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Suzannah Paul: In Defense of Evangelicalism

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We were encouraged and challenged by this piece from Suzannah Paul at The Smitten Word on evangelicalism in light of the World Vision controversy. Here’s an excerpt:

I also technically grew up in the Mainline, but my twenty-odd years in the Presbyterian PC(USA) church were thoroughly evangelical. (I didn’t actually meet a bona fide Mainline liberal until I got involved in anti-poverty and peace organizing as an adult.) I didn’t feel stifled there as a woman. My gifts for ministry were nurtured and largely affirmed, and I worked as a youth minister my first job out of college.

I still believe in the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus, but I believe that Jesus is the Word of God to a greater degree than the Bible is, and I have a few more questions than I used to. I seek to understand the Bible in community through the witness of Jesus, historical context, and the arc of the biblical narrative as a whole. My esteem for Scripture is just as strong, but when Truth is understood as a Person, the Bible becomes something more than a textbook. There’s more room for mystery, tension, and beauty.

I still believe in Christ’s saving work on the cross, but I believe his birth, ministry, and resurrection were significant, too. Jesus wasn’t just “born to die”–he lived to reveal God’s shalom and set right the ill sin wrought. Put to death by religious and political authorities, Christ’s resurrection disarmed their violent power, revealing a better kind that makes all things new in humility and love, without coercion.

I still believe in conversion, but less as a once-and-done event. Repentance is an ongoing work, and salvation is not merely for individual hearts or heaven: it’s also the liberating, reconciling inauguration of God’s reign here, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

I still believe in evangelism, but not like I used to when I alienated more than one friend trying to get them to come to Christian events. The gospel of come-to-church-stuff (or go-to-heaven-when-you-die for that matter) isn’t the most compelling good news we’ve got, and honestly, it betrays a certain heresy about where God works and dwells. These days, evangelism looks more like attempting to reveal what Jesus is like and acknowledging the ordinary sorts of places where I see God at work. It’s a lot more like regular life.

Read the rest here.

Also see Rachel Held Evans’ recent piece on a similar wavelength.

And tell us – what do you think of this conversation? Where do you land on the evangelicalism question, and how do you see the future unfolding? We want to hear your thoughts!

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