Would you agree or disagree with me that Christianity* is unfashionable on campus? If so, would you go further with me to argue that Christianity is even more unfashionable on campus than in our larger culture? Whether you agree or disagree with me that Christianity is unfashionable on campus, does Christianity need to be unfashionable on campus? And if so, why and how?
On May 5, Christianity Today ran Out of Step and Fine with It: Why Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of the Most Admired Man in America, thinks Christians need to become unfashionable. Let’s take a look at what Tchividjian has to say:
“Younger generations don’t want trendy engagement from the church; in fact, they’re suspicious of it,” Tchividjian writes in Unfashionable. “Instead, they want truthful engagement with historical and theological solidity that enables meaningful interaction with transcendent reality. They want desperately to invest their life in something worth dying for, not some here-today-gone-tomorrow fad.”
New City practices what theologian Ed Clowney called “doxological evangelism.” … Like Manhattan pastor Tim Keller, Tchividjian believes biblical fidelity holds the Reformed and Anabaptist views on church and culture in creative tension. “Why haven’t any Christ/culture models taken over the orthodox world the way other doctrines have? Why can’t we come to consensus?” Keller asked when we discussed Tchividjian. “It’s because none of them really captures everything, and all of them are really good critiques of each other.”
In this spirit, Tchividjian credits Anabaptist theologian Stanley Hauerwas for showing him how the church should be the church and not worry about winning cultural approval. But he also praises Abraham Kuyper, a Reformed theologian and Dutch prime minister from 1901 to 1905, for emphasizing Christianity as a total world- and lifeview. Kuyper influenced later worldview advocates Francis Schaeffer and Charles Colson, who called Tchividjian “one of today’s brightest young Christian leaders.” On their own, Anabaptists tend to marginalize themselves, while Reformed transformationalists lose the unique gospel message amid their social agendas. Together, these contrasting approaches help Christians retain both biblical dimensions of the gospel.
“The gospel is both individual and communal,” Tchividjian said, sounding more like John Stott than Billy Graham. “The gospel is not simply the story of Christ dying on the cross for sinners. It also involves Christ rising again as the first fruits that will eventually make all things new. There is a universal dimension to the gospel.” …
Unlike the Religious Right’s founders, Tchividjian preaches little about winning the culture wars. Like his grandfather, he believes that focusing on the gospel will reap the reward of faithful church practice, an appealing apologetic in a skeptical age. Now as senior minister of Coral Ridge, he takes this message into one of America’s most prestigious pulpits.
What do you think about Tchividjian’s perspective on being unfashionable? If approached from this manner, would you describe yourself as unfashionable? AND would you say that Christianity needs to be unfashionable on campus (and the culture at large)? I’m going to read Tchividjian’s Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different (Multnomah, 2009) over the course of the next several months and see how well it applies to higher education (and the culture at large). Anyone interested in joining me in discussing Unfashionable later this summer?
Hungry for a book discussion sooner? In June, we’re going to begin a series on Your Mind Matters by John Stott (you may remember him being mentioned above). If you don’t already have a copy of this 93 page classic introduction to Christian thinking, borrow one from your InterVarsity staff or order one with your Emerging Scholars Network discount for InterVarsity Press. Be prepared. Pick-up a copy. Start reading. Take notes. More details tba 😉
*Definition: the religion derived from Jesus Christ based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies — http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Christianity
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!