Evangelicalism and the Broader Christian Tradition

Respectfulconversation.net has just launched its 6 part series on “American Evangelicalism: Present Conditions, Future Possibilities.” Each month for 6 months a different topic will be discussed with posts from various perspectives. This month’s topic is “Evangelicalism and the Broader Christian Tradition” and I wrote one of the 6 posts, “Evangelical Identity and the Broader Christian Tradition.”  An excerpt is below.

Click on the SECOND link above to read all 6 posts and join the conversation with your comments.

Evangelicalism has been going through a bit of an identity crisis. After marking off its territory early on, with membership being wholly voluntary, we have seen an increased willingness fromwithin the ranks to engage deeply beyond Evangelicalism’s borders and re-engage issues thought long settled and indisputable.

Undoubtedly there are numerous complex and interconnected factors that help explain this shift in mood. One factor that I feel is important to note is the rapid access to information and the creation of global virtual “communities” afforded by the Internet. The result is that Evangelicalism has become acutely conscious of itself as a participant in a diverse global Christianity. 

Be that as it may, in my experience, more and more Evangelicals—perhaps especially younger ones—are restless. They are actively looking for ways to respect the cultural movement that gave them spiritual birth while also looking for alternate language and categories better suited to explain their world and their place in it. Still others have given up on the Evangelical experiment altogether as a hopelessly encultured relic of their parents’ faith. It is not uncommon to hear reports of the significantly dwindling numbers that cause genuine concern for Evangelicalism’s future viability, let alone retaining its status as a mover and shaker.

  • http://www.Yeshua21.com Wayne

    ["One factor that I feel is important to note is the rapid access to information and the creation of global virtual “communities” afforded by the Internet. The result is that Evangelicalism has become acutely conscious of itself as a participant in a diverse global Christianity."]

    The Internet is key, IMO. I have written about it as follows:

    “The advent of the Internet marks a qualitative and quantitative shift in the way that diverse cultures and religions are interacting with one another. No one person can hope to cobble together an adequate synthesis of the world’s religions, but a collective synthesis does seem to be emerging.
    While there is a sense in which you can’t put new wine into old bottles, there is also a sense in which the emerging synthesis— insofar as it is conducive to an authentic experience of the Divine —will, over time, be reflected back into the more conservative traditions out of which (and beyond which) it is growing (a kind of counter-reformation, if you will).
    As such, even very conservative Churches will be affected by this emerging synthesis of the world’s wisdom traditions. In the beginning, many churches will probably tend to become more rigid, in reaction to it. But over time, they will adapt and respond in more positive and creative ways.”

    http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/skeptics-corner/critical-reflections-on-bible-based-belief-systems/

  • susan

    Great articles, thanks for the work and the links.

  • Ed Lauber

    Is this a description of US, or North American, or Western Evangelicals? I’m don’t see what you are describing in African evangelicals, for example.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    Thank you for your article at Respectful Conversation. I really enjoyed it and commented further there.

  • James

    We rely a lot on statements of faith and various declarations on theological matters to define who we are and aren’t. Evangelical input into various forms of liberation, Trinitarian, evolutionary, Catholic, Orthodox, and Charismatic theologies may lead to broader understanding in general and discovering other facets (some new, some old) of divine revelation and Christian response. We’re too quick to circle the wagons on our journey of discovery.

  • http://www.culturemonk.com kenneth justice

    Peter,

    isn’t it possible that Evangelicalism will simply…fade away?

    it’s not like 20th and 21st century evangelicalism is steeped in much tradition…its become so disconnected from the various traditions of christians sects (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, etc) that it seems like 200 years from now people will ‘remember’ what it was…but it probably will no longer exist…..

    no?