Friday, 1 June 2007

Encounters with tradition (2): from evangelical to post-evangelical

A guest-post by D. W. Congdon

There are certainly problems with calling “evangelicalism” a tradition. To some, it refers simply to the Protestant churches born out of the Reformation. To others, it refers to the pietistic, Anabaptist traditions. To others, more recently, it refers to the American Free Church movement, which is more a sociopolitical reality than anything else. And to others still, it refers to a kind of Christian fundamentalism. I wish to affirm all of these uses of the term, and all of them apply to my own journey as an evangelical Christian.

I grew up in your textbook American evangelical home: strong nuclear family, large extended family (presently over 50 first cousins), rooted in Scripture (devotions every night; Bible memory verses at every dinner), committed to biblical inerrancy and a male-female complementarianism (i.e., hierarchicalism), avid believers in six-day creationism, distrustful of anything related to the secular academy, loyal Republicans, Baptist heritage, descendants of Jonathan Blanchard (founder of Wheaton College), homeschooled, raised with strong moral principles, and active in our local nondenominational church at every level of ministry. And this description only scratches the surface.

In writing this post, therefore, I do not come with any experience in moving from one established Christian tradition to another. I grew up and remain an American evangelical of sorts. But within the course of my lifetime, evangelicalism became a much more fluid, malleable, and diverse entity. Within a single decade, I saw the rise of evangelical feminism, evangelical leftist politics, evangelical engagement with evolution (beyond creationism and ID), and most importantly, an evangelical engagement with ancient and contemporary theology in ways that had not been the case before. Of course, we might also mention the rise of the emerging church movement within American evangelicalism. Regardless of whether one sees this as a positive or negative development, it is at the very least indicative of how evangelicalism has expanded over recent years.

In my years as a student at Wheaton College, I went through a seismic shift in thinking. I arrived with no awareness of the diversity within the Christian church (which I honestly thought was limited only to Free Church evangelicals) and no understanding of the complex debates over the Bible, theology, politics, and other issues which I had simply taken for granted. All of that changed for me within the course of a year. As an English major, I did a lot of reading, and the three books that affected me the most during my first year were Augustine’s Confessions, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy – all by Roman Catholics. Finally, in the summer before my second year, I read Mark Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, and this turned the tide for good.

I experienced a rather violent “conversion” process, and it took me a full two years to work through some of the major issues. Besides physically throwing Noll’s book after finishing it the first time, I went through a polemical stage in which I set about rejecting my heritage. Numerous angry emails later, I began to emerge from my youthful ire into a more mature readiness to construct a positive position which upheld the important elements of my upbringing (e.g., fidelity to Scripture, involvement in the church, concentration on the cross of Christ) while incorporating the insights that I had gained from others, such as Karl Barth. One insight in particular came from the experience of attending an Anglican church during my last year at Wheaton. The discovery of the liturgy and the eucharist for the first time (!) radically changed me in ways that simply reading theology never will.

In the end, I still consider myself an evangelical, but I am a much different person than I used to be – hopefully for the better. I am not entirely sure “post-evangelical” is the best term to describe where I am today, because I have no intention of being anything other than steadfastly evangelical (though I define this term in a much broader way now). Even so, it seems to be the term most used to describe this new orientation within evangelicalism. If by “post-evangelical” we mean a commitment to Scripture, the Protestant solae, and the local church combined with a moderate-leftist politics, then this is indeed the “tradition” in which I locate myself today.

52 Comments:

WTM said...

Nice, David. As you well know, my autobiography mirrors yours...except it wasn't the study of literature that got me thinking but full blow engagement with Barth and (to the horror of many) Calvin himself.

John Dekker said...

mumble, mumble, mumble...
except Orthodoxy wasn't written by a Roman Catholic.
mumble, mumble, mumble...

The Common Man said...

except Orthodoxy wasn't written by a Roman Catholic.

Not at the time, but he admitted to it later when his wife was ready to convert.

jbh said...

Neither was "Confessions" written by a Roman Catholic.

So you come out with expressly three distinctives:
1. Sola Scriptura
2. Commitment to the local church
3. A moderate-leftist political theory

Given that the first two are espoused by evangelicals (I'm sure you would disagree with the application of these nominal expressions), the salient differences you see (denoted by your concluding sentence) is that of a certain political theory. That seems to me a bit ironic, given that that is one of the main critiques of mainstream evangelicalism.

Looney said...

Too bad you believed Mark Noll. I read his book and, if he is truly a historian, I would have to rank him as a charlatan. It is a subtler twist on the old theme: If you don't accept liberal propaganda, then you aren't using your brain. Nothing new since Voltaire.

The way I see it, conservatives have become more flexible in accordance with scripture, but have relaxed their guard as they created an evangelical consortium. The Left, having trashed the mainline churches, needs fresh churches and is moving into the evangelical consortium too. Islam will probably emerge as the victor.

Ben Myers said...

Hi Looney -- I'm surprised at your suggestion that Mark Noll might not be "truly a historian". His massive social history, America's God (2002), received rave reviews in the major journals; it was awarded the Historical Society's annual prize for the best work on American history; and the American Society of Church History devoted a whole session of their annual meeting to the book. You can certainly disagree with his theology if you like -- but if he's not "truly a historian", well, I don't know who is!

::aaron g:: said...

Thanks for sharing this David.

Shane said...

@jbh

::sighs::

@looney

::puts head in hands::

@all,

David, WTM and myself all lived on the same floor for two years at Wheaton. Good times.

Exiled Preacher said...

David,

Whhat was it about The Scandal of the Evangelica Mind that so freaked you out?

kim fabricius said...

Thanks, David. I echo Shane's exasperation.

So, Shane, you, WTM and David were all together in one place: the Three Stooges. With your comic-pugnacious style, I'll bet you were Moe - but who was Larry and who was Curly? :)

kerry said...

Thanks for the reflection. It's a sensitive, thoughtful, and honest account of a journey from a tradition that for me is utterly foreign. So I have lots of questions (genuine, not challenging, ones). But the one I'd most like to ask is this: after all the smoke cleared, why did you remain loyal to the Protestant solae principle?

WTM said...

I like to imagine David, Shane and myself more as the Three Musketeers than the Three Stooges, but these things are in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps reality lies somewhere in the middle - the Three Amigoes?

:-)

One of Freedom said...

Great post D. You don't have to read my blog long to detect the influence of Noll on my thinking. But I haven't read that book yet. I did more work on some formative American ideas that he identifies and traces out - like manifest destiny. That stuff is good to shake you up.

Chris TerryNelson said...

Thanks David. As my story tracks with yours, I've found myself committed to the local church and to the Church universal. I'm still trying to figure out the relations, but in addition to liturgy and eucharist has come a profound respect for the traditions East and West in themselves (and not just what they do). In any case, I take our "invisible" unity much more seriously.

D.W. Congdon said...

Exiled Preacher,

Noll addresses three basic things in his book: (1) the historical basis for evangelical anti-intellectualism, (2) politics, and (3) science. The history rocked me, because I had lived in a bubble that admitted of no historical consciousness. This became especially apparent when I arrived at the section on science. This may sound unbelievable to you, but at the time (between my freshman and sophomore years at college) I had no idea that six-day creationism was a recent phenomenon. I honestly just took it for granted that all "true" Christians believed this.

Similar things happened with my understanding of politics. When I started to see how the political landscape had changed over time, I realized (for the first time) that evangelical Christians had not always been in the pocket of the Republican party.

Now of course simply knowing the history does not change one's views. Reading Noll's book did not change my mind on all these issues. But what it did for me was show that the current "intellectual" stance of evangelicals was as flimsy as any other position, and in most cases, much more so. Noll shook the foundations and assumptions that I had carried all my life, and this was not a pleasant experience. When the dust settled, I was ready to reevaluate where I stood on these matters. But it wasn't until Noll came along that such reevaluation was a real possibility.

D.W. Congdon said...

Kerry,

I should clarify: I did not remain loyal, but rather I became loyal to the Protestant solae. Certainly, if you had asked me, say, in high school if I believed in sola scriptura, I would answer with a vigorous Yes. But I honestly had little if any idea what these terms meant. It wasn't until I started reading theology that I came to see the import of these Protestant particles. In a way, then, I feel like I actually grew closer to my evangelical heritage theologically by recovering the Reformers in the process of my breaking with the more fundamentalist side of my upbringing.

As to why I think the Protestant solae are essential to the faith ... well, this might take too long to discuss here. I guess in a nutshell I would have to say that they preserve and explicate the essential aspects of the gospel of God's justification of the ungodly as an event in Christ, by grace, through the word, and by faith. I am thoroughly shaped by Eberhard Jüngel when I think about these solae. I would recommend looking at his article in IJST 1:1 (1999), "On the Doctrine of Justification." Or see his book, Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith, ch. 5.

Looney said...

Regarding Noll as a historian, I invite you to check one of his examples: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus". The poem was written by an intelligent young English woman named Lilias Trotter. Noll cites the song from this poem as an example of stupid fundamentalists. Search the internet, read her poem and testimony. Maybe this will give you some insight into Noll's brand of history.

WTM said...

I don't understand how the personal testimony of this writer undermines the analysis of the poem's content offered by Noll, especially since Noll is explicating it on the basis of its use and influence in evangelicalism and fundamentalism rather than in the pursuit of authorial biography.

Nate W said...

This is pretty much my religious autobiography, only with different books and a different college. I strongly agree with the claims about the importance of studying history as an evangelical: when I first became familiar with even the basics of Christian history, of which I knew almost nothing even as a graduate of a Christian high school, it totally rocked my world. Even though I remained fairly faithful to my sola scriptura heritage, just becoming aware of the novelty of certain evangelical interpretations of the Bible caused me to seriously question much of what I'd been taught. It was all for the better, too, because without being forced into doubt, I never would have been forced to pick up the Bible and actually study it. Evangelicals who don't study history, I've found, usually don't really study the Bible either. Studying history is an essential part of good Bible study.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Very sensitively done, D.W. Interestingly, your ancestor, Jonathan Blanchard, founder of Wheaton, was a pacifist, abolitionist, and feminist! What happened to his school? Also, although not a believer at the time, I encountered evangelical feminism and other "broadenings of the tradition" in the '70s. From my perspective, the tradition NARROWED in the '80s. That was when it became more problematic for me to call myself an evangelical--after the media began to use the term interchangeably with the terms "fundamentalist" and "Religious Right." (Anyone remember the days when Falwell used to refuse to call himself an evangelical because it was a "weasel word?" I'm getting old, I know.)

I worry about "generic evangelicalism" as not having enough deep roots, either in the form from which you rebelled, or in the "emerging church" and other contemporary forms. Denominations have many faults (trust me, I KNOW this), but the non-denominational form of evangelicalism encourages a-historical approaches--collective amnesia that makes resistance to the Powers and Authorities difficult.
When I taught briefly at Fuller, I found it fairly easy to communicate to Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc., but VERY difficult to communicate easily with those who either went to non-denominational churches, or who went to churches of any denomination as long as it "met their needs."

Continued blessings on your journey and struggles, David. Finding Barth seems to have helped. :-)

Exiled Preacher said...

David,

I read The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind not long after it was first published. I didn't agree with all his propsals, but he made some good points on anti-intellectualsim and right-wing politics. From a UK point of view, much of what he said wasn't shocking at all.

Guy Davies

Anonymous said...

<< The Common Man said...
except Orthodoxy wasn't written by a Roman Catholic. >>

Chesterton was received into the Catholic Church in 1922. Orthodoxy was published -- if memory serves -- in 1908.

<< jbh said...
Neither was "Confessions" written by a Roman Catholic. >>

To say that St. Augustine was a Roman Catholic is probably a little anachronistic. Though it is interesting to note what the patristic scholar J.N.D Kelly has to say:

It goes without saying that Augustine identifies the Church with the universal Catholic Church of his day, with its hierarchy and sacraments, and with its centre at Rome.... By the middle of the fifth century the Roman church had established, de jure as well as de facto, a position of primacy in the West, and the papal claims to supremacy over all bishops of Christendom had been formulated in precise terms.... Since its occupant was accepted as the successor of St. Peter, and prince of the apostles, it was easy to draw the inference that the unique authority which Rome in fact enjoyed, and which the popes saw concentrated in their persons and their office, was no more than the fulfilment of the divine plan."

(Early Christian Doctrines, pages 412-417)


Pax,
John

D.W. Congdon said...

Michael: I completely agree about the problem of having no "deep roots." I certainly think this applies to the "emerging church" phenomenon. People like Brian McLaren feel free to pick and choose whatever parts of the tradition they like and discard the rest. I have long wished that I could identify myself with a particular denomination, but unfortunately (or fortunately?) I cannot. I have been on the verge of joining the Episcopal Church for a few years now, but I just can't do it -- at least not yet. Only time will tell.

EP: You're right, there really isn't anything shocking about Noll's book -- unless you come from the kind of background that I came from. The book was really written for a Wheaton audience, since it spawned out of the hiring of Wheaton's current president, Duane Litfin.

John, jbh, Common Man: I am well aware of the anachronisms regarding Chesterton and Augustine. But minor historical quibbles aside, for all intents and purposes, Chesterton can be seen as a Roman Catholic and Augustine is definitely identified as part of the Western tradition.

Alex said...

D, thanks for the post. Your journey is very similar to mine from family upbringing to evangelical college (I went to Covenant College, a school of the PCA), and I even just finished reading Noll's book a few weeks ago! I really enjoy your blog by the way and have been reading it for about a year now, having found it through F&T.

For me, there's just too much baggage attached to the word evangelical for me to use it about myself anymore. I think labeling myself is an oversimplification of where I stand anyway. The word has become utterly unhelpful because it can mean anyone from yourself to Jerry Falwell, and that's someone I don't want to associate my name with. Though I have friends that don't mind that association, so I guess we do all have something in common, and for me the label Christian suffices.

Thanks again.

Alex said...

Looney,

I have Noll's "Scandal" sitting right in front of me and quoted the hymn section you refer to on my blog two weeks ago. Here is Noll's exact quote regarding the two hymns:

"Both are, in their own terms, entirely appropriate expressions of piety. Both can be sung with a clear conscience. But the use of metaphor is revealing."

So you are misleading to say that "Noll cites this as an example of stupid fundamentalists". I even find myself singing "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" in my head often. I love the song and its comforting. But Noll's point is valid. The shift in metaphor when compared to Croly's "Spirit of God..." is revealing metaphor for how evangelicalism has changed. That is what Noll was pointing out. Just wanted to clarify that.

WTM said...

Re: Alex's concern about the term 'evangelical'

I am right there with you! This term has become so associated with the more conservative elements of popular Christianity in the United States that it seems like an impossible task to redeem its value. However, the term is such an old one, and one that is very deeply imbedded within the Reformational traditions in general, and the Reformed tradition in particular, that I refuse to let them have it!

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I find John Howard Yoder's approach helpful. When others called him an evangelical, he didn't object. But he never went out of his way to claim the term, either.

I can call myself a small "e" evangelical, i.e., someone who is gospel centered, someone for whom the evangel is supremely important. Further, I like the "warm heart" pietist connotations. But I cannot call myself a capital "E" Evangelical which, at least in the U.S. context, means to be a part of a particular subculture that I reject. So, when asked, I always ask for the other person's definition of the term before I agree or disagree.

I think I saw a blog post several months back on Fire and the Rose, David, in which you said something similar (without referencing Yoder).

P.S., I still wonder what happened to Wheaton between Blanchard's day and, say, when Billy Graham or Carl Henry enrolled. Something clearly happened to make it a far more politically conservative place in those years.

D.W. Congdon said...

Michael: I suspect that Marx, Freud, Nietzsche -- the great "masters of suspicion" -- and especially Darwin (Scopes trial), have something to do with the radical shift that occurred after Blanchard. Wheaton certainly had an auspicious start. It was one of the first schools to allow women and men to learn together, well before most of the Ivy League colleges allowed women.

D.W. Congdon said...

If you had asked me two years ago, I would probably have denied the label "evangelical," and I'm still not entirely comfortable with it. But like WTM, I refuse to let others have it.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I understand. During the '80s and early '90s, TWO terms that I treasured as self-descriptions were being co-opted by militant, rightwing fundamentalists: "Baptist," and "evangelical." I guess it became too difficult for me to keep fighting for both terms and so, I went with the one that meant more to me, I guess. I just absolutely could not let "Baptist" be defined in a way that ruled out Rauschenbusch, M.L. King, John Clifford (the Rauschenbusch of the U.K.), Clarence Jordan, William Newton Clarke, Dale Moody (first Protestant and only Baptist invited to lecture at the Gregorian University in Rome), J. Deotis Roberts, etc. while ruling in Falwell & co. & enshrining Al Mohler as some kind of new Reformer.
It was too exhausting to fight for "evangelical" with the same determination, I guess.

CJW said...

David, thanks for writing. While I continue to identify as an evangelical (there's nowhere to send my membership card), I do so from the fringes and reluctantly. I only hope that I can now start to do it as graciously as you.

Halden said...

Hmm, I just wonder if we can really control who gets to "have" which labels. Is it really ever possible to force a term to mean what we want it to mean, without simply doing violence to how the conventions of language function in actual cultural use?

For me, the best I can do is say that I am evangelical, but not an evangelical.

Looney said...

alex, you are partially right. Noll referred to the refrain "and the things of earth will grow strangely dim" as indicative of mental dimness, rather than a rejection of say, materialism.

I stand by my statement that Noll's objective was primarily to mislead and deceive, rather than to encourage constructive learning. Yes, most fundamentalists are mental slackers. That is not why Noll despises them.

Anonymous said...

D.W. Congdon said...

John, jbh, Common Man: I am well aware of the anachronisms regarding Chesterton and Augustine. But minor historical quibbles aside, for all intents and purposes, Chesterton can be seen as a Roman Catholic and Augustine is definitely identified as part of the Western tradition.

Hello D.W.

My comments were actually directed more to jbh & Common Man than to you. Because I happen to agree with you.

Chesterton was a Catholic to the core long before his actual conversion in 1922. Many of his friends wondered why he waited so long to finalize what was already a fait accompli.

As for St. Augustine; in my opinion, he was a Roman Catholic long before the term came into being.

Pax,
John

D.W. Congdon said...

Looney: I don't think it's possible for Mark Noll to despise anyone. He is one of the most gracious and gentle people I know. Certainly, Scandal is his most polemical work, but there is no hate. He writes more like a jilted lover.

Daniel said...

Looney: While in all honesty I do not need to go about the task of defending Mark Noll, it is quite clear that you have never met him. As D.W. says he is one of the most humble and charitable people I have ever met and one who truly shows a desire to listen to and learn from others, regardless of their age, education, or outlook. At no time has he shown an inclination of "despising", "deceiving", or "misleading" people. If anything, he would want people to wrestle with, question, and if need be (and warranted) disagree with him--and he would gladly listen and learn from them. As far as Noll being co-opted by for the far-left, I think it is quite telling that evangelicals (and non-evangelicals) from across the theological and political spectrum (but honestly, most often the right rather than the left) have a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for Noll's labors (after all, last time I checked folks like John Piper, J.I Packer, and Mark Driscoll—all of whom I disagree with and who are without question conservative both politically and theologically--have at various times expressed gratitude and charity for and towards Noll's works--Piper in particular, in nearly every one of his books over the last twenty years interacts with and praises Noll's works, including especially Scandal). While it might be easier to claim that he is simply a propagandist and mouthpiece for the left trying to hoodwink the unsuspecting masses (and in so doing allow yourself to dismiss and distance yourself from the valid questions he raises), it is simply not true and is exactly the type of thing he is writing against. Whether you agree with him or not—and I certainly do not on everything—it is my hope that you would treat him with the same respect and charity which he has demonstrated towards others—both who agree and disagree with him. As Ben mentioned, by anyone’s estimation he is truly a top-notch scholar who does his homework and carefully engages his research with an eye to the nuance and detail that is history, and who has a great love and affection towards the difficulty and frustration that is evangelicalism (of which he would gladly consider himself a part).

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I've met Mark Noll twice; both in the '80s. Once he was an "outside evangelical" in one of the conferences on Southern Baptists and evangelicalism designed to mediate the conflict in the SBC (they failed). The 2nd time he was a guest speaker in my seminary chapel. I agree with David; I found him gracious and gentle.

Further, Looney, I am surprised that you dislike him. After all, Noll defends the term "inerrancy," and the Old Princeton theology of Hodge and Warfield. I would have thought that would have been right up your alley.

I also have to say that his historical studies have been praised by every historian I know, including those with very different theological commitments. He seems to meet the highest qualities of historical research.

jbh said...

For all of you Wheaties, I am currently at Wheaton and will be starting as a grad student next semester (historical and systematic).

JoBloggs said...

Regarding Noll, it is perhaps also important to read him as an historian writing to other historians, not just as an historian writing to theologians/Christians. In historical terms, Noll was one of the first (among a number) to suggest that the history of evangelicalism is worth study, not simply contempt. Believe me, from inside the world of academic history, Noll comes across as a defender of evangelicalism, not an attacker! For those of us trying to write the history of evangelicalism in an academic context, he's been a Godsend.

michael jensen said...

With Guy (Exiled Preacher) I would testify to having read Noll's book as a Anglican conservative evangelical of the JI Packer/John Piper type and not found anything to rock my boat. I was cheering him on - especially over creationism and politics. He is SO RIGHT. And I understood him to be writing outof love for the evangelical movement rather than as a denigrator of it.

This to me reveals something of how in America, once again, everything is different. Much of the discussion going on here references a set of intra-US debates that don't occur with the same kind of alignments elsewhere -because of the differences in history and politics I guess. I guess we haven't witnessed the widespread apostacy of the mainline denoms and the go-it-alone pragmatism/anti-intellectualism of the non-denoms/free evangelicals to the same degree.

I think it would help for American Christians to realise this. The word 'evangelical' for example just hasn't got the same connotations elsewhere.

WTM said...

Glad to hear it, jbh, and glad to have you around!

Michael Aguilera said...

Thank you D. I have found your comments very helpful. As a matter of fact, I belong to an evangelical church which has changed character/personality radically (for the better I trust) in the past ten years. And I expect that it will continue to do so. I think that the most important task facing evangelicalism (at least where I come from) is to move away from a theology of glory, which has always threatened it and instead embrace a theology of the cross. Although in Europe we seem to have escaped the mindset of associating the evangelical church with a particular political stance, we still have the example of a 'glorious' heritage in beautiful buildings, cathedrals etc. to blind us to the fact that as evangelicals what we should be identified with is the message of the cross. Not that I have anything against great architecture, in fact I really enjoy it, but living and working in a Roman Catholic society I find that the evangelical church can be easily influenced , witness to itself, and put itself forward as the solution or answer to society’s needs. This I think is not something that the Catholic church has a monopoly on, but that all churches are susceptible to at one time or another. The ‘glorious church’ syndrome. I belong to an evangelical stream which is particularly prone to this. My hope is that the term evangelical will become more and more associated with a people who are single-mindedly in word, deeds and attitude witnesses to the cross - God’s glory.

D.W. Congdon said...

Amen, Michael A. I could not agree more.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Question for Michael J. & Michael A.: Yes "evangelical" has different connotations in different places. In Germany and in much of Latin America, the term is practically interchangeable with "Protestant." In 18th C. Britain, "Evangelical" was almost identical to "Methodist," since Whitefield and the Wesleys were leading the "Evangelical Revival" which, when it crossed the pond became the "Great Awakening."

I am given to understand that in the contemporary U.K., Australian, New Zealand, and South African contexts, the term roughly means, "a theologically orthodox Protestant committed to the necessity of personal conversion and faith in Jesus Christ, a missionary zeal, personal piety, and a very strong commitment to the supreme religious authority of the Holy Scriptures, often but not always entailing belief in biblical inerrancy." Is that fairly accurate? That was, btw, what was meant by "evangelical" in the United Methodist circles in which I was born and raised--until the politicization of American evangelicalism with the rise of Falwell and the "Moral Majority."

Q2: Ya'll seem to have avoided said politization successfully. Have evangelicals in your respective contexts avoided the individualism of the American branch(es)? Often in the U.S. context, "evangelicals" are so individualistic and privatized in their spiritual disciplines that "church" is a weak concept--maybe even an optional one. Is that true elsewhere or is that weakness unique to these United States?

BTW, I know I omitted Canada from consideration above. They have strong British and U.S. influences and, unfortunately, I think some of the politicization of evangelicals has traveled north of our border.

Alex said...

Looney,

Wrong again. I can quote Noll again but see the last sentence in the chapter which says "the world grew very dim indeed." In other words, Noll wasn't castigating any minds on this point. Rather, he was pointing how evangelicals had internalized Christianity to the point THE WORLD grew dim. The point he is trying to get at is that our ability to dialogue with and understand the world around us, academia, scientific debates, etc. was lessened by this. There may be other problems with Noll, but this is not the best example you could've chosen.

Thanks,

michael jensen said...

MWW: spot on. I guess I just hate that when I describe myself as 'evangelical' to some American friends they crinkle their noses immediately - partly on the assumption that I would hold to a particular ecclesiology, partly on the assumption that my politics are of a particular sort and so on.

michael jensen said...

...So, to your second question is - individualism is a temptation everywhere, and evangelicalism always holds to a 'thin' description of ecclesiology (as opposed to Catholicism, for example), but I don't think the charge holds in my context, no.

Ben Myers said...

Similarly, I met a theological student recently who asked me if I was "an evangelical" -- my response was, "It depends on your own background, and on why you're asking."

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

When I was the lone Protestant teaching in the religion dept. of a small Catholic college (Bellarmine--since become Bellarmine University), I found out that Catholic theologians, at least in the U.S., often use "evangelical" as an adjective interchangeably with "evangelistic." By that usage, I ALWAYS want to be known as evangelical.

Michael Aguilera said...

I am posting from Gibraltar in the south of Spain, one of the last British colonies. Evangelicalism is quite a recent phenomenon in Spain and still a very small minority. I believe that that is why we have escaped becoming politicized. We are not powerful enough! On the other hand evangelical churches tend to sacralisation. I think this is because of the huge catholic influence. Almost without fail all evangelicals are former Catholics, including the pastors, so there is a definite catholic flavour about the churches in the clergy/laity divide and some aspects of the liturgy. Interestingly, we still find that individualism is very much at home with such a central understanding of the church.

kim fabricius said...

I suppose the post could have been headed Labels and Libels.

D.W. Congdon said...

Quite an appropriate title, Kim!

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