Saint John the Evangelist (Lockport, IL)

Friday, June 03, 2005

"Evangelicals": Not a bad word!

Today I came across this article from ChristianityToday.com. In it the author Philip Yancey provides some insight into this adjective that Christians either hate or love, and the non-churched feel unsure about.

Key quote from Mr. Yancey:
Friend who runs an inner-city shelter for drug addicts and homeless people made this observation: "I love evangelicals. You can get them to do anything. The challenge is, you've also got to soften their judgmental attitudes before they can be effective."

I have seen the truth of both statements.

He continues later in the article:

To complicate matters, many evangelicals in places like the United Kingdom and New Zealand align themselves with liberal political parties, believing their Christian commitment enjoins them to seek government help for the poor and to oppose war. And in China, many whom we would identify as evangelical see no contradiction in their support for the world's largest Communist government.

According to author Randall VanderMey, "Evangelicals tend to view the church not as a giant ship so much as a fleet of rowboats and boogie boards, with each individual in search of an authentic personal experience with God." As we have seen, politics hardly offers the appropriate labels to slap on evangelicals. What descriptors might apply, then?

Mr. Yancey then provides a framework (borrowed from David Bebbington) by which the evangelical Christian can be distinguished:
  • Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a "born again" experience.
  • Activism: the expression of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts.
  • Biblicism: a particular regard for the Bible as the ultimate authority.
  • Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross as making possible the redemption of humanity.
We need to be aware of the terms in use as the Anglican Communion tries to figure out who and what we are, as well as what we are to do. Adjectives being tossed around (liberal, conservative, evangelical, et al.) are meaningful only when carefully defined. And when one of these are used in a negative sense in the heat of the argument, is it being used as a caricature or as a carefully selected word used to describe people and groups?

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