The subject of “evangelicalism” is being discussed around the blogosphere a bit these days. First, Scot McKnight has a series of posts on “The End of Evangelicalism” with reflections on David Fitch’s book The End of Evangelicalism. The most recent one (# 5) includes the claim that the “master-signifiers” of evangelicalism are “the Inerrant Bible, Decision for personal salvation, and the Christian Nation”. Though I would point out that this is a very parochially American definition of evangelical. Most evangelical confessions of faith throughout the world use the word “infallible” and biblical authority is emphasized rather than the inerrancy of the autographs (think about Lausanne Covenant and UCCF as examples). A decision for personal salvation, yes, you can find that everywhere, but in many places like Africa and Asia, evangelicals also have a strong idea of family bonds and corporate identity. On the “Christian Nations” thing, well, you can get the odd English hymn here and there about building Jerusalem, but by far in most countries evangelicals are minorities and have no ambitions about becoming a Christian Nation (or as one televangelist put it: getting all of America converted, baptized, and enrolled to vote)! So if we think of evangelicalism as a global phenomenon then I don’t think Hitch’s hunch really applies.
Second, Trevin Wax posts on what evangelicalism can learn from the SBC (“Southern Baptist Convention”). He points out that evangelical has come to be so broad that it is a nebulous term when it includes folks like Brian Maclaren. Wax proposes that just as evangelicals helped out the conservative resurgence in the SBC, so now the SBC can help strengthen and support evangelicals in their efforts to reclaim the center of evangelical identity. He exhorts his friends: “Let’s be Southern Baptist – not against other evangelicals, but for the good of evangelicals.” Noble thoughts, but I think he’s up against a strong culture of resistance. The problem is, as Wax notes, that some in the SBC think that “Those outside our denomination are not like us. Therefore, Southern Baptists who network with others are suspect. Their Baptist credentials are called into question” and “There are some who feel that the purity of Southern Baptist identity will be polluted if we join coalitions or encourage other networks.” Good luck Trevin, hope it works out for you! I’ll be leave the light on in case you get kicked out of home!!
So there are clearly two trends emerging: (1) Evangelicals who want to broaden the boundaries of evangelicalism into a post-conservative evangelicalism; and (2) Evangelicals that want insularity from others who are leftward of them and leave evangelicalism for a neo-Fundamentalism.
My questions are:
1. Is this just an American thing or is it a trend in global evangelicalism?
2. Do you see evangelicalism ending by either becoming too broad or by conservatives returning back to Fundamentalism?
3. Is there a centrist evangelicalism and if so what does it look like?
4. What exactly is post-conservative evangelicalism?