One of the constant temptations of evangelicalism is to decide that we have all the answers and so do not need to listen very carefully to what others say. A parallel temptation is to have the same attitude to God. He has revealed himself in Scripture and has made his will evident—so surely we just need to get on with it? Ironically, this attitude is potentially made worse by recent research on church growth. The Centre for Church Growth in Durham has identified key strategies and practices that lead to growth—so surely all we need to get on an implement them, don’t we?
This attitude is evidenced in four tendencies:
Individualism Evangelicals are not unique in this, but we have often valued strong leaders and heroic individuals. If there is a sense that God has raised up a ‘charismatic’ (in terms of personality) leader, then evangelical culture often makes it hard to ask appropriate questions, and shared leadership doesn’t appear to come naturally.
Modernist rationalism. Evangelical commitment to doctrinal expressions of faith can be very helpful in clarifying issues and positions. But it can also be a sign that the underlying philosophical assumptions are highly rationalist, and assume that the autonomy of the sensing subject at the centre of the process of acquiring knowledge. This rationalist approach can also mark some evangelical approaches to the interpretation of Scripture. As long as we have mastered the text, and have the appropriate techniques of interpretation, then we can have complete certainty about what texts might mean in new contexts. In this approach, there is little room for ambiguity or uncertainty.