Saturday, February 21, 2009

On Being Evangelical
(being a somewhat rambling personal manifesto of sorts.)

It is really easy to bash Evangelicalism. To often Evangelicalism seems to go out of its way to invite the bashing it gets. I'm not talking so much about the antagonism of the unbelieving secular culture, I'm talking about how Evangelicalism gets bashed by those who are its friends and by Evangelicals themselves. And again, all to often, the criticism from within and from without is well earned and deserved.

Evangelicalism is a pretty broad spectrum. Just look at all the different theologs signed up as members of the Evangelical Theological Society. With that broad a spectrum, there is plenty of room for the oddball and the weired, and it is very little wonder that Evangelicalism seems to stumble all over itself. In the world of Blog, much has and is being said about the Evangelical crises and some have looked at the future of Evangelicalism and concluded the future is not very positive at all.

In recent years, one of those critiques of Evangelicalism has come out of the Emergent movement. Much has been written back and forth by both sides of that "conversation", and it is not my intent to bore you to death by rehashing all the nuances of that conversation.

I’ve verbalized before that for Christianity to remain authentic, it is and ultimately has to be counter-cultural, and that means being counter-cultural to both modernity and post-modernity. It occurs to me that what I hear missing in the emergent conversation is the witness concept of the church, and what it is the church is to witness to. The church is to bear witness to God and His redemptive acts in history. Evangelicals tend to lose focus on their role as witness when they get preoccupied with numbers and programs and whatever the latest evangelical fad happens to be.

But this also begs the question, how does being “emergent” bear witness to God and His historical redemptive acts; His breaking into time and history to work redemptively? How is “emergent” countra-postmodernity? If “emergent” is only countra-modernity, and not also contra-postmodernity, then I do not see how “emergent” can be bearing authentic witness to God and His historically redemptive acts.

Once upon a time I was in a church situation where I sensed that I was being forced to choose between the theological tradition of the movement this church was part of, and Evangelicalism at large. Whatever words or assertions to the contrary, the standard of reasonable doubt indicated otherwise. I could either be of tradition "X", or I could be Evangelical, but I would not be allowed to be both at the same time without becoming a major disruption to the peace of that church. What was really sad is the confessional standard of that tradition is, in the main, an evangelical document, but the mentality pervading the churches in that tradition refrained and shied away from embracing evangelical commonality with Evangelical groups that did not share that particular tradition. I ended up leaving. I found that first and foremost, before whatever specific church or theological tradition I would find myself in, I was and remain an Evangelical.

When I first became a Christan, the Almighty gracious God used a “modern” Evangelicalism to reach down and grab me by the scruff of the neck and bring me to Himself. The specific context was a "Four Spiritual Laws" presentation. God sovereignly used that Evangelicalism to bring me to Himself in spite of all of that Evangelicalism’s deficiencies and problems and scandals, and in spite of the weakness, theological or otherwise, of the evangelistic methodology used. For in spite of all that weakness and deficiency, at the foundation and kernel of that presentation was an authentic witness to God and His redemptive acts in time and space, -ie history.

A Jesus devoid of those historical redemptive acts is a Jesus not worth wasting my time or anybody else’s time on. That’s not just my assessment, it was the Apostle Paul’s assessment in I Corinthians 15. No physical bodily Resurrection of Jesus, no reason to believe at all.

I am an Evangelical. I do not fear for the future of Evangelicalism. Christ will, as He has been doing for 2,000 years, build His church. As such, there will always be some sort of Evangelical witness. Evangelicalism as we know it may fade away, and perhaps it should, but there will always be an Evangelical witness to the fact God is, and He has acted in time and space. To be evangelical is to to proclaim the hope of the Gospel; that God exists and He has acted redemptively in history to redeem a lost mankind from their fallenness and enstrangement from Him.

Come! Worship Him!

~ The Billy Goat ~

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