Monday, August 16, 2010

When Did Evangelical Become a Dirty Word?

There is a lot of buzz in certain blogs recently about evangelicalism in general and the title of Evangelical specifically. Roger Olson has a few recent entries addressing these issues and while I might agree on several points, I am hesitant to abandon what it is to be evangelical in the Christian missionary sense. I am evangelical. I am theologically conservative. Yet, like so many others I find a general disdain for what the media and secular world considers politically conservative evangelicalism. It does not match my political view (e.g. my Goldwater/Buckley brand of conservatism) nor does it set well with my conservative theology. As Olson and others have pointed out, the media and secular world brands evangelicalism with fundamentalism and the result is a hybrid animal that acceptably registers with a rather small sub-sect of Christendom. Nonetheless, the label evangelical as well as conservative ends up tainted for many of us. Having said that, I disagree with Olsen and others that we should relabel ourselves as something other than conservative evangelical or something similar. The phrases and terminology have been co-opted by a rather modern political movement whose time seems to have passed. Instead of abandoning the historical banner of the Protestant Reformation, that of Christian Evangelicalism, perhaps it is time to reclaim it and take it from the processes and institutions that have abused it for their purposes. Their zealotry is a stain upon their own fabric and not upon mine.
It is not only the secular world that is unduly influenced by such misappropriations. The Reformed camps have also latched onto the phrases, using them as derogatory and inferring some great theological sin. Evangelical has become a dirty name among such fellows not because of political leanings but because of opposition to their dogma. Evangelical has become a euphemism for non-Calvinist or non-Reformed or non-liberal or whatever label zealots would like to use. It is not limited to Evangelical. Even Christian has taken its toll with the recent Ann Rice foolishness. It is time to stop retreating. I am a Protestant, Evangelical, Conservative and most important, Christian. No disrepute should be attached to any of it and nether should it be pigeon holed into a sub-set that few of us entertain. The secular media does not have ownership of title Evangelical nor do the fundamentalists attempting to exert undue influence among our fellows.


The Seeking Disciple said...

And frankly I don't care what the world thinks about me. If they view my faith in Jesus as strange or they don't like me because I am an evangelical, disciple, Christian, fundamentalist, conservative, etc. then so be it. Jesus said it would be this way (John 15:18) so I don't take much out of posts like Olson's that have a disdain for conservative theology in the first place.

A.M. Mallett said...

I understand the frustration with some of the baggage that is attached to the "evangelical" label but to be clear, I embrace much of what the liberal theological world finds objectionable. I do not approve of homosexuality, especially in the church. I find most of the emergent church to make a mockery of much of scripture and I don't think there is a thing wrong with being politically conservative. My fear with the label problem is we become TOO ecumenical and lose sight of biblical principle along the way.

Jc_Freak: said...

I don't think that Olson is saying that we should abandon such terms. Indeed, he strongly defends the term evangelical. He just doesn't use the word conservative for himself, and perhaps that is true for him.

A.M. Mallett said...

I suppose my concern is with allowing interest groups to dominate the nomenclature. I would rather take the stand and reject their assertions. I am a conservative in many ways. I have no idea what a "post-conservative" is. I know what I was before becoming conservative. I was a pre-conservative. At some point it is time to stand on principle rather than fickle. While we might all be within the pale of Arminian thought, we are not all liberal ecumenicals.

Gary said...

Some estimates are that over 50% of evangelical teenagers repeat their born again experience due to a lack of assurance of salvation. Do we see that kind of insecurity regarding salvation anywhere in the New Testament? Doesn't that high a level of insecurity regarding Christ's FREE gift of salvation indicate a problem with Arminian evangelical theology?

Could this be the reason why your Arminian evangelical young people are stampeding to Calvinism?

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