“For what you see and hear depends a great deal on where you

are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are.”[1]


I.                WHAT IS A WORLDVIEW?

A.               Introduction

“We go at the painful task of living with a set of beliefs—faiths, if you will—that organize the helter-skelter of experience into a more or less systematic and coherent whole.”[2]

“[A]ssumptions appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them.”[3]

“A worldview is . . . a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions . . . about the basic constitution of reality.”[4]

B.               Worldview and Its Noetic Structure[5]

The term ‘noetic’ comes from the Greek verb noeo, meaning ‘to understand.’  We all have a noetic structure—an interconnected hierarchy of beliefs that helps us understand the world around us.

1.                  Noetic structures contain beliefs that are related in several ways.

Noetic structures rarely contain beliefs that are formally contradictory. [cf. Nash, 55: “human and dog at the same time.”]

Beliefs are sometimes related simply by habit, not thought.

The majority of our beliefs are inferred from other beliefs.

Some beliefs are basic or foundational—they are not believed on the basis of other beliefs, e.g., the existence of other minds, or the general accuracy of sense perception.

2.                  Beliefs differ with respect to the influence they exert on other beliefs.

When beliefs at or near the base of a noetic structure are changed there are serious ramifications for the entire superstructure. On the other hand, when upper-level beliefs are changed very little adjustment needs to be made.

e. g., belief in God [foundational] versus the belief that Moose Jaw is exactly 21 kilometres away [upper-level]

C.               The Inescapability of Presuppositions and Perspectives

“We all hold a number of beliefs that we presuppose or accept without support from other beliefs or arguments or evidence. Such presuppositions are necessary if we are to think at all.”[6]

Everyone makes assumptions about the world, presuppositions that cannot be proven, (e.g., the veracity of perceptual beliefs, the reliability of memory, or the principles of logic).

In addition to these unavoidable presuppositions, we bring to our experience beliefs that emanate from our place in history. Even the everyday task of observing the world is not nearly as straightforward as we imagine; it is deeply “theory-laden”—it brings learning with it.

“We see, and cannot help seeing, what we have learnt to infer.”[7]

Transparencies: The Necker Cube and Perceptual Organization.[8]

What we observe is profoundly influenced by what we bring with us, (e.g., perceptual problems when congenital cataracts are surgically removed). Our perspective helps us identify interesting features in the “buzzing, blooming” world of sense data; it identifies problems that need further work. It also hides things which people with other learning notice immediately.

D.               Worldviews in Scientific Observations and Theories

“Most scientific research consists . . . of a continuing attempt to interpret nature in terms of a presupposed theoretical framework. This framework plays a fundamental role in determining what problems must be solved and what is to count as solutions to these problems. . . . Rather than observations providing independent data against which we test our theories, theories play a crucial role in determining what is observed.”[9]

“Without waiting, passively, for repetitions to impress or impose regularities upon us, we actively try to impose regularities upon the world. We try to discover similarities in it, and to interpret it in terms of laws invented by us.”[10]

Example: The Copernican Revolution:[11]

Aristotle (4th century BC) and Ptolemy (2nd century AD) argued that the universe was geo-centric and geo-stationary. According to these thinkers, all heavenly bodies transverse perfectly circular orbits around the earth. The Aristotelian and Ptolemaic systems were able to account for a great deal of what medieval persons observed in the heavens.

By the sixteenth century problems with this model were mounting. In order to solve these problems, Copernicus suggested that the universe is helio-centric (sun-centred), an hypothesis that solved the problem of the retrograde motion of the planets against the backdrop of the more distant stars. If the planets traveled at various speeds around the sun, they would appear to move backwards (retrograde) at certain points in their orbit.

One slow, outer planet (Jupiter[12]) as seen from a fast, inner planet (Earth).

Martin Luther once described Copernicus as “that fool [who would] reverse the art of astronomy.” In the illustration below (taken from the Bible that Luther published), we see God as the Orderer of the Ptolemaic cosmos.


Ancient astronomers had considered the helio-centric theory, but had generally rejected it because there was no observable shift in the position of the distant stars, what astronomers now call, stellar parallax. If the earth was orbiting the sun and there was no parallax, this would imply that the stars must be at some unbelievable distance.

Helio-centrism also confronted a serious theological problem. Two passages in Scripture insisted on a geo-stationary universe. Psalms 104:5 reads: “He [the Lord] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” Ecclesiastes 1:5 reads: “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.”



For our purposes it is important to note that everybody prior to Copernicus saw the sun and stars rotating around the earth; those after Copernicus increasingly saw the earth rotating around the sun. In both cases, their worldview profoundly shaped what was seen, what was not noticed, and which problems needed resolution.



Since the rise of modern science, theism has been profoundly challenged by science-based rivals; naturalism still offers the most serious challenge.

Theories descending from the scientific revolution argued that the universe is controlled by a set of “natural laws” such as gravitation. These laws are often understood as self-sustaining powers that control physical events. It is often assumed, for instance, that gravitation explains why my keys tend to move toward the centre of the earth. For many, gravity is the final explanation of this event.

For the most part, contemporary Christians accept this account of a law-governed universe and derive their understanding of miracles from it. They typically take a miracle to be a divine violation or interruption of the laws of nature. This definition is widely accepted in non-theistic circles as well. Theists believe miracles, understood as violations of these laws, occur; non-theists believe these alleged violations do not occur. When most contemporary Christians speak of miracles they typically mean that God has set aside nature’s laws in order to achieve his purpose.

Many of our Christian predecessors would have rejected the view that miracles are violations of the laws of nature since they refused to acknowledge that anything operates independently of God.

Earlier Christian theologians had generally made no sharp distinction between the ‘natural’ and the ‘miraculous.’ . . . God may produce some events in different ways than others, but God makes everything happen, and anything might provide the occasion for reflecting on God’s power and goodness—though events whose causes we cannot discern may particularly evoke such reflection. . . . Aquinas noted that ‘the word miracle is taken from admiratio. Now we experience wonder when an effect is obvious but its cause is hidden.’[13] Thus a peasant will find an eclipse miraculous, where an astronomer, understanding its cause, will not . . . in a world where God sustains everything at every moment, what distinguishes miracles is our inability to understand their causes and the wonder that results, not the fact that God acts in them but not elsewhere.[14]

“Even the very things which are most commonly known as natural would not be less wonderful nor less effectual to excite surprise in all who beheld them, if men were not accustomed to admire nothing but what is rare."[15]

Christians from Augustine onward understood miracles, not as violations of the “natural” course of events, but as those events that arrest our attention.

There is nothing that God hath established in a constant course of nature, and which therefore is done every day, but would seeme a Miracle and exercise our admiration, if it were done but once; Nay, the ordinary things in Nature, would be greater miracles than the extraordinary, which we admire most, if they were done but once . . . onely [sic] the daily doing takes off the admiration.[16]

For Miracles are so called not because they are the works of God but because they happen seldom & for that reason create wonder. If they should happen constantly according to certaine laws imprest upon the nature of things, they would be no longer wonders or miracles but might be considered in Philosophy as a part of the Phenomena of Nature.[17]

"The terms nature and powers of nature and course of nature and the like are nothing but empty words, and signify merely that a thing usually or frequently comes to pass. The raising a human out of the dust of the earth we call a miracle; the generation of a human body in the ordinary way we call natural, for no other reason but because the power of God effects one usually, the other unusually. . . . Did men usually arise out of the grave as corn grows out of seed sown we should certainly call that also natural."[18]

For most of their history Christians understood that all events rely on God’s continuous activity. What we now call “natural laws” were simply “the customs of God.” We have become so accustomed to the attentive faithfulness of God that we call it “natural” or a manifestation of “laws.” This surely is misguided and, perhaps, even blasphemous. By accepting the theory of a law-governed nature and the resultant theory of miracles as well, we deprive God of His glory—we attribute to “laws” what is in fact God’s personal activity. The Christ who sustains all things (Col. 1:17) is thereby driven into the far reaches of heaven from whence He can only muster an occasional violation of the “laws of nature.”

“The idea that natural laws describe how nature operates in the absence of some definite divine agency is actually a purely modern invention.”[19]

[T]he concept of miracles [as it is currently understood] is not derived from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. The Bible does not speak of nature or laws of nature, but rather of God as the one who orders nature and is active in all events. The most common biblical terms are ‘mighty acts’ (extra-ordinary as distinguished from ordinary events) and ‘signs’ (vehicles of divine significance). The notion of miracles as violations of the laws of nature is a modern, intellectual one.[20]

Miracles are not violations of autonomous, objective “laws” but only those occasions when God, for His own (often hidden) purposes, briefly alters the customary course of his faithful care of his creation. These deviations from his customary activity are enough to provoke admiration and wonder in us. If you start with the view that God’s “mighty acts” are violations of nature’s laws, you will never develop an adequate understanding of his faithful governance of his world!



In the opening paragraphs of the third chapter of his Worldviews in Conflict, Ronald Nash suggests that we choose our worldview. He uses phrases such as “[w]e should choose” and we need to make “a reasoned choice among the systems.”[21] However, in a subtle but important shift, he devotes the rest of the chapter to how we might test worldviews. This has important consequences since choosing and testing are very different matters.




(R. Nash ??)


(A. Plantinga)


Data on competing world-views are carefully assembled for the purpose of evaluation.



When I encounter certain situations, I discover that I possess new beliefs; I find myself believing something.

The beliefs of competing world-views are tested, compared, and rationally evaluated via neutral testing procedures.

Beliefs are spontaneously formed in me in certain common circumstances.

After a thorough investigation, the best set of worldview beliefs is chosen and adopted. Inadequate beliefs and belief systems are discarded.

Important new beliefs should be tested, compared, and rationally evaluated and, if necessary, discarded.

The self is a sovereign evaluator/chooser analogous to a scientist scrutinizing data and choosing the best theory.


The self is a recipient of many its beliefs. It unavoidably relies on beliefs that are not the product of its choice or reasoning processes.


“Reformed Theologians such as Calvin . . . have held that God has implanted in us a tendency . . . to accept belief in God under certain conditions. Calvin speaks, in this connection, of a ‘sense of deity inscribed in the hearts of all.’ Just as we have a natural tendency to form perceptual beliefs under certain conditions, so says Calvin, we have a natural tendency to form such beliefs as God is speaking to me and God has created all this or God disapproves of what I’ve done under certain widely realized conditions.”[22]

“God has so created us that we have a tendency or disposition to see his hand in the world about us. More precisely, there is in us a disposition to believe propositions of the sort this flower was created by God or this vast and intricate universe was created by God when we contemplate the flower or behold the starry heavens or think about the vast reaches of the universe.”[23]

The close analogy with perceptual belief formation

“When in broad daylight I open my eyes, it is not in my power to choose whether I shall see or no, or to determine what particular objects shall present themselves to my view; and so likewise as to the hearing and other senses, the ideas imprinted on these are not creatures of my will.”[24]

“[A] thought comes when ‘it’ wants, and not when ‘I’ want.”[25]

Notice how our language bears witness that we often receive beliefs apart from willing, choosing, or reasoning, e.g., we “fall” in love; we “follow” an argument; something “strikes” us; something “occurs” to us, we are “surprised” [from the Latin, prehendere, to seize] by what we find ourselves believing. Notice the passivity in all of these expressions.

Few of us ever choose our beliefs, let alone an entire worldview as Nash suggests. More typically, we find ourselves possessing beliefs or we discover that new beliefs are being formed within us and we proceed from there.

What are the implications for Christian ministry?

If this account is correct, we need to ask, Do I go about giving people reasons for choosing the Christian worldview (as in evidentialist apologetics) or do I seek to guide them into situations where beliefs about God are often and typically formed—e.g., by encountering the love of Christ?

John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

Jesus’s claim here seems to be that loving one another will prompt others to believe that we are his disciples. Perhaps we are not in the “business” of directly implanting beliefs? If we live in a loving way among God’s people, we can expect that new beliefs about God and his Son will be formed in those around us, to the glory of God.

Once Christian beliefs are being formed or have been formed, the new believer or near believer should be encouraged to test his or her new beliefs. It is here, and only here, that Nash’s tests seem (somewhat) helpful. Testing procedures are not (in most cases, at least) the basis on which we come to adopt new beliefs or fundamentally change our worldview.



A.               The Communal Promise of Emerging Technologies

“Steam has given us electricity and has made the nation a neighborhood . . . The electric wire, the iron pipe, the street railroad, the daily newspaper, the telephone, the lines of transcontinental traffic by rail and water . . . have made us all of one body—socially, industrially, politically. . . . It is possible for all men to understand one another.”[26]


"It [the laying of the transatlantic cable] no doubt has a most important part to play in the renovation of our world and the establishment of Christ's kingdom on the earth."[27]


"Peter Cooper's 'contrivance' [the railroad locomotive], one of them later recalled, proved instrumental 'in making available, in America, that vast system which united remote peoples and promotes that peace on earth and good will to men which angels have proclaimed'.”[28]

“The ultimate promise of cable [television] is the rebuilding of a sense of community.”[29]


“The Internet is not about technology, it is not about information, it is about communication—people talking with each other, people exchanging e-mail. . . . Communication is the basis, the foundation, the radical ground and root upon which all community stands, grows, and thrives. The Internet is a community of chronic communicators.”[30] Illustration: Emoticons


Mass media technologies are often described with metaphors of close proximity and communal relations, e.g., “keeping in touch,” “staying in contact,” “chatting,” “talking,” “communicating,” etc.

B.               Evangelicals and Mass Media Naiveté

From the time of their emergence in the middle of the eighteenth century, evangelicals have been aggressive users of mass media. For instance, eighteenth-century evangelicals used mass-printed materials to transcend parish boundaries and to build large constituencies. In the twentieth century, evangelicals aggressively used print, radio, television, film, and video to broadcast their message. Today, many of the same hopes are attached to newer media such as the Internet, Podcasts, DVDs, satellite TV, and texting.


“Wherever new sources of communication are opened up by the persevering enterprise of our fellow citizens, let the Bible and the tract be transported with the bale of merchandize, and the produce of the soil."[31]


“[T]he ‘message’ of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.”[32] What McLuhan says of mass media in general, namely, that the medium is as transformative as its content, is certainly true of evangelical media-ministries. Regrettably, there is very little reflection among evangelicals as to what happens when the good news is transformed into a “message” that can be broadcast.


The idea that the gospel is a set of doctrinal propositions goes back to the beginnings of evangelicalism. For example, Lyman Beecher, a pioneering evangelical activist, said in 1823: “By the faith once delivered to the saints, is to be understood the doctrines of the gospel.”[33] The view that the gospel is a set of simplified statements led evangelicals to assume that it could be indiscriminately broadcast. But what if the good news is not a set of propositions? What if it has to do, primarily, with the inbreaking of our Lord’s kingdom?


How does the medium of the gospel’s propagation reflexively transform it?


What happens when the life of God among us, Immanuel, is packaged for broadcasting?


What happens when the incarnated life of God, manifest in the mutual love of believers for each other, is reduced to propositions?


How has the perceived need to propagate the “message” through mass media made the Christian life just like any other commercial product?


If McLuhan is correct, evangelicals are monumentally mistaken in assuming that media are purely neutral conduits, instruments or tools. He could well be speaking of evangelicals when he insists that it is a type of idiocy not to notice how the medium shapes the message and, in the end, overwhelms it.


“[A]ny medium has the power of imposing its own assumption on the unwary.”[34]



I.                INTRODUCTION

In this unit we will search for interdisciplinary insight into the everyday ministry practices of evangelicals.

We will explore how evangelicals understood their world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and some of the enduring consequences of such.

This is our story, a story buried beneath the flurry of our activities.


Transparency: Ptolemaic vs. Copernican models of the universe

The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre [earth],
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture [fixedness], course, proportion, season, form,
Office, and custom, in all line of order.[35]

The fixed orbits of the heavenly bodies illustrated the cosmos’s integrated hierarchy of value, meaning, and location. The cosmos was understood to be an orderly and rational arrangement of all things.

"The arrangement of the planets was held to have great significance . . . The spheres represented unchanging perfection, crystalline, perfectly circular, moving in stately patterns which were a lesson to wayward man, whose sin was a constant threat to cosmic harmony."[36]

Daly helpfully uses the term ‘harmony’ to describe the cosmic order. The modern connotations of the term ‘order’ typically imply an imposed or artificial orderliness. This older view stressed the harmony, or “natural orderliness, which depends on the nature of things.”[37]

"With affinities between father and both God and king, with the powerful harmonist echoes of the union of man and wife, and of the children as the embodiment of their mutual love, the family provided the pattern for both larger and smaller political and social relationships, an essential part of the human cosmology, a reflection of the harmony of other images in the system."[38]

"So interrelated was the created world that man's and the rest of creation's actions reverberated with each other, and all alike stood to collapse if the cosmic harmony were flouted long or dramatically enough. Sin threatened more than dislocation; the chaos feared was not mere disorder, but something like the cosmic anarchy before creation."[39]

The terrifying significance of comets:

          Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!

Comets, importing change of times and states

Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,

And with them scourge the bad revolting stars

That have consented unto Henry’s death![40]


          Satan stood

          Unterrified, and like a comet burned . . .

          And from his horrid hair

          Shakes pestilence and war.[41]


As widely feared, disorder rose dramatically in Europe after the Protestant Reformation. The change from a geo-static/geo-centric to a helio-centric and finally acentric universe (in Newton) symbolized, and perhaps accelerated, these disruptive tendencies.[42]


[B]ut when the planets,
In evil mixture, to disorder wander,
What plagues and what portents! what mutiny!
. . .

The unity and married calm of states . . .
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark, what discord follows.[43]


And freely men confesse that this world’s spent,
When in the planets and Firmament
They seeke so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out againe to his Atomies.
‘Tis all in peeces, all cohaerence gone;
All just supply, and all Relation:
Prince, Subject, Father, Sonne, are things forgot,
For every man alone thinkes he hath got
To be a Phoenix, and that then can bee
None of that kinde, of which he is, but hee.[44]


A.               The Breakdown of the American Colonial Household

“The family familiar to the early colonists was a patrilineal group of extended kinship gathered into a single household. By modern standards it was large. Besides children, who often remained in the home well into maturity, it included a wide range of other dependents: nieces and nephews, cousins, and, except for families at the lowest rung of society, servants in filial discipline . . . the conjugal unit was only the nucleus of a broad kinship community whose outer edges merged almost imperceptibly into the society at large” (15-16).

“As the [eighteenth-century American] family contracted towards a nuclear core, as settlement and re-settlement, especially on the frontier, destroyed what remained of stable community relations, and constant mobility and instability kept new ties from strengthening rapidly, the once elaborate interpenetration of family and community dissolved. The border line between them grew sharper; and the passage of the child from family to society lost its ease, its naturalness, and became abrupt, deliberate, and decisive: open to question, concern, and decision” (25).

B.               The Colonial Response: Restoration through Law

“Within a remarkably short time after the beginnings of settlement it was realized that the family was failing in its more obvious educational functions . . . The famous Massachusetts statute of 1642, prefaced by its sharp condemnation of ‘the great neglect of many parents and masters in training up their children in learning and labor,’ was one of a series of expedients aimed at shoring up the weakened structure of family discipline” (26).

“Such laws [the Massachusetts statute of 1642, Virginia’s statute of the same year and the Duke’s Laws in New York in 1665], expressing a sudden awareness, a heightened consciousness of what the family had meant in education, of how much of the burden of imparting civilization to the young it had borne, and of what its loss might mean, were only the first of a century-long series of adjustments” (26).

“The famous Massachusetts law of 1679 . . . concluded the efforts of two generations to recreate the family as the ordered, hierarchical society. By the end of the century the surviving elders of the first generation cried out in fearful contemplation of the future. Knowing no other form than the traditional, they could look forward only to the complete dissolution of the family as the primary element of the social order” (24).

C.               The Colonial Response: Functions ® Formal Institutions

“The Puritans quite deliberately transferred the maimed functions of the family to formal instructional institutions, and in so doing not only endowed schools with a new importance but expanded their purpose beyond pragmatic vocationalism toward vaguer but more basic cultural goals” (27).

“The seventeenth-century statutes reveal extravagant efforts made not merely to retain the broad scope of apprenticeship obligations within the structure of the family, but to extend it, to include within in cultural matters dislodged from other areas and threatened with extinction. But the evidences of failure and the displacement of functions are manifest in the records of successive generations” (31).

D.               Social Restoration Through Formal Education (Schooling)

“For the self-conscious, deliberate, aggressive use of education, first seen in an improvised but confident missionary campaign [directed towards Indians], spread throughout an increasingly heterogeneous society and came to be accepted as a normal form of educational effort” (39).

“The tendency to reduce the once extensive network of mutual obligations to a few simple strands and to transfer the burden of all but strict vocational training to external, formal agencies of education increased through the years” (30).

“In all, there took place a reduction in the personal, non-vocational obligations that bound master and servant and a transfer of general educational functions to external agencies. With increasing frequency masters assigned their apprentices to teachers for instruction in rudimentary literacy and in whatever other non-vocational matters they had contracted to teach” (32).

“[B]y the end of the colonial period it [education] had been radically transformed. Education had been dislodged from its ancient position in the social order, wrenched loose from the automatic, instinctive workings of society, and cast as a matter for deliberation into the forefront of consciousness. Its functionings had become problematic and controversial.  Many were transferred from informal to formal institutions, from agencies to whose major purpose they had been incidental to those, for the most part schools, to which they were primary. Schools and formal schooling had acquired a new importance. They had assumed cultural burdens they had not borne before. Where there had been deeply ingrained habits, unquestioned tradition, automatic responses, security, and confidence there was now awareness, doubt, formality, will, and decision. The whole range of education had become an instrument of deliberate social purpose” (21-22).


“The central principle of this premodern ecology was that the wealthiest members of the community lived and worked closest to the historic core, while the poorest people were pushed to the periphery. Indeed, the word ‘suburb’ . . . referred exclusively to these peripheral slums, which surrounded all large towns” (20).

“The basic principle of a city like London before 1750 was that work and residence were naturally combined within each house. Almost all middle-class enterprises were extensions of the family . . . The banker conducted business in his parlor, the merchant stored his goods in his cellar, and both housed and fed their apprentices along with their families” (7). “Even for the wealthy elite of merchants and bankers, the family was not simply (or perhaps even primarily) an emotional unit. It was at least equally an economic unit” (29).

The city-centre exerted a powerful inward pull due, in part, to its efficient communications, business information, and social opportunities. Outer-city expansion was virtually impossible. The social mixture within urban households included servants, apprentices, children, and relatives. All classes lived in close proximity.

“[T]he active role played by women in London commercial life [in the mid 18th century]. A wife’s daily assistance in the shop was vital for smaller businesses, and even the most opulent merchants were careful to give their wives a role sufficiently prominent that they could participate in and understand the source of their income . . . the worst threat to the family was the husband’s death. Only if the wife had the competence to carry on the business could the capital be passed down to the next generation” (29).

Family contact/participation in the life of the city: The involvement of women in the life of the city was remarkably open. The family was also very open to influences from neighbours and kin.

About midway through the eighteenth century the middle class came to the notion that social distinctions required physical segregation.

“The suburb as we know it, therefore, did not evolve smoothly or inevitably from the premodern city; still less did it evolve from those disreputable outlying districts which originally bore the name of ‘suburbes.’ The emergence of suburbia required a total transformation of urban values: not only a reversal in the meanings of core and periphery, but a separation of work and family life and the creation of new forms of urban space that would be both class-segregated and wholly residential” (8).

“The London bourgeoisie who invented suburbia were also experiencing a new form of family, which Lawrence Stone has called ‘the closed domesticated nuclear family.’ Inner-directed, united by strong and exclusive personal ties, characterized in Stone’s phrase by ‘an emphasis on the boundary surrounding the nuclear unit,’ such families sought to separate themselves from the intrusions of the workplace and the city. This new family type created the emotional force that split middle-class work and residence” (9).

These trends intensified the emotional bonds between family members; the family closed in around itself, separated itself from its environment, and focused on mutual intimacy and child raising. These trends enormously increased the emotional burden of the “closed” domesticated family.

“The more favorable disposition to Religion in the female sex was graciously designed also to make women doubly valuable in the wedded state. . . . when the husband should return to his family, worn and harassed by worldly cares or professional labors, the wife, habitually preserving a warmer and more unimpaired spirit of devotion, than is perhaps consistent with being immersed in the bustle of life, might revive his languid piety.”[47]

“On the one hand, they [evangelicals] gave to women the highest possible role in their system of values: the principal guardian of the Christian home. On the other, they fanatically opposed any role for women outside that sphere. . . . This natural disposition [of women to religion] was a sign of providence, for men’s work necessarily exposed them to the evils of the city. Women, however, could and must escape this taint by restricting themselves to the home and devoting themselves to their God-given functions: the education of children and the emotional and religious support of their husbands” (35-36).

“This contradiction between the city and the Evangelical ideal of the family provided the final impetus for the unprecedented separation of the citizen’s home from the city that is the essence of the suburban idea. The city was not just crowded, dirty, and unhealthy; it was immoral. Salvation itself depended on separating woman’s sacred world of the family and children from the profane metropolis” (38).

Vast changes in the role of women flowed from their isolation from the productive places which had been their lot in medieval and rural family life. The suburban woman is now the angel of her isolated household, the priestess of a disconnected nuclear family. 

“[It is folly] . . . to suppose that the present family, or any other group, can perpetually vitalize itself through some indwelling affectionate tie, in the absence of concrete, perceived functions. . . . [A]ffection and personality cultivation . . . [cannot] . . . exist in a social vacuum, unsupported by the determining goals and ideals of economic and political society.”[48]


A.               Newton’s System of the World (Universe)

Newton’s three laws of motion:

1.                  The Law of Inertia: Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right [straight] line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.

2.                  The Law of Acceleration: Change in motion is proportional to the motive force impressed, and is made in the direction of the right [straight] line in which that force is impressed.

3.                  The Law of Action and Reaction: To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.[49]

"Newton himself followed Descartes in accepting the ideal of Euclidean straight-line motion. The idea of Euclidean space was fundamental. He could not allow that any particular object—whether the Earth or the Sun—had a privileged position in space, or a defined 'natural place', in the way the centre of the Earth had done for Aristotle."[50]

Newton’s universal system had the following implications:

(1)              Each part of the system is distinct from every other part;

(2)              No part of the system has a fixed or necessary position—it can move or be moved anywhere;

(3)              No part is more valuable or “higher” than any other part;

(4)              Each part has any number of functionally-equivalent replacements;

(5)              Local instability does not threaten the self-adjusting equilibrium of the whole system;

(6)              The system as a whole is held together by an internal, universal, invisible force—gravity;

(7)              Both apparent irregularities, (e.g., comets), and regularities (e.g., planets) can be accounted for by the same universal forces.

B.               Early Applications of Newton’s Theory to Other Fields

"[George] Berkeley [1685-1753] asserted that society is an analogue (the term he used was 'parallel case') of the Newtonian material universe and that there is accordingly a 'principle of attraction' in the 'Spirits or Minds of men.' This social force of gravitation tends to draw people together into social and political organizations: ‘communities, clubs, families, friendship, and all the various species of society’."[51]

"[David] Hume's [1711-1776] goal was to produce a new science of individual human moral behavior that would be equivalent to Newton's natural philosophy. He stated that he had discovered in the psychological principle of 'association' a 'kind of ATTRACTION, which in the mental world will be found to have as extraordinary effects as in the natural, and to shew itself in as many and as various forms’ [David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature [1738], ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888), 12-13]. In short, he believed that there was an analogy between psychological phenomena and physical phenomena so that both would exhibit aspects of mutual attraction."[52]

"[Charles] Fourier [1772-1837] believed that the passions were inherently good and the only constructive and harmonious society was one that gratified rather than repressed them. To decipher the passions and to design a society that would allow them full development was to discover the 'divine social code' for human happiness. Here was the basis for Fourier's claim to have extended the work of Newton by discovering mathematical laws of human behavior akin to those governing the movements of planets and stars. 'Passional attraction' was the human equivalent of gravity; individuals' attractions were 'proportional' to their destinies; and the orderly and harmonious Newtonian universe could be duplicated in the social sphere."[53]

C.               A Newtonian Analogue Applied to Social Systems

British and American thinkers of the eighteenth century scrambled to apply Newton’s universality, functionalism, and purposiveness to other areas including commerce, human nature, knowledge acquisition, doctrines, and social organization. Many of the leading thinkers of the post-Newtonian period understood these “fields” as analogues of Newton’s system.

Here is a Newtonian analogue applied to society and its households:

(1a)    Each function (part) of the social system is distinct from every other function;

(2a)    No function (part) of the social system has a fixed or necessary position;

(3a)    No function (part) of the social system is more valuable than any other;

(4a)    Each part of the social system has any number of functionally-equivalent replacements;

(5a)    Instability in the household does not threaten the equilibrium of the social system;

(6a)    The social system is held together by a universal force;

(7a)    All aspects of the social system can be accounted for by the operation of this universal force acting on passive parts.


In the early days of the American colonies, the religious, social, and physical worlds were understood in terms of divinely assigned places and responsibilities. “God had assigned a particular task and a particular place to each person.”[54]

In the eighteenth century, the application of Newtonian analogues to religious and ecclesiological matters rapidly took place. George Whitefield, the influential itinerant evangelist, spoke of the religious world in Newtonian terms as early as 1739. “[God] is the Great Householder of the whole world, and I look upon all places and persons as so many little parts of His great family. . . . As there is here the same sun, so there is here the same God—in America as in England. I bless God all places are equal to me.”[55]

Lyman Beecher, a well-known evangelical activist and Congregationalist pastor, suggested in 1819 that “the God who governs the natural world according to stated laws, administers the concerns of his moral government by the operation of general principles.”[56] And Alexander Campbell, the founder of the Disciples of Christ, clearly linked the Newtonian system of the universe with the moral or religious system:

One God, one system of nature, one universe . . . [The] universe is composed of in-numerable systems . . . One God, one moral system, one Bible. If nature be a system, religion is no less so.[57]

By the early nineteenth-century, new “career” opportunities opened before parish ministers. Increasingly, as Donald Scott shows, ministers moved from church to church and into the rapidly expanding voluntary associations. Pastors began to identify their “ministries” with the professional or career opportunities available to them in the national and international religious system and no longer with their lifelong bond to a particular church. In Scott’s words, “the clergyman’s local ties and commitments . . . were most severely strained by the emergence of translocal ministry with the national community as its constituency.”[58]

By the early nineteenth century the failings of the household and parish, which had heretofore been understood as signalling chaos, could be seen in a more hopeful light. Households and parishes—sites encompassed by an overarching religious system—were simply collections of functions that could be supplemented or replaced if they failed to adequately carry out their tasks. For instance, if the family was unable to carry out a given function then that function could be transferred to another site within the religious economy.

The early nineteenth century saw an explosion of voluntary associations. These single-purpose organizations entered the religious system in droves, seeking to pick up lapsed household or parish functions.[59] Organizations such as the American Bible Society (est. 1816), the American Tract Society (1823), the American Education Society (1816) and hundreds of others expended enormous energies on these tasks. One of the unintended consequences of these energetic efforts was that they extracted “functions” from their original, local settings. In so doing they assumed that these functions could be transferred to more “efficient” sites without harming the original centres—households, churches, local communities.

Churches responded to this highly competitive situation by adopting the voluntary association model. Specialized and single-purposed ministries (programs) began to proliferate in mid-nineteenth-century evangelical churches, beginning with the Sunday school. These programs typically focused on a particular deficiency in the life of the family, church, or society. Churches soon discovered, however, that these programs were not successfully executing their intended functions. As a result, some of their functions were redistributed to even newer programmatic entities (e.g., DVBS) or to outside associations (para-church agencies).

In the midst of the growing clamour of voluntary associations and local ministry initiatives, churches struggled with the myriad petitions put before them for participation and financial support. The following were proposed in 1834 as a solution to this chaos.

[T]he principle of organization, so far as the circumstances allow, should be carried out into the details of church-operations. . . . Every individual and every work should be under supervision and control; every thing should be governed by mutual counsel and animated by mutual knowledge. . . . we should see a unity of efficient action prevailing in all the congregations of true believers.[60]

Since the mid-1800s, church programs have proliferated. Today many evangelical churches are almost entirely programmatic. Dysfunctions within the church, families, para-church agencies, and even between programs are resolved via additional programming. This model is now so entrenched that we can scarcely think of the church in any other way.[61] Observe the explicit functionalism in the following.

Fellowship, worship, nurture, discipline, and mission, then, summarize the primary functions of a church organization. When the church becomes dysfunctional in any of these areas, Christians may exercise their freedom of choice to find another church relationship or supplement their church membership with an association or organization that meets their particular needs. This can be an association that grows out of the church body or one that is considered ‘parachurch’ . . . Briefly defined, the parachurch organization is a particular group of voluntary associations of Christians whose purpose is directed at a stated task, relying heavily upon laypersons and independent of any accountability to an institutional church structure, but that may assume functions historically associated with the church.[62]


Evangelical ministry methods originate in and are justified by a type of Newtonian functionalism. Understanding this gives us a vantage point from which we can view the struggles faced by churches. We should be careful to note that these “practical” problems originate, in part, in the intellectual models or worldviews that are assumed by evangelicals.

What are some of the consequences of adopting Newtonian functionalism as a theory of Christian ministry? Does this model lead to the following problems?

·         Atrophy, passivity, and dislocation of the classic centres of the Christian life—household, community, congregation;

·         Isolation of programmatic niches and the resulting fragmentation of the church;

·         Church leadership is absorbed with the administrative demands of its programmatic activities;

·         Growing distance between the giver and the recipient of “services”;

·         Overlapping of competing authorities—church vs. parachurch, program vs. program;

·         Increasing individualism generated by overlapping and competing authorities;

·         Church is task-oriented rather than “one another” oriented;

·         The local parish as a community of believers almost entirely vanishes.



A.               Introduction

“[T]here is a dangerous departure, in the present age of bustle, activity, and vain-glorious enterprise, from the simplicity of the institutions which Christ has established for the legitimate action of the Church. He has appointed one set of instrumentalities, and ordained one kind of agency in His kingdom; but we have made void His commandments, in order to establish our own inventions.”[63]

“At best, the next generation will probably find very little encouragement for real faith in a managed and engineered church; and, at worst, our use of modern methods and techniques will simply confirm the suspicion that the church is really not fundamentally different from other humanly-constructed organizations. . . .[W]e have contributed—albeit unwittingly and unintentionally—to the erosion of the church’s primary mission in the world, which is simply to bear witness to Immanuel, God with us.”[64]

Today’s programmatic “bustle, activity, and vain-glorious enterprise” should be seen for what it is: despair, masquerading as activity. Can you detect despair in the following?

What the church does internally with no intention of impacting the world outside itself is not mission. But when a local congregation understands that it is, by its nature, a constellation of mission activities, and it intentionally lives its life as a missionary body, then it begins to emerge toward becoming the authentic Church of Jesus Christ.[65]

Is it true that the church comes into being only as a result of its purposeful, external activism? 

We strain every nerve of motion, exhaust every capacity of endurance, and push on till nature sinks in exhaustion. . . . There must be an internal growth that is made by holy industry in the common walks of life and duty. . . . let us turn to inquire whether there is not a fund of increase in the very bosom of the church itself.[66]

B.               The Protestant Church of Le Chambon, France

“He [Pastor Trocme, Protestant pastor in the village of Le Chambon, France during the time of the German occupation] often talked about ‘the power of the spirit,’ which he described as being a surprising power, a force that no one can predict or control. He [therefore] offered no systems or methods—this would be to violate the surprising force of the spirit . . . [H]e himself embodied the surprising force he spoke about so often.”[67]

“Ethically speaking, it should interest us that, in beginning the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, Jesus does not ask disciples to do anything. The Beatitudes are in the indicative, not the imperative, mood. . . . The Beatitudes are not a strategy for achieving a better society, they are an indication, a picture. A vision of the inbreaking of a new society. They are indicatives, promises, instances, imaginative examples of life in the kingdom of God.”[68]

“The ease with which they [the Christian community in Le Chambon, France] did things is the manifestation of the divine grace with which the words and practices they learned have to do. The point is that in the midst of all their doing (the studying, the worshipping, the opening of doors), the people of Le Chambon found that it was not really their doing at all. It was the doing of Another. What they did came with ease not primarily because they were strong and courageous, but because their strength and courage were given to them.”[69]

C.               Life and Its Propagation

“When you give somebody a thing without giving yourself, you degrade both parties by making the receiver utterly passive and by making yourself a benefactor standing there to receive thanks—and even sometimes obedience—as repayment. But when you give yourself, nobody is degraded—in fact, both parties are elevated by a shared joy. When you give yourself, the things you are giving become, to use Trocme’s word, feconde (fertile, fruitful). What you give creates new, vigorous life, instead of arrogance on the one hand and passivity on the other.”[70]

In simple acts of obedience and love, the church breaks forth among us. It is not the product of our doings or activities; it can only be received from the hand of the one who said He would build His church. While we are attending to those around us, we receive the church. While we are loving our neighbour, the Spirit is at work in mysterious and marvellous ways in the world. 

In 1967 Stanley Milgram conducted an ingenious set of experiments which demonstrated that we are more closely connected than we might think. He showed that any two randomly chosen persons in the USA are connected to each other via an acquaintance-to-acquaintance network which averages only six iterations. On average, Canadians are connected to everyone in Canada by perhaps five personal-acquaintance links.[71] Perhaps the life of Christ and the fullness of the embodied gospel travels along networks of personal acquaintance and not via programmatic action?


D.               An Ecclesiology of Indirect Agency

1.                  The Gospel = Doctrinal Propositions?

"[I]t is only the plain fundamental doctrines of the gospel which are necessary to salvation."[72]

"Paul sees himself as one who proclaims to euangelion tou theou, the gospel of God (1 Thess. 2:9), among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:2), something which can be done only if it is accompanied by a total giving of his own person (1 Thess. 2:8). For Paul proclamation is not, as with Jonah, a once-for-all cry which might be compared with simply sticking up a poster. The proclamation of the message of Christ, as he understands it, requires unceasing pleading and wooing, with a love that seeks, and is accompanied by a constant care for the individual. It also involves exhortation, warning, encouragement, and witness."[73]

2.                  Some Tentative Reflections on the “Great Commission”

Could the so-called Great Commission passages have been directed solely at the apostles and even fulfilled through their ministry?[74]

Why is there no clear reiteration of the so-called Great Commission in Paul’s or John’s later writings?

"[T]he gospel of Christ was preached in the whole world, not only by those who had seen and heard Him both before His passion and after His resurrection, but also after their death by their successors, amid the horrible persecutions, diverse torments and deaths of the martyrs, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost."[75]

"The nature of the apostolic function is clear from the command, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature' (Mark xvi. 15). No fixed limits are given to them, but the whole world is assigned to be reduced under the obedience of Christ, that by spreading the Gospel as widely as they could, they might everywhere erect his kingdom."[76]

Col. 1:6, 23b: “[I]n the whole world, it [the gospel] is bearing fruit and growing . . . the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation (Or, to every creature) under heaven.” (ESV)

"In the reporting of Jesus' final words in the Gospels and Acts we should not see a command for the early churches to obey, but an affirmation of what they found themselves doing.”[77]

Note that Acts 1:8: “[Y]ou will be my witnesses” . . . is in the future middle indicative. It is a prediction, not an imperative.

"An influential book by Harry Boer [Pentecost and Missions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961)], argues that so far as the evidence from Acts goes, the early church did not evangelize out of a self-conscious obedience to the Great Commission."[78]

E.                The Purposeless Church

"It is a mistake, in my judgment, to believe that we can create community around a task or a mission. This is a disembodied, de-communitized missionary mentality. It is theology more committed to the Western work ethic than the liberation of the gospel. As I interpret the New Testament, members of the early Church had a mission because they were a community. The emphasis was on being, and therefore doing—not the reverse. They lived and loved with, and for, others outside the Church, because they dared first to be something new with each other—loving and caring."[79]

Zechariah 8:20-23: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, “Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.” And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.’ This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you’.”

“Luke has no interest in the utilitarian question of how people become converted or how the church ought to evangelize, what technique is most effective or what method yields the most certain results. These are stories about God’s actions, not the church’s programs.”[80]

 “[the amazing spread of early Christianity was due to] a single, over-riding internal factor . . . Christian community—open to all, insistent on absolute and exclusive loyalty, and concerned for every aspect of the believer’s life.”[81]

 “And it is the church in the fullness of its life—not primarily its arguments—that draws others to consider the Christian faith.”[82]

“The Sermon [on the Mount] is the inauguration manifesto of how the world looks now that God in Christ has taken matters in hand. And essential to the way that God has taken matters in hand is an invitation to all people to become citizens of a new Kingdom, a messianic community where the world God is creating takes visible, practical form.”[83]

“The Christian religion is a social religion, and can be exhibited to the full conviction of the world, only when it appears in this social character. An individual or two, in a pagan land, may talk about the Christian religion, and may exhibit its morality as far as respects mankind in general; but it is impossible to give a clear, a satisfactory, a convincing exhibition of it, in any other way than by exhibiting a church, not on paper, but in actual existence and operation, as Divinely appointed."[84]

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.[85]

John 17:20-21: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Perhaps we ought to be looking for a “purposeless” church—a kingdom not made by human efforts, or responsive to human machinations, a kingdom that can only be received.


I.                INTRODUCTION

A.               The Pursuit of Happiness (Chapter 1)

Brian Palmer:  (Suburban Business Man)

Brian’s divorce caused him to “explore the limits of the kind of success he had been pursuing” (4).

He “got back into” classical music, reading (4).

“The revolution in Brian’s thinking came from a reexamination of the true sources of joy and satisfaction in his life” (5).

When asked why his commitment to his new family is better than his earlier commitment to his career his reasons basically come down to what seems to make him happy now.

“His new goal—devotion to marriage and children—seems as arbitrary and unexamined as his earlier pursuit of material success. Both are justified as idiosyncratic preference rather than as representing a larger sense of the purpose of life” (6).

“When Brian describes how he has chosen to live, however, he keeps referring to ‘values’ and ‘priorities’ not justified by any wider framework of purpose or belief. What is good is what one finds rewarding. If one’s preferences change, so does the nature of the good. Even the deepest ethical virtues are justified as matters of personal preference” (6).[87]

“No one can really say that one value system is better than another” (7).

“[T]o hear him talk, even his deepest impulses of attachment to others are without any more solid foundation than his momentary desires. He lacks a language to explain what seem to be the real commitments that define his life, and to that extent the commitments themselves are precarious” (8).

Joe Gorman:  (Small Town Public Relations Director)

“For Joe, success means achieving the goals set by your family and community, not using your family and community to achieve your own individual goals” (8).

Success applied “to the experience of togetherness the community had created partially through his efforts” (10).

Joe’s goals “are given to him by the traditions of family and community” (11).

“Joe’s vision of the good life, seemingly rooted so firmly in the objective traditions of the community, is in the end highly subjective” (12).

“[D]angerously narrow conception of social justice can result from committing oneself to small town values.” (12).

Margaret Oldham:  (Big City Therapist)

Margaret places individual fulfillment higher than attachment to family and community (13).

“In Margaret’s view, the most important thing in life is doing whatever you choose to do as well as you can” (14).

Margaret: “I tend to operate on the assumption that what I want to do and what I feel like is what I should do. What I think the universe wants from me is to take my values, whatever they might happen to be, and live up to them as much as I can. If I’m the best person I know how to be according to my lights, then something good will happen. I think in a lot of ways living that kind of life is its own reward in and of itself” (14-15).

“Like Brian Palmer, Margaret takes ‘values’ as given, ‘whatever they might happen to be’” (15).

Margaret “has no reliable way to connect her own fulfillment to that of other people, whether they be her own husband and children or the larger social and political community of which she is inevitably a part” (16-17).

Wayne Bauer:  (Political Activist)

After facing a tumultuous rejection of the status quo and the Vietnam war, Wayne eventually turned to social activism as a means of gluing his value system back together.

When asked what specific kinds of things liberated people should create in society, Wayne becomes strangely inarticulate.

Four Different Voices in a Common Tradition:

All four assume that there is something arbitrary about the good life. 

This is shown most clearly in their use of the terms ‘values,’ ‘priorities.’

Bellah et al. suggest that individualism has become the “first language” of American life (but it is not the only language).

B.               Culture and Character (Chapter 2)

Utilitarian Individualism: Vigorously pursue your own self-interest and the social good will automatically emerge. Expressive Individualism: Cultivating and expressing the self is the highest good. Self-fulfillment is the basis of all moral evaluations.

“[C]hoice occupies a central position in the value system of the [expressive] self . . . to choose is to express the self. And since expressing the self is a moral obligation and expressiveness is the essence of the authentic self, the very act of choosing is, in itself, moral, regardless of what is chosen.”[88]


A.               Self-Reliance

“In the course of our history, the self has become ever more detached from the social and cultural contexts . . . a socially unsituated self” (55).

“The note of self-reliance had a clearly collective context in the biblical and republican traditions. It was as a people that we had acted independently and self-reliantly” (55). [emphasis added]

B.               Leaving Home

“[In contemporary culture] childhood is chiefly preparation for the all-important event of leaving home” (57).

“However painful the process of leaving home, for parents and for children, the really frightening thing for both would be the prospect of the child never leaving home” (58).

C.               Leaving Church

“The self-reliant American is required not only to leave home but to ‘leave church’ as well. This may not literally happen. One may continue to belong to the church of one’s parents.  But the expectation is that at some point in adolescence or early youth, one will decide on one’s own that that is the church to belong to” (62).

“Make my faith my own”

“The American understanding of the autonomy of the self places the burden of one’s own deepest self-definitions on one’s own individual choice. . . . Most of us imagine an autonomous self existing independently, entirely outside any tradition and community, and then perhaps choosing one. . . . Leaving home in a sense involves a kind of second birth in which we give birth to ourselves” (65).

D.               Work

Work as calling (communitarian) vs. career (individualistic)

“Though the idea of a calling is closely tied to the biblical and republican strands in our tradition, it has become harder and harder to understand as our society has become more and more complex and utilitarian and expressive individualism more dominant. In the mid-nineteenth-century small town, it was obvious that the work of each contributed to the good of all, that work is a moral relationship between people, not just a source of material or psychic rewards. But with the coming of large-scale industrial society, it became more difficult to see work as a contribution to the whole and easier to view it as a segmental, self-interested activity. But though the idea of calling has become attenuated and the largely private ‘job’ and ‘career’ have taken its place, something of the notion of calling lingers on, not necessarily opposed to, but in addition to, job and career” (66).

E.                The Lifestyle Enclave

“[For many retirees] work ‘seemed only a means of achieving a satisfactory private life—a ‘life style,’ as some put it” (72).

“[Lifestyle] is linked most closely to leisure and consumption and is usually unrelated to the world of work. . . . Lifestyle is fundamentally segmental and celebrates the narcissism of similarity” (72).

F.                Grounding the Self    

Margaret Oldham: “It really sort of comes down to the authority I say I give my values. . . . all those sorts of goals I’ve set up for myself, and kind of motivate me and tell me which way to go, what to avoid” (75).

“Now if selves are defined by their preferences, but those preferences are arbitrary, then each self constitutes its own moral universe, and there is finally no way to reconcile conflicting claims about what is good in itself. . . . In the absence of any objectifiable criteria of right and wrong, good or evil, the self and its feelings become our only moral guide” (76).

“‘Values’ turn out to be the incomprehensible, rationally indefensible thing that the individual chooses when he or she has thrown off the last vestige of external influence and reached pure, contentless freedom” (79-80).

Are values just personal preferences or are they “doorways” for intrusive commercialism?


Percentage Agreeing




Evangelical College Students


Evangelical College Students


Public University Students


General Population







Self-improvement is important to me & I work hard at it.










I feel a strong need for new experiences.










A good Christian will strive to be a ‘well-rounded person.’


Not Asked


Not Asked






For the Christian, realizing your full potential as a human being is just as important as putting others before you.




Not Asked



A.               Traditional Relations/Relationships

“Now the interpersonal seems to be the key to much of life” (113).

Comment on kinship relations vs. relationships

“[T]he traditional [Aristotelian] idea of friendship had three essential components. Friends must enjoy one another’s company, they must be useful to one another, and they must share a common commitment to the good” (115).

B.               American Nervousness

“The period [late nineteenth century] preoccupied with ‘American nervousness’ was also the period in which a national market was depriving the small towns and regional cities of their effective independence and throwing increasing numbers of Americans into a national occupational world based on education, mobility, and the ability to compete” (118).

“The new world of intense, but limited, relationships that required a great deal of effort to establish and maintain and the decline of more traditional supportive relationships that could simply be taken for granted put an enormous strain on the individual. It is in this context that we should interpret the emergence of the therapeutic culture and therapeutic relationships that become ever more important in the twentieth century” (118f).

C.               Therapy as a Model Relationship

“For all its genuine emotional content, closeness, and honesty of communication, the therapeutic relationship is peculiarly distanced, circumscribed, and asymmetrical” (122).

“This asymmetry encourages people to see the therapeutic relationship as a means to their own ends, not an end of which they are a part or an enduring set of practices that unifies their ends” (122).

The Logic of Therapy:

(1)              a freely-chosen arrangement of personal “values” is assumed and

(2)              authentically owned up to

(3)              in the social isolation of a professional’s privacy

(4)              with a guaranteed acceptance of whatever “values” are chosen and

(5)              where one is encouraged to be committed to what is chosen and

(6)              where the expression of these values is the highest moral end of life.

D.               Therapy and Work

“Not only is therapy work, much of our work is a form of therapy. . . . Co-workers ‘give each other therapy’ to cement teamwork” (123).

“Therapy’s stress on personal autonomy presupposes institutional conformity. . . . The therapeutic attitude shapes itself to follow the contours of both entrepreneurial and corporate work. It encourages adaptation to such work, whether enthusiastic or skeptical” (124).

“What is not questioned is the institutional context. One’s ‘growth’ is a purely private matter. It may involve maneuvering within the structure of bureaucratic rules and roles, changing jobs, maybe even changing spouses if necessary. But what is missing is any collective context in which one might act as a participant to change the institutional structures that frustrate and limit” (126-27).

E.                The Therapeutic Quest for Community

“The therapeutic conception of community grows out of an old strand of American culture that sees social life as an arrangement for the fulfillment of the needs of individuals” (134).

“[F]or the therapeutically inclined, community is something hoped for, something yearned for, something sadly missing most of the time, and when found . . . something that the therapeutic language cannot really make sense of” (138).

“[T]herapy cannot really replace older forms of relationship, but must somehow seek to reinvigorate them. Yet, as we have seen, the very language of therapeutic relationship seems to undercut the possibility of other than self-interested relationships” (139).

F.                Evangelicalism and the Therapeutic Self

Read selected passages from James D. Hunter, Evangelicalism, 70.


“Over the course of a few years, thousands of Willow Creek participants receive therapy. These thousands of individuals in turn influence their families and friends within Willow Creek with their new analytical categories.  These psychological terms become the ethical categories of how Creekers live their lives.

Willow Creek’s dependence on therapy and its psychological worldview is also visible in the great number of staff who receive therapy.  An estimated 50 percent of Willow Creek staff received therapy at the counselling center while I was doing my study. The church so believes in therapy that it allocates four hundred dollars per year for each staff member to use for therapy at the counseling center.

Therapy and its psychological framework is accepted as a necessary tool in Willow Creek’s understanding of ministry. Yet there is no accepted model of integrating psychology and theology at the Willow Creek counseling center. The counseling director isn’t concerned if counselors use a behavioral, analytical, family system, or cognitive approach. Thus, a hodgepodge of various psychological ideas are employed with no consistent theological critique or guidance.”[91]


A.               Woman’s Sphere

“The two ‘spheres’ that were clearly separating in the early nineteenth century are still very much in the minds of contemporary Americans, and the contrast between them is one of the most important ways in which we organize our world” (87).

“Thus, while men’s work was turning into a career or a job, women’s work had the old meaning of a calling, an occupation defined essentially in terms of its contributions to the common good” (88).

“By the nineteenth century, romantic love was the culturally recognized basis for the choice of a marriage partner and in the ideal marriage was to continue for a lifetime” (89).

B.               Love and the Self

“The love that must hold us together is rooted in the vicissitudes of our subjectivity” (90).

“But the very sharing that promises to be the fulfillment of love can also threaten the self. The danger is that one will, in sharing too completely with another, ‘lose oneself’” (92).

“Love, then, creates a dilemma for Americans” (93).

Comment on “the two shall become one flesh.” Both become a new person—not one absorbed by the other.

C.               Freedom and Obligation

“Americans are, then, torn between love as an expression of spontaneous inner freedom, a deeply personal, but necessarily somewhat arbitrary, choice, and the image of love as a firmly planted, permanent commitment, embodying obligations that transcend the immediate feelings or wishes of the partners in a love relationship” (93).

“[T]he evangelical Christian worries about how to reconcile the spontaneous, emotional side of love with the obligations love entails. For the Christian, however, the tension is clearly resolved in favor of obligation” (94).

“Of course, these Christians seek some of the same qualities of sharing, communication, and intimacy in marriage that define love for most Americans. But they are determined that these are goods to be sought within a framework of binding commitments, not the reasons for adhering to a commitment” (97).

Comment: Can Christian love be sustained in the absence of a vital, sustaining, and surrounding Christian community? Is the isolated self capable of sustaining a marriage through time?

D.               Communicating

“Americans tend to assume that feelings define love.” (98).

“[Therapeutic attitude:] self is the only source of genuine relationships to other people. Only by knowing and ultimately accepting one’s self can one enter into valid relationships with other people” (98).

“Before one can love others, one must learn to love one’s self” (98).

The second part of the Great Commandment does not say ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ The passage does not support the view that ‘healthy self-esteem’ is necessary in order to be able to have something to give to others. Such a perspective would only invite the continuing self-absorption manifest in the self-help and self-esteem movements so prevalent in U.S. popular culture. To be sure, we must have a self that is capable of loving; and the heart of the gospel is that Jesus returns to each of us our self through the power of the resurrection. But the injunction to love the neighbor as yourself indicates that we must see our own lives as inextricably bound up with our neighbors’ lives.[92]

“The therapeutic ideal posits an individual who is able to be the source of his own standards, to love himself before he asks for love from others, and to rely on his own judgment without deferring to others” (99).

“This egalitarian love between therapeutically self-actualized persons is also incompatible with self-sacrifice. . . . In the therapeutic view, a kind of selfishness is essential to love” (100).

“[T]herapy becomes in some ways a model for a good relationship (100).

“Both partners in a relationship become therapists in a reciprocal exchange . . . . In its pure form, the therapeutic attitude denies all forms of obligation and commitment in relationships, replacing them only with the ideal of full, open, honest communication among self-actualized individuals” (101).

“In a world of independent individuals who have no necessary obligations to one another, and whose needs may or may not mesh, the central virtue of love—indeed the virtue that sometimes replaces the ideal of love—is communication” (101).

Communication as monitoring one’s interest in the expressions of the other.

E.                Love and Individualism

“On the whole, even the most secure, happily married of our respondents had difficulty when they sought a language in which to articulate their reasons for commitments that went beyond the self” (109).

“[T]he selves of the partners, are no longer fully separable in a long-lasting relationship” (109).




A.               The Ambiguities of Individualism

Modern individualism attempts to derive all social and political structures from isolated selves. The social good, if there is one, must ultimately descend from the combined preferences of individuals. All social arrangements are, in the end, accountable to the interests and desires of the individuals they contain.

An important question is whether or not individualism can sustain itself across the generations; is it viable in the long-term?

B.               Mythic Individualism

Re: The cowboy: “the myth says you can be a truly good person, worth of admiration and love, only if you resist fully joining the group” (145).

“The cowboy, like the detective, can be valuable to society only because he is a completely autonomous individual who stands outside it. . . . Moral heroism is always just a step away from despair” (146).

C.               The Social Sources of Ambivalence

“[O]ne of the central ambiguities in the new individualism—that it was strangely compatible with conformism” (147).

“There has been a long-standing anxiety that the American individualist, who flees from home and family leaving the values of community and tradition behind, is secretly a conformist” (148).

“[T]he tendency of individualism to destroy its own conditions” (150).

“[W]e found all the classic polarities of American individualism still operating: the deep desire for autonomy and self-reliance combined with an equally deep conviction that life has no meaning unless shared with others in the context of community.” (150).

D.               Communities of Memory

“Communities, in the sense in which we are using the term, have a history—in an important sense they are constituted by their past—and for this reason we can speak of a real community as a ‘community of memory,’ one that does not forget its past. In order not to forget that past, a community is involved in retelling its story, its constitutive narrative, and in so doing, it offers examples of the men and women who have embodied and exemplified the meaning of the community. These stories of collective history and exemplary individuals are an important part of the tradition that is so central to a community of memory” (153).

“And if the language of the self-reliant individual is the first language of the American moral life, the languages of tradition and commitment in communities of memory are ‘second languages’ that most Americans know as well, and which they use when the language of the radically separate self does not seem adequate” (154).


“Individuals are expected to get involved—to choose for themselves to join social groups. They are not automatically involved in social relationships that impose obligations not of their own choosing, and social institutions that are not the product of the voluntary choice of the individuals who constitute them are perceived as illegitimate” (167).

Reflect on the terms “getting involved”, “commitment”

A.               The Free and Independent Township

Aristotle’s political philosophy held that it is only when citizens are free from foreign domination, that is, when the community is self-governing (autonomous), that they can flourish as complete human beings. The local community provides the forum wherein citizens can learn to overcome their selfishness as they increasingly identify with the good of the whole. Political/public life is a morally-transformative process. Even though persons and families come together to form the city out of self-interest, they end up living in it for the sake of what Aristotle calls, “the good life.” A shared understanding of justice and fairness emerges in their deliberations and binds them together (see Aristotle’s Politics, 1252b).

It was widely understood in pre-modern times that only in face-to-face contexts could self-interest and communal interest converge. Within bounded settings, (e.g., the small, self-governing town), persons could discover a larger, more expansive self and genuine concern for others and the good of the whole. Persons who participated in these settings experienced integrated personal, economic, and public lives.

B.               From Town to Metropolis

Increasingly the public world has come to be seen as distant and alien from the life of metropolitan citizens. The public world is a battleground of competing forces, all scrambling to insure that they get their share of public assets. Political life is becoming an all-or-nothing competition for scarce resources. It is the last place most would turn for an education in virtue or to learn to love the good of the whole.

Most of our public activities are episodic and one-dimensional—voting, mailing a check to a national organization, attending a charity function, etc.  There are decreasing opportunities to be whole persons in public settings; we experience this as alienating and disheartening.

C.               The Concerned Citizen

The retreat to the private world is often short-lived, however. Inevitably, persons find their interests at risk and they band together with like-minded citizens to fight their oppressors. These “concerned citizens” only enter the public world because the stability and security of their private worlds are at risk. They get “involved” only for the sake of securing what is threatened; they do not participate as citizens in any holistic sense, but as representatives of their own idiosyncratic interests.

VII.    RELIGION (Chapter 9)

A.               Religion in American History

“In colonial New England, the roles of Christian and citizen, though not fused, were very closely linked” (220).

The early-American concept of communal liberty vs. individual liberty:

"[True liberty was restrained liberty] the perfect consistency of being free and being governed."[93]

"By liberty, I do not mean independence of law, but the right of self-government, by our own laws. Freedom for everyone to do as he chooses, without regard to the rights of others, is anarchy, and not liberty."[94]

Discuss the American colonial religious establishment.

“Privatization placed religion, together with the family, in a compartment-alized sphere that provided loving support but could no longer challenge the dominance of utilitarian values in the society at large. Indeed, to the extent that privatization succeeded, religion was in danger of becoming, like the family, ‘a haven in a heartless world,’ but one that did more to reinforce that world, by caring for its casualties, than to challenge its assumptions” (224).

“Most Americans see religion as something individual, prior to any organiza-tional involvement” (226).

B.               The Local Congregation

For Nan Pfautz, church membership gives a sense of community involve-ment; obligations to the church come from the fact that she has chosen to join it; it is the self that must be the source of all religious meaning: “the ultimate meaning of the church is an expressive-individualistic one. Its value is as a loving community in which individuals can experience the joy of belonging” (230). (emphasis added)

“There is even a tendency visible in many evangelical circles to thin the biblical language of sin and redemption to an idea of Jesus as the friend who helps us find happiness and self-fulfillment” (232).

“The salience of these needs for personal intimacy in American religious life suggests why the local church, like other voluntary communities, indeed like the contemporary family, is so fragile, requires so much energy to keep it going, and has so faint a hold on commitment when such needs are not met” (232).

C.               Canadian Religious Individualism

Canadian Religious Views[95]

Percent Agreeing


I believe in God.


I don’t think that you need to go to church to be a good Christian.


My private beliefs about Christianity are more important than what is taught by any church.


I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God (response from those aged 18-34 years).


Satan, the devil, is active in the world today.


I attend religious services at least once a week.



         Religious Beliefs/Practices of Americans and Canadians, 1996[96]

Percent Agreeing





Religion is an important part of life



Pray Weekly



Attend Church Weekly



Read Bible Weekly



Identify Themselves as Christians



Identify Themselves as "Nothing in Particular"



Identify Themselves as an Evangelical



"Highly Committed" Evangelicals



Religion is Important to Their Political Thinking



Could Not Name One National Christian Leader




"[I]t is the tendency of Canadians to reject Christianity as an authoritative system of meaning, in favour of drawing on Judeo-Christian 'fragments'—selected beliefs, practices, and organizational offerings—in a highly specialized, consumer-like fashion. . . . Canadians select fragments of other nonnaturalistic systems—astrology, ESP, and so on—without adopting entire systems . . . fragments are perhaps more functional than all-encompassing religions in a society that requires people to compartmentalize their experiences in order to play a number of diverse roles."[97]

D.               Religious Individualism and the Small Group Movement[98]

1.                  Statistical Profile of the Small Group Movement



Percentage of the Relevant Population Currently

in a Small Group That Meets Regularly and

 Provides Caring Support for its Members





Income $20k or Less





Income 20-39k





Income 40k +










White Anglo


Age 18-34





Age 35-49





Age 50 +








In Large Cities


High School or Less



In Medium Cities


Some College



In Towns/Rural


College Graduate








Percentage of Group Members Who Have Felt the Following Needs and

Believe that These Needs Have Been Fully Met



Felt Need

Need Met

Having neighbours with whom you can interact freely and comfortably



Being able to share deepest feelings with someone



Having friends who value the same things in life you do



Having people in your life who give you deep emotional support



Being in a group where you can discuss your basic beliefs and values



Having friends you can always count on when you’re in a jam



Having people in your life who are never critical of you



Being part of a group that helps you grow spiritually



Having cooperation rather than competition with people at work



Having people you can turn to when you feel depressed or lonely



Knowing more people in your community




Percentage of Group Members Who Say They Have Received Each of

These Kinds of Support From Their Group


Made you feel like your weren’t alone


Gave you encouragement when you were feeling down


Helped you celebrate something


Helped you through an emotional crisis


Helped you make a difficult decision


Helped you out when someone was sick


Brought meals to your family


Provided you with physical care or support


Provided you with babysitting or child care


Helped you overcome an addiction


Loaned you money



2.                  Small Group Processes as Theologically Adaptive

“The small-group movement is beginning to alter American society, both by changing our understandings of community and by redefining spirituality” (3).

"But small groups are not simply drawing people back to the God of their fathers and mothers. They are dramatically changing the way God is understood. God is now less of an external authority and more of an internal presence. The sacred becomes more personal but, in the process, also becomes more manageable, more serviceable in meeting individual needs, and more a feature of group processes themselves" (3-4).

"[T]he small-group movement is currently playing a major role in adapting American religion to the main currents of secular culture that have surfaced at the end of the twentieth century. Secularity is misunderstood if it is assumed to be a force that prevents people from being spiritual at all. It is more aptly conceived as an orientation that encourages a safe, domesticated version of the sacred" (7).

“The most general way in which small groups are redefining the sacred, therefore, is by replacing explicit creeds and doctrines with implicit norms devised by the group” (19).

3.                  Small Groups and Bureaucratic Infiltration

“[Small groups] are supposed to provide the intimacy that people cannot find in their places of work. As cold bureaucratic efficiency takes over more of the world, small groups are said to be pockets of resistance, or at least enclaves in which people can find shelter from the storm . . . [However] small groups may be a product of the rational, bureaucratic planning that dominates other sectors of contemporary life. Indeed, small groups may be extending such planning into an area of life that formerly depended on nothing but the goodwill of neighbors and friends" (134).

“Community, then, becomes more intentional as a result” (14).

“The small-group movement thus is . . . extending the principles of formal organization into an arena of interpersonal life that was largely spontaneous and unorganized until very recently” (159).

4.                  Small Groups as Created “Community” and Individualism Extended

"[S]mall groups encourage a different view of commitment. Because there are so many, we are seldom limited by circumstances. We can, indeed, shop around. There may be fifty different groups from which to choose within five miles of our home. And the logic of shopping emphasizes satisfaction rather than long-term commitment. The idea is to try it out. . . . But always, the contract is tenuous. It depends on whether the individual member remains satisfied" (141).

“The availability of hundreds of thousands of small, highly diverse groups permits American society to loosen itself from its traditional moorings and become even more mobile and fluid. People can move to new communities more easily because they know they can join support groups there; they can shift their religious affiliation to a new denomination for the same reason; or they can enter a new line of work, withstand the trauma of leaving a spouse, or become interested in a new political cause” (23f).

Small groups create “modular communities that can be established and disbanded with relative ease" (8).

"[Small groups] do not fundamentally challenge our individualism. They allow us not only to retain our individuality but also to focus deeply on our own personal interests and needs and, for the most part, to limit the time we spend with other people or the levels of obligation we are willing to incur toward them. Small groups adapt us to the individualistic norms of our culture more than we generally realize" (197).

[1]C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew (London: The Folio Society, 1996), 131.

[2]Thomas Shipka and Arthur Minton, “Introduction,” in Philosophy: Paradox and Discovery, ed. Thomas Shipka and Arthur Minton (New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 1996), 1.

[3]Alfred Whitehead, cited in John H. Hallowell, “The Decline of Liberalism,” Ethics 52 (1941-42): 323.

[4]James Sire, Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 122.

[5]Much of this material on noetic structures is taken from Alvin Plantinga, “Reason and Belief in God,” in Faith and Rationality, ed. Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), 16-93.

[6]Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 21.

[7]John Stuart Mill, An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (London, 1889), 226.

[8]Taken from David G. Myers, Psychology, 5th ed. (New York: Worth Publishers, 1998), 182.

[9]Harold Brown, Perception, Theory and Commitment (Chicago: UCP, 1977), 10.

[10]Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, excerpted in First Philosophy: Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, ed. Andrew Bailey (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2002), 341.

[11]See “Copernicus, Nicolas,” s.v. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards, 8 vols. (New York: The Free Press/Macmillan, 1967), 2:219ff.

[12]The orbital period of Jupiter is approximately 12 earth-years.

[13]Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1.105.7, trans. Dominican Fathers (London: Blackfriars, 1963-).

[14]William Placher, The Domestication of Transcendence (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 135.

[15]Augustine, The City of God, 21:8, trans. Marcus Dods et al. (New York: Random, 1950), 776-77.

[16]John Donne, LXXX Sermons, [Sermon 22, preached March 25, 1627].

[17]Isaac Newton, “MS on Miracles,” cited in Mary Jo Teeter Dobbs, The Janus Faces of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newton’s Thought (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 230.

[18]Samuel Clarke [1675-1729], Controversy with Leibnitz, 351, cited in Joseph Butler, The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature [1736] (New York: E P Dutton & Co., 1906), 277. William Craig, summarizing Clarke’s view, suggests that “the so-called natural forces of matter, like gravitation, are properly speaking the effect of God's acting on matter at every moment. . . . the so-called 'course of nature' is a fiction—what we call the course of nature is in reality nothing other than God's producing certain effects in a continual and uniform manner.” See Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), 133.

[19]Walter Thorson, “Fingerprinting God? Divine Agency and ‘Intelligent Design’,” CRUX 36 (2000): 3.

[20]Jerry H. Gill, Faith in Dialogue (Waco, TX: Word, 1985), 33-34.

[21]Ronald Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 54.

[22]Alvin Plantinga, “Self-Profile,” in Alvin Plantinga, ed. James Tomberlin and Peter van Inwagen (Boston: Reidel, 1985), 64-65. Plantinga is citing Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.

[23]Alvin Plantinga, “Is Belief in God Properly Basic?” Nous 15:1 (March 1981). Reprinted in William Rowe and William Wainwright, eds. Philosophy of Religion, 3d ed. (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998), 477.

[24]George Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], ed. G. J. Warnock (London: William Collins Sons, 1962), Part I, Section 29, 78.

[25]Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, trans. Judith Norman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 17.

[26]William Allen White, The Old Order Changeth (New York: Macmillan, 1910), 250, 252-53.

[27]Hollis Read [1802-1887], The Coming Crisis of the World, or, the Great Battle and the Golden Age (Columbus: Follett, Foster & Co., 1861), 218.

[28]John Latrobe, The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (Baltimore, 1868), 18; cited in Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (New York: OUP, 2007), 563.

[29]Nicholas Johnson, former FCC Commissioner (USA). Cited Benjamin Barber, “The Second Revolution,” The Kettering Review (Winter 1984): 41-42.

[30]Michael Strangelove, “The Internet, Electric Gaia and the Rise of the Uncensored Self,” Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine 1 (September 1994): 11.

[31]John Codman [1782-1847], Home Missions. A Sermon delivered before the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, in Park Street Church, Boston, May 31, 1826 (Boston: Brewster & Crocker, 1826), 19.

[32]Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964), 8.

[33]Lyman Beecher [1775-1863], "The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints" [1823], in Works, vol. 2, Sermons Delivered on Various Occasions (Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1852), 2:243.

[34]MuLuhan, Understanding Media, 15.

[35]William Shakespeare, “Troilus and Cressida” [1601], Act I, Scene III, in Tragedies, vol. 3, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (New York: Walter J. Black, 1937), 758.

[36]James Daly, Cosmic Harmony and Political Thinking in Stuart England (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1979), 5.

[37]Daly, Cosmic Harmony, 5, n. 1.

[38]Daly, Cosmic Harmony, 6.

[39]Daly, Cosmic Harmony, 7.

[40]William Shakespeare, “First Part of King Henry VI” [1589-90], Act I, Scene I, in Histories, vol. 2, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (New York: Walter J. Black, 1937), 567.

[41]John Milton, Paradise Lost [1667] (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1951), Bk. II, lines 707-711, 47.

[42]Jacques Barzun argues that modern scientific theories (from Newton to Einstein and beyond) “deprived human beings of any object of cosmic contemplation. The actual order of the heavens and the workings of nature on earth were alike unimaginable—no poet could make an epic out of them, as Lucretius and Milton had done, or address a lyric to the moon.” Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present (New York: HarperCollins, 2000), 750. 

[43]Shakespeare, “Troilus and Cressida [1601], Act I, Scene III, 758.

[44]John Donne, An Anatomie of the World: the first Anniversarie, in The Poems of John Donne, ed. Herbert Grierson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1912), 1:237-38.

[45]Quotations in this section are from Bernard Bailyn, Education in the Forming of American Society (New York: Vintage Books, 1960).

[46]Quotations in this section are taken from Robert Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia (New York: Basic Books, 1987).

[47]William Wilberforce, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes of this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity [1797], 11th ed. (London: Cadell & Davies, 1815), 366.

[48]Robert A. Nisbet, The Quest for Community [1953], in Communitarianism: A New Public Ethics, ed. Markate Daly (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub. Co., 1994), 147.

[49]The wording of these three laws comes from David Berlinski, Newton’s Gift: How Sir Isaac Newton Unlocked the System of the World (New York: The Free Press, 2000), 98-104.

[50]Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield, The Fabric of the Heavens: The Development of Astronomy and Dynamics (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 231.

[51]I. Bernard Cohen, Science and the Founding Fathers (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), 31.

[52]Cohen, Science and the Founding Fathers, 32.

[53]Carl J. Guarneri, The Utopian Alternative: Fourierism in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 18.

[54]Donald M. Scott, From Office to Profession: The New England Ministry 1750-1850 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978), 7.

[55]George Whitefield, George Whitefield’s Journals: A New Edition Containing Fuller Material Than Any Hitherto Published, ed. William Wale et al. (London: Billing and Sons, 1960), 339.

[56]Beecher Lyman [1775-1863], “The Design, Rights and Duties, of Local Churches” [1819], in Works, vol. 2, Sermons Delivered on Various Occasions (Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1852), 230-31.

[57]Alexander Campbell, The Christian System; In Reference to the Union of Christians, and a Restoration of Primitive Christianity, as Plead in the Current Reformation (Cincinnati: Standard Pub. Co., 1839), 1.

[58]Scott, From Office to Profession, 67.

[59]Peter Drucker tells us that currently there are more than one million such organizations in the United States alone. See “The Age of Social Transformation,” The Atlantic Monthly, Nov. 1994.

[60]"Hints towards a more Complete Organization of Particular Churches, with Reference to Christian activity,” The Biblical Repertory and Theological Review 6 (July 1834): 406.

[61]"They [church programs] are groupings of specific tasks that move toward performance of the functions and accomplishment of the mission of the church . . . [They are] the way a church organizes itself to worship, witness and proclaim, educate and nurture, and minister to people." Wesley Black, An Introduction to Youth Ministry (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 41. Briecrest College’s Foundations of Church Ministry (CMC101) course description includes the following sentence: “[This course is] an introduction to the total ministry of the church in all its functions: worship, equipping, fellowship and evangelism.”


[62]William Brackney, Christian Voluntarism: Theology and Praxis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 136.

[63]James H. Thornwell, cited in B. M. Palmer, The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell [1875] (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 225.

[64]Craig M. Gay, “Evangelicals and the Language of Technopoly,” Crux 31 (1995): 38-39.

[65]Charles Van Engen, God’s Missionary People (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 70.

[66]Horace Bushnell, Christian Nurture [1888] (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950), 48.

[67]Philip Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), 170.

[68]Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989), 83-84.

[69]Craig Dykstra, “Christian Education as Means of Grace,” The Princeton Seminary Bulletin 13 (1992): 173-74.

[70]Philip P. Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, 72.

[71]Stanley Milgram, “The Small World Problem,” Psychology Today 1 (1967): 61-67. Milgram’s work has recently been challenged by Judith Kleinfeld in the January/February 2002 issue of Society.  Kleinfeld alleges that only thirty percent of the items in Milgram’s study reached their intended persons and, when they did, they averaged nine “degrees of separation.” See The Times Literary Supplement, February 1, 2002, 16.

[72]Charles Hodge, "Theories of the Church," in Essays and Reviews (NY: Garland Pub. Co., 1987), 210.

[73]Lothar Coenen, "Proclamation, Preach, Kerygma," in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub., 1978), 3:54.

[74]I am aware that some evangelical scholars argue that the mission given to the disciples was extended to all subsequent believers. Andreas Kostenberger, for instance, argues that the Gospel of John provides evidence for this expansion. See his The Missions of Jesus and the Disciples According to the Fourth Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 144-53. I am grateful to Tim Stabell for this reference.

[75]Augustine, The City of God, xviii.50, trans. Marcus Dods et al. (New York: Random House, 1950), 661.

[76]John Calvin, [1509-64], Institutes of the Christian Religion [6h ed., 1559], trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), IV. 3. 4, 318-19.

[77]George Hunsberger, "Is There Biblical Warrant for Evangelism?" Interpretation 48 (1994): 135.

[78]D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 435.

[79]Robert A. Evans, "The Quest for Community" Union Seminary Quarterly Review 30 (Winter/ Summer 1975): 199.

[80]William H. Willimon, Acts (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988), 105.

[81]J. G. Gager, Kingdom and Community: The Social World of Early Christianity (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975), 140.

[82]Clapp Rodney. “How Firm a Foundation: Can Evangelicals Be Nonfoundationalists?” in The Nature of Confession: Evangelicals and Postliberals in Conversation, ed. Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Ockholm (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 90.

[83]Hauerwas and Willimon, Resident Aliens, 87.

[84]Alexander Campbell, "The capital mistake of modern missionary schemes: How, then, is the gospel to spread through the world?" Christian Baptist, 1:2 (September 1823): 55.

[85]Jesus of Nazareth, “John 13:34-5,” The NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 1624.

[86]Robert Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (New York: Harper and Row, 1985). Page numbers in parentheses are from this source.

[87]"Since values are not rational and not grounded in the natures of those subject to them, they must be imposed. . . . Producing values and believing in them are acts of the will. . . . Commitment values the values and makes them valuable." Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), 201.

[88]Paul Leinberger and Bruce Tucker, The New Individualists (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 243.

[89]Source: James Davison Hunter, Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 66.

[90]The information in this column is taken from: James M. Penning and Corwin E. Smidt, Evangelicalism: The Next Generation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 89.

[91]G. A. Pritchard, Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 228-29.

[92]L. Gregory Jones, Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 128, n. 51.

[93]Timothy Dwight, A Discourse on Some Events of the Last Century (New Haven: E. Read, 1801), 14.

[94]Lyman Beecher [1775-1863], Works, vol. 1, Lectures on Political Atheism and Kindred Subjects (Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1852), 14.

[95]Source: The Globe and Mail (April 22, 2000): A18.

[96]Source: Angus Reid Poll (1996) cited in Doug Koop, "Great Similarities and Decided Differences," Christian Week, November 19, 1996.

[97]Reginald Bibby, “Religion,” in Sociology, 5th ed., ed. Robert Hagedorn (Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1994), 429-30.

[98]The material in this section is taken from Robert Wuthnow, Sharing the Journey: Support Groups and America’s New Quest for Community (New York: The Free Press, 1994). The tables that follow are from pages 47, 53, and 170, respectively. Page numbers in parentheses refer to this source.