Why I Still Call Myself an Evangelical
Evangelicalism is quickly going the way of fundamentalism as far as being a useful term.
Although fundamentalism hasn’t always meant “religious person that hates others” it’s practically a lost cause to recover its original intent at this point…and I see the same thing happening with Evangelicalism. This is unfortunate, not only because Evangelicalism has historically distanced itself from fundamentalism as a movement (even before the term became corrupted), but it has its own rich history and distinctives–some of which are well worth preserving.
Although I’m definitely at odds with cultural and political trends within the mainstream of evangelicalism, I’m still willing to claim the label (with some qualifications) in order to better communicate what kind of Christian I am. Here’s where I fall within this diverse and broad movement:
First and foremost, I affirm an emphasis on the evangel, that is, the Good News of Jesus Christ. This necessitates for me strong efforts to evangelize the lost, proclaiming this news and all its implications boldly. It also means an activist approach that sees addressing systemic social issues (poverty, widespread abortion, the abandonment of a socially-constructive sexual ethic, culturally sanctioned violence, etc) as part of the church’s mission.
Second, I affirm an emphasis on the sufficiency and centrality of the Bible for the Christian faith. All that is necessary for salvation is found in the Scriptures, and it is the final authority for faith and practice. This does not necessitate a rejection of the traditions of the Church. Clearly, the traditions of the Church universal are necessary for a full understanding of the orthodox faith, yet the most important things relating to salvation are clear and self-evident in the biblical text.
Third, I affirm an emphasis on ecumenism. Christians are meant to exhibit the unity that is present in the Godhead. We generally fail at this pretty bad. The only way forward is an unrelenting focus on the person of Jesus and a commitment to carry out his will with grace, charity, and patience while focusing on what unites orthodox Christian groups, not what divides us. Evangelicals have been known for coming across denominational lines and even bridging the Protestant-Catholic divide for the sake of the Gospel. This is something I am especially proud to be a part of.
In many respects (especially when it comes to politics and certain methods/ideas regarding evangelism/conversion) I am solidly in the so-called post-evangelical camp.
Nevertheless, post-evangelical is a pretty nebulous term in and of itself, and think I’ve got enough in common with Evangelicalism to legitimately maintain a vested interest in the movement.