According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, 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
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Roger Asks the Question, "Who is a REAL Evangelical?"

"In Bebbington's major textbook is a newly researched historical study of Evangelical religion in its British cultural setting from its inception in the time of John Wesley to charismatic renewal today. The Church of England, the Church of Scotland and the variety of Nonconformist denominations and sects in England, Scotland and Wales are discussed, but the book concentrates on the broad patterns of change affecting all the churches. It shows the great impact of the Evangelical movement on nineteenth-century Britain, accounts for its resurgence since the Second World War and argues that developments in the ideas and attitudes of the movement were shaped most by changes in British culture. The contemporary interest in the phenomenon of Fundamentalism, especially in the United States, makes the book especially timely." - Amazon 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Who’s a “Real Evangelical?”

by Roger Olson
September 7, 2014

I had to laugh when I read a comment here (responding to one of my blog posts) calling me a “fauxevangelical.” The prefix “faux-” means “fake.” I’m not sure why the commenter didn’t just say “fake evangelical.” Maybe he thought calling me a “fauxevangelical” was less offensive and/or made him sound more intelligent.

In any case, this was just the most recent on a long series of accusations that I’m not a “real evangelical”–whatever that means.

Why do I care? Well, for one thing, there are people whose job it is to categorize and label theologians. Take Patheos for example. Do I belong here–on the “Evangelical Channel”–or on the “Progressive Channel?” There are publishers who prefer only to publish evangelical scholars (although they may occasionally step out of that mission and publish something by a non-evangelical if his or her book is judged to make a contribution to evangelical thought). Many colleges, universities and seminaries will only hire evangelicals.

But beside-and-above the economic reasons for it, I insist that I am an evangelical because that’s my identity. I may add qualifiers, as most evangelical scholars do, such as “postconservative” or “progressive,” but I never mean that I am something other than evangelical.

My whole professional life and before that began has been wrapped up in my evangelical identity (I’ve expressed how and why here many times before so I won’t belabor that or repeat all that history).

The Evangelical Quadrilateral

So is there any standard or universal definition of “evangelical?” In my book The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology (Westminster John Knox Press) I listed and describe six distinct meaning of “evangelical.” The one I mean when I call myself “evangelical” is provided by Mark Noll and David Bebbington–the so-called “evangelical quadrilateral”–four hallmarks of being evangelical.

Noll and Bebbington assume they are talking about Protestants who take Christian orthodoxy seriously–trinitarian Christians who believe in justification by grace through faith alone.

Added to that, to make one “evangelical,” are:

1) conversionism,
2) biblicism,*
3) crucicentrism (cross-centered devotion and preaching), and
4) activism.

*"biblicism" at this blog site is to be broadened out away from the normal wooden, literalistic reading of the Bible to a reading of its pages that is contextual, historical, grammatical, and narratival using the best resources at hand to derive both a practical and spiritual understanding of God's Word. - R.E. Slater


Wikipedia [an excerpt]

David W. Bebbington (born 1949) is a historian who is Professor of History at the University of Stirling in Scotland and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. An undergraduate at Jesus College, Cambridge (1968–71), Bebbington began his doctoral studies there (1971–73) before becoming a research fellow of Fitzwilliam College (1973–76). Since 1976 he has taught at the University of Stirling, where since 1999 he has been Professor of History. His principal research interests are in the history of politics, religion, and society in Great Britain from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, and in the history of the global evangelical movement.

Bebbington quadrilateral

Bebbington is widely known for his definition of evangelicalism, referred to as the "Bebbington quadrilateral", which was first provided in his 1989 classic study Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s.[1] Bebbington identifies four main qualities which are to be used in defining evangelical convictions and attitudes:[2]

  • biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible (e.g. all essential spiritual truth is to be found in its pages)
  • crucicentrism, a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross
  • conversionism, the belief that human beings need to be converted
  • activism, the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort

Bebbington (along with Mark Noll and others) has exerted a large amount of effort in placing evangelicalism on the world map of religious history. Through their efforts they have made it more difficult for scholars to ignore the influence of evangelicals in the world since the movement’s inception in the eighteenth century.[3]


"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible.And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the begotten of God the Father, the Only-begotten, that is of the essence of the Father.God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten and not made; of the very same nature of the Father, by Whom all things came into being, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.Who for us humanity and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate, was made human, was born perfectly of the holy virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.By whom He took body, soul, and mind, and everything that is in man, truly and not in semblance.He suffered, was crucified, was buried, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven with the same body, [and] sat at the right hand of the Father.He is to come with the same body and with the glory of the Father, to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom there is no end.We believe in the Holy Spirit, in the uncreated and the perfect; Who spoke through the Law, prophets, and Gospels; Who came down upon the Jordan, preached through the apostles, and lived in the saints.We believe also in only One, Universal, Apostolic, and [Holy] Church; in one baptism in repentance, for the remission, and forgiveness of sins; and in the resurrection of the dead, in the everlasting judgement of souls and bodies, and the Kingdom of Heaven and in the everlasting life."

The Five solae or five solas are five Latin phrases that emerged during the Protestant Reformation and summarize the early Reformers' basic theological beliefs in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church of the day:

Sola scriptura - by Scripture alone
Sola fide - by faith alone
Sola gratia - by grace alone
Solus Christus / Solo Christo - by/through Christ alone
Soli Deo gloria - glory to God alone


Born Again

Evangelicals are (mostly) Protestant orthodox Christians (orthodox as defined by the Nicene faith in the deity of Christ and the Trinity and by the Reformation solas) who believe that authentic Christian existence necessarily includes being converted to Christ–an experience (whether felt as an experience or not) of transformation from a life of sin and self to a life of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ through which one is brought by the Holy Spirit into “new creation” (justification and regeneration). In other words, nobody is “saved” by being born into a certain nation-state or family or church or through any sacrament or ritual without personal commitment to Christ.

High Regard for Scripture

Evangelicals are also people (I won’t keep repeating “mostly Protestant orthodox Christians…) who have a special regard for the Bible as God’s written, inspired, authoritative Word whose authority stands above tradition and experience–the highest “court of appeal,” so to speak, for faith and practice.

Some evangelicals think the Bible must be “inerrant” to be authoritative, but they disagree among themselves about what “inerrancy” means. I agree with those who define the Bible’s perfection as “perfect with respect to purpose” (e.g., John Piper).

Evangelicals also have a special relationship with the Bible as not only a textbook of correct doctrine but also as God’s living Word to be read devotionally–a sacrament, if you will, of God’s gracious love.

Cross-Centered Lives

Evangelicals are also people who bring nothing to God in their “hands,” so to speak, but cling only to the cross as their sole hope in life and death (for having a living relationship with God that includes forgiveness and acceptance). Evangelicals have a special place in their hearts and minds and worship and devotion for the cross. The atonement of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and trusted as humanity’s only hope for peace with God and for a meaning filled life in relation with God. For evangelicals the cross, the atonement of Jesus Christ that happened there, is the centerpiece of devotion and proclamation.

Christian Activism

Evangelicals are also people who believe in, and practice, Christian activism to approximate the Kingdom of God among people through missions, evangelism and social action. They disagree among themsleves about the best means and possible ends (within history as we know it before Christ returns), but they agree as evangelicals that God calls them to be active in the world for the cause of God.

Additional Hallmarks Unmentioned

I do not think Noll’s and Bebbington’s quadrilateral is exhaustive or even sufficient. I suspect they would agree. These are hallmarks, but not exhaustive traits or characteristics. For example, I would add (and I hope they would as well) that being evangelical necessarily includes belief in Christ’s bodily resurrection and bodily return in glory.

What being evangelical does NOT necessarly include is a literalistic interpretation of the Old Testament:

  • Evangelicals have always disagreed among themselves about how best to interpret the creation accounts in Genesis and how to reconcile them with modern science.
  • They have always disagreed among themselves about how best to interpret the prophets’ proclamations of a coming messianic reign on earth.
  • They have always disagreed among themselves about how to read the Old Testament in terms of Christ–whether Christ is typified in the Old Testament or not. What I mean is: Is the primary meaning of certain passages in the Old Testament Christ or is Christ appropriately read back into the Old Testament by Christians? There has never been consensus among evangelicals about Old Testament interpretation. That is not a litmus test of evangelical identity. Never has been–in spite of fundamentalists’ claims.

When someone calls me a “fauxevangelical” I know I am dealing with one or both of two things: someone who doesn’t know me well (hasn’t read very much of what I’ve written) and/or a fundamentalist.

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