In his recent essay on Christian intellectualism, Alan Jacobs dates the high point of the public Christian intellectual in America as being in the late 1940s. Citing the influence of thinkers like CS Lewis, WH Auden, and Reinhold Niebuhr, Jacobs argues that the movement began to fade in the 1950s and, by the 1960s, was largely a spent force. By that time Lewis, Auden, and Niebuhr were no longer as relevant in contemporary debates and the next generation had not yet emerged. By the time that generation of leaders did, Jacobs argues, the culture had moved past them and they had become more conversant in the intramural discussions happening in conservative religious circles rather than the broader cultural conversation.

As a general overview of the era, that seems reasonable enough. That said, the conclusions Jacobs comes to seem a bit incomplete. So what follows is not necessarily an attempt to refute what Jacobs is doing in his piece, but is, rather, an attempt to highlight some complicating factors in hopes of getting Jacobs to say a bit more. (Or to perhaps address the question in his forthcoming book which seems to be closely related to the issues he raises in his essay.)

What of Francis Schaeffer?

In dating the decline of the Christian intellectual, Jacobs cites, amongst other things, the evidence offered by major media coverage of prominent public Christians. He notes that both Lewis and Niebuhr made the cover of Time in the late 1940s with Lewis appearing on it in 1947 and Niebuhr doing the same in 1948. What’s funny about this is that Francis Schaeffer, who has been hailed by some as Lewis’s only equal amongst orthodox Christian apologists in the 20th century, also makes a prominent appearance in Time… but in 1960. (NOTE: The first draft of this story said Schaeffer appeared on the cover, but it appears that he was simply the subject of a feature. I apologize for the error.)

Time‘s description of Schaeffer, however, tells us something about how things had changed during the 12 years between Niebuhr’s cover and Schaeffer’s. In 1960, Time presents Schaeffer as a missionary to the intellectuals, which he no doubt was. But this assumes that Christianity needs missionaries to the intellectuals because the intellectuals are no longer Christian. What had been conflict within the intellectual community 13 years before when they reported on CS Lewis has become an attempt to witness to the intellectual community by 1960. This suggests, in one sense, that Jacobs is right—the Christian public intellectual is dead by 1960, which is why Schaeffer was needed.

But it also raises a separate question: If that intellectual is dead, why is Schaeffer being covered by Time in the first place?Further, why does he have well-known figures from the various counter-cultures as well as popular icons of the era beating down his door to study with him at L’Abri? Timothy Leary, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards are just three examples of prominent 1960s figures who read or studied with Schaeffer. There are others.

Schaeffer did not exile himself in an evangelical bubble in the way that a Carl Henry or Harold Ockenga could be accused of doing. He (often regrettably) got sucked into those intra-mural debates when he was back in the States, but from his perch in the Swiss Alps he was one of the few evangelicals watching the films of Bergman and listening to Pink Floyd. Indeed, his appearances at Wheaton in the 1960s in many ways set the stage for what is now a comparative golden age of Christian film and television criticism. At a time when Wheaton students weren’t allowed to attend movies Schaeffer showed up talking not only about film, but about avant garde filmmakes like Bergman and Antonioni. And here’s the thing: The members of the 60s counter-culture noticed. Some even went to L’Abri to meet him.

Mainstream American culture has splintered.

My hunch is that the problem, then, is much broader than just the loss of Christian public intellectuals. The greater problem seems to be the loss of a common culture that allows any kind of universal public intellectual to exist. This would also dramatically complicate the work of interpretation or translation which Jacobs is also concerned with.

Interpreters in the sense Jacobs is describing are leaders who translate the concepts of faith and religiosity into language and ideas more sensible to post-war liberal democrats (in the broad sense of those terms). But by the 1960s we don’t really have a single post-war liberal democratic order to speak to. We are beginning to see the crackup of a single mainstream American culture and the subsequent splintering into various sub-cultures and sub-groups, a movement which has continued apace up to the present.

To illustrate the point we need only consider the various counter-examples a person might offer if they wanted to prove that Christian public intellectuals still exist. Ross Douthat is a good candidate, but the only people who know who he is are readers of the New York Times. (Ditto if you want to mention David Brooks.) That’s an influential group, to be sure, but also a relatively small one.

Other candidates, like RR Reno at First Things, Nicholas Wolterstorff of Yale, Charles Taylor of McGill University, or Mark Noll of Notre Dame, all fall prey to similar criticisms: They are prominent, respected intellectuals operating in very small niches. The people who don’t know their names far outnumber those who do. So while there have been very real gains in certain niches, the emergence of Christian study centers is also worth mentioning, those gains haven’t amounted to a broader cultural recovery.

But the key to keep in mind here is that this splintering has affected everyone. Take a figure of the more mainstream media establishment who has some intellectual chops—let’s go with someone like the late Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is a major media figure, someone who published routinely in the pages of Vanity Fair and The Atlantic and whose work routinely featured on most best-sellers’ lists. He’s the model of a modern public intellectual. What were the total sales of his most successful book?

Well, his best-selling book was god Is Not Great, sold almost 300,000 copies in its first seven weeks after publication. Let’s be generous and assume that Hitchens sold a million copies of the book, a number that is almost certainly massively inflated. Even with such a generous estimate, the population of the United States is north of 300 million. So even if we assume that the book sold one million copies and even if we assume that every person who bought a copy read the book cover-to-cover, that’s still only reaching ~.33% of the US population.

If we expand our definition of public intellectual to include a more intellectual internet journalist, like Ezra Klein, the numbers improve, but not that significantly. According to one site’s estimate, Ezra Klein’s Vox.com reached 15.2 million unique visitors in the USA in the past month. That’s a larger figure, but it is still only 1/20th of the total US population—roughly 5% of all Americans. When you compare these numbers to the sort of reach that prominent figures in the early 60s enjoyed, the gulf is staggering. In 1963, every single one of the top 31 shows on TV reached at least 20% of all Americans. Put another way, the 31st most popular show in the United States in 1963 reached a share of the US population four times larger than the share that an extraordinarily successful site like Vox.com will reach in a typical month.

There is one exception to the splintering.

There is, of course, a group that does enjoy a broader reach among Americans: prosperity preachers and their more secular counterparts, self-help gurus and daytime talk show hosts. Joel Osteen’s first book, Your Best Life Now, sold four million copies. He has gone on to write a number of other best sellers as well and his weekly TV broadcast has reached over 100 million households.

Oprah Winfrey, the secular version of Osteen and someone who has hosted Osteen on her own programs, has a media empire of her own. At her TV show’s high point in the early 90s, she reached 13 million Americans every day, roughly 5% of the population. Put another way, Oprah’s daily audience at her peak was the same size proportionally as Vox.com’s monthly audience. These days she relies on her own TV network, magazine, website, and radio broadcasts to reach her audience. It’s difficult to calculate how many people she reaches these days, but the number is likely on par with Osteen’s.

What’s more, the trend doesn’t end with Oprah or Osteen. Let’s return to our friend Christopher Hitchens. His best-selling book was ranked #79 on the USA Today‘s best-seller list for 2007. The number two book that year was Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, a book that Oprah helped to promote. Number 3? Eat, Pray, Love. Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You came in at number 20.

This, then, is perhaps one of the more intriguing criticisms we might make of Jacobs’ argument: If we assume that Oprahism is the closest thing we have today to a civil religion in America, then we actually do have someone attempting to translate Christianity into terms more accessible and palatable to the adherents of that religion: His name is Joel Osteen.

And we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking that this is a problem limited to prosperity preachers. I will only note in passing that it is worth mentioning here the alliance that has emerged between culture warriors in the Southern Baptist Convention and heretical prosperity preachers in support of the candidacy of Donald Trump, a man who might reasonably be described as Oprahism’s id. Donald Miller deserves a mention here as well. Self-help and expressive individualism are the modern civil religion of America and there are plenty of people trying to translate Christianity into terms more compatible with such a creed.

How then shall we evangelize a fractured society?

Of course, it’s not all so bleak as that. If we wish to go in the direction Jacobs is outlining and try to identify publicly recognized Christians translating the faith into terms the public square can understand while remaining orthodox, there are some examples. 

You could easily argue that both Tim Keller and Russell Moore are doing that well in their own ways. Keller’s Reason for God was a best-seller and he lives in and pastors a church in Manhattan. Moore, meanwhile, has been in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and the Washington Post and is deeply engaged in many of the pressing social questions of the day, particularly on issues of racism and sexuality.

That said, I am not convinced that even Keller and Moore, as remarkably talented and helpful as both men are, can fulfill the role Jacobs seems to be describing. In a nation of splinted sub-cultures unified by nothing save a belief in market-backed, government-subsidized expressive individualism, I’m not sure that the problem can be adequately addressed by someone as close to the establishment as Keller and Moore are.

FandE_Schaeffer

Valuable as their work is (and I have enormous respect and gratitude for both men!), the best either can hope to achieve on a cultural level is helping to move us away from apocalypse and toward cultural dhimmitude. That isn’t meant as a criticism of either man, to be clear, nor is it to underscore the work they are doing. There are many people who have met Jesus thanks to the ministry of Keller and we should never forget how significant that is.

Likewise, Moore has been instrumental in making the public case for religious liberty protections and was instrumental in defeating the recent California bill that would have made life much harder on schools like Biola.

Even so, the range of things one can accomplish if one starts from “pastor in Manhattan” or “think tank director concerned with public policy” is very, very limited. The context they work in is simply so far gone that the cultural impact they can make in their respective places is limited.

The more fundamental critique, which must be made intellectually but only after it has been established through the building of alternative communities, will need to be made by people a bit more outside the mainstream, I think. It needs to come from the sort of people with the ability to create new communities and institutions rather than the sort of people working within the various splintered institutions we have today.

The answer to this problem brings us back to Schaeffer. Schaeffer recognized long before the rest of evangelicalism that the defining values of post-Christian America would be thoroughly materialistic and center around personal peace and affluence. His and Edith’s ministry at L’Abri recognized this splintering and refuted it, not by explaining Christianity to a social order that can be reconciled with the faith if we finesse it enough, but by modeling a radically different way of life to a society at odds with the faith on the most fundamental, basic levels. The hospitality of L’Abri, Francis’s way of talking about Christianity as comprehensive “True Truth,” the hidden art embodied by Edith’s tireless work… all these things contributed to making L’Abri a shelter of coherence in a fractured and declining world.

labri

Jacobs is right, then, in saying that we desperately need Christian interpreters to help those outside the faith understand it. But it seems that Jacobs sees the post-war social order as being basically salvageable, provided we have the right Christian leaders speaking to it and that we address certain specific neuroses that can be treated separate from the broader liberal democratic order.

In this telling, the post-Christian America that emerged in the 1960s is something that might have been avoided with better management of institutions and more careful interaction with the public square on the part of orthodox believers. This seems naive to me given the way new technologies changed the media landscape in the US and the fact that the post-war economy, which was always hostile to the traditional family, was already being established in the late 40s and early 50s.

What we need is a different kind of interpreter, less Reinhold Niebuhr, that establishment figure who lived and taught in New York City, and more Francis Schaeffer, the missionary-in-exile, far removed from the hubs of power and influence and better equipped to speak to them in distinctly Christian ways precisely because of his distance from them. We need to recognize that the modern western social project (if it even rises to the level of “social project,”) is not something which can be reconciled with the faith by simply making some basic alterations to the machine. Market-backed, government-subsidized expressive individualism is the founding principle of today’s western world. And there can be no salvaging such a project.

It is, rather, something which must be critiqued far more radically and much more in keeping with the critique made by SchaefferOur model, if Schaeffer was right, ought to be Jeremiah, the weeping prophet who announced that there was death in the city.

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Posted by Jake Meador

Jake Meador is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy, and son Wendell. Jake's writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play.

  • Lots of good stuff, Jake.

    Not sure if the Don Miller barb is apt… if you’re still thinking of Miller as the guy who wrote Blue Like Jazz in the 90s, that guy doesn’t exist any more. Miller’s actually got a pretty amazing story of continuous improvement (physical, intellectual, relational, vocational, etc). Comparing him to Oprah or Osteen feels off.

    • Physical?

      • Miller refers to himself (at the time he wrote Blue Like Jazz) as “fat, lonely, and miserable.” I don’t know the guy personally, but it doesn’t seem like any of those things apply to him today.

  • Joseph Rhea

    I’m glad to see more conversation around this Jacobs piece! I thought it was interesting, and I also appreciate thoughtful engagements like this one.

    Your thesis on the splintering of “culture” sheds helpful perspective on the question: we no longer seem to have a monolithic “American culture,” and we certainly don’t have one dominant public space for cultural conversations to take place either.

    One other thought is that “public intellectual” (scholar, thinker, etc.) used to be a role that attracted attention and respect from both established media and from mainstream culture; but whether people back then genuinely all paid some attention to those figures or whether other voices just didn’t have outlets, our various cultures seem to have different iconic roles to which they look for guidance or general wisdom. This is a rough cut, but I’d see the different cultural icons as …

    Highbrow: technocrats – business innovators, TED talk-style figures like Elon Musk
    Middlebrow: TV personalities (talk show hosts, etc.)
    Lowbrow: pop stars, generously defined (music, athletes)

    … with the kinds of intellectuals who would be like a Lewis relegated even to a subset of highbrow culture.

    As much as I’d naturally deplore this, being a would-be intellectual type, these are probably the “cultural channels” that get most airplay in America today.

  • Matt Petersen

    An interesting anecdote about Schaeffer:

    Dick Keyes, at the Massachusetts L’Abri, said that in the ’60’s people would show up at the door of L’Abri in Switzerland, in hopes of getting a photograph of a hippie.

  • You should also consider that Karl Barth was on the cover of TIME in April of 1962. He was presented, rightly, as self-consciously opposed to the zeitgeist of modernity. I am not aware of any theologian on the cover of TIME since Barth. Also, Tillich appeared on the cover three years earlier in 1959. So, basically, from Niebuhr in the late 40’s to Barth in the early 60’s, we saw the heyday of mainline Protestant dominance.

  • hoosier_bob

    The Jacobs piece was a great read. Thanks for engaging it.

    That said, I don’t see the current cultural scene as any more fractured than that of the 1950s. Sure, it looks fractured if you come to it with liberal expectations, in the way that Niebuhr did. And, yes, by the 1960s, the liberal order had begun to decline. At the time, it was unclear what would emerge.

    Today, however, I think it’s very clear what has emerged: neoliberalism. Among today’s counterparts to Niebuhr’s audience, neoliberalism has as tight a grip as liberalism did in Niebuhr’s day.

    When I was in law school, we read an article by Guido Calabresi on the first day of our Property class. Calabresi is one of the preeminent proponents of legal pragmatism, i.e., neoliberalism applied to legal theory. The article sparked no debate whatsoever. Everyone simply agreed with it. In other words, there was near unanimity among students at a top-tier law school that legal outcomes ought to rely on reasoning that is fundamentally neoliberal in its orientation. They may disagree as to how those principles are applied, or the extent to which things like social behavioralism and bounded rationality should come into play. But no one doubted that neoliberalism provided the right tools for making that assessment.

    Schaeffer was a classical liberal. Much of his work can be viewed as a Christian defense of the liberal order against the various critical theories that challenged liberalism at the time. In fact, one could probably argue that social conservatism is largely an effort to restore a classically liberal cultural consensus. That effort is doomed. Whether we like it or not, our culture is saturated from top to bottom in the ideas of Hayek, Friedman, and Schumpeter. It’s an amazingly strong consensus. It only looks disorderly if your expectations are set by liberalism.

    In that vein, what Jacobs is saying is that Protestantism lacks a scholar who can speak cogently to an audience whose fundamental presuppositions are neoliberal. I agree. In my view, Miroslav Volf and Nick Wolterstorff come the closest, but their work is generally too erudite to be accessible even to most. In that sense, we are still waiting for a Christian Vonnegut.

  • Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi

    The 1960s were a turning point, but also a continuation.
    If you are going to look at bestsellers, how about Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking? This is the strongest tradition.
    Some would argue with the term intellectual for CS Lewis etc, and prefer literate apologist.

  • sdesocio

    Thank you Jake. I pray that as a people Christians can cultivate thoughtful apologists, that understand and can clearly communicate orthodox Christianity.

    I think your right about not sharing a common culture. Jonathan Wilson’s Living Faithful in a Fragmented Culture, comes to mind.

  • rick_w55

    It’s interesting to consider Schaeffer’s place as a model for cultural engagement today. However, I have a bone to pick with Mr. Meador on a side issue.

    That Carl Henry and Harold Ockenga didn’t engage with the arts and popular culture as Schaeffer did is hardly grounds for the condescending comment that they “exiled” themselves in an “evangelical bubble.” Their desire to draw fundamentalists out of their enclaves to engage their culture was a major reason for the founding of Fuller Seminary and Henry’s leadership of Christianity Today. I haven’t read much from Ockenga, but I’ve read quite a bit about Carl Henry (I wrote my master’s thesis at TEDS on his apologetics). From a theological and philosophical standpoint he addressed justice and other social concerns, politics, science, philosophy, modern theology, and more. Henry may not have thought as much about popular culture and the arts as did Schaeffer, but he was a major figure in helping subsequent generations of evangelicals to do so.

    (And by the way, Henry also made Time magazine, when they ran a full-page review of the first two volumes of God, Revelation, and Authority in 1976.)

  • Greg Herr

    “Jacobs is right, then, in saying that we desperately need Christian interpreters to help those outside the faith understand it.” That’s called a Magisterium.

    To quote the Reformed Theologian Carl Truman, “All of our hopes depend upon the Roman Catholic Church….” (First Things, 8/12/16). Trueman’s critique here that the Magisterium did not fulfill its duty suggests that it’s doing the best there is at this time in history.

    Evangelicals are in need of a unified, authoritative body that can interpret and present the Faith as coherent, compelling, and orthodox. That’s what the Magisterium does across history.

    • hoosier_bob

      Why do we need any such thing? My faith is in Christ, not in an intellectual system about Christ, and especially not in a bureaucratic institution that curates that intellectual system.

      • Greg Herr

        Hi Bob,

        I did not thrive very well on my own, yet believing in Christ.

        I found that I function far better as a Christian in a bureaucratic institution curating the intellectual system.

        The folks in my church community seem to feel the same. I think that’s why.

        • hoosier_bob

          My point is that Christianity has no necessary intellectual narrative. That’s what it means to believe that truth fundamentally resides in the person of Christ, not in ideas about Christ.

          I don’t object to groups of people electing to rally around certain ideas about Christ. But Christianity is neither dependent upon nor defined by such groups or their ideas. And when those ideas begin to eclipse the radical, uncomfortable message of Jesus, they cease to be Christian altogether.

          In my view, liberalism is toxic to Christianity. By contrast, neoliberalism provides the kind of free-wheeling environment in which an institution-light form of Christianity can thrive. Yes, those who prefer a more buttoned-up world will like opt for certain institution-heavy forms of Christianity. But, as a content neoliberal who lives in a world surrounded by other content neoliberals, I grow weary of the notion that we need heavy-handed institutions to mediate the Gospel to us.

          I’m not sure what you mean by “function far better,” so I have no ability to assess the merits of your averment. That said, I believe that God has created us all to be efficient maximizers of utility, possessed with an innate ability to sniff out and pursue transactionally efficient outcomes. Of course, we can only achieve that–and arrive at a kind of perfect spontaneous order–when heavy-handed institutions get out of the way.

          I’ve spent much of the past year advising a non-Coastal start-up company that spun out of a large oil company. When it spun out, it brought in all of the institutional heaviness of the old oil company culture, i.e., an organizational chart that was six levels deep for a company of 50 people. Prior to that, I’d primarily worked with start-ups in the Valley, where there’s barely an org chart at all. I can tell you that people are far more productive, happy, and creative in the latter types of environments. The only people who are happy in the former environments are lazy. But, in my opinion, the lazy don’t need institutions to coddle them. Rather, they need to be placed into competitive situations where they’re pushed to their limits and the laziness is beat from them.

          I realize that some are less skilled than others. Even so, in a world of limited resources, the chief sin is waste. We ought all to be working to ensure that we’re daily striving to maximize utility and avoid waste.

          • Greg Herr

            Thank you, Bob. I can try to briefly explain.

            By ‘function, I mean my life in Christ, community, and the world seem to work better within a structure which includes authority (See Matt 18:17, for the ranked manner in which the Lord directed His followers: 1) from person-to-person; 2) from persons-to-person; 3) the Church as final arbiter and authority to address issues); and see Paul, 1 Tim 3:15 to observe it in architectural terms (the Church is the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’). I don’t want to argue with either Jesus or Paul on this; it’s easier and better for me if I do what they say.

            So Jesus and Paul referred us to a structure without placing limits on its bureaucracy, size, administrative levels, etc. Both expected the ‘Movement’ to grow, and inevitably evolve into more complex organism of some kind. (Both came from administrative religious organization[s], so it follows that they would expect the new Faith to evolve similarly.)

            Yet, despite the potential pitfalls, Jesus and Paul are clear: Go to the Church to order your lives. If they had suggested otherwise, then that would be compelling, but they didn’t.

            This basic structure the Lord and Paul referred to serves my spiritual life best.

            On Happiness in Organizations: I’ve experienced it in both (ie, large cumbersome bureaucratic institutions) and small (‘startup’ churches).

            I’ve served in both, and, somewhat related to your experience, am a co-founder of a new ‘startup’ Catholic church. We started with 17 people. I also remain connected to a larger church (membership ~10,000).

            Most of the folks I know in both are happy.

      • ObserverNC

        Well….Let’s say it another way. If the issue is the lack of a Christian intellectual who can speak to the neoliberal culture, then, GH’s suggestion, I think, is that we ought also to consider the voice of Catholic intellectuals in the mix, particularly the voices of JPII and Benedict XVI (even the voice of Francis but in a different way) who have experience with an analogous context in Europe. I have not read the Jacobs’ article, but it is interesting how this article associates “Christian intellectuals” with Protestant Christian intellectuals. As a historical matter, the USA has been a Protestant Christian nation, and the public Christian intellectuals it has had have been Protestant (that is why we have a parochial school system in the US; the public schools at the time of the great Catholic migrations taught Protestant Christianity. That is a fact that strict separationists seem to ignore when they talk about the American tradition of separation of Church and state. . . but that is a different issue). But we have entered into a post-Christian, post-Protestant era in the US, and, in that context, it seems to me that Protestants should not ignore the Catholic intellectual voice when they attempt to speak to American neoliberalism. In the Catholic tradition, that voice is most fully embodied in the teachings and work of the Magisterium.

  • Steve McAlpine

    Great piece. And shades of Benedict.

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  • Aleks Clark

    I think the word you’re looking for to describe Schaeffer’s approach is “incarnational.” Interestingly, it’s what Keller describes in “Serving a Movement.”

  • Is it possible that this article has its measurements backwards. That is, instead of qualifying people as intellectuals by their popular appeal, perhaps we should measure culture by its acceptance or rejection of the intellectuals of its time.

    There are two thoughts I would like to introduce here. First comes from a Noam Chomsky response to a statement by a student. The student when called on gushed in telling Chomsky that he was everyone’s hero–an exaggeration to be sure because such a statement must be determined on an audience by audience basis. But Chomsky’s response gets at the heart of the matter. He said that what we really need are ideas, not heroes. Certainly this line doesn’t play well to an authoritarian audience. Such an audience, regardless of whether it is a conservative or nonconservative audience, seeks heroes so it has orders to follow.

    While this article laments over the fracturing of culture and society, it fails to lament over the pre-existing conditions that were in play prior to and up until the 1960s. American hegemony and war, racism, sexism, poverty, and the threat of nuclear war. With those conditions, why shouldn’t society fracture in response to those conditions? And where was the conservative leadership and what was it speaking to during the 1960s?

    In the end, I don’t think we should be looking for new intellectual leaders. Rather we need to listen to each other as the Church becomes more intellectual as a whole.

  • J. Eisenberg

    Very interesting article and discussion. I’ve studied a few times at the Swiss L’Abri and was deeply impacted and it helped me a lot to cope ministering to young people in Germany during the early eighties and then 25 years in India. My summary of the western culture is that we suffer a terrible dementia concerning our roots (in this case loss of long term memory). How did human values and freedom develop in western Christian countries and not in others? While in India I often thought someone should write a book about these different developments and then I came across this book by Vishal Mangalwadi: “The Book That Made Your World” (lots of reviews at amazon.com). So he did that and it’s the best I’ve read since Schaeffer’s books. Vishal Mangalwadi grew up in India, worked in village projects in India and later moved to the USA … He had also studied at L’Abri and that’s where I first heard his name.
    I believe we need to come back not only to New Testament theology but even more to the kind of fellowship of the early church (Acts), of which L’Abri is just one example (somewhat secluded though). God is relational (The Trinity) and He revealed Himself in close fellowship with his 12 followers and others and started a movement of transformed practical living in relationships and communities and He impacted nations. We have become way too institutionalized, individualistic and materialistic and taken the ‘American way of life’ as the standard rather than the LIFE of Jesus. I consider the work of Bruce Olsen “Bruchko”(http://www.bruceolson.com/english/english.htm) an outstanding example of what it means to follow Jesus into an adverse culture and transform it (while keeping the good parts of it, e.g art forms).

  • Phil Nelson

    Being outside the noise of the city and culture is very helpful. Much like the desert fathers or the Irish Monks who saw from afar and determined to stay true to Christ. We need ears to hear those outsiders, and this requires leaving our “tribe” and listening to voices we might not agree with. Christ set the example by meeting with undesirables and those labeled as sinners. God incarnate hung out with people whose lives were not godly but in fact sinful, evil etc. Yet the King of Kings was not turned off or afraid that their views, lifestyle or friends would contaminate him. Can we follow after this powerful example?
    Edith and Francis’ example is worth noting because the essence of discipleship is not simply teaching but listening and living life near or with those we are called to love. They need models to follow after and not simply teaching. Living a life of love must be seen to be followed. Seeing is believing and believing is not simple a creed one confesses, but a long, slow obedience in the same direction.

    • Gadiel Rios

      “…the essence of discipleship is not simply teaching but listening and living life near or with those we are called to love.” Wow! Thanks for that note.

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