Can Evangelicalism and Capitalism (Not) Get Along? The Upcoming Ancient-Evangelical Future Conference

Why is it that whenever people like myself criticise capitalism and the influence it is having on evangelical forms of the church, that we are then automatically accused of being socialists? I declare, that one can be critical of capitalism as a social system and not thereby be an avowed Marxist socialist. Indeed, the argument I am seeking to make space for, and to flesh out, is how the church provides space to be an alternative politic that lives “in but not of” capitalism.

This is why I am excited to be presenting at the AEF Conference this year. For it gives me the opportunity to flesh out some of these very ideas.

For those of you who don’t know, the Ancient-Evangelical Future Conference (AEF) was begun at Northern Seminary by Robert Webber before he passed away. The conference was founded upon the Ancient-Evangelical Call document which had four editors (Kevin VanHoozer, Howard Snyder, D H Williams, Hans Boersma) and over 400 signatories. This year’s conference is now the third AEF conference. Every year the conference brings in outstanding presenters on the fundamental issue of the AEF Call – including Brian McLaren, Martin Marty, Lauren Winner, Frederica Mathews-Green and last year Scot McKnight, Edith Humphrey and Kevin Van Hoozer. This year Howard Snyder, D H Williams. Janell Williams Paris, and Rick Richardson along with myself. The conference is Oct 9-11. See here for more details.

Last year the theme was on the way we speak and practice Scripture. This year, the theme is on way we speak about and practice church. The section of the AEF Call on “the church” reads as follows:

We call Evangelicals to take seriously the visible character of the Church. We call for a commitment to its mission in the world in fidelity to God’s mission (Missio Dei), and for an exploration of the ecumenical implications this has for the unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity of the Church. Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from an individualism that makes the Church a mere addendum to God’s redemptive plan. Individualistic Evangelicalism has contributed to the current problems of churchless Christianity, redefinitions of the Church according to business models, separatist ecclesiologies and judgmental attitudes toward the Church. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to recover their place in the community of the Church catholic.

I relish the chance to interact with these ideas. The title of my presentation will be Can Evangelicalism and Capitalism (Not) Get Along? On the Church as Counter-Narrative to American Capitalism. I will flesh out why being critical of capitalism does not necessitate that one then has to be a socialist, that indeed the church is a third alternative form of political organization that must live in – but not of – capitalism. I thn make suggestions on what possibly this look like in modern American evangelical churches.

My presentation will go like this:
1.) A brief outline of the postmodern critique of capitalism including snapshots of Deleuze, Foucault, Bauman, Zizek, Hauerwas, Milbank.
2.) What these people help us see about the current practice of the church as seen in American Evangelicalism and described by the AEF Call
3.) Some basic practices we can start with that create spaces of resistance to capitalism and thereby create space for koinonia, spiritual formation and mission in and amidst capitalism.

Interested? Come to the conference. As always, there’s a break for seminary/college students. Just e-mail the site or call them at the Grow Center at 630-620-2197.

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