance to read David Fitch’s new book The End of Evangelicalism? Three years ago, I read (and loved) Fitch’s The Great Giveaway and have since appreciated his blog and the interactions I’ve had through the Ecclesia Network with Fitch and all the folks at Life on the Vine.
Fitch’s latest uses the work of Slavoj Žižek to examine the evangelical church’s commitments to inerrancy, decision-based conversion, and the idea of a Christian nation (you can download and read the book’s introduction here). The book’s goal is not to rid the evangelical church of these commitments, but to move forward with these in a way that is conducive for the church’s mission.
The evangelical church in North America, Fitch argues, is in crisis – not primarily a crisis of growth, success, or attractiveness, but of the church’s influence, perception and mission; a people written off as underhanded, arrogant and duplicitous cannot easily engage in the public square, the marketplace of ideas, or at a neighborhood barbecue. Our way of life – our politic – as a group or body is rendered ineffective in light of this real crisis facing the evangelical church. Addressing this crisis, Fitch surveys three of the “cardinal beliefs [that shaped evangelicals]…into an inhospitable politic to the world and God’s mission in it:” the inerrant Bible, the decision for Christ, and the Christian nation (xvii).
The book is structured around examining these three tenets through a lens informed by the work of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek … Though the book is heavy on social theory and philosophy, using Žižek’s terms and concepts throughout, the argument is well presented and traceable as Fitch articulates the emptiness of these three pillars and demonstrates the need for a new way forward in the mission of the evangelical church.
In each of the three areas (scripture, conversation, culture), Fitch critiques the church for using these as identifying litmus tests (labeling some as ‘in’ and others as ‘out’) rather than signposts leading to a full and faithful way of life. He follows Žižek in proclaiming the hollow reality of evangelicalism’s contrarian politic, but does so with a genuine desire to push the church forward towards faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Fitch writes with the critical instincts of a scholar and the hopeful fervor of an evangelical practitioner. Along with Žižek, he casts a wide net, engaging an array of conversation partners ranging from theologians, historians, and philosophers to Biblical scholars and practitioners, providing a number of launching points for further discussions and experiments toward a faithful and robust way of life
The book is available wherever books are sold (not sure if that’s true, but that’s what everyone says) or you can grab a copy (with a 40% discount) at Reclaiming the Mission.