Evangelicals Ponder Whether the 'Evangelical' Label Is Worth Keeping

"A panel of prominent Christian ethicists and pastors said that it is important to define what an evangelical actually is in discussions with people who may not be familiar with the term, warning that sometimes people may have a very wrong idea about evangelicals and what they stand far." CPost

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Ed Vasicek's picture

The bottom line: this article does nothing to really answer the question.  It demonstrates the wish-washy nature of evangelicalism: no definitive answer, no conclusion all can agree upon.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

Keep in mind, Ed, that many who have been in the fundamental camp are having about the same discussion, and really for the same reason.  No definitions of "fundamental" or "evangelical" have changed, but sadly, enough people have left their waste on both terms that people are rightly questioning whether they want to touch them.  

That would include wishi-washiness in the evangelical camp, but also the same kind of domineering spirit (Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald) and legalistic tendencies (Bill Gothard, Gary Ezzo) that plague portions of fundamentalism.  And yes, it would also include a lot of "interesting" political activism on the parts of both evangelicals and fundamentalists, starting with some hagiographic support of our President. 

So we're in the same boat--let's try not to shoot holes in the hull while we figure our way out of this.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Bert, I understand your point. I agree that fundamentalists are guilty of the same thing (although Joel Tetrau tried to solve this years ago with his "type A" "type B" and "type C" fundamentalist; that would work "in house," but not within society).   I am not saying that discussing what evangelical means is worthless, just that this article contributed nothing to that discussion.

To my way of thinking, the article ended at the same point in which it came in. No direction was offered, no improvement suggested.

We describe our church as "Bible-oriented," but we will use the ambiguous term evangelical (with the adjective "conservative") and I will sometimes use the term "fundamental" which -- in many minds -- describes the most extreme wing of the fundamental movement. For years, I refused to use the term "fundamentalist" because here in Indiana it was associated with the Jack Hyles type of fundamentalism, and I am definitely not that.  Sometimes we have to abandon words. When we watched the Flintstones, we had a "gay old time".  In the 1940's and 50's, young people invited the "whole gang" together.

When we look at how broad the evangelical movement is, we probably need to come up with SEVERAL terms that defines its branches. There is a big difference between a prosperity gospel oneness Pentecostal and a conservative Presbyterian, for example.  Baptists have tended to hog the term "fundamentalist."  Precise terms would be helpful, but they don't seem to be forthcoming.

As for the headline, I got carried away.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jay's picture

Keep in mind, Ed, that many who have been in the fundamental camp are having about the same discussion, and really for the same reason.  

Yup, this has been debated several times here on SI and goes back almost to the inception of the site.  Now we need to figure that out and the term 'convergent' as well... unless people decide to interpret 'convergent' as 'enemy' or something like that.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

What we gotta do, now that we've been admitted as convergents, is come up with the secret handshake and cool hats to wear at parades while we drive those funny little cars.

Oh, wait, that's the Shriners.  Never mind.  (in news of the weird, I saw a member of the Rochester pipe band playing "Thunderstruck" with some Shriners running a dragon float...even weirder, it worked musically, except he needed a bass drummer to back him up)

Seriously, Ed's point is well taken; how much does it add to the conversation to simply mull over why one might abandon the label without thinking much about how to improve communication?  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.