New Mayan Calendar Find: World Won’t End in 2012

The BBC reports a new find of “the oldest-known Mayan astronomical tables”, as part of a find of wall paintings at a site in Guatemala. Indeed, Mayan art and calendar at Xultun stun archaeologists, and should also stun armchair predictors of the end of the world. For it seems that among the discoveries are
Mayan art from Xultun

astronomical tables, including four long numbers on the east wall that represent a cycle lasting up to 2.5 million days … representing a calendar that stretches more than 7,000 years into the future.

So no longer can it be claimed that according to the Mayan calendar the world will end this year. There is apparently no more basis for predicting an apocalypse on 21st December 2012 than there was for Harold Camping’s similar predictions for 21st May and 21st October 2011. (Why does everyone go for the 21st of the month?) And it looks likely that these New Age doomsday merchants will end up with as much egg on their face as Camping already has.

Well, Harold Camping has repented of his false predictions, although only after the event. We can only hope that the people looking to the Mayan calendar will do the same, preferably before the day, and spare us all a circus in the build-up to that date.

Jonathan Edwards, the Holy Spirit and the Incarnation

Jonathan EdwardsI was fascinated to read today’s guest post on Peter Enns’ blog Jonathan Edwards, The Holy Spirit, and Evolution: Part 1, by Brandon G. Withrow. In fact this Part 1 is not at all about evolution, so I am waiting to read about that in subsequent parts. But it was interesting to read about what Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century hero of today’s conservative evangelicals, had to say about the Holy Spirit, and especially of his role in the Incarnation, i.e. the coming of Jesus Christ as both God and man. It is not at all what I would have expected from a strict Calvinist. The first part is not so controversial, perhaps:

The Spirit, according to Edwards, unites the human nature of Christ to the divine nature and actively maintains the integrity of both, all the while not becoming an addition of a divine being to the person of Christ.

In doing this, the Spirit can ensure that the limitations of the human mind of Christ are maintained, otherwise, if the divine attributes were allowed to mix or rewrite the human nature, he would lose his genuine humanity, since the finite cannot contain the infinite.

Well, that certainly makes sense, and offers a good explanation of why the incarnate Jesus did not appear to be omniscient. It also accords with what I wrote here a few years ago in a post Jesus is Our Fully Human Example, that Jesus had some supernatural knowledge and could perform miracles not because he was divine but because the Holy Spirit was working through him.

The main point I was making in that post is that if this was true of Jesus, it is also true today of us Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit. And Jonathan Edwards seems to have made the same connection, and taken it somewhat further than I did, as Withrow writes with a quote from Edwards:

As the Spirit unites Christ’s humanity to the divine, so also the Spirit unites the human Christian (like Edwards) to God through Christ.

All…communion of the creatures with God or with one another in God, seems to be by the Holy Ghost. ’Tis by this that believers have communion with Christ, and I suppose ’tis by this that the man Christ Jesus has communion with the eternal Logos. The Spirit of God is the bond of perfectness by which God, Jesus Christ, and the church are united together (WJE 13:529).

Christ’s human nature is united to his divine nature thanks to the Spirit’s work. Likewise, the same Spirit unites Christians to the divine.

The implication of this seems to be that, for Edwards, the union between Christians and the divine through the Holy Spirit is of the same nature as the union between Jesus Christ and the divine. This opens up the question of the uniqueness of Jesus as the Son of God. If, as the New Testament clearly teaches, every Christian is a son or daughter of God and partakes of the divine nature, was Jesus really unique, or was he just the firstborn of many brothers and sisters? At first sight, both answers can be found in the New Testament, and in different strands of Christian theology. But the doctrine of the Trinity seems threatened by any idea that the second Person, God the Son, was not unique – or is every Christian an incarnation of the one second Person?

I am not familiar enough with the theology of Jonathan Edwards to know how far he took the implications of the teaching which Withrow describes here. Very likely Withrow explains it further in his book Becoming Divine: Jonathan Edwards’s Incarnational Spirituality Within the Christian Tradition (affiliate link – see also this description), which I have not read. But it seems clear that Edwards by no means followed what has become the traditional evangelical line on such matters, with a rigid distinction between the divine as well as human Son of God and his human and utterly sinful people. And I would suggest that Edwards was the more correct here.

Did God sink the Titanic? Thomas Hardy and John Piper

RMS TitanicArchdruid Eileen has posted an interesting poem by Thomas Hardy, The Convergence of the Twain. And it seems that this is a genuine poem, not a Beaker Folk satire. According to Wikipedia, it was published in 1915. And it is relevant today because it commemorates the sinking of the Titanic, 100 years ago today.

What is shocking to read is that Hardy, the 19th century novelist who became a 20th century poet (his last novel was published in 1895 and his first poetry in 1898), clearly blamed God for sinking the Titanic. The iceberg that sank the TitanicIt is “The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything” who prepared the iceberg, and when “the Spinner of the Years // Said ‘Now!'” the collision took place. And Hardy seems to imply that this is judgment on “the Pride of Life that planned her”. But we also note that the poem depersonalises the disaster by saying nothing about the horrific loss of life.

Now Hardy was well known for his religious scepticism, and leaned towards agnosticism and deism. So it is hardly surprising to see a somewhat jaded image of God in his poem.

But I can’t help wondering what John Piper would say about the Titanic disaster. Well, he has tweeted the following, an argument ably demolished by Alan Molineaux:

When the Titanic sank 20% of the men and 74% of the women survived. That profound virtue was not nurtured by egalitarianism.

But that doesn’t apportion blame for the tragedy. Quite possibly Piper is preaching or writing on the subject today. But in the absence of any record of that so far, I can only argue by analogy with what he recently wrote about tornadoes:

Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?

… God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.

Tornado near Dallas, Texas, April 2012So Piper’s God commanded these tornadoes to devastate towns and kill many people. Presumably he would also say that God told the iceberg to cross the path of the Titanic. But where Piper disagrees with Hardy is that he doesn’t see such disasters as judgment of specific evil. Rather, they are a word to everyone, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

But is this God who chose, for no fault of their own, 38 people to kill with tornadoes and 1,514 to kill with an iceberg really the Christian God we learn of in the Bible? In his article about the tornadoes Piper quotes verses about God sending winds and others about people being killed by winds and other disasters, but none of these passages say explicitly that God sent the winds or other means which killed people. He quotes Matthew 8:27, but ignores the context in the previous verse: if God sent that particular wind, why did Jesus rebuke it? The language used in such passages hints at demonic activity in that storm on the Sea of Galilee. And if in that storm, why not also in destructive storms and other disasters today?

I don’t claim to know what caused these disasters. Perhaps we should put the blame mainly on humans, who took the risk of living in areas known to be prone to tornadoes and of steaming at full speed across a sea known to be studded with icebergs. For some the risk did not pay off.

But in the end what matters is not the anyway inevitable death of our mortal bodies, but that through Jesus Christ we have eternal life and the hope of new and glorious resurrection bodies.

C.S. Lewis on the cover of Time Magazine

C.S. Lewis on the cover of Time MagazineThanks to Brian LePort for linking to a “rediscovered” Time Magazine cover story, from 8th September, 1947, featuring the famous Christian author C.S. Lewis.

In his post Brian looks mainly at Lewis’s interesting remarks on anthropomorphic language – apparently quoted from his then forthcoming book Miracles.

I agree with Brian, and with Lewis. But this is the quotation I would like to share with you, not from Lewis but from the article’s author:

Lewis (like T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, et al.) is one of a growing band of heretics among modern intellectuals: an intellectual who believes in God.

65 years later, are believers still considered heretics, in those circles? And is their band still growing, or shrinking? The world needs more people like C.S. Lewis: forthright Christians with academic integrity and writing skills, or perhaps other media skills for our rather different age, who can speak God’s truth into our popular culture.

C.S. Lewis turned down an honour from the Queen

C.S. LewisAs reported by the BBC, the British government has today published a list of people who have declined honours from the Queen, from 1951 to 1999 and including only those who have now died.

It is interesting to see that one of those named is “CS Lewis, who turned down a CBE in 1952”. This well known Christian author certainly deserved this honour – not so much for his well known Narnia series as for his more serious works, for example of apologetics. I am somewhat surprised to see that he turned down the honour, but perhaps he felt that the glory should go to God.

Beyond Evangelical streams: a historical perspective

Frank ViolaTwo days ago I asked Am I one of Frank Viola’s Beyond Evangelicals? This was based on Frank’s description of four major streams in today’s evangelicalism: Systematizers, Activists, Emoters, and Beyond Evangelicals.

Since then I have given some more thought to this subject, and I have come to realise that there is nothing much new here. In fact, these four streams can be traced back at least a century. So here is my historical perspective on this. I must admit that I am more familiar with some of this history as it has happened here in the UK, but I hope that my insights are also applicable in North America, the prime focus of Frank’s work.

19th century evangelicalism was, I tend to think, relatively uniform. Certainly there were issues within it, but not ones which are of great concern today. But by the early 20th century this monolith started to crack. One major cause of this was the growth of liberal theology within many formerly evangelical denominations and ministries. Liberalism was not new at this time, but this was when it grew rapidly.

In reaction to this many evangelicals became obsessed with preserving sound doctrine and separation from the “world”, and so was born the movement known as Fundamentalism.

Meanwhile on the fringes of the evangelical church another new phenomenon was growing: Pentecostalism. At this period it was not accepted within existing denominations, and so specifically Pentecostal denominations were set up.

Through all this a main stream of Evangelicalism persisted, avoiding Liberalism and rejecting Pentecostalism, but also refusing to follow Fundementalism into the ghetto.

These four streams persisted right through the 20th century. Traditional Liberalism and Fundamentalism both had their day and then started to decline, but their basic perspectives live on. In the second half of the century Pentecostalism began to be accepted in some traditional denominational churches, and so the Charismatic Movement arose. And mainstream Evangelicalism survived, and in some places thrived.

So how do these older four streams relate to the four streams which Frank sees today?

Frank’s Systematizers are basically neo-Fundamentalists. Michael Clawson has today posted at Roger Olson’s blog an excellent essay Neo-Fundamentalism, so I won’t attempt to repeat this material. Michael shows clearly how the people he studies have the same kind of agenda as the original Fundamentalists.

It would be too simple to say that Frank’s Activists are Liberals – especially as this would be read by some as a pejorative comment. Activists are not necessarily people who have abandoned biblical authority in the way typical of liberal theology. But they have left behind some traditional evangelical interpretations of the Bible, and have put more focus on other passages, perhaps on the teaching of Jesus more than of Paul. They would recognise that the Tea Party Jesus is not the real Jesus.

Clearly, Franks’ Emoters are the Charismatics, and the Pentecostals who have now often become indistinguishable from them.

So what is Frank’s Beyond Evangelical stream? And what happened to the original fourth stream, the main evangelical stream? Clearly many things have changed and continue to change within this mainstream. No doubt some of the younger generation have left it for the other streams. Perhaps the main channel is drying up. But it seems to me that Frank is trying to revitalise this mainstream, and claim its leadership for himself, by dropping outdated and unhelpful practices and by giving it a new name: Beyond Evangelical.

Very likely this strategy of Frank’s will meet with some real success, by attracting those disillusioned with the other streams as well as by bringing the best out of those who have remained within the mainstream – and hopefully also by bringing in new believers, as it continues one of mainstream evangelicalism’s defining practices, active evangelism. But Frank should not suggest that his streams are something new which he has identified for the first time. What is new is the name, and perhaps the strategy which goes with it. On that basis I wish it well.

#Occupy Wall St #OWS, or be a Hide-Behind-Wall Saint?

At Red Letter Christians Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes an interesting response to Occupy Wall Street and the worldwide Occupy movements which have grown up in response: Waiting For St. Benedict: Where Does Occupy Wall Street Go From Here? But I cannot agree with Jonathan’s apparent conclusions. I can agree with him that

The world as we know it is coming to an end. We’re all aching for the world-to-come.

But the question is how to get there. …

The Occupy Wall Street protesters may indeed not know how to get to where they want to be – or even exactly where it is they want to be, but on that issue see this great cartoon (thanks to Sam Norton for the link):

The Silent MajorityBut I’m sure they don’t want to go where Jonathan seems to think they should go:

Early in the 6th century, when the Roman Empire faced attacks from without and discontent from within, there came a point when most people knew that things had to change but no one was certain what would come next. About that time, a middle-class young Italian named Benedict left his home in Nursia to go to school in Rome only to find that the Empire which had been centered there was almost completely gone. … Benedict went to a cave, built himself a prayer cell, and so enrolled in the university of the world-to-come. …

The power of Benedict’s Rule was this: in a world that was falling apart, it gave structure to small communities of faith that could experiment in a new kind of community. It did not aim to restore Rome to its former glory or even to reform the church. The Rule simply offered people a way to live a vision of life together rooted in service, humility, and love. Throughout the Dark Ages, the Rule guided communities that existed as points of light in a sea of dark despair.

Yes, “Saint” Benedict’s Rule and the monasteries which sprang from it may have saved some of the treasures of ancient civilisation and provided part of the basis for its Renaissance rebuilding. Meanwhile they became the rich oppressors of the late Middle Ages, which had to be overthrown through a protest movement called the Reformation. This slow process of recovery followed many centuries of the chaos of the “Dark Ages”, and, to quote Tolkien, “some things that should not have been forgotten were lost”.

Wouldn’t it have been better if a talented man like Benedict (c.480–547), instead of retreating into monasticism, had stayed in Rome, like his contemporary Boethius (c. 480–524), to work hard at preserving and renewing its failing civilisation? Boethius, who has been called “the last of the Romans”, lost his life because of his political involvement, and within a generation Rome was devastated and largely abandoned. Benedict kept himself safely out of the way and died peacefully in old age. Could he have prevented the fall of Rome? Probably not, single-handed, but he could have tried.

Our western civilisation is not yet as far gone as the western Roman empire in the early 6th century. It is not yet ruled by foreigners who have seized power by force. It is not yet too far gone to be saved and for its wrongs to be righted. But if Christians, who may well have the best perspective on its rights and wrongs and the best ideas on how to save it, don’t play their part, the future is bleak. Our civilisation looks likely to be torn apart, as Rome was, by those with financial and military might but often lacking goodwill and long term vision.

So, I would plead with my fellow Christians, don’t be thinking at the moment how to retreat into personal sanctity in places of safety, behind walls or in mountain hideaways. Yes, there is a place for Christian community, “a way to live a vision of life together rooted in service, humility, and love”, but it is not in isolation from the world like Benedict’s monasteries. Rather, as Christians we need to occupy our neighbourhoods, if not in the literal way of Occupy Wall Street, at least by being lights of Christian witness within them.

For some of us, as it was for Boethius, the way to be a Christian witness will be political activity of one kind or another. We shouldn’t let scares about “dominionism”, as if there is a real danger that anyone will have enough power to impose Christian morality by force, distract us from our urgent calling to rescue our world from the threatening chaos. Do we want our world to remain under the “Domination System” of the evil one, as expounded by Walter Wink and today by Kurt Willems? Do we really think that is better for our world than it being under the dominion of God?

As Kurt writes, our Christian task is not to join the occupiers, nor to demonise them, nor to flee from them:

Only when we see our oppressors as gifts, as objects of love in spite of their un-love, will we be able to become the kind of just peacemakers that the way of Jesus invites us.  Our task as followers of Jesus, when we understand the dynamics at work in the Domination System, is to humanize our oppressor and in turn become more fully human ourselves. …

… the people of God have a gift to offer the world – the gift of the “third way” between inaction and violence.  The way of Jesus exposes the dehumanizing systems of the world, while seeking to raise the humanity of all parties involved in any conflict – even one dealing with economics.

Anabaptists: Pioneers of the Charismatic Movement

Anabaptist Dirk Willems saves his pursuerIt seems that the early Anabaptists should be acknowledged as forerunners of the modern charismatic movement in the church. Thanks to a Twitter link by Alan Knox to an old post of his Things I Didn’t Learn in Baptist History Class, and to Jon for his post History of Speaking Up In Church, I found some interesting but little known information in the Wikipedia article on Anabaptists (links and footnotes deleted):

Charismatic manifestations

Within the inspirationist wing of the Anabaptist movement, it was not unusual for charismatic manifestations to appear, such as dancing, falling under the power of the Holy Spirit, “prophetic processions” (at Zurich in 1525, at Munster in 1534 and at Amsterdam in 1535), and speaking in tongues. In Germany some Anabaptists, “excited by mass hysteria, experienced healings, glossolalia, contortions and other manifestations of a camp-meeting revival”. The Anabaptist congregations that later developed into the Mennonite and Hutterite churches tended not to promote these manifestations, but did not totally reject the miraculous. Pilgram Marpeck, for example, wrote against the exclusion of miracles: “Nor does Scripture assert this exclusion…God has a free hand even in these last days.” Referring to some who had been raised from the dead, he wrote: “Many of them have remained constant, enduring tortures inflicted by sword, rope, fire and water and suffering terrible, tyrannical, unheard-of deaths and martyrdoms, all of which they could easily have avoided by recantation. Moreover one also marvels when he sees how the faithful God (who, after all, overflows with goodness) raises from the dead several such brothers and sisters of Christ after they were hanged, drowned, or killed in other ways. Even today, they are found alive and we can hear their own testimony…Cannot everyone who sees, even the blind, say with a good conscience that such things are a powerful, unusual, and miraculous act of God? Those who would deny it must be hardened men”. The Hutterite Chronicle and The Martyr’s Mirror record several accounts of miraculous events, such as when a man named Martin prophesied while being led across a bridge to his execution in 1531: “…this once yet the pious are led over this bridge, but no more hereafter.” Just “a short time afterwards such a violent storm and flood came that the bridge was demolished”.

Holy Spirit leadership

The Anabaptists insisted upon the “free course” of the Holy Spirit in worship, yet still maintained it all must be judged according to the Scriptures. The Swiss Anabaptist document titled “Answer of Some Who Are Called (Ana-)Baptists – Why They Do Not Attend the Churches”. One reason given for not attending the state churches was that these institutions forbade the congregation to exercise spiritual gifts according to “the Christian order as taught in the gospel or the Word of God in 1 Corinthians 14.” “When such believers come together, “Everyone of you (note every one) hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation,” and so on..When someone comes to church and constantly hears only one person speaking, and all the listeners are silent, neither speaking nor prophesying, who can or will regard or confess the same to be a spiritual congregation, or confess according to 1 Corinthians 14 that God is dwelling and operating in them through His Holy Spirit with His gifts, impelling them one after another in the above-mentioned order of speaking and prophesying”.

What I find interesting here is the clear evidence that the early Anabaptists were not only forerunners of the current organic church movement (Alan’s main concern) but also forerunners of the modern charismatic movement. This can be seen in their emphasis on prophecy, speaking in tongues, and miraculous healing. The phenomena of “falling under the power of the Holy Spirit” and “contortions” are reminiscent of the Toronto Blessing, one of the more recent expressions of charismatic renewal. And the reports of raising the dead remind one of Todd Bentley‘s claims.

The early Anabaptists were not the only Christians in their time to exercise the gifts of the Spirit. For example, in his book Surprised by the Voice of God Jack Deere has a chapter showing that the early Scottish Presbyterians practised prophecy. Even John Calvin may have spoken in tongues. But these gifts seem to have been more prominent in Anabaptist spirituality than in that of the other churches emerging from the Reformation.

The charismatic gifts soon fell into disuse among almost all these Protestant groups, including the Anabaptists. We have to accept that some of these charismatic Anabaptists went “off the rails” with outlandish prophecies, especially those linked with the misguided attempt to establish a theocracy at Münster. As a result prophecy got a bad name, and even the Anabaptists backed off from using the gifts. It was left to the Pentecostals of the early 20th century to rediscover this aspect of spirituality, and for the charismatic movement of the late 20th century to make these gifts again acceptable in many denominational churches.

Today’s church has a lot to learn from the early Anabaptists, who were so shamefully treated by most other Christians in their time, and who are still so often misrepresented. Here is yet another aspect of their spirituality which needs to be recovered for our days.

Thomas Hooker and John Eliot's house in England

A few days ago, as part of my temporary work, I found myself making a delivery at a house with a blue plaque on it. I was surprised to read that this old farmhouse was the home, from 1626 to 1631, of Thomas Hooker, described as “The Father of American Democracy”, and of John Eliot, “Apostle to the Indians” (i.e. the Native Americans).

Cuckoos Farm, Little BaddowThe house is now known as Cuckoos Farm, in the village of Little Baddow near Chelmsford – in England, not in Massachusetts. This is officially listed as a 17th century timber-framed and plastered house, although sadly the windows are modern. It is about five miles from my home in Great Baddow.

There is more information about Hooker and Eliot, and their residence on Little Baddow, on the website of the Little Baddow History Centre. I was already aware that Hooker, a Puritan, had been a lecturer at what is now Chelmsford Cathedral, and I had heard of Eliot as a Bible translator. But I did not know that when Hooker was forced to leave Chelmsford he opened a school in Little Baddow, with Eliot as his assistant.

There seems to be some uncertainty about the dates. The school in Little Baddow may not actually have been founded until 1630. By 1633 both Hooker and Eliot had separately emigrated to Massachusetts. But their Puritan heritage lived on in Little Baddow. A Congregational chapel built in 1707 near Cuckoos Farm is still in use, now as a United Reformed Church.

Thomas HookerThomas Hooker was indeed one of the pioneers of American democracy, of which, in John Fiske’s words, he “deserves more than any other man to be called the father”. He is also celebrated as “the Father of Connecticut”, as he was one of the founders of that colony, and a drafter of its Fundamental Orders, a precursor of the Constitution of the USA. It is interesting to see that, although himself a pastor involved in politics, he was also a pioneer in separating church and state: he opposed the practice in Massachusetts of allowing the church to control who was allowed to vote, and this was one of his main motivations for leaving Massachusetts to found a new colony.

John EliotJohn Eliot is in some ways of greater interest to me because he was a pioneer missionary Bible translator. His complete Bible in the language of the Massachusett Indians (Native Americans) was perhaps one of the first ever in the language of a newly evangelised people group. Eliot was also a pastor involved in politics. Indeed, he was the author of “the first book on politics written by an American and also the first book to be banned by an American government”. But his politics were very different from Hooker’s: he proposed a theocracy based on Old Testament models, and might perhaps be considered a forerunner of today’s Christian Reconstructionists or “Dominionists”.

It is fitting that these two pioneers are still remembered in the village where they spent several years. It is sad that their story is not as well known as it might be.

Kierkegaard: an Evangelical born before his time

Søren KierkegaardRoger Olson has just completed an interesting series Was Kierkegaard an evangelical? – part 1, part 2, part 3. In fact by the final part of the series he has dropped the question mark and changed the title to “Kierkegaard as evangelical”.

The 19th century Danish philosopher, theologian and religious author Søren Kierkegaard has certainly been a controversial figure among evangelical Christians. As Olson notes in his part 2, influential evangelicals such as Francis Schaeffer and John MacArthur have denounced Kierkegaard as “a pernicious influence” and “Adrift on a sea of subjectivity” – apparently on the basis of very limited acquaintance with his works.

Olson, who has studied Kierkegaard’s works in detail, gives a very different picture. He presents a Christian thinker whose views, while provocative, fit within the bounds of modern evangelicalism – although more Arminian (like Olson) than Calvinist. Here is part of what Olson writes in part 3:

My own reading of K. has led me to believe he was what I consider an evangelical–a person of passionate faith in Jesus Christ–even if not a typical one by contemporary North American standards.  …

What made K. an evangelical?  His absolute determination to find and live authentically according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Now, for those who define “evangelical” in terms of doctrinal orthodoxy, K. never (to the best of my knowledge) denied any tenet of orthodox Christianity.  He did try to show that they are beyond comprehension and are paradoxes–as a sign of God’s transcendence and humans’ sinfulness.  He perhaps over reacted to the dead orthodoxy and rationalistic religious philosophies (especially Hegel’s) of his day.  But that doesn’t make him non-evangelical in my opinion. …

K. was not an irrationalist about Christianity.  True, like Tertullian, he sometimes referred to what Christians believe (e.g., the incarnation) as absurd, but he MEANT by secular standards of rationality. …

K. wrote much about the church and most of it was negative.  That was not because he disdained church but because the only church he knew (in his context) was the Danish Lutheran (state) Church. … But the point is that K. did NOT reject church in favor of a totally atomistic understanding of Christianity.  What he rejected was Christendom–the church as synthesized with society such that belonging to the society made one a Christian and vice versa.

It seems to me that in many ways Kierkegaard, as presented by Olson, was a very modern, or even postmodern, Christian. He took the Bible as authoritative, but was wary of the traditional teachings of the church. Perhaps he should have been born in the late 20th century instead of the early 19th. If he had been, he might have got on well with Rob Bell. But then perhaps today’s Christianity would not have been the same thing if Kierkegaard had not been one of the first to challenge the over-intellectual tradition in theology which is still so strong among “Reformed” Evangelicals.

I can’t help thinking that Kurt Willems might consider Kierkegaard to be an evangelical reject. He has certainly been rejected as evangelical by people like Schaeffer and MacArthur. But, for the same reasons that I wrote in response to Willems I’m an Evangelical – don’t let them steal the name, I agree with Olson that we should accept Kierkegaard, posthumously, as a brother Evangelical.

Meanwhile I still don’t know if the story Flying like wild ducks which I posted here last year is genuinely by Kierkegaard. If anyone reading this can enlighten me about that, please comment on that post.