In June of 2011, I posted an article called “You Might Be and Evangelical Reject If…” Honestly, it shocked me to learn about how many readers resonated with being an Evangelical Reject. Many of us, who would still like to cling to the good things about evangelicalism (without some of the fundamentalist baggage of the past) often find ourselves ostracized because we challenge the cultural mold of conservative Christianity.
Those of us who might identify as “evangelical rejects” love evangelicalism and refuse to reject our sisters and brothers in the faith. We whole-heartedly affirm the following four markers of evangelical Christianity:
Biblicism—being Bible-centered, which would include the belief that the Bible is the Divinely inspired authority for life and faith; it is trustworthy and sufficient.
Conversionism—being conversion-centered, which would include the need for being converted to Jesus Christ.
Crucicentrism—being cross-centered, which would include emphasizing the death of Jesus for salvation.
Activism—being activist-centered, which would include living the Christian life, evangelizing, and helping those in need.
All four of these characteristics shape my faith in various ways. I believe that the whole bible is God’s inspired word to us. I know conversion because I have been and am still being converted to Jesus Christ. The cross matters for in it salvation was unleashed for all who will believe. And activism is central to living in partnership with God’s mission to God world. Those four convictions historically make-or-break one’s own evangelical identity.
Unfortunately, there is an unspoken (or, often overly spoken) code of theological, cultural, and political beliefs that many within evangelical churches often champion as “TRUTH.” Rather than admitting that we all need to be humble in these matters, some are quick to drop the “heretic” bomb (just read the comments section of any blog about the work of Rob Bell ). The link between “heresy” (well, some folks’ definition of that word) and evangelical rejects is sad and obvious. Many faithful disciples of Jesus find themselves in situations where they are labeled a “heretic” because their views don’t line up with the status quo.
Sometimes, if I’m honest, I’m tempted to pull the lever on a reverse heretical bomb. I’d love to give some people a taste of their own medicine. So, l when I’m accused of not fitting some sort of unspoken code or litmus test, I often think that demonstrating the fallacy of such thinking and labeling it as “heresy” might be a fun reversal of fortunes. I think of saying: O, so you believe that the world was created in 7 literal days… Well, you know, that reading the bible in its proper genre, historical, and theological context renders your view as heretical. What if some of these issues that get us deemed “heretics” were labeled as the new “conservative” viewpoint, and we started calling various forms of fundamentalism the new “liberalism?” But then, that thought quickly fades as I remember how it feels to be labeled a heretic and thereby become an evangelical reject. Such a reversal would lead to more infighting, which should not be our goal. I long to be part of a movement of reconciliation – on every level.
My personal view is that outside of the Apostle’s Creed and the four convictions of evangelicalism, that we do well not question the sincerity of anyone’s commitment to evangelical Christian faith. I would say that the four convictions may not be necessary for those expressions of faith that have not historically claimed such a label. The movement of Jesus is diverse and we should have a “big tent” that allows for multiple voices. Sure, there is tons of value in identifying with a specific tribe (Anabaptist, Pietism, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan, Reformed, Orthodox, Anglican, etc.), but within those traditions and as they interact with each other, wouldn’t we do well to not drop the “heresy” bomb every time someone has a view that diverges from one’s own?
Do you ever experience rejection from evangelical culture? Perhaps you know what it’s like to have “heresy” bombs tossed in your general direction. I’ve decided that I’m okay with being labeled a “heretic” – in quotes – because ultimately I’m convinced that this sort of heresy isn’t heresy at all. Sure, none of us will get every part of our belief system absolutely perfect. But if “heresy” in quotes helps us partner in the mission of God, then I’m convinced that being a “heretic” of this sort isn’t so bad after all.
If you were to complete the following sentence, how would you do so to share your experiences?
“You might be a “heretic” if…”
 David W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), preface.