Frequent commenter on this blog, Internetmonk, a.k.a. Michael Spencer, has a fascinating discussion of what sounds like a growing phenomenon: Post-evangelicalism. He defines it this way:
Post-evangelicalism is a way of relating to the present seriously compromised, perhaps terminal, condition of evangelicalism by accessing the resources of the broader, deeper, more ancient Christian traditions that contemporary evangelicalism, in its pragmatic idolatry, has largely abandoned as sources and influences.
Some of the post-evangelicals are flirting with Rome. And some of them seem to be involved with the misguided experimentation of the “emerging church” (someone correct me if I’m wrong). But they are trying to rediscover historical Christianity, usually including liturgy and sacraments.
I’m glad to see that this quest often includes drawing from Lutheranism. As key thinkers in this movement, Internetmonk/Spencer cites the recently-deceased Robert Webber (call him a high-church evangelical, a professor at Wheaton who received his doctorate at Concordia Seminary), and, from the Reformed camp, Michael Horton (sometimes accused of being a crypto-Lutheran). Internetmonk/Spencer himself says how Luther has helped him in his own theology.
As a Lutheran, so much of what other Christians are yearning for and rediscovering I already have. (Though, ironically, many in our church are wanting to imitate evangelicals at the very time evangelicals are trying to find a way to be post-evangelical, a quest that would be fulfilled in confessional Lutheranism, which, let it not be forgotten, was the first movement to go by the accurate name “evangelical.”) Sadly, many post-evangelicals come to a local Lutheran church that they find, to their dismay, is just like the megachurch they are trying to go beyond.
But let me just say to the post-evangelicals that you do not have to choose, as some of you seem to be doing, between the Gospel and Liturgy, between the Bible and the Sacraments. Properly understood, those two are not dichotomies but go together. One can have the best of Protestantism and the best of Catholicism (without the worst of each). Lutheranism proves that. (If you don’t believe me, read my book The Spirituality of the Cross: The Way of the First Evangelicals.