2001: A Spiritual Odyssey

Founders Journal · Fall 2000 · pp. 1-2

2001: A Spiritual Odyssey

Tom Ascol

On the brink of the true new millennium the question of evangelicalism’s future remains open. Numerous books and articles have addressed this question from the more optimistic Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity, by Alistair McGrath to the more pessimistic trilogy by David Wells (No Place for Truth, God in the Wasteland and Losing Our Virtue).

Analysis and debate on this issue from within the camp can be very profitable. Self-criticism, in the best sense, is an important ingredient of growth and development. This is true of both individuals and movements. The inability to see blemishes, or the unwillingness to admit them, is a sure sign of weakness and is more appropriate for a triumphalistic spirit than for that spirit of humility which ought to mark the followers of Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, every Christian and movement is an easy target for narrow spirits for whom carping and complaining is second nature. Just as healthy self-examination can quickly degenerate into morbid introspection so too can helpful self-criticism easily give way to the “chicken little complex.” Even an abundance of dropping acorns does not mean that the sky is falling.

In this issue of the Founders Journal we are privileged to have two leading evangelical scholars address the trajectory of the evangelical movement over the last fifty years. Iain Murray’s excellent book, Evangelicalism Divided, a Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950-2000 (an excerpt of which appears in the following pages), is reviewed by Roger Nicole, a contributing editor of the Founders Journal and one of the founding members of the Evangelical Theological Society. Though the reviewer is obviously more encouraged and hopeful about evangelicalism than is the author, both have expressed their views with cogent arguments marked by meekness and desire to serve truth.

As is his custom, Dr. Nicole sent a copy of his review to Mr. Murray before its publication. Mr. Murray has graciously consented to have a portion of his response published along with the review. The result is a rare opportunity to listen in on the conversation between two confessional theologians as they discuss the hopes and concerns of evangelical Christianity.

In addition to this exchange, the following pages also contain an interview with Paige Patterson, one of the main architects of the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. Over the last twenty years Dr. Patterson has been both loved and hated, but rarely ignored, by those who care about the SBC. His observations on the direction and opportunities of the SBC will be of keen interest to journal readers.

Part of impact of the conservative resurgence has been registered in the work of international missions. The anonymous article by one International Mission Board missionary signals the new day which has dawned on that missions agency. With a renewed commitment to the authority and integrity of God’s Word has come a renewed concern to orient all mission efforts toward the God-centered perspective of that Word. Be encouraged by the insights and admonitions of this writer, and pray that this kind of influence will spread to missionaries around the world.

Of course, James Boyce looms like Mount Everest on the landscape of Southern Baptist theological heritage. His influence on theological education in the 19th century is unsurpassed. By extracting portions of his Abstract of Systematic Theology, though being dead, Boyce is allowed to speak to us in this issue.

Christ has called us to a life of hope. No matter where we are in God’s eschatological program, or where you are in your own personal history, for the Church and for the Christian, the best is always yet to be. So let’s press on in the new year with joy and confidence, abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians15:58).