Sunday, July 17, 2011

Does the Word “Evangelical” Mean Anything Anymore?

Eternal Perspective Ministries Blog (Randy Alcorn, July 15,2011)

...I didn’t grow up in an evangelical church. I grew up in a nonchristian home and came to Christ as a teenager. I’ve seen very different kinds of evangelical churches, and I have a broad appreciation of many of these differences. But now, at an ever-accelerating pace, the word “evangelical” and even the term “Bible-believing” seem to be losing their historic meaning. (Yes, I’m aware that terminology isn’t all-important; but I’m also aware that terminology can mislead people and cloud understanding and dialogue when radically different meanings are attached to the same term.)
Is the extent of the need to hear the gospel and respond to it in Christ-centered repentance really so unclear in Scripture? Are matters of salvation, judgment and eternal destiny really gray areas or secondary issues subject to in-house evangelical disputes? Or is the Bible emphatically clear on the point that ANY person without Christ, whether they be Muslim or atheist or Baptist, will go to Hell, not Heaven?

There is what the term "Evangelical" means to me personally, and there is what the term "Evangelical" means to the wider culture. Culture looks at Evangelicalism and defines it in terms of the wider context of evangelical culture. I tend to define the term in a more narrow theological context. It is that theological evangelicalism that I see as my "Mother Kirk" to borrow a C.S. Lewis expression.

It is my fear that the term "Evangelical" as used in the wider context of the visible church and culture is indeed losing its meaning, and thus even the theological definition continues to erode and lose Biblical precision. Along with that erosion is a loss of vibrancy and energy that I associate with my more ideal and perhaps traditional view of what Evangelicalism should be.

That is a reason I have the Philip Yancy quote on the left side bar of this blog. The term Evangelicalism as used in our culture may in the end indeed become meaningless. That said, the Bible will continue to be and always will be an evangelical book; the story of the Creator calling a lost humanity back to Himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"Some of my friends believe we should abandon the word evangelical. I do not. I simply yearn for us to live up to the meaning of our name." ~ Philip Yancey

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