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On Being an Evangelical and Staying One

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Many of my comrades both in the academic world and pastoral world have had it with evangelicalism and its proclivities towards modernism, individualism, evidentiary apologetics, half hearted social compassion, commoditizing of salvation and other modern maladies. As they have interacted with my book that is coming out next week, The Great Giveaway, they resonated with my critique of evangelicalism and its unhealthy marriage to modernity. Many asked me, if evangelicalism is so tied to modernity, why continue to be an evangelical at all? Indeed many of these colleagues have left evangelicalism in some way or another upon having similar epiphanies to my own. In the same way, many of my emergent brothers and sisters are dead set against being associated with the name evangelical for many of these same reasons and some better than these. Well, I certainly have been tempted to leave. For one, I seek a worship that is more historical, liturgically ordered towards the glory of God and all he has done in Christ. I seek a worship that orders me towards His Holiness, His work, and His mission. Lecture hall worship or Rock-Concert pep rally worship is just not enough. But having said all this I nonetheless have chosen deliberately to stay within and submit to an evangelical denomination that I love and have great hopes for. I don’t hold it against those who have left evangelicalism, but I believe we are all born into historical contingencies and I believe God calls us to work from within these contingencies until informed otherwise. God’s calling starts with us where we are born. As Alasdair McIntyre stated What I am, therefore, is in key part what I inherit, a specific past that is present to some degree in my present. I find myself as part of a history and that is generally to say, whether I like it or not, whether I recognize it or not, one of the bearers of a tradition (After Virtue 2nd ed. 221) In other words we all cannot escape starting where we are born. And if that is where God put you work for faithfulness until you get told or forced to leave (this is not my experience at all BTW). The past I have inherited is evangelicalism and the church I was born into is the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a decidedly evangelical denomination. And so this is where I must begin. And frankly, I believe evangelicalism still has some strengths to offer to the rest of Christ’s church. I consider for instance the evangelical impulse to diligently seek to make the gospel accessible to strangers (“the lost” as we call them), the evangelical’s commitment to world missions, (w)holy living and the seeking of the Holy Spirit for the life of following Christ, all to be strengths to offer to the rest of Christ’s church, including the more high church traditions of the established European churches here in N. America. Much of evangelicalism is built on these elements albeit in a modernist sense. So, despite its many problems, I resist leaving evangelicalism. I pray somehow God uses the younger evangelicals (as Bob Webber calls them) and the emergent church people to bring about a new faithfulness to being the people of God in North America. As always, to anyone who has somehow found thius new blog, I welcome your comments.

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