I hesitate to call Frank an “Evangelical” because he says he and Christians like him are “beyond Evangelical”. That resonates because one of my books and my approach to the faith is “More Christianity”. Anyway, I read the book Frank wrote with Leonard Sweet called Jesus A Theography and thought he and I might be able to dialogue publicly about the state of Evangelicalism and Catholicism.
This would not only bring us together, but bring our readers together in the combox.
It works like this: I ask Frank a question and he replies. I post on my blog. He links. Later in the week I reply and post on my blog and he links. The next week he asks me a question. I reply. He posts on his blog. I link. He replies and posts on his blog and I link.
I hope my readers will take an interest in the discussion and jump in with visits to both blogs and both comboxes.
Thanks so much for the invitation to conduct a conversation with you through our two blogs!
You know I’m a graduate of Bob Jones University. I grew up in an Evangelical fundamentalist home in Pennsylvania. It was church twice on Sunday and Wednesday night prayer meeting. I can remember reading anti-Catholic Chick tracts and although my family wasn’t strongly anti-Catholic, the assumption was that Catholics were not Christian and needed to “get saved.”
When I went to Bob Jones the temperature of the religion was considerably warmer! At Bob Jones they were definitely anti-Catholic. The Pope was the anti-Christ and the Catholic church was the great whore of Babylon. Dr. Bob and his friend, the fiery Northern Irish preacher Ian Paisley used to inveigh against the idolatrous and blasphemous Catholic church. When Pope Paul VI died Dr. Bob said he had “gone to the place appointed to him along with his brother Judas.”
Whew! Pretty hot stuff!
You’re probably familiar with this strong anti-Catholic bias within the Protestant-Evangelical world, and while it wasn’t always quite as jalapeno pepper hot at Dr.Bob’s preaching, there was plenty of it throughout the Protestant world. Indeed, it is arguable that the entire Protestant religion is a “protest” against Catholicism and that no matter if you are Anglican or Assembly of God, Methodist or Mennonite, Lutheran or Church of Christ or house church or community church or no church at all–if you are a non-Catholic Christian part of your religious genetic code is a certain level of anti-Catholicism.
Protestants are often unsure of what they are, but they are very sure what they are NOT–and that is Catholic.
However Frank, you represent a particular stream of Protestant Christianity which you describe as “post Evangelical” or “beyond Evangelical”. I’m still learning what this means, but among other things does it mean that you have moved beyond the old, assumed, “no question about it” anti-Catholicism of American Evangelicalism?
Yr brother in Christ,
…and here’s Franks’ reply:
David Livingston said, “I am prepared to go anywhere . . . provided it be forward.”
We are living in a day when modern evangelicalism is in ruins. The four notes of evangelicalism – being bible-centered, cross-centered, conversion-centered and evangelistic . . . have taken on meanings so diverse that Albert Mohler (on the right) and Rob Bell (on the left) call themselves evangelical. But the tide is turning.
Christians in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are tired of the shallowness of modern evangelicalism. They are tired of the self-righteousness, callousness, and judgmentalism that marks much of the movement. They are tired of the libertinism (grace=license to sin) that marks much of the movement. They are neither left nor right.
They are Christians who have a deep allegiance and devotion to Jesus Christ. They believe that Jesus alone is this world’s true Lord and He stands above all systems and personalities, even religious. They love, desire, and stand for the ekklesia, a local body of believers who are enthroning Christ as Head . . . and they believe that the church is Christ existing as a shared-life community, not two hours on Sunday and Wednesday.
They don’t advocate any particular church form or structure. They simply want to follow the Lord with others. This hearty band of Christians from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue stand for the four notes of classic evangelicalism. But they have gone beyond them.
In addition, they are . . . intensely Christ-centered, Jesus is not only the supreme Lord. Not only the wonderful Savior. But He is All (Col. 3:11). They are Resurrection life centered. They believe that Jesus, by his resurrection, is still alive and indwells every believer. But more, every believer can live by His indwelling life . . . and this is the meaning of the Christian life. They are also body centered. Christ in known in and through the shared life community called the church, which is His body. And they are eternal purpose centered. God has a timeless purpose that goes beyond salvation, and He’s never let go of it. They have gone beyond evangelical. To repeat: The following can be said about those who have moved “beyond evangelical.” They are neither fundamentalist nor emergent. They are neither postmodern nor modern. They are neither pietistic nor activist. They are neither legalistic nor libertine. They believe in morality, but they are not moralistic. Those who have moved beyond evangelical embrace elements of each theological/political position, yet they have gone beyond them.
In answer to your specific questions, “beyond evangelicals” embrace all Christians who name the name of Jesus regardless of what denomination, movement, or Christian “tribe” to which they belong – whether Protestant, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Radical Reformed, etc. Whomever Christ has received we must also receive.