Trevin Wax has posted a series of reviews derived from a book, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism that are worth reading. The book features four representative figures from the world of evangelicalsm:
1. Kevin Bauder (Fundamentalist)
2. Al Mohler (Confessional Evangelical)
3. John Stackhouse (Generic Evangelical)
4. Roger Olson (Postconservative Evangelical)
All three speak to their understanding of what it means to be an evangelical and they also respond to what has been posted by the other authors. It is an important conversation. The term “evangelicalism” is so misused and confused that while it gets thrown about a lot, almost no one knows what it means. Within the church it means one thing within Christianity, it means something entirely different to those outside of the faith (and it means something generally negative, associated mainly with politics, militancy, money grubbing televangelists, etc.). Even within the church, there are camps that use "evangelical" as a pejorative, from being too conservative (mainline denominations) to being too liberal (White Horse Inn types).
Here are his four posts...
What Is an Evangelical? 1: The Fundamentalist View
What Is an Evangelical? 2: The Confessional Evangelical View
What Is an Evangelical? 3: The Generic Evangelical View
What Is an Evangelical? 4: The Postconservative View
The reviews are interesting and I think all four men have important points they have made (at least based on Trevin’s review). All that being said, something troubling runs through the four views: a common theme of assumed disunity. All of these conversations invariably work within a framework where the church has just decided to shrug our collective shoulders, throw up our collective hands and just accept disunity and assume it is normal and unavoidable. While the conversations revolve around defining evangelicalism, one of the key ways evangelicalism is defined is by determining who is and who is not part of this sub-group in the church.
I am not naïve. Certainly there is plenty of evidence for this being “the way it is”. The church has created all sorts of structures and traditions to exclude some Christians from full fellowship in a local body: formal church membership, denominations, closed communion. I also realize that for the vast majority of the church, this is not only just the way it is, it is perfectly acceptable or even celebrated. As the years turn into centuries and roll on by the church becomes more and more disunfied and the most common reaction is a shrug and “What are you going to do?” dismissal.
I reject this. I don’t reject it because I think it is not the reality on the ground and has been for centuries. I reject assumed disunity because it is something that the Gospel simply demands that we reject and overcome. There is simply no way to read the New Testament and come away with practices that lead to a disunified church made of up thousands of competing local churches. The New Testament spends a ton of time breaking down the walls between believers and we have promptly spent the last two thousand years building them right back up in new, innovative ways.
“Evangelical” is just another label, another divisive subgroup that distinguishes whether a fellow believer is the right sort or the wrong sort of Christian. I am not an Evangelical. Nor am I an Anabaptist. Or Reformed. Certainly I am not Emergent. I am just a Christian and I am just seeking others who have been sought out by Christ and are following Him.