To listen to others in our Great Tradition does not mean that we will agree with everything we hear, nor that we will lose our distinctive tradition. But it does mean that evangelicalism will change. I think in many cases we refuse to listen to others because we fear we will be persuaded by their position and will have to surrender our own. In other words, we are human and we fear change. But vast changes have already taken place in our culture, and in order to continue to have a voice, we simply cannot let our fear prevent us from the transformation we so desperately need.
An example of the good that can come from interaction with other traditions is the increasing depth of evangelical spirituality. In the last two decades evangelicals have embraced the spiritual disciplines, means for cultivating our personal lives of faith that have traditionally been practiced by non-evangelicals. We have taken the mystical and sacramental elements of other Christian traditions and incorporated them into our Word-centered spirituality to create a richness that did not exist before. Individual lives and churches are being transformed because a few people with a vague sense of dissatisfaction decided to read the thoughts of forgotten saints.
No one can fully know what will result from a renewed evangelical commitment to listen to and learn from other Christian traditions. What I do know is that as evangelical influence continues to be pushed to the margins of our culture, we can't afford not to listen.
Adam McHugh is a writer, spiritual director, and ordained Presbyterian minister who has served on campus staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, in hospice chaplaincy, and in church ministry. He earned his M.Div. and Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and authored the widely praised Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He lives with his wife Lindsay, who is on staff at World Vision International, in Claremont, CA. He is regular contributor to the Patheos' Evangelical Portal and he blogs at www.introvertedchurch.com.
Also see McHugh's "The Ancient Art of Listening."