I just finished reading Warren Cole Smith’s A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church. You can find the official website here. You could probably more accurately call this book, Smith’s Quarrel with the Republican-Evangelical Alliance, Historical Amnesia, Megachurches, Christian Consumerism, Pragmatic Evangelism, and the Uncritical Embrace of Technology. If you’re in the camp that equates the Evangelical Church with these six characteristics, then you’ll likely be on board with Smith’s critiques. However, I don’t tend to lump these together uncritically.
For instance, in the chapter on Megachurches, Willow Creek and Joel Osteen’s congregation are both included as examples of the triumph of sentimentality. I, however, wouldn’t lump these two in any category outside of sheer size. It is also hard to see the hard and fast link between technology and megachurch growth while I’m serving in a megachurch that doesn’t use video screens during Sunday morning services.
All in all, Smith’s critiques aren’t critiques the average seminary student hasn’t heard by their second or third year. Smith’s audience is likely laypeople who already have an issue with any of the things listed above.
Strangely enough, Smith’s conclusions seem to come from a different planet than his critiques. While reading the first six chapters, I thought it would be impossible for me to recommend this book to anyone. Chapters seven and eight softened my stance. Strangely enough, Smith’s prescription for fixing what he describes in the first six chapters is a movement of strategic church planting movements and strong biblical communities. In fact, I find it hard to see the connections between what he describes and what he prescribes. However, in the end, I would say I agree with the prescription even if I don’t totally agree with the diagnosis.
Even with the sharp turn at the end, I would have a hard time recommending this book. If you know me you can borrow mine, since I won’t be reading it again.
2 thoughts on “Book Review: A Lovers Quarrel with the Evangelical Church”
I think it is very interesting listening to ill-informed people speak on the church. Unless someone is an insider, they are not going to get the nuances.
A few examples: Listening to NPR one day, the religion editor, Barbara Hagerty, kept using the terms “seeker-sensitive” and “mega-church” interchangeably. I’m thinking to myself how I work in a mega-church, but can’t begin to describe my setting as seeker-sensitive. To some, this phrase simply means inclusion of technology, not method of communication and style of church programming.
A few years ago, the movie “Jesus Camp” painted all evangelicals as fundamentalists and continually used the terms interchangeable. To anyone who is in these circles these are clearly not synonymous terms, which you made clear at the beginning of your post.
One last example, is the way some use the term Pentecostal and charismatic. These are theological systems that are not one and the same.
Perhaps, it is because theology trains us to think in the world of words that these semantics bother me so much, or maybe I’m so bothered because it is the habit of our world to label, stereotype, polarize, and ultimately divide us from one another.
Thanks for reading it so I don’t have to.