The Demise Of The Soul Of Evangelicalism

The Demise Of The Soul Of Evangelicalism June 14, 2018


Not long ago I posted on the loss of the evangelical soul, a post in part stimulated by the tone of conversations I am witnessing on FB. Everybody’s a prophet these days and thinks so because, so they think, they are speaking truth to power. They’re not. They’re yelling in a barrel full of self-appointed prophets.

Today’s post moves into signs of evangelicalism’s demise. Let’s get the standard definition of evangelicalism on the table first: an evangelical is committed to these four elements: the Bible, the cross as the place of atonement, the necessity of personal conversion, and an active Christian life both in missions/evangelism as well as justice, peace and reconciliation. On top of this, evangelicalism is non-denominational and cross-denominational. For one very good sketch of evangelicalism, I recommend David Bebbington, The Dominance of Evangelicalism. For a more intra-mural debate, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism.

Those four elements are crumbling, folks, they are crumbling. It’s not that evangelicalism has been yet again swamped by politics and lost its way. Rather, it is swamped by politics because those four elements are crumbling. Bible and theology are of little interest other than an odd Bible citation to prop up a claim. Small groups read books by well-known authors, rarely are they studies on a single book of the Bible (publishers aren’t selling these as well today), far too many of its most prominent theologians write books unanchored in Scripture and they do not begin with sketches of the Bible.

The Bible Diminished

The most prominent example of this diminishment of Bible is the routine shrug of the shoulders with respect to creeds, confessions and theological claims.  It may be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation but what was most central about the Reformation was not Luther, Calvin, and Erasmus but Bible, Bible, Bible. I read Bruce Gordon’s CT essay on books about the Reformation, and not a one was about the importance of the Bible in the Reformation. Revealing. Seemingly to embrace the Reformation is to embrace the theology of either Luther or Calvin, not embrace what they embraced: the Bible as the living Word of God. The most important act of a Reformationist is to open the Bible and read it.

Mission Work Has Become Social Work

Missions, international missions and foreign missions are now engulfed in NGOs and global justice and water and infrastructure. Evangelicalism was built on evangelistic church-planting pioneers. Always, or at least nearly always, such missionaries were fully engaged in church-planting as well as compassion and provisions so far as they were able. But they were there to preach and teach the gospel and win people for Christ. That’s evangelicalism. A friend of mine, a missionary, told me that the last 15 years in his corner of the missionary world has seen not one new missionary concerned with church planting and evangelism; they are all NGO types. Giving to NGOs is on the rise; giving to church-planting on the decline. Organize a day for evangelism training and you will be alone or close to it; organize a day for some kind of social action and you may see more than Sunday morning service.

Where are the Pastors?

Speaking of which, vocations for becoming a pastor are diminishing as well. Somewhere at the core of American evangelicalism is an energy that is shaping future leaders into NGOs and social services and away from seminaries, missions training, and the calling to local church pastoring. Daily as I scanned my DMin cohort as we toured Israel I saw a gathering of faithful, hard-working, local church pastors who know the calling is hard and rewarding. I’m proud of their commitment to the Bible. They wanted a DMin but they wanted Bible, Bible in context, but Bible above all.

Atonement Confusion

Atonement theology has fallen on hard times. It has become politicized into penal substitution, which for some means propitiation, vs. some other center of gravity — and more and more it has moved toward Girardian scapegoat theory, exemplary theology, or a very soft Christus victor. Hard headed conservatives are protecting propitiation at all costs and neglecting kingdom themes in the process and so distort atonement while committed progressivists are determined to prevent the wrath of God against sin and sinners (mentioning Jonathan Edwards does the trick) so they can find some “theory” of atonement that turns the Holy Week into justice and more justice. Evangelicalism from beginning to end is a cross-shaped atonement-based gospel and there is little appeal for a new book like John R.W. Stott’s The Cross of Christ except with the propitiation crowd, who are in an echo chamber of Stott. I have attempted to sketch a comprehensive theory of atonement in A Community called Atonement.

Embracing Our Flaws

A way to slurring someone is to say they are part of the megachurch movement or the church growth movement or who want to talk about how their church has grown by way of evangelism or baptisms. Conversion’s favorite emphasis is life-long conversion but not first-time declarations of allegiance to Christ. Criticism of the “Four Spiritual Laws” or the “Bridge Illustration” is not replaced with something better but is replaced with exactly nothing.

The pietist basis of Christian activism in evangelicalism, an activism that was first of all evangelistic, missionary-shaped and church-planting oriented, has been swallowed up by social justice activism. Evangelicalism of the 19th Century was clearly socially-engaged but it was socially engaged as a piety-based and evangelism-based movement. The skinny jeans crowd today seems more often than not allergic to piety-based, evangelism-based activism. I’ve been told again and again that it’s form of “evangelism” is deed-based not word-based. That is a failure of nerve and it is failure to be evangelical.

Along this line, words like sanctification — growth in holiness — and holiness itself are heard only in a small circle of the Neo-Reformed and pervade organizations like The Gospel Coalition. In this they are entirely consistent with the core of what “activism” means in evangelicalism. But outside those circles, who’s writing or preaching or speaking about holiness? Not many. Sanctification among such crowds smacks of Puritanism and we’re back to Jonathan Edwards, and that’s a big No-No. But evangelicalism always had its Wesleyan and holiness and sanctification dimension.

Pride in Politics rather than Piety

Leaders want a place in the circles around the White House and when given one it’s a source of pride. Pride is no longer accorded those who faithfully read and teach the Bible, who glory in the cross of Christ, who preach conversions and transformations, and who are engaged in a piety- and evangelism-based activism that encompasses the whole person.

The center of gravity of too much of evangelicalism has shifted away from these crumbling core themes to something else, but in the process evangelicalism has lost its soul.

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  • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

    Dr. McKnight says “The most prominent example of this diminishment of Bible is the routine shrug of the shoulders with respect to creeds, confessions and theological claims”. I suspect that the foremost reason why so many evangelicals are indifferent toward creeds, confessions, and theological claims is that they think the only authority that matters is the Bible. Granted, they do not understand the importance and proper use of creeds etc., and the fact that they do not value them does not indicate that they value the Bible as much as they ought.

    I think that “to embrace the theology of either Luther or Calvin” is to “embrace what they embraced: the Bible as the living Word of God”. I think it is fitting to focus on Luther on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation–and, through him, the Bible–even if one does not agree with much of his theology.

    Could it be that fewer missionaries are “church-planting pioneers” because there is less of a need for Christians in America to send them? It is much less expensive, and much easier, to teach, train, and equip Christians who live in foreign countries to be missionaries in those countries than it is to teach, train, and equip American Christians. It is also usually much easier and much less expensive to send and support indigenous missionaries than Americans. (This is not to say that there is no need to send any missionaries from America–just that the need is much less than it used to be. The Church is now flourishing in areas where American missionaries were first sent many years ago.)

    With all due respect, I think that “Pride in Politics rather than Piety” is an unfair exaggeration. I agree that there is a disturbing amount of pride in politics. However, I disagree that “Pride [honor?] is no longer accorded those who faithfully read and teach the Bible, who glory in the cross of Christ, who preach conversions and transformations, and who are engaged in a piety- and evangelism-based activism that encompasses the whole person”. What about Russell Moore? I think that this sentence describes him well. What about John Piper? I think it describes him, too. And Tim Keller. And John Perkins. And other people who spoke at the conference MLK50: Gospel Reflections from the Mountaintop this past April. I’m sure Dr. McKnight could think of other good examples. Doesn’t Christianity Today honor them, and not those “in the circles around the White House”?

    I was not aware that there “vocations for becoming a pastor are diminishing”. Could it be that God is calling fewer people to become pastors? I have read that every year thousands of pastors resign or quit. I do not know enough to comment on “Atonement Confusion”. I have not noticed a decline in concern for evangelization and making disciples. I agree that holiness and sanctification are woefully neglected.

  • Good post, Scot

  • Kent Anderson

    All the pieces that you articulate reaffirm my observation that our culture, the American culture, and therefore unfortunately the Christian culture, has been and still becoming increasingly immature. We are called to grow into the full stature of Jesus Christ. We are going the other direction and we are picking up speed.

  • There’s a lot here. I’ll focus on just one piece, which is the shift away from evangelism in favor of social work / good deeds.

    For most, evangelism has never been easy. Certainly many hallmark movements in Evangelicalism were focused on either getting the rank and file believers into evangelism (eg., Campus Crusade for Christ) or leveraging the power of gifted evangelists such as Billy Graham and his progeny who organized large evangelistic events. Either way, one of the things that Evangelicalism had going for it was it’s certainty around a simple message, which was encapsulated in the 4 Spiritual Laws tracts:

    1. God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.
    2. People are sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.
    3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin, and through him we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.
    4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord in order to know and experience his love and plan for our lives.

    That was, more or less, the gospel of evangelicalism, and the certainty of its accuracy and completeness was critical in the face of the uncertainty and insecurity that people, including many leaders, naturally have in serving as a witness for Christ. To be blunt, that certainty in the accuracy and completeness of the 4 Spiritual Laws and what Scot has called the “Soterian gospel” has eroded. Part of that uncertainty is through the slow rise of post-modernism. Part of it is from the very good work of Scot, Wright, Willard and others who have shown, rightly, that the gospel of Jesus and of the apostles wasn’t quite the same as ours. Part of it comes from the growing loss of anonymity, the growth of outrage, and the related fear of charges of hypocrisy and shaming. Part of it is simply that we are increasingly distracted people.

    As much as anything, what many evangelicals need right now is

    – a new grounding in a simple but accurate gospel message;
    – some wise guidance, training and support for being God’s messenger in the digital age;

    For both of these needs, I am increasingly convinced that the earliest confession that “Jesus is Lord” can serve as an anchor and cornerstone going forward. As to the first, the claim that Jesus is Lord has three words that each contain meaning and depth that can outstrip several lifetimes, certainly when combined. The first, “Jesus,” takes us immediately to the One being proclaimed and trusted and worshipped. We need real Christocentrism more than ever. It is him we come to know and trust. He is the focus of our hope, faith and love. The “is” is critical because our Enemy may concede that Jesus was Lord, or he’s even content to let people believe that he will be, but the enemy must always fight against the notion that Jesus is Lord because today is always the day of salvation, and all we have to give, in terms of our trust, is now. Yes, Jesus also was and will be, but those are extensions into the past and future of the eternal claim at the core of God’s name (“I AM”) and the related “Jesus is Lord.” He is, forever, the Lord. Further, the “is” points us toward the story of all the “is” in the past and the future, to the beginning and the end, to Israel, to his resurrection and crucifixion, of his love, his loss, and his victory and gain and future plan. Yes, he died, but he is, not was, Lord. He was, is and will be forever. Finally, that Jesus is Lord takes us into the many Messianic hopes and promises to Israel, as well as the challenges to all lesser gods, narratives, temptations and alternative paths. The claim to ultimate Lordship takes us to the gospel of the king-dom. It sets us up not only to trust but to follow, to get on board with the true Lord, to constantly reorient our lives around the only competent One. The claim to ultimate lordship takes us to the logic of the Shema: Because God is the only one, we should love him with all of our heart, soul and strength. And because he is Lord, if he loved us all, we also must love all. Again, the depths in “Jesus is Lord” are enough for several lifetimes, and such is fitting for our core confession and the summation of the Gospel. Evangelicalism needs a reorientation around a simple, but deep and powerful gospel that can guide the one who believes it not just how to convert, but how to live. “Jesus is Lord” is that gospel.

    As for the second, just as MLK Jr. gave extensive and explicit training and practice for his peaceful demonstrators which was grounded both in the gospel and in their mission, today’s Christians need the same kind of pointed training for being Christ’s witnesses in the digital age. In the same way, we need explicit training in the West for dealing with the sticks, but also the carrots of the Enemy. Perhaps distraction that combines with our neediness and insecurity is the most common temptation. We need to hit these challenges with wisdom, grace and explicit teaching. Such cannot be grounded primarily in playing defense (don’t do this or that) but must be energized more by the beauty and wonder of the alternative of living in God’s kingdom. The parable of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great value must shape our tactics for equipping people in the West who are often more distracted and led astray by one little thing after another than by sudden physical threats.

    We need a renewed commitment and reorganization around a deeper, more accurate gospel that can serve as a better guide for conversion and sanctification and eternity. To be blunt, I think we’ve ridden the gospel that was “true but not true enough” to its natural conclusion. We need to start anew on a better, surer foundational message.

  • josenmiami

    Your post seems to have a sarcastic edge to it. I agree that Evangelicalism is on the decline, but not with the way you position some of the critical issues. In terms of evangelism, for example, I believe that way too much of so called ‘evangelism’ from the 1970s through 2000 was clearly not the same as evangelism in the New Testament (T. Freeman put it well) and the 4 Spiritual Laws were a classic example of the modernizing of the gospel. The current interest with social justice work and NGOs may go too far, but it is a needed corrective to the pseudo-evangelism that led to pseudo-converts gathering into pseudo churches. Going back to a substandard, ‘evangelical’ form of faith is not a viable option … by-the-way, I left evangelicalism after 25 years as a church planter/missionary and became Lutheran.

  • danaames

    Scot, here’s what I’ve observed among American Christians with regard to your points.

    1) Diminishment of the Bible. Well, there are two different aspects to this. One is the lack of Bible literacy, and the lack of any kind of theological preaching; this is a huge problem. The other is mishandling it: prooftexting; claiming that one’s interpretation is the only viable one; and discarding the parts of the Bible’s message that are difficult to live out (and I mean Matt 25 and the like) because, more than any other reason, our consumer mentality dominates, and the razor-thin theology can’t withstand it.

    2) Social work. I think this is a logical consequence of #1. Since we don’t know what our theology actually is, we can at least do good to others, because who can argue with that? And those who still want to do mission place a high value on “being winsome”.

    3) Pastors. Well, most Evangelicals still want the pastor to do all the “spiritual” work – that is, the work of the Church. This is related to #1 and the rest except #2. It’s all of a piece. And the consequence is burn-out, along with theology that, in my view, fails to answer some very deep questions people have (including pastors, maybe more so) without impugning the character of God.

    4) Atonement. This is also related to #1. And the confusion stems not from Girardian theory, but from confusion about what The Gospel actually is. You did major good work on this in “King Jesus”, but I don’t think you went far enough. If one wants to know what the Good News is, I would think the first place to look would be the book of Acts, to see what was preached as the Good News. Except for Stephen, the capstone of all those sermons is the Resurrection. Peter’s Pentecost hearers, as Jews, would catch all the nuances of that; one assumes that Paul would have explained further to his gentile hearers that the Resurrection meant the defeat of death, so that, no longer fearing it, we can live as the human beings God created us to be (like those described in the Beatitudes and pointed out in the rest of the SotM). As you survey the patristic literature in Holmes’ book, the only way their writings make any sense – and the only way, for me, the Epistles make any sense – is within the framework of the Crucifixion as the Incarnate GodMan Christ’s entry into death bearing every consequence of our sin (because sin and death are intimately intertwined and feed off one another) and then completely smashing the power of Death and taking his place as Lord of All at the Ascension, granting us his Spirit with the power to live as truly human beings. You are not going to find anything “penal” in any of the earliest patristic writing; the Reformation interpretation of it just isn’t there, and, I would submit, not in the early Church’s interpretation of the NT, either. What it came down to for me as an Evangelical was that the penal aspect of PSA impugns the character of God the Father.

    5) Embracing flaws; 6) Politics rather than piety: I think you are exactly right with these. Regarding piety, I believe the vast majority of sincere people in the pews reject any kind of structured piety as heading toward “works righteousness”, esp that of the Roman Catholic Church; they don’t know much theology, and some might admire Catholic social teaching, but they have it in their bones that they don’t want to adopt any practices that would make them look Catholic, and that includes saying set prayers, including “higher” liturgical elements in their services, involving the body as with the sign of the Cross, etc. The result is that there is no grounding for the habits that produce sanctification. The answer to everything is simply to read your Bible more and pray (generically), without any theological support. No wonder MTD is so widespread.

    Roger Olson has a post up about the Evangelicalism of his youth. I remember observing what he describes as I was growing up Catholic in a small town. While believing they were wrong, I had a lot of respect for the Evangelicals I knew, because most of them were consistent in practicing what they said they believed in (and not without struggle). In my later teen years, during the Jesus Movement, what attracted me to them was their relationship to Jesus as their friend. That was missing from my life, and I wanted it. For 20 years, that, and all that came with it, was enough. And then it wasn’t. For me, it wasn’t the culture encroaching on and eroding my faith; it was, as you yourself have written, the lack of good theology re the Trinity (in which soteriology and the understanding of the Father’s character are located), along with, secondarily, the lack of an ecclesiology.


  • Joris Heise

    In the spirit of Jesus, I find these words valuable, but believe something even deeper is at stake. I think that this crew of political Evangelists have not only neglected the bible and its Word, the emphasis of the Reformation, and the spirit of Jesus–but they worship an idol–their own “religion.” (much like too many Muslims do). They ignore not so much the Bible as God, the Father-Creator. They emphasize involvement in this world to the neglect of the Will of our Father–which sometimes wants Good Works, Sometimes Prayer, and sometimes standing and waiting. Do they pray the Lord’s Prayer with thoughtfulness and prayer? Do they celebrate the Lord’s Supper with its significant pun on “body” (of Christ)? Do they realize the hostility of government to Jesus and his apostles? –and Why–because they would not worship the Governing Head–something too many supporters (Not all) do.

  • W Zoorn

    I think many people do not read the Bible because they do not believe that it is true.

  • Wes Mahan

    Be careful, Mr Zoorn, they’ll censor your comment as “spam”, like they did mine.

  • Karin Isbell

    Wile I agree with much that was pointed out in your article, I do wonder what’s the “beef” against Jonathan Edwards, one of the finest theologians of the past. Or did I miss something?

  • Richard Mario Procida

    I read your article with glee and hope that all that you say is happening will come to pass, except for the focus on social services and charity work which I hope we do less of and focus instead on social justice. I disagree with your point about The Bible. What we are doing is going back to the Bible. You seem to be in love with the Reformation. The Reformation was in part the result of the Bible being made available through the development of the printing press, but Luther was actually dealing with the practice of indulgences and his theology is the result of that. As for the Bible, Luther could not square his view with the Book of James, and a fair reading of Paul recognizes that Paul continually calls upon Christians to take action for the common good. In short, this new trend is a return to the Bible and a rejection of the unbiblical theology that came out of the Church both before and after the Reformation.

  • I assume he is referring to modern disdain for Jonathan Edwards classic sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. See Brian Zahnd’s book “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God” (which I love 🙂

  • a r tompkins

    In the face of our developing comprehension of this huge universe and our ever-diminishing importance to it, how can anyone see the Bible as anything more than “A Goatherder’s Guide to the Galaxy”? It might have a few tidbits of wisdom, but no more than any other collection of literature from any other superstitious culture from any other time. And the flaws…!!! Stop trying to force this mostly barbaric, blood-sacrificing philosophy into any relevance for us today. Good riddance, Evangelicalism – you’ve cursed human society long enough.

  • Larry28

    I suspect one reason we’ve seen less emphasis on holiness and sanctification is due to abuses associated with attempts to promote such behavior over the last 50 years or so. There was, for example, the Shepherding Movement, which mainly focused on the charismatic renewal but also had some spillover into the greater evangelical world. The Shepherding Movement started out as a well-intentioned effort to promote accountability but quickly developed into a formulaic system which became controlling and abusive, inflicting much damage on the church in the process. Another example is purity culture, which again started out as a well-intentioned effort to promote chastity in teens and single adults but morphed into another formulaic system which was also subject to abuse. Yet another example is church membership covenants and the abuses connected to their enforcement. Google “Karen Hinkley” to learn more about one such example in a Texas megachurch.

  • Alonzo

    I was rather taken by the negativism and use of metaphor of metonymy of this article. I have heard this type of criticism before. Let’s see…oh…Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. First, how can a metaphor have a soul? That may sound nit-picky, but it is a valid point since the metaphor is a step removed from the real thing. By applying metaphor, the criticism hopes to hit a home run, but it generalizes to the extent of striking out. Second, there is rarely a case in Hirsch’s books or on his blog in which premises take the lead over vitriol of evangelicalism. In fact, he refers to evangelicalism as unorthodox (Hirsch, Alan, “Reaffirming Faith in the One,” November 4, 2015, In Forgotten Ways, Hirsch claims that contemporary churches remain in Docetism. These are bridges too far. This negative article edges toward those bridges. Oh, these are metaphors, also, but rightly so for their specificity.

    Third, while I agree with McKnight’s definition of Evangelical, I believe it misses the point of the word as well its claimants. While he rightly zeros in on specific doctrines, he fails to tie them to the evangel or gospel, something I wished he had done, because in doing so he would have caught the whole tenor of evangelical. Rather than say that many practice an errant Evangelicalism, he assigns a soul to the whole batch and catches the good fish in the net. Certainly a broad spectrum of self-identified Evangelicals centered on gospel tenets cast their books into the market and enrich a vast number. However, to sweep everyone into the net of the soulless is a catch too far and a bit hasty with the net sweep.

    I applaud him for one specific he makes with which I share as a Bible teacher. He says that small groups read books by well known authors rather than a book of the Bible. Point well taken! The words of contemporary and even of those centuries ago are not God inspired. Who is filtering error that may creep in through bad interpretation? This is indeed tragic.

    Fourth, his argument under the heading of “Embracing Our Flaws” bristles me. He states, “A way to slurring someone is to say they are part of the megachurch movement or the church growth movement or who want to talk about how their church has grown by way of evangelism or baptisms.” Is this the flaw? McKnight then digresses into conversion, pietism, and holiness and never returns to supporting his comment on slurring someone, or am I missing something here? How does “a way of slurring” have to do with the cited events? However, as I thought about his premise here, I wondered if he was doing the same thing in discussing soulless Evangelicalism.

    But back to the flaw. Was the atonement for flaws? It is easy to get caught up in precision of doctrinal statements and miss the reason for the doctrine itself. We must, and I say again, we must be precise in our doctrinal statements lest error make inroads. The Trinity is a case in point in the creedal statements. However, let us not be sloppy in reasons for the Trinity or atonement while being precise in meaning. We are fallen creatures in dire need of that atonement AND the Triune God’s act in the remedy. This remedy moves us to the next step – ambassadors for Christ: living by and witnessing to the resurrected, ascended, and exalted King and Redeemer. He is both. That means all who belong to Him comprise His Body. Let us then not draft a premise and then commence with a boat load of vitriol toward our spiritual kinsmen. Such methods cast aspersion on all believers. There are other corrective means apart from generalizations.

  • stevezahm

    Scott, I fundamentally disagree with your assertion that the the Bible, the biblical texts (all of the texts claimed as inspired by all factions in Christianity), is the “living” Word of God. The assertion begs the questions: Which version of the bible? Or, Which one of the 9 or 10 sets of the biblical canons accepted by the various branches Christianity are the true biblical texts? Are they all?

    And, leaving aside all questions of the various biblical texts, there is no clear unifying hermenutic, no authentic perspicuity or agreement on even basic soteriology among the three main branches. The picture is even more confusing and murky with multiple competing versions of the Gospel among Protestant churches and movements. The Reformation of the church has become the Fragmentation of the church with provencialism of interpretation reigning supreme. The KJV only movement is a cogent example. Is the KJV of the bible God’s living Word? Is the Syriac Peshitta God’s living Word? Are all versions of the biblical texts equally qualified as the living Word? I think not.

    The living Word is and always has been the person of Jesus. To equate the biblical texts as living and holy as Jesus is, is categorically idolatry. I believe you either need to qualify that belief with some rigorous defense and further unpacking because as it stands you are knocking on the door and inviting us in to worshipping words on a page instead of the Trinitarian son of God.

  • Brianna LaPoint

    Your article is a breath of fresh air. I say this as someone who doesnt like it when zealots bang on my door looking for converts. I say this as someone who was once a seeking christian, and now i know enough about who i am to stop searching for Jesus. No longer christian.

  • Brianna LaPoint

    I dont know why, but this somewhat reminded me of my own journey. the difference is, i did a lot more seeking out, and came to a different conclusion. I suppose that is why some christians go from denomination to denomination, because there is something missing there and they think they will find it if they go to a certain church or believe a certain way. Christianity is set up that way, like going into a labyrinth and never finding your way out.

  • Brianna LaPoint

    It is as it should be. Or at least thats my point of view.

  • Sam Lam

    Very convicting post Scot. I fear that a lot of us say we care about the text, but don’t do anything about it. Thanks for pointing all of this out.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I am puzzled, extremely puzzled, at the reference to evangelicals focusing on justice and social service. Who are these evangelicals you are referring to? In the US, the face of evangelicalism has been becoming more and more right wing, anti social justice, anti charity, anti foreigner and more and more basically selfish for decades, to the point where it has become more-or-less a branch of the right wing of the Republican party.
    If what you are saying is that ex-evangelicals are increasingly abandoning ship entirely and engaging in social justice campaigns and practical charity instead, it’s because, bluntly, they’ve decided that they no longer want to be associated with a contentless faith full of selfish a**holes any more.
    Evangelicals used to be at the forefront of social justice, when they were also about personal faith, the Bible and piety. These things aren’t incompatible, they’re complementary and depend on each other. You can’t love God and not love your neighbour, and you can’t cease giving a damn about your neighbour without then ceasing to give a damn about God.

  • Chari McCauley

    I came to the conclusion that we do this, because…in Father’s eyes…we never should have been divided, in the first place.

    Father’s Son told us A Kingdom divided cannot stand. We are all children Father cares about. We all live in the same house (Earth). Do we not try to keep our own “mini- families” to live in peace in our own homes, and communities?

    Do parents, with large families, say 6-10 kids teach those kids to fight, scream, and destroy their own home?

  • B. Sherman

    Does he state all translations are inspired somewhere? I didn’t see it. Only the original autographs are what most evangelicals agree to be infallible. Not translations.
    Your last paragraph begs the question, from where did you learn of this Trinitarian Son of God?

  • Jason Evans

    Bible, Bible, Bible, Bible. In the meantime they jump up and down and cheer as kids are ripped from their parents, etc. Jesus left the building a long time ago.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    Be nice to gays, lesbians and transes.

    No ‘hate the sin love the sinner’.
    No ‘this is what the bible says and we can’t change’.
    Your church is dying, you can’t afford to be oppositional to minorities.

  • elizabeth

    So very, very true. This is what led me to the Catholic Church. I believe David Wells anticipated you in No Place for aTruth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology. Great post.

  • DoubtingTom

    While I mostly agree with you, there exists a large subset of self-identified evangelicals (particularly among younger generations) who fit Scot’s description to a tee. We would do well to remember Scot teaches at an evangelical seminary where most of his students will be in their twenties or younger. If that’s your daily dose of evangelicalism, that’s probably going to influence your mental picture of what evangelicalism is. I would also add that most of the justice-and-social-service-minded evangelicals out there would very much resent right-wing evangelicalism being considered representative of American evangelicalism as a whole.

  • Unhiddenness

    It’s hard to make a comeback after the Roy Moore episode.

  • Unhiddenness

    It’s always fun to be wrong in a completely different way!

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I am very much an outsider looking in, being neither from the US (I am from the UK) and not an evangelical (although Christian). I am sure there are still justice- and social-service-minded evangelicals out there, but it has obviously been a long while since they were representative of the vast majority of evangelicals, as not only the identity and politics of their leaders but also the voting habits, opinion surveys of ordinary rank-and-file evangelicals show.
    I am sure Scot is experiencing justice- and social service-minded evangelicals making that the focus of (or substitute for) their faith, but that doesn’t seem to be where evangelicalism as a whole is going. Scot seems to be trying put part of the blame for the demise of evangelicalism on people being lured away to become “NGO types”, but this can’t be true as evangelicalism itself is moving in the opposite direction.
    I wonder if Scot is mixing up as the same trend two different phenomena. There seems (at least in its public face to an outsider) an apparent trend in evangelicalism towards an authoritarian, nationalistic, right wing and simplified religion centered round social conservatism, conformity to set of rigid fundamentalist doctrines and the Republican party, which is losing its former soul of piety, Bible study and seeking a personal relationship with God. In the process it is (as i understand it) starting to hemorrhage people who don’t buy into this agenda, who are deserting it for a more liberal theology and social justice concerns. Scot can see half of evangelicalism going one way and half in the opposite direction and is trying to see it as a single trend for evangelicalism as a whole.

  • a r tompkins

    do you mean the bible of the god who asked various followers to sacrifice their own children to demonstrate fealty, who in fact “sacrificed” his own child to test our fealty, commanded followers to kill those who didn’t believe in him (on the scantiest of evidence), who ordered followers to stone rape victims to death, non-virgin unmarried women to death, barred a bastard child from attending worship for “10 generations”, etc, etc? are you talking about that bible?

  • B. Sherman

    Here’s a question. What do you believe is the basis for the liberal theology they are deserting it for and are the social justice concerns pertaining to individual responsibility or is this a reference to government mandated social justice?

  • What various followers? Did you even read the Book?

  • A lot of people read the Bible and have not a clue what it says until ‘pastor’ tells them, which is why we have thousands of ‘denominations’ that argue over any and everything.

  • a r tompkins

    Abraham, comes to mind immediately. Jephthah for another. Oh, yes – I read books, to include “the” book. You can’t read that particular book and not come out a skeptic.

  • Abram is ONE. Jepthah offered his daughter, but there is NO evidence she was sacrificed, note that she bewailed her virginity not her life.

  • pax2u

    do you know Sii Robertson?

  • No, why

  • pax2u

    you have much in common

  • a r tompkins

    “ONE” isn’t enough? Jepthah made a deal with god to sacrifice a family member. the bible, in its endless murkiness and contradiction, is clear on that. and the fact that the sacrifice was or was not carried out is beside the point.

    Here’s one for ya – from Deuteronomy:

    “But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die; because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.”

    so, according to your god, it’s a law that your non-virgin unmarried daughter be STONED TO DEATH! Is THAT not enough to prove the cruelty of this god you’ve invented?

    “bewailed her virginity”? What does that even mean? and why is this god of yours so hung up on virgin pussy anyway? Makes more sense if the bible was written by insecure, jealous, angry, cruel old sheepherders with little tiny penises, not gods.

  • anotherangle01

    Short answer: Virgins ensures male paternity.

  • a r tompkins

    right – the selfish gene. the evolutionary pressure to pass on your own DNA – another consequence of evolution, not creation.

  • cleos_mom

    And gives no basis for comparison. “No honey, it really is like that.”