Originally published in 1947, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism provided a manifesto for evangelical Christians who are serious about bringing their Christian faith to bear in contemporary culture. In this classic book, Carl F. H. Henry, the father of the modern evangelical movement, pioneered a path forward that avoids, on the one hand, the error of disengagement and apathy towards today’s social ills, and, on the other hand, the error that is the social gospel. In our current cultural climate, in which evangelicalism is still wrestling with how to engage social matters, this book is as relevant as ever.
Below is a basic denominations & traditions chart I made for the residents while working at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. I’m hesitant to share this here because, admittedly, its overly simplistic and I suspect many will find it unsatisfying or maybe even at times misleading for that reason. Nonetheless, for someone who is less familiar and looking simply to get a basic acquaintance with the general landscape, I hope this can provide a helpful starting place, notwithstanding the understandable short comings of something as brief as this.
I didn’t originally give this book a rating when I marked it “read.” That’s largely because I felt pretty ambivalent about it — things about it drew me towards a high ranking, like 4 or 5-stars; but other things I found more dissatisfactory or more mediocre.
However, given the popularity and influence of this book, I had several folks ask me for my thoughts. So I guess I’ll oblige. And I’ll give the book a balanced 3-starts, which Goodreads describes as “I liked it” [good, above average], to express my general appreciation of the book, its argument, and form, while also taking into consideration my quibbles and hesitancies.
One note: I listened to this book as an audiobook, which always creates a different experience (at least for me) than a more careful read. I’m a visual learner. So when I listen to books I expect I inevitably overlook or don’t absorb some of its details, but nonetheless gain an overall impression of the book. But anyway, that means you should take any critique or quibbles below with a certain grain of salt in case the fault, in this case, lies with the reader (me) and not the book/author.
But allow me to list out some of the thoughts I have in terms of assessment:
(1) I very much agree with and appreciate the overall message of the book. I personally grew up in the orbit of the evangelical world Du Mez is describing. So I know the truth of her thesis not just academically, but also on a personal level from my own experience. I don’t think she uses the term “toxic masculinity.” But (defined in the best possible way) I think this term fits what she’s describing. Her point is that much of evangelicalism is fraught with such a view of masculinity. And that’s very, very true, in my opinion. No push back there.
Integrity matters. If you want to serve as a testimony to Christian ethics, then you’re actually going to need to hold them, and that means holding them with consistency. Hypocrisy and double-standards will effectively serve to mute your witness.
It’s hard to cry out against a sin in one instance when, in another instance, you’ve excused, blown-off, or chosen to overlooked that sin.
What if the sort of “power” and influence Jesus intended for his followers wasn’t one of ends-justify-the-means ethical compromise and political power-plays, but witness to a “revolutionary”-like ethic like that of Mt 5-7, with all the integrity, lowliness, and self-sacrifice involved therein (5:13-16)?
Many advocate ethical compromise for the sake of “the greater good” (or “the lesser of two evils”). But what shall it profit the church if it gains a whole election but loses its witness? What if the church’s witness is the actual means of its impact?
This was an excellent lecture. Russell Moore, as always, nails it.