Evangelicals Confront Western Europe's Spiritual Malaise

LONDON – Western Europe has become a region of "empty nominalism" and "confused spirituality," said the chairman of the Keswick Convention.

Dr. Jonathan Lamb told this year's Keswick Convention that while millions of people in Western Europe define themselves as Christian, they regard themselves as Christian only by nationality, culture, as a result of family ties to the faith, or tradition.

He said the spiritual landscape closer to home could be characterized by a "dry orthodoxy," which he explained as Christians who are committed to the evangelical faith but whose life "has been drained of its spiritual vibrancy."

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Others outside the church fold appear to be caught up in a kind of "confused spirituality."

"Many people reject Christian dogma but they are happy to be spiritual – to be spiritual is in vogue," he warned.

Lamb, who is also director of Langham Partnership International, was addressing hundreds of evangelicals at the Bible convention, which takes place each summer in Cumbria to help deepen the spiritual life in individuals and church communities through the careful exposition of Scripture. The convention kicked off earlier this month and concludes next week.

The theme this year is Christ-centered renewal and the spiritual malaise afflicting Western Europe.

Dr. Don Carson, research professor of the New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., cautioned Christians about the dangers of pursuing spirituality, for its own sake without any reference to Christ.

"I don't want you to think that Christians today should be robustly doctrinal and not emotional, or without any sense of the mystical experience of God," he said.

"I'm merely saying that the pursuit of the mystical experience of God, abstracted from the Gospel, abstracted from the mediation of Christ, abstracted from the way we are reconciled to God, can actually become a kind of idolatry, a kind of paganism that sidesteps the cross."

Jonathan Stephens, principal of the Wales Evangelical School of Theology, reminded Christians the key to Christ-centered renewal could be found in returning to Scriptures.

"It is hugely important that we open our minds to see the Christ-centeredness of the whole Bible – it is all about Him," he said.

"How do we improve our holiness? By fixing our eyes on Jesus. If Christ is the center of your life and your thinking, then your life will be transformed by His grace."

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