Evangelicalism the Best Option

3. Evangelicalism allows for true scholarship: (Here is where I am really going to get into trouble.) Evangelicals are not under a necessarymandate to conform to a particular traditional system. The scholarship produced in biblical studies and theology is not an exercise in confirming an established tradition of dogma. If one were simply to enter scholarship to prove what a tradition mandates they prove, scholarship would become an exercise in confirming prejudice. This is not true scholarship.

Evangelicals are free to question, search, deny, confirm, doubt, and change to an extent that dogmatic traditions are not. Again, this is risky, but, in the end, it does not mandate a certain conclusion and can evaluate the evidence more objectively. In other words, Evangelicals don't have to be lawyers defending a client of tradition; instead they can be investigators of truth. They can be criticalscholars. Whether or not we always practice this is a different matter. But the issue is one of allowance. Evangelicals canbe critical scholars who are willing to let the evidence take them wherever it leads, not simply to a predetermined destination. Therefore, I believe Evangelicals can practice true scholarship to a degree that other traditions cannot.

4. Evangelicalism is still evangelical. What I mean is that Evangelicalism is still committed to the spread of the Gospel more than any other Christian tradition. Evangelicals, with all their faults, do consistently present the need to have a personal conversion to Christ. I think that Evangelicalism still recognizes the problem and solution better than others. We are sinners who are in need of rescue. The cross is the apex of history, and we must personally have a conversion experience by trusting in Christ as our Lord and Savior. The focus is not the church, liturgy, or traditions.

I think that these reasons provide the basis for why I believe Evangelicalism will alwaysremain strong even in the midst of our weaknesses. Also, please understand that it is the "spirit" of Evangelicalism about which I am speaking, not the nomenclature. In other words, even if the designation "Evangelical" were to go out of vogue (which could be the case), the spirit of Evangelicalism will always remain.

Please understand, too, that I respect other Christian traditions. I love the faith and stance of all those who, traditionally or not, are Christocentric, believing Christ -- the God-man -- is the center of all things. But I would hope that everyone might understand that I am Evangelical for a reason. I simply believe that it offers strengths that are stronger than the strengths of other traditions. I also believe that its weaknesses are not as weak as the weaknesses of other traditions.

These are the reasons I believe Evangelicalism is still the best option.

 

C. Michael Patton blogs at Parchment and Pen. He earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary and served as a pastor at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. His latest project is the Credo House of Theology, the headquarters for Reclaiming the Mind Ministries.

9/4/2009 4:00:00 AM