According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why I can't give up the label "Evangelical"


by Roger Olson
posted May 23, 2011

Friends and acquaintances on both the right and the left and nowhere on the theological spectrum (I don’t insist that everyone be somewhere on that spectrum) have asked me why I continue to call myself “evangelical”–given all the problems with that term today.

Well, I respond, what else would I call myself? Just Christian? That label has just as many problems and always gets the response “What kind of Christian?” Protestant? Again, too vague and inclusive. I am both of those, but if I use them alone or in tandem to identify my theological orientation people rightly ask “What kind of Christian and what kind of Protestant?’

All my life I’ve called myself an “evangelical Christian” or, when I was very young but old enough to be aware of these things, knew I was part of a wider Christian community called “evangelical.” To us, evangelical was synonymous with “authentically Christian” as opposed to “nominally Christian.” When I was a teenager deeply involved in Youth for Christ, for example, I knew which churches in our midwest city of about 100,000 people were evangelical in that sense and which were just (in our eyes, anyway) religious clubs. And we knew that some good Christians stayed in their nominally Christian churches which did not make their churches evangelical or them less than fully and authentically Christian. So, it was complicated, but not too complicated.

When did “evangelical” become a problem for me and many others who proudly wore that label for decades? First, when Jerry Falwell began calling himself an evangelical and, second, when the mass media began depicting Falwell and Pat Robertson and people associated with the Religious Right as “the” evangelical–i.e., as the leading spokesmen for the movement.

Again, as with the scandal about the “end of the world,” I blame the media for the good label “evangelical” becoming problematic. I talk to media people fairly often. Just last week, in the run up to the “end of the world” day (May 21) I was interviewed by a local reporter. I mentioned to her the Luther quote about planting a tree today (if he knew the world would end or Christ would return tomorrow). She thought Luther was sometime in the 1800s!

Most stories I see and hear in the media about “evangelicals” are so distorted and uninformed that I can hardly stand to watch them or read them. Most journalists (with a few notable exceptions) have come to use the term for anyone or group they consider religiously fanatical or theocratic.

So, I understand why some of my friends and acquaintances want me to give up the label.

However, I’m stubborn and don’t want to give the media (and fundamentalists) the privilege and power to define good religious labels wrongly. I also don’t know what label I would turn to to begin to define my particular kind of Christianity. Whatever label I use will need some explaining. And it’s just naive to think we can get away from all labeling.

Call me Don Quixote, but I think rescuing “evangelical” from the media and the fundamentalists is worth the attempt.

In the meantime, however, I do have to qualify my particular brand of evangelicalism. So I have used the qualifier “postconservative.” Occasionally, if I know I don’t have time to explain that (!), I’ll just use “progressive.”

All labels have their problems and, to be sure “evangelical” is fraught with them. But I am not giving it up. Instead, I will fight for it. To me, it is virtually synonymous with “God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving” Christianity. Of course, that needs unpacking also.

One thing I find helpful when talking to someone or a group with time to listen is to distinguish between the evangelical ethos and the evangelical movement. I see myself as participating in both, but I am more comfortable claiming the evangelical ethos than I am identifying with the evangelical movement– at least as it is viewed by most people.

So, most of the time, when I say I am evangelical I mean I am a Protestant Christian who believes authentic Christianity requires a conversion experience of regeneration and that faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and repentance for sin are necessarily included in that. It cannot be merely an “enlightenment,” so to speak–a new way of thinking.

Of course, much more could be said about the true meaning of evangelical, but my point here is simply that, for me, it is still a good and useful label, but it needs qualifying–just like all one word labels do.
**********

As an aside, I have lately written to Roger Olson and asked how he would understand the term "emergent Christian" or "emerging Christian" to which his reply is that of a "progressive or post-conservative" evangelical Christian, that is, and evangelical Christian who sees the need to update his church and faith and fellowship in line with the postmodernistic times that Christianity has entered into. As with any label, whether "progressive," "post-conservative," "emerging," or "emergent" we should balance those descriptors off with the writer, author, movement, church, association, etc that is utilizing (or abusing) it. Curiously, this can be as applicable to a movement's founder as to his (or her) critics.

For example, I like Rob Bell, but not all things Rob says are things I would be in agreement with. Perhaps I feel he strays a bit from an orthodoxy that doesn't support his statements biblically. Still, I find him very useful in enlightening myself and many others with the shortcomings of "evangelicalism" as much as the "benefits" of an emerging Christianity as he re-interprets the gospel of Jesus within a framework I deem to call "Inauguration Eschatology."

But like Roger says, too often we simply don't understand the content of the terms we freely banter about, and more-often-than-not, we usually misrepresent them. So it is necessary to study and discuss, dialogue and interact with each other over as many issues as is necessary to proper convey Jesus to a lost and sinful world, as much as to ourselves, lost in a wilderness of follies and ideas.

Thus this blog I've created on all things "emergent" (or emerging, or progressive, or post-conservative) as I try to sort things through the various postings I've read and have found helpful to the teaching and illumination of Scriptures. And not just from an "emergent vein," but in the faithful use of an historical orthodoxy from all church ages past, all church leaders, teachers, and preachers past, in the discernment of God's Word. In a word, I wish to "update" our foundational orthodoxy into this present age of man with all of its upheavals, discontents, disappointments, misunderstandings and shortsightedness.

And with that said, I pray that we continue to use our "good senses" praying for Spirit-filled illumination and discernment in the task of following Jesus as best as we can. For ultimately, it takes a fellowship of like-minded, good-hearted, discerning Christians to do this task together, as we examine and expound the truths of God's Word as best as we can understand it, apply it, live it, breath it, believe it, practice it, teach it, share it, testify of it, and be at peace with it in our heart-of-hearts.

- skinhead

The End of Evangelicalism 7

As with any movement or name it is always best to understand both the pros as well as the cons of any position or ideology. Rollins, McLaren, and Hirsch have all been quoted on this blog regarding their very helpful and positive directional material to Christianity. So with that said, here is David Fitch and Scot McKnight's additional rejoinders of both the positives and negatives of each man's ministry. And I would suppose that even with ourselves, our friends or non-friends, each may say as much about our own personal doctrines, "-isms," and leanings. But so often it is hard to maintain a "balanced view" of things when in the thick of transformative events, and yet, a well-informed moderation is always helpful (if possible) in reporting current events within and outside of Christianity.

- skinhead
* * * * * * * * *
 

http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/05/23/the-end-of-evangelicalism-7/

by Scot McKnight
posted May 23, 2011

My friend David Fitch, in The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission: Towards an Evangelical Political Theology (Theopolitical Visions) , observes that the new forms of evangelicalism are a witness to some form of discontent. He includes the emerging church, the missional church, neo-monasticism and the organic house-church movement. These, Fitch contends, are the “contours of the post-evangelical landscape” (179).

The questions we need to face are these: What forms of evangelicalism do you think will be most vibrant in the next twenty years or so? Is evangelicalism itself changing, or are these splinter groups with only a few years to survive? Do you think the NeoReformed/NeoPuritan movement is another witness to discontent?

David Fitch focuses on three groups in this time of discontent who are providing plausible, yet inadequate, visions for the “birthing of a renewed Christian political presence for our time” (179).

He takes up his three themes again (Inerrant Bible, Salvation, Christian Nation) and sketches how seminal, young, post-evangelicals are proposing ideas: Peter Rollins, Brian McLaren, and Alan Hirsch with Michael Frost. By the way, Fitch thinks James Davison Hunter’s proposal of “faithful presence” is a form of NeoAnabaptism, and I completely agree.

With each of these young theologians, Fitch sees both promise and problems. So, Peter Rollins: while Rollins clearly points us to the capturing of God in Bible and while he pushes us into apophatic theology to remind us that the infinite God cannot be contained by human words, and while he wants us to focus not so much on believing the right things but believing in the right way, Fitch says Rollins is in danger of de-incarnationalizing the Word of God. The Christian is called both to affirm the centrality of Scripture as the place where God has spoken and to land in particular ways in particular settings. For Rollins Scripture can become another Master-Signifier without content. He also thinks his liturgies run the same risk.

Brian McLaren points out the problem of a too other-worldly salvation and of a decisionism that does not lead to transformation and the need to focus God’s mission in kingdom theology and to do all of this in the now, but he thinks McLaren is in danger of de-eschatologizing the kingdom by separating it too much for a robust christology or ecclesiology and a future eschatology. He thinks Brian is too close to seeing Jesus too much as guide and exemplar away from the ruling Lord and Christ. Kingdom too easily can become another nebulous Master-Signifier where advocacy for justice loses its trinitarian and eschatological bearings.

And he sees much of value in Hirsch and Frost in their pushing against the consumerist and attractional church, and their advocacy for organic missional work, and for a dispersed church but they run the risk of de-ecclesiologizing the church’s relationship to society. (Too much missional claims do this.) The practices of the church are too separated from the mission of the church. Which practices? eucharist, baptism, preaching, fellowship, gifts, etc.. Their claim that the proper order is christology, mission and then ecclesiology runs the risk of a Christ too separated from the church and its practices, and can suggest too individualistic of a soteriology and mission.

Thanks David. Good job. Much to think on here.


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