Even though David and I come from different parts of the country, we share the same tribe. We both belong to the tribe that would carry the label “evangelical.” For the last ten to fifteen years there have been quite a few thinkers who have wrestled with what evangelical theology is, what it is becoming and why there should even be such a thing as evangelical theology.
This books takes things to a deeper and more challenging level. He moves from the level of how we think as evangelicals to the level of how we practice evangelicalism by looking at it through the lens of politics. (Not in the sense of national politics, as the word is commonly used, but in the sense of politic as an order of our life in the midst of the world at large. Fitch defines “politic” as “what people assume about the way things are and how those assumptions are maintained in order to live together.”) To do this, he employs the work of Slavoj Zizek as a dialogue partner. Admittedly, the rather obscure writing of Zizek makes this a challenging book to grasp, especially chapter 2. However, if one can get to chapters three and following, the logic of this analysis takes our tribe to a deeper understanding of how we live as evangelicals and how that impacts the way we do church.
Fitch writes: “As evangelicals, we have rarely evaluated our way of life together. Traditionally we have been more focused on the rightness of our theology or, even more so, on the pragmatics of getting people ‘saved.'” In chapters 3, 4 and 5, Fitch analyzes three core “evangelical” assumptions that have shaped evangelical life. These are:
1. The idea of the Inerrant Bible
2. The idea of making a Decision for Christ
3. The idea of the Christian Nation
Fitch challenges these assumptions and therefore the identity of Evangelicalism. He does not do this so that we can be better theologians, nor for the sake of having bigger churches. He does this for the sake of the church’s mission in this world. He invites us to think about our assumptions so that we might better practice a way of life that demonstrates Christ’s character in the world.
This book is a challenging read and many Evangelicals will take exception to what he writes. But this is exactly the kind of book we need to read and work to understand. Fitch confronts our assumptions and if we never listen to such confrontations we will just continue to “rearrange the deck chairs.” This book points out that there are icebergs ahead. I hope we will listen before it’s too late.