Monday, January 31, 2011
Evangelicalism, New Day or Old One?
Here’s my big point:Evangelicalism is changing. What used to be called “fundamentalist” is now occupied by the word “evangelical” and we have in the case of Mohler a genuine fundamentalist — and I’m using this word analytically and not derisively — who is reshaping evangelicalism because he’s reshaping the SBC. A number of folks in this article call Mohler a fundamentalist. The term fits. Big deal, it’s a part of evangelicalism and I embrace them as my brothers and sisters, even if we squabble every evening at dinner.Actually, that is a big deal since fundamentalist and evangelicals were at odds just a few decades ago. I think McKnight is right on here - but the reason is what bothers me. Evangelicalism, lacking an institutional core (can you say "denomination") is whatever the common consensus defines it to be. And since the press goes a long way towards shaping the common consensus and left secular press would like to paint Christians as fundamentalist neanderthals - which sometimes, not always but sometimes is a category Mohler is apt to fall into - they are going to force us in this direction. It does not do the Christian witness much good.
In another post elsewhere, Joe Carter looked at some trivialities that in many way also define evangelicalism:
- Making Converts.
- The Sinner’s Prayer.
- ”Do you know Jesus as . . . “.
- The Altar Call.
- Protestant Prayers.
- The Church Growth Movement.
- Chick Tracts.
Put these two things together and what do you have? Fundamental trivia! Am I being a little harsh? Perhaps, but my point is valid.
Lacking institutional foundations and gatekeepers, Evangelicalism is doomed to never be well defined and prone to constant shifting. Yet the church is supposed to be something unchanging in the midst of change - truth standing firm when all else is in chaos.
There is a lot to like about Evangelicalism, but it should always have been a movement inside the institutional structures of denominations. As a stand alone movement, it has run its course - it really is shaped more by politics than theology or religion broadly. It should exist to reform, not compete.