Evangelicalism as Ethos (versus Evangelicalism as Movement)
This is a follow up essay to my most recent one entitled Evangelicalism: A Guide for the Perplexed.
One this is obvious to me from many of the comments: Many people do not understand the difference between a spiritual-theological ethos and the spiritual-theological movement centered around that ethos, sharing it.
Today, as of at least 2021, there is no even relatively unified evangelical movement. Movements come and go. The evangelical ethos, which I described, predated any particular evangelical movement and exists outside of it and after its demise.
I have said here many times that the American evangelical movement that flourished in the 1950s through the 1970s is now probably dead. I do not see it—as I did when I was growing up in it and being educated within it in college and seminary (1960s and 1970s).
If there is an evangelical movement in America, I am not aware of it. In my estimation, the post-WW2 American evangelical movement was held loosely together by Billy Graham and his empire of ministries. As soon as Graham really retired, the movement began to disintegrate.
But the death of the movement has nothing to do with the ethos. The ethos is still alive and well and shared by moderately conservative, conversion-centered Christians of many kinds. It transcends denominational, racial, ethnic, gender and other differences.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
A big problem is that certain Southern Baptist leaders and their non-SBC friends have tried to “capture the flag” of evangelicalism for their neo-fundamentalism. Another big problem is that many American evangelicals/fundamentalists have attempted to “capture the flag” of evangelicalism for a political viewpoint and cause.
The secular mass media have paid attention to these attempts while ignoring the plain fact that many who share the evangelical spiritual-theological ethos do not belong to the SBC or the Gospel Coalition or the Republican Party. The vast majority of people who share the evangelical ethos around the world are not even white Americans!
When I talk about “evangelicalism” I am talking about the spiritual-theological ethos unless I indicate otherwise. The ethos has deep roots, but I would say those roots are primarily in the “Second Reformation” (as some church historians have called it) – the evangelical awakenings of the early eighteenth century—viz., Pietism and Puritanism, the Great Awakening(s), revivalism, and early fundamentalism (late 19th century and early 20th century before fundamentalism became “orthodoxy gone cultic”).
This ethos has nothing to do with politics. That is plain historical fact. That is, people who share the evangelical spiritual-theological ethos have not, as a whole, inclined toward any particular political ideology. That is, there is nothing about the evangelical spiritual-theological ethos that inclines it toward any particular political ideology.
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