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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: Robert Webber

The Future of Evangelicalism 10


Recently I've been reading a fabulous book by Tom Sine called "The New Conspirators."  Tom wrote the books Mustard Seed Conspiracy and Mustard Seed vs. McWorld, both of which have been very influential in my own life and thinking along the way.  Tom is from a much different generation than I am, but I love how he resonates along with people like Scot McKnight and Robert Webber with the so-called "Younger Evangelicals" (Webber's term).  Thinking about what McKnight in the last post I put up, listen to Tom Sine in his new book and notice the similarities: passion is for discovering what God is doing in these turbulent times, and how I can be much more a part of it. [p. 18]

...much of the focus, language, and programs of traditional institutional churches no longer connect with post-denominational, post-Christendom, post-Christian and postmodern culture. [p. 19]

Though God works in all generations, as my wife Christine and I wander the world, we see the Spirit of God working largely through the vision, creativity, and initiative of a new generation - through emerging, mission, multicultural and monastic streams - as well as in traditional churches that are hungry for a more authentic, vital, mission-centered faith.  This book is written to invite you not only to support what God is doing through these renewing streams but also to join this conspiracy of compassion... Those involved in these streams almost always tend to be more outwardly focused, seeking to engage urgent needs in their communities and the larger world. [p. 20]

Sine mentions people I've also learned a great deal from like Alan Roxburgh, Alan Hirsch, Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, Scot McKnight, Eddie Gibbs, Ryan Bolger, John Stackhouse, Leslie Newbigin, Steve Taylor, Walter Brueggeman, NT Wright, Marislov Volf, and many many more.  He speaks about issues of consumerism, kingdom, environmental stewardship, war & peace, and visions of a new reality.  (an whoa... one of the best biblical descriptions of heaven I've read that drew me to tears while sitting in a coffee shop when I read it... cf. pp. 104-108)

I also love the 4 emerging trends he mentions:  emerging church, missional movement, new monasticism and hip-hop.  I loved this because 3 of the 4 have resonated deeply with me (I've just had little exposure and connection to the hip hop church culture, but I bet I'd love it, too).  Anyway, his book is worth reading and discussing and it's great to have a guy with his breadth giving some credence to this new generation of thinkers envisioning a new reality in our new emerging culture that is both consistent with and yet somewhat different than the previous incarnation of church in an earlier historical culture.

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The Future of Evangelicalism 4


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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