Thursday, May 15, 2008

Am I an Evangelical?

Ed Stetzer placed a link to a letter written by Dr. Ergun Caner, President and Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School. The article in question is regarding Caner's dislike for the newest attempt to muddy the philosophical waters of evangelicalism.

The new strands of this rope called "evangelicalism" cause me to ask if I am still an evangelical. Those strands include everything from being a "green evangelical" to people who call themselves evangelical, but no longer believe salvation through Jesus is a unique thing. I am so tired of the green machine dribbling out its poisonous lies, I may well write a separate blog about that. For now, let's talk about Jesus and this tent called "evangelicalism."

First, the stakes that hold the tent of evangelicalism are fixed and easy to spot; consider this description from Barna:

"'Evangelicals' meet the born again criteria plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today."

Second, to be sure, the fabric of the evangelical tent is multi-faceted. No one denomination has a monopoly on evangelicalism. That being said, however, it does not mean the tent is so broad as to accept anything that comes along. Does that sound offensive? Consider it carefully; if your church were to accept just any old preacher that came along, could you trust him? What if he changed the meaning of familiar words, such as "born again?"

That is what is happening. There are those who call themselves born-again evangelicals, but who do not believe that Jesus is the only way to be saved. When asked if Muslims would be in heaven, one prominent so-called evangelical preacher recently quoted Jesus' statement that he has other sheep in the fold that his hearers did not know about (John 10:16). As is true with too many others, this man does not believe in the unique nature of salvation through Jesus Christ. He is a false evangelical--a false prophet, if you will.

What is the fear that is generating the attempted change in evangelicalism? Why are we now afraid that we will be offensive? The truth is simple: the gospel is offensive to some. To soft-pedal it is mighty close to being ashamed of it (a·shamed adj.
1. Feeling shame or guilt
2. Feeling inferior, inadequate, or embarrassed
3. Reluctant through fear of humiliation or shame).

I am an evangelical. I am not ashamed to say it. Unless the apostates take over the evangelical family. Then I will call myself something else.


GuyMuse said...

As you point out in your post, there is so much baggage these days with the term 'evangelical' that I have stopped using it as a description of my faith. Here in Guayaquil JWs, LDS, and several other sects choose to call themselves 'evangelicos'. This term is fast becoming more of a hindrance to people accepting the Gospel than it is a helpful description. I personally have begun to use the term 'follower of Christ' or simply Christian.

Kevin, Somewhere in South America said...

Evangelical is a pejorative, catch-all term to the south of you, too. But for kingdom conversations around the rest of the world, we need to have a term that we can use that reveals our Christian distinctives. We are not protestants; we are not Catholic; we are more than fundamentalist Christians (I use this in the doctrinal sense only, not in the extreme ways many want to attach to it). Evangelical seemed to be the best universal description of our body of belief.

Like yourself, in some circles I only use Christ-follower.

Thanks for your input!

Hunter Barrington said...

good stuff... I am getting tired of people trying to redefine my faith. Granted i dont believe that our perception of Christianity shouldn't change over the years... the more we learn about Christ the more focused and true our Christianity should become. So change isn't bad... but I am tired of these ridiculous movements and ideas that have little or no scriptural backing. Hermeneutics should be a required course in every church. More importantly more Christians need to live out Christian lifestyles so there's no mistaking what it's supposed to look like.

Kevin, Somewhere in South America said...

Hello, Hunter,

Apostasy seems to prevail in some realms of Christianity--an unfortunate reality that is pressing on us from all sides. As you said, these ridiculous movements and ideas are tiresome. We all need to get back to the main thing; we all need that focus you spoke of.