Vanauken:

Davy and I, we later decided, were immeasurably helped in our serious look at Christianity by where we considered ourselves to be: we did not at all suppose that we were Christians, just because we were more or less nice people who vaguely believed there might be some sort of a god and had been inside a church. We were right outside of the fold. Thus we were perfectly aware that the central claim of Christianity was and always had been that the same God who made the world had lived in the world and been killed by the world; and that the (claimed) proof of this was His Resurrection from the dead. This, in fact, was precisely what we, so far at least, did not believe. But we knew that it was what had to be believed if we were to call ourselves Christian. Consequently, we did not call ourselves Christian.

Posted by Jake Meador

Jake Meador is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy, and son Wendell. Jake's writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play.

One Comment

  1. True…and fairly apposite for the time in which Vanauken wrote.

    I had a lengthy conversation over the holidays with my mother, who claims to be an evangelical Christian. No one would ever mistake her for being nice. She’s petty and vindictive, and spends her days railing against the blacks, the Mexicans, the gays, and anyone else who doesn’t fit her image of prim, middle-class respectability. She is a living embodiment of Ruby Turpin from Flannery O’Connor’s short story, Revelation. Even so, like Ruby, she is very confident of her own status as a Christian. And she has no idea why, except to note how much more respectable she is than those on whom she looks down.

    As evangelicalism crumbles, I wonder what it got wrong. It seems that evangelicalism did a good job of convincing people that being nice wasn’t sufficient to save them. But instead of turning them to the Gospel, the movement seems to have convinced people that they could be saved by wallowing in self-righteousness and resentment. I attend my mother’s evangelical church when I’m home. I doubt that the Gospel has been preached there in years. The pastor has largely come to conflate the Gospel with the Culture Wars, and prefers to preach about the latter far more than the former.

    Evangelicals once criticized mainliners for preaching a social gospel of niceness. I find it somewhat ironic that evangelicals have succumbed to their own social gospel–not if niceness, but of anger and social resentment. If I had to choose between the two social gospels, I’d much rather have niceness and Norman Vincent Peale than resentment and Franklin Graham.

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