(Un)Defining Evangelicalism

(Un)Defining Evangelicalism November 16, 2009

Back at Beliefnet, I often wondered why the evangelical intelligentsia fought so hard to save that word.  The word, “evangelical,” I mean.  Well, the young bucks at Patrol Magazine don’t just wonder — they attack!  Money quote:

The fight to define evangelicalism in its latter days also operates on the mistaken premise that an imagined theological purity or conformance to a “lost” orthodoxy, rather than an emphasis on ethics, spiritual discipline and mystery, will revive the power of the Christian church. It is astonishing that so many intelligent Christians seem to believe there is a deficit in emphasis on evangelism and scriptural literalism, and that, if the hatches are just battened down on a more solid “worldview,” evangelicalism can resume explaining the universe to new generations of believers. In this respect, evangelicalism’s true believers resemble the faction of the Republican Party that asserts with a straight face that returning to “core principles,” and not a radical restructuring of priorities, will bring waves of Americans back to the right wing.

via Why obsessing over definitions won’t save evangelicalism. – Editorial – Patrol Magazine.

HT: Rick Bennett

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  • How can you have “theological purity or conformance to a “lost” orthodoxy” without a hierarchy to define that theological purity and conformance to orthodoxy?

    There is a reason why all the truly orthodox churches have an episcopate. There is a reason why it took a Pope to define the New Testament. There is a reason why the councils had to happen. And there’s a reason why the first anabaptist movement failed.

    All of these reasons are tied together; if you don’t know your history, you are bound to repeat it.

  • Right, Ted, that’s why the Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans don’t disagree about anything.

  • Jim

    Hmmm. I think Patrol misses the point. Evangelicals operate under the conviction that belief, not ethics or mystery, leads to salvation. “Power” (especially if that really means popularity) is probably less interesting to them than saving souls, which they think happens through belief. If the quest for power involves sacrificing what they think of as the salvific elements in their religion, they aren’t likely to listen. Telling them that they “face near-certain extinction” if they maintain their (in their eyes) salvific beliefs is a scare tactic that will only win over cowards.