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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: orthodoxy

The Future of Evangelicalism 5

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Here are a couple of famous ways of trying to put define the center of evangelicalism with both clarity, and generosity.  What I mean by that is there is enough clarity as to actually have some definition and now just include everyone, and also some generosity so that it allows for many to call themselves evangelicals if they can at least affirm these central items.  This also doesn't mean that other issues don't matter.  Certainly - there are lost of theological, biblical, cultural, moral, spiritual, and pragmatic (if not more) issues to wrestle through.  But these are attempts to create a kind of definition around our diverse family.  First, David Bebbington (British historian) provides the following hallmarks of evangelicalism which are oft-quoted as a reference point for basic evangelicalism [David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: a history from the 1730’s to the 1980’s, 1989, pp. 1-19].  To my remembrance, Mark Noll affirms these as well in one of his books (but I couldn't find it recently... so if someone can help there, that'd be great):  

  1. Conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed
  2. Activism, the expression of the gospel in effort
  3. Biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible
  4. Crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross

I tend to agree with Allen Yeh when he says, “I think the Lausanne Covenant articulates more fully what David Bebbington was getting at. It holds to Bibliocentrism but defines it. Anyone can say they subscribe to the Bible, and then twist Scripture to suit their agenda. However, the Lausanne Covenant starts with the Bible and shows how social justice, evangelism, and doxology all spring from its pages. It is a holistic theology, it is right theology (orthodoxy) and I think that it is as good a definition of “evangelical” as we have today.”  [The Other Journal, “Toward a Fuller Definition of Evangelical,” November 3, 2006.]

John Stackhouse, Jr. offers these 5 characteristics [John G. Stackhouse, Jr., “Evangelical Theology Should be Evangelical” in Evangelical Futures, 2000, pp. 40-43]:

  1. Evangelicals believe and champion the gospel of God’s work of salvation and particularly as it is focused in the person of Jesus Christ. 
  2. Evangelicals believe and champion the Bible as the uniquely authoritative rendition of God’s word in words to us. 
  3. Evangelicals believe and champion conversion as the correct way to describe God’s work of salvation in each Christian and as a reality to be experienced, not merely affirmed. 
  4. Evangelicals believe and champion mission as the chief goal of Christian life on earth.
  5. Evangelicals believe and champion these four elements of the generic Christian tradition as primary, central, and nonnegotiable, leaving other convictions as secondary and non-essential. 

I would give the following names to Stackhouse's sentences:  Christological, Bible-based, Conversional, Missiological (I prefer missional), and Generously Orthodox.

Kenneth Collins gives the following as what he calls the Four Enduring Emphases of Evangelicalism:

  1. Normative value of Scripture in the Christian Life
  2. Necessity of conversion
  3. Cruciality of the atoning work of Christ as the sole mediator between God and humanity
  4. Imperative of Evangelism

Ok.  Note the similarities?  Especially note how these fit into the documents I noted earlier.  I think these help to approach a center for evangelicalism.


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Future Communication of the Gospel 7

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One of the things that I've noticed lately is that when some of the younger, emerging church leaders use different language than is "standard" in the evangelical community, there tends to be a backlash.  Even if you're orthodox (again, I'd like a better definition for this when it's tossed around - orthodox according to what standards?), but you try to reframe your understanding of the Scriptures or key theology in a more contemporary... or even just a different language, there tends to be a conservative backlash.  In a sense, there is a kind of required language that needs to be used in the evanglical community, and if you don't use that particular language, you're either suspect, heretical, or making dangerous revisions to theology.  Interestingly, much of that language that has become both sacred and become part of the litmus test to whether you are orthodox or not comes not from scripture itself, but was later added as a clarification of Scripture.  That's always helpful as a clarification, but when it becomes exalted to the level of Scripture, it can become dangerous.  The question is, what extra-biblical language and/ or categories (philosophical or theological) are essential/ necessary for orthodoxy, which ones are helpful but not necessary to be orthodox, and which ones are just personal intepretive preferences?    There is a lot of talk about contextualizing the gospel in whatever missional context you find yourself in, but then when you attempt to do that and forego a language of a previous or other culture for something more contextual, then you get labelled heretical. 


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