The Sinking Ship of Evangelical Christianity

What follows is an interview that Church Leaders conducted with me earlier this year.

Share what you see happening in evangelical Christianity today. 

A growing number of Christians have grown tired of the Christian Left vs. Christian Right squabbles, feuds, and vitriol. Not just in the political arena, but in the theological arena. Many evangelical teachers and historians are observing that the evangelical coalition is breaking down and the word “evangelical” is virtually meaningless today.

Consequently, countless Christians are yearning for and reimagining a new kind of evangelicalism. One that carries forth the main keynotes of historic evangelicalism, but which goes further. These believers desire an evangelicalism that transcends both the Left and the Right paradigms while affirming the best of each. They envision a more Christ-centered, orthodox, biblical expression of Christianity.

To put it in parable form, there was once a large ship that was shot by enemy fire. As a result, it began to sink . . . slowly. The ship was carrying a large group of Christians from all different denominations and movements. While the ship sank, many of the people on the ship weren’t talking about what to do. They weren’t discussing how to keep the ship afloat or how to save as many lives as possible after it went down. Nor were they joining forces in responding to the enemy attack. Instead, they were bickering over how old the ship was, how much the ship weighed, and the quality of the food that was served the night before.

In many respects, that’s the Christian family today. And it’s one of the reasons why I felt compelled to write Beyond Evangelical.

Can you give us a taste of some of the chapters, maybe share the table of contents with us?

Here’s the TOC . . .

Introduction: The Birth of this Book

1.  What Does “Beyond Evangelical” Mean?
2.  Four Divergent Streams in the Evangelical Fold
3.  Clearing the Terrain
4.  You Are Not Alone (A Collective Confession)
5.  A Repeat of History
6.  The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Evangelicalism
7.  Why the Christian Right and Left Won’t Adopt Me
8.  Sinning Differently Than Others
9.  Cutting the Moral Line
10. Moving Beyond Legalism & Libertinism
11. Moving Beyond Deconstructionism
12. Moving Beyond Self-Righteousness
13. Moving Beyond Sectarianism
14. Moving Beyond Calvinism & Arminianism
15. The Turning Tide
16. The Coming Evangelical Collapse
17. Answers to Questions and Objections
18. How Evangelicalism Lost Its Way (Other Voices)
19. A Beyond Evangelical Approach to Reaching the World
20. Forgotten Words of Jesus

Afterword: Continuing the Conversation

Appendix: Three Ways to Be Connected

With the exception of one chapter which quotes many evangelical thinkers (namely, Scot Mcknight, Roger Olson, Alister McGrath, N.T. Wright, Mark Noll, the late Michael Spencer, and many others), each chapter is short and easy to read. I deliberately provide a ton of source materials as well as links to some of the best articles on the subject for those who wish to delve deeper.

What has been the response been so far?

Overwhelmingly positive. The most frequent response I’ve gotten is that the book has given many evangelicals language to describe how they feel and what they believe. It’s also given them a framework by which to envision a new kind of evangelicalism that is biblically faithful yet profoundly Christocentric.

In some ways, the book builds on my work with Leonard Sweet entitled, Jesus Manifesto. One of the most popular chapters is  about “sin metrics” . . . which is the act exalting some sins as being greater than other sins  . . . something that Jesus, James, and Paul all warned about, yet which many evangelicals unwittingly practice. The chapter is called “Sinning Differently” and it unpacks Philip Yancey’s line, “Christians get very angry toward other Christians who sin differently than they do.”

Is the book only in e-book format? And where can people order it?

Yes, it’s only an eBook.

It’s available on PDF (the PDF version includes color and graphics)

It’s available on Kindle

It’s available on the Nook

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  • Frank Viola

    Thx. My books are in Spanish. Email and ask for the link to them.

  • Mark Walsh

    Please swing by Mexico on your next tour, and come with Spanish translation lifeboats of your great articles, por favor. The leaky ship of Mexican evangelism thrown together by all sorts of missionaries and “rice Christian” projects is sinking even faster than the U.S. one, bringing my semnary/missionary prep ministry down with it. Mexican evangelicals are blissfully ignorant of the imminant disaster and consider me a passionate loco for trying to wake them up to action. Our “church2go” looks like a promising step on the journey of a thousand miles. (Like pizza-to-go but with Holy Spirit toppings on Jesus bread :) ) It’s easier to get my family out of status quo church than to get the status quo church mentality out of them.

  • Russ

    Well said Frank. This has been Relevancy22′s constant theme since inception as I’ve moved from one cherished Evangelical doctrine to another examining the repercussions of dogmatism instead of an open, living faith.

  • Frank Viola

    Wow. Coincidence! Didn’t know that.

  • http://TheBereanObserver Bob Wheeler

    Is it a coincidence that a blogpost on “The Sinking Ship of Evangelical Christianity” appeared on Pearl Harbor Day?
    I haven’t read the book, but if I could offer my own brief comment as someone who doesn’t hesitate to call himself a “conservative Evangelical,” (or even Paleo-Evangelical, if you like), I think that we have indeed arrived at a decisive turning point in history. Much of modern Evangelicalism is the product of the Victorian era, when Christianity was quite respectable, and many embraced the faith for social and cultural reasons. But the surrounding culture has changed quite dramatically, and it is no longer fashionable to be a conservative Bible-believing Christian. So where does that put us?
    I think A.W. Tozer saw the handwriting on the wall. I would like to think that those who are serious about their relationship with God, who have had a genuine experience of the new birth, will continue to take the Bible seriously as God’s revealed truth, and will hold fast to a theology that is recognizably Protestant and orthodox. The rest will seek to accommodate themselves to the shifting sands of the mainstream culture. And if my take on eschatology is correct (the church will go through the Great Tribulation) an underground church of committed believers will emerge that will relive the experience of First Century Christianity. And then the bride will be ready for the groom!