Neo-Liberalism: The Liberal Ethos In Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church -- By: Chris Accardy

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 07:3 (Summer 1998)
Article: Neo-Liberalism: The Liberal Ethos In Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church
Author: Chris Accardy

Neo-Liberalism: The Liberal Ethos In
Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church

Chris Accardy

Recently I sat in on a discussion among several college students. A student from Kenya was talking with seven students from the United States. This Kenyan student contended that many Western missionaries in Africa were not very successful because they tried to convert Africans to Western culture as well as to Christianity.

“Traditional” missionaries in this Kenyan’s community had forbidden the use of drums in worship. The student felt it was a major mistake to fail to use such an important part of African culture for the honor and glory of God. One of the American students, who had done a short-term mission trip in Africa, pointed out that drums were used in animistic worship and should therefore not be included in Christian worship. Another American student asked his colleague a simple question, “What about the piano?” He followed up by pointing out that the piano had been used in American rock and roll culture to promote all sorts of ungodly behavior. On that basis, do we forbid the use of pianos in American worship?

As the discussion concluded, nothing had been resolved. Indeed, understanding the relationship between church and culture is no simple task. However, in listening to this enlightening conversation, I began to see where each student was coming from theologically. At the end of the day, practice and belief could not be separated. Behind each view in the discussion stood a working theology.

Often this theology was assumed but not thought out. As evangelicals debate the question of church and culture in America the same sort of things seems to be happening: all sides have a working theology, but most often it is assumed, even if not well thought out.

It seems to me that we can divide evangelicals into two groups: “Confessing Evangelicals” and “Neoliberal Evangelicals.” The goal of both groups is to practice the Christian faith as revealed in the New Testament. Confessing Evangelicals look at the early church through the lens of the Protestant Reformation. They tend to hold some substantial statement of faith which is binding on the worship and life of the church.1 Neoliberal Evangelicals tend to trace their roots back to the early church through the lens of the Second Great Awakening in America. They tend to hold a very minimal statement of faith and emphasize experience and action over doctrine. Religious experience is the binding authority on these churches.

Liberalism is alive and well in many
evangelical churches. It does not
manifest itsel...

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