We’re All Evangelical Now

When I first signed on to blog at Patheos, I expressed my hesitation at being siloed.  Nevertheless, I was put in the “Progressive Christian” Portal, formerly called the “Mainline Christian Portal.”  I asked that my blog also be listed in the “Evangelical” Portal, and beginning today, I am listed there.  And I’m grateful for and happy about this.

Notwithstanding the fact that I’m identified in places like the Washington Post as an “evangelical pastor,” I write about lots of things that are of interest to evangelicals.  In fact, if I had to guess, I’d say that about half of my readers are evangelicals.

Of course, that’s a disputed word.  What, exactly, is an evangelical.  I’ve spilled a lot of pixels on that question, as have Scot McKnight and others.  Insiders, like Scot and me, tend to think of evangelical as a theological category.  In that sense, I probably am evangelical: I have a high view of the Bible, I have a high Christology, and I believe the the spread of the gospel message brings hope and reconciliation to people.

But evangelical is also a cultural marker.  Defined by journalists and authors like Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (who, in spite of their attempt to redefine the term, merely exacerbate the problem), evangelical means a person who holds a generally conservative social and political outlook.  And if that’s the definition, then I don’t fit.

I’ve written about the evangelical intelligentsia, a small and informal cabal of people who work at institutions in Glen Ellyn, Grand Rapids, Wheaton, and Colorado Springs, who would rather that evangelicals are not influenced by the likes of McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, me, and others.  Yet, the comments on this blog bear the proof that lots of evangelicals are reading us, which I welcome.

More diversity of opinion will only enhance evangelicalism. I hope that my peers in the Evangelical Portal at Patheos will welcome my contributions here.

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  • The whole “evangelical vs. mainline” debate confuses me. Is an evangelical anyone who believes God speaks through Scripture, or just those who think God wrote the Bible? Is a mainliner some one who is lenient about social/political issues, or some one like Marcus Borg or John Shelby Spong? I don’t know anymore, so I just use the word “progressive,” meaning that I want to know how to apply Jesus’ 2000-year-old teachings to the 21st century.

  • “High view of the Bible” [tick], “high Christology” [tick], “believe in the spread of the Gospel message” [tick]… perhaps I am an evangelical 🙂

    • Is this Peter Rollins, or RealPeteRollins?

  • Dan Hauge

    Of course, unpacking what people actually mean by “high views” of things, and what the “gospel message” actually is, will continue to be significant dividing lines. Content is more important than terms. However, I agree that what ‘evangelical’ is should be a broader theological tent (which is why I’m one of those ‘evangelicals’ who read your blog :))

  • Tony, the one positive thing I can say for this is that I am glad you are not a “look at all my cool tattoos” evangelical, liberal, progressive, incarnational, Christian.

    • Lock, I don’t have a single tattoo.


      • Lock

        Well if you get one, then make sure they are on your arms with your sleeves rolled up so that everyone can see how cool you are.

      • I have no tattoos either. Maybe you and I will have to get one together, Tony! Then we will really be “emergent” … 😉

  • There is a sense in which if you are not in the evangelical silo, you may feel left out of the conversation with a large number of people. Congrats for being a “multi-siloed” blogger.

  • Tony, thank you! I’ve been struggling to try and form the language to describe myself for my closest friends, who are confused. The idea of theological evangelicalism and a separate cultural evangelicalism are right up my alley. I am whole-heartedly the first, and not at all the second. The clear definition of such ideas as you presented here is something that I and my friends can understand, and then dig into deeper as our specific circumstances require.

    Thanks you for equipping me with the words to try to facillitate living and loving well – better – with my community.

  • Alan K

    Evangelical: one who believes the evangel. Should not the word belong to everyone in the church?

  • so glad to be amongst other mongrel evangelicals

  • Jefry Lie

    Tony, with those categories, I wanna say: perhaps I’m a young evangelical too who comes from Indonesia.
    And I’m reading u, McLaren, Scot and pagitt.

  • len

    SOme of us who still don’t have tattoos are not actually virtuous in this – on the contrary – fearful of needles and too lazy to make another appointment 😉

  • Zach

    This isn’t 100% related but I’m currently reading your next christians and the emergent desire for something between left/right, yet it seems that’s where things are going with the whole neo-Reformed Mark Driscoll thing and the work of folks like yourself. So…what up with that?