My last post discussed church activity related to the American Revolution and Civil War that inspired favorable outcomes for both. What triggered the negative attitude toward political engagement prevalent among evangelicals today?
It was spawned in large measure by the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversy that emerged in the late 1800s and came to full bloom in the early 1900s.
The Modernist movement derived its impetus from the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859, which gave rise to the view that Darwin provided a natural explanation for origins, thus eliminating belief in the supernatural. In response, Modernists develop a belief system largely devoid of supernatural elements, reducing Christianity to social action. Humans and society did not need spiritual transformation but rather education, modern medicine, psychological help, good government and other assets provided by human efforts.
Fundamentalists, precursors of today’s evangelicals, reacted to this Modernist theological construct by asserting that human change could only come about through supernatural intervention: revival, the new birth, and spiritual discipleship. Because of the emphasis of Modernism on social action, fundamentalists, and later evangelicals, identified social action such as political involvement with Modernism, consequently rejecting it. The answer for humanity was not political but spiritual. Therefore, the church needed to recognize and stay focused on its role as God’s spiritual change agent rather than getting sidetracked by political activity, which ultimately was viewed as a fruitless approach to helping individuals and society.
One outcome of this perspective was abandonment by evangelicals of the public square, leaving a minority of Modernists, who morphed into today’s liberals, to dominate our nation by infiltrating our educational system, government, courts, media, and other areas of influence.
Another factor precipitating evangelical withdrawal from political life will comprise our next topic.