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The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age
Randall J. Stephens
Belknap Press, 2011
384 pp., $29.95
"The Inner Ring"
Thanks for Jay Green's critique ["Making It," May/June] of The Anointed by Randall J. Stephens and Karl W. Giberson and their "safely NPR-proofed" views "demonstrat[ing] their own professional-class bona fides." Such views are often fashion statements designed to gain entrance into what C. S. Lewis called "the Inner Ring." Green terms it "the well-heeled urban élite" in "places like Berkeley and the Upper West Side."
We Bible-believers are outsiders: "our religion contains a great many things that will forever seem weird and offensive" there: e.g., the NT's teaching against homosexuality (Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10) and this citing of Bible verses.
NPR is not a bad example. Its "All Things Considered" presents meat-and-potatoes information useful for most everyone, but enough hors d'oeuvres, special dessert items, and exotic beverages—a Thai musician mixing Thai music with jazz—that very few have a "need to know" but that many could use to good advantage at a party in Berkeley or the Upper West Side.
Christ exposed the basic fallacy in John 5:44. "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?" Spiritual truth cannot be packaged and processed to gain status. The two functions are contradictory.
Raw, unprocessed, under-interpreted items of information—like raw Bible verses—are low-status in this urban and urbane setting where information, like food, is highly processed. The style, creativity, and fame of the processor give it status. So does the social standing of others who know it. That there is no "need to know" complements its status function; it need not pass the test of solving a problem or helping one to survive a crisis. If it gains one a higher status, it has done its job.
The Inner Ring exists in Christian circles, judging by Joel Carpenter's "The Conversation" [May/June, Stranger in a Strange Land], occasioned by a collection of articles ...