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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: Nicene Creed

The Future of Evangelicalism 4

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As I've taken a look at some different definitions of "evangelical," there have been some similarities and congruencies.  Even as you look at the statements that I have listed in the previous posts which represent a wide set of evangelicals with different theological standings around the globe, there is a remarkable "center,"  what Stan Grenz referred to in his book "Renewing the Center: evangelical theology in a post-theological era."  Several scholars have tried to nail down  these "core beliefs" to create a kind of center to the movement.  And that's clear... evangelicalism is a movement rather than a static set of beliefs or a certain community body.  Evangelicalism certainly has historical roots, contextual grounding, and theological past, but it also has a multi-cultural, global character that defies one single line of history or cultural context.  I'd like to list a few of these definitions of the "center" of evangelicalism over the next couple of posts, and I think we'll all see some similarities and congruencies. Let's just start, though, with Robert Webber, who has offered much to bridge the Christian past with the Christian future, particularly in evangelicalism.  In his "The Younger Evangelicals" he tries to answer the question, "Who are the Evangelicals?"  He says, "...evangelicals stand in continuity with each other throughout the history of the church.  Our commonality is expressed in the four uses of the word evangelical: biblical, theological, historical, and culture."  He then goes on to explain futher:

  1. The biblical use of evangelical simply refers to the euangelion, the good news that salvation has arrived in Jesus Christ.
  2. [The theological use] refers to those who affirm Scripture as the authoritative Word of God and accept the creeds of the early church as accurate reflections of the gospel.  (He specifically mentions the Apostles, Nicene, and Chalcedon Creeds.)
  3. The historical usage of evangelical refers to all those movements in history that have attempted to restore a vital historic Christianity to the church at those momentns when the church has become dead in spirit or has departed from the faith of the fathers. (He calls this evangelical renewal and cites the monastics, the Protestant reformation, pietism, the Oxford movement, and the major evangelical awakenings.)
  4. A cultural evangelical is defined by the biblical, theological, and historical uses of the term (1-3 above) but is rooted in a particular paradigm of thought.  Webber then goes on to talk about evangelicalism's connection in the past to modernism and Cartesian rationalism, and the premise of this particular book is that "a new evangelical paradigm, is emerging."  [p. 15]  In other words, #4 is changing.

These four desciptions are helpful, but to me they don't say quite enough.   They're describe in some ways what an evangelical looks like, but what about what an evangelical believes?  Certainly #1 and #2 get at that a bit, but not much.  In the next post I'll offer a couple others that I think are helpful.


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Lining Up

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One of the things that has always bothered me, and that continues to bother me is the ongoing segmentation of the church.  It seems that we evangelicals in particular have a penchant for either creating new litmus tests, new groups with whom we need to affiliate in order to be orthodox, or in order to be a part of the true, pure, right and holy group of Christians. It's been interesting because so many young people have lamented the fact that the church is so broken and disunified, and yet no, many of us are falling into the same trap.  Recently, I've seen this in the desire to protect the church from sermon pastors.  The emerging church is now splitting into multiple categories depending on who you agree with.  Are you a Bellist?  Or a Driscollite?  Do you ascribe to Piperian Baptist Reformed theology, or are you dabbling in McLarenism?  Are you falling prey to Seayanic visions of the missional church, or are you a Kellerite?  Does McManustic theology intrigue you or is Hirschology forming you? Is your church designed around Coletic discipleship, Seeker-sensitive Hybellianism, suburban Warrenics, urban Claibornest new monasticism, or McNealian simplicity?  DA Carson, Stanley Grenz, or NT Wright?  Clark Pinnock or Wayne Grudem?  Scott McKnight or Spencer Burke?  Mars Hill Graduate School or Trinity Evangelical?

Those are just a few of the things I hear in my own circles.  I find myself feeling like I always have to choose and line up or I'll be labelled a heretic at the next turn.  If I agree with something Rob Bell is doing or saying, am I heretical?  If I like Radical Reformission by Driscoll, but I disagree with where he draws the line for what's orthodox, am I out? If I like a lot of what McLaren says in Generous Orthodoxy and I think Bill Hybels is a great evangelical leader, whose camp am I in?  And how do we figure out who's with who?  Is Donald Miller with Rob Bell or Mark Driscoll?  Is Erwin McManus with DA Carson or Chris Seay?

I guess one of my frustrations is that we are continuing to throw out the word "orthodox" as if it's a word that has a pretty solid, hard and fast meaning.  So, where's the list?  If it's drawn from the Nicene Creed, then when we use it, we certainly expand the content.  Who decides what and who's orthodox?  What does orthodox really mean, anyway, because it seems to me lately to have a pretty wide semantic range.  And we seem to be quite afraid that the church is going to go to hell in a handbasket even though Jesus said quite clearly that the gates of Hell wouldn't prevail against it.  I'm not saying that theology, boundaries, truth, and orthodoxy don't matter.  In fact, I'm quite convinced they do.  But the way we are currently talking and treating one another by forcing each other to line up is getting a little tired.  It's particularly frustrating, for instance, when people get accused of being unorthodox because they are seeking to deeply enflesh the gospel in a culture of poverty while "solid" evangelical churches are deeply heretical in their praxis of encouraging personal success or other theologies. 

Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

How about we start talking about what it is the unifies us?  How about we start talking about how Jesus is being displayed in the world? 


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