Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An obituary for American Evangelicalism?


I don't usually wade in on topics like this on my blog, but I found this op-ed piece in the New York Times to be interesting. 

John Dickerson, pastor at Cornerstone Church, has written about what he perceives to be the decline of Evangelicalism in America. In the piece he demonstrates that the movement doesn't seem to have the influence it once did, but he also holds out hope. Here is a part I found most interesting, if not prophetic. 

How can evangelicalism right itself? I don’t believe it can — at least, not back to the politically muscular force it was as recently as 2004, when white evangelicals gave President George W. Bush his narrow re-election. Evangelicals can, however, use the economic, social and spiritual crises facing America to refashion themselves into a more sensitive, spiritual and humble movement.
We evangelicals must accept that our beliefs are now in conflict with the mainstream culture. We cannot change ancient doctrines to adapt to the currents of the day. But we can, and must, adapt the way we hold our beliefs — with grace and humility instead of superior hostility. The core evangelical belief is that love and forgiveness are freely available to all who trust in Jesus Christ. This is the “good news” from which the evangelical name originates (“euangelion” is a Greek word meaning “glad tidings” or “good news”). Instead of offering hope, many evangelicals have claimed the role of moral gatekeeper, judge and jury. If we continue in that posture, we will continue to invite opposition and obscure the “good news” we are called to proclaim.

I agree with the above diagnosis, but I am not sure if Evangelicalism is worth saving. The term and the movement have become associated with so many things that stand in opposition to the traditional meaning of "evangelical" that it is probably time to recognize that we are better off without it. 

5 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Any "-ism" that compels a person to say that his or her *political* opinion is better or more valid than mine because "God says so" and uses "God's blessing" to beat me with his (or her) opinion deserves to die. They shall know we are Christians by our love, not our politics.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Maybe we should pull a "Prince." Those who are a part of this movement should identify themselves as "the Christians formerly known as evangelical." Wait...then we would still be identifying ourselves in relation to the term. Back to the drawing board!

    ReplyDelete
  4. just don't forget Americans aren't the only ones who use the term, or the english language for that matter!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, but being an Evangelical in America can be quite a different thing then in NZ, AU, or UK.

      Delete