In other words, we are given a booth in the marketplace, and we are invited to raise our voices -- respectfully, I pray, honestly, and charitably -- and to proclaim the good news of God's forgiveness and redemption of the world through the cross of Christ.
That Patheos as a whole is not an evangelical site is actually, in our opinion, one of the greatest strengths of the Evangelical Portal. This is partly because few exclusively Christian websites will attract people of so many faiths, especially if they are skeptical of the Christian faith to begin with. Let's face it. Christian faith, especially evangelical Christian faith, is rarely presented positively in the popular media. Here is our opportunity to represent ourselves, to set forth what we believe is best within the Christian tradition and church, and to show as well our capacity to listen, laugh, and be self-critical. Some countries are nearly impossible to penetrate with the gospel; yet the internet interpenetrates the world, and by professing the good news faithfully at Patheos we hope to reach the lost.
Yet our position within a broader site that is religiously neutral is a strength also because Christians tend to live and profess their faith in the most vigorous and authentic way when they are not surrounded by other Christians. In other words, the gospel fares better in open marketplaces of ideas than in closed fora where Christians are the only contributors to the conversation, because an atmosphere in which everyone is Christian leads quickly to lax living and lazy thinking. To paraphrase Søren Kierkegaard, if all are Christians today, all too often there will be none Christian tomorrow. When the church ceases to engage the world outside its walls, it grows sluggish and slow, like European churches that tolerated no other voices until all that remained was a mediocre, spiritless silence.
Reforming the Evangelical Church
The church of Christ is semper reformanda, always being reformed, firstly because sins and idolatries creep into the life of the church and must be cleansed and secondly because the world evolves and requires ever-new forms of engagement. The essence of Christian faith remains the same, and we at the Evangelical Portal wish to preserve, celebrate and recover the best teachings and traditions of the faithful. Yet we also seek to refine, reform and rebuke the church when it strays from its essential truths, fails in its essential tasks, and fall short of its essential calling.
As such, we see the Evangelical Portal not so much as a "website" as the center of a collective project of imagining, crafting and growing the kingdom of God to flourish in the twenty-first century marketplace of ideas. In other words, the Evangelical Portal will the dynamic hub of a long-term mission, inviting Christian leaders, writers and reader to re-envision and realize the possibilities of what the church might become. We call this mission "EV21."
While we expect these points to be honed or even altered, we begin with five points of an emerging consensus regarding the hoped-for future of evangelical churches:
- Fruitfully rooted in Christian scriptures, teachings and history. Followers of Jesus in the twenty-first century should be better trained to understand and articulate the interpretation of scripture and the basic history and theology of the Christian church.
- Radically global. The Kingdom of God is not confined to the United States; it is growing explosively in the world's far corners. The American church can and must be radically engaged in spreading justice and spreading the word of Jesus around the world. Even the United States is increasingly "global" insofar as we live in communities with Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. The twenty-first century evangelical should be humble and charitable and increasingly fluent in other faiths, to learn from one another and to form a better witness at home and abroad.
- Multi-ethnic and multi-political. Many of the most vibrant evangelical congregations in America today are found in minority and immigrant communities-and those communities have much to teach the white non-immigrant churches. Evangelicalism today reaches across national, ethnic and political divisions to live and serve together in love for Christ.
- Culturally relevant and socially engaged. Evangelicals have too often retreated into social, cultural and intellectual enclaves. Twenty-first century evangelicals will not only react to culture but make culture, and will do so in a way that enters the trenches of social struggles. In the late twentieth century, evangelicals entered politics to stand against certain trends in social morality. Twenty-first century evangelicals will be against that which transgresses the will of God but also for that which pleases God: mercy and justice and serving the needy.
- Integrated in life and faith. Twenty-first century evangelicals should be radically de-compartmentalized: followers of Christ in mind and heart, in every area of their personal and professional lives, in every moment seven days a week. In recent decades evangelical Christians have established a presence in every major sector of American society; now we must think critically on what it means to be Christians in law, medicine, science, academia, politics, sports, the arts, and etc.