Preach the gospel to every creature. If necessary, use words.I've noticed that Francis of Assisi's centuries old aphorism has gotten a lot of favorable quotations from many of the emerging/Emergent type folks of late. But at the risk of having to rename my blog "The Curmudgeon," I think all this favorable reference is wrong-headed on all kinds of levels. Briefly...
- It is an attempt to transport a respected ancient Christian into our day as a thoroughgoing postmodern so that he can be used as support for currently favored notions. But cultures change. Francis' culture was thoroughly Christianized, if not fully Christian (cultures can never be Christian, only people), which meant that the major issue was consistency between professed faith and daily life. Our culture, on the other hand, is neither Christian nor Christianized any more, to such an extent that most people have no idea what the Gospel is, never mind how a person should live consistent with it.
- I suspect that one of the reasons that many people like the concept of such "friendship evangelism" is that they are fearful of the possible rejection and dislike the "ickiness" of actually having to clearly state the Gospel truth that people who lack explicit faith in Christ's death and resurrection are sinners who will spend eternity separated from God in hell. Now let me be clear: I am well aware both of the fact that evangelism is a process and that simply blurting out the gospel to every non-Christian you meet is unlikely to be effective in the absence of relationship. I am also well aware of the fact that the truths we profess are supported by the life we live. But if I never actually share the gospel with my non-Christian friends, neighbors, family, etc., then I have merely made friends with a non-Christian. Such a strategy succeeds at friendship without actually being evangelism, because I haven't actually preached the Gospel.
- Most importantly, much of the emerging/Emergent crowd evidence a great discomfort with the hard, binary, and propositional nature of much of Christian teaching. They simply don't care for the notion that real love could ever be perceived to have some sharp edges and that truth sometimes cuts like a sword. But the fact is, while the Bible's truths are always more than simply propositional, they are never less. Indeed, they cannot be.