A Few Thoughts on the Future of Evangelicalism

Just read a very interesting blog post and listened to a very interesting pod-cast about the current state and future of Evangelicalism that I thought I would pass along.  I am still negotiating my relationship to Evangelicalism, but I will say that through the prodding of a couple very close friends and reading Rachel Evans‘ blog (from which one of the posts I want to draw your attention to here comes) I am beginning to reconnect more with my Evangelical roots.  More thoughts on that when I am not under the crushing weight of the end of the semester…

So this started when I saw a link from Rachel Evans‘ blog to this interview with theologian Roger Olson on the Homebrewed Christianity site.  The opening of the pod-cast is a little home brewed and the interviewing is a little messy, but its worth listening to. Olson talks about a lot of different things in the hour or so long program, and in the course of doing so he gives a pretty good description of some of the current trends in Evangelical theology and some of the challenges it faces.  One of my only points of criticism came when he took up the issue of younger, “post-conservative” people abandoning the Evangelical label.  He argued that keeping the evangelical label allows for the maintainance of some relationships or connections that would not be possible without it.  While that is certainly true, I think the other side of the coin is equally true: there are some relationships and connections that can probably never be made while maintaining the evangelical label.  The “cash value” of Evangelicalism doesn’t solve the problem of choosing a label, I think, because being “mainline” has an equal, perhaps greater “cash value” in certain spheres of society.  The question could possibly be asked which set of connections and relationships are more significant, but that seems a bit too political for my liking.  Though I was a little disappointed with that part of the discussion, on many other points Olson makes some very insightful assessments and comments.

Then, I clicked to another post on Rachel Evans’ site entitled “The Future of Evangelicalism.”  It was a very well written post that describes the growing rift in the Evangelical community between the “Neo-Reformed” movement and the “post-Conservative” movement from a perspective that I am fairly sympathetic to.  Evans has a more pessimistic outlook on the idea of maintaining the evangelical label than Olson, but that also pretty adequately describe my attitude lately.  But Evans also points out that such the rift she describes is not inevitable.  The problem for her argument, as I see it, is that the solution she has outlined requires the “Neo-Reformed” movement to give up a lot more than the “post-Conservative” movement: I cannot imagine Piper or Driscoll openly saying “we are fine with people holding an Arminian theology.  We don’t hold it, but if you want to hold that view, be our guest.”  That kind of conciliatory gesture seems to me to require a pretty radical change not just in the rhetoric of the “Neo-Reformed” movement and its leaders but also some of their fundamental theological ideas, particularly as it pertains to the locus of theological authority (which are at the heart of what they see as defining “evangelicalism”).  Which means, I predict, that such ideas won’t be given up, that the rhetoric from the “Neo-Reformed” movement will continue to get more and more fundamentalist in tone, and that more progressive minded Evangelicals will continue to leave the Evangelical community altogether.

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2 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts on the Future of Evangelicalism

  1. The ‘labels’ gotta go.

    Christ [I don’t believe] is about a new label, but rather the [Hegelian dialectic of the] suspension of [‘as such’ proper] labels.

    My two cents…

    1. Thanks for the comment, Drew! I think I agree with you, though I’m not exactly sure what you mean by the Hegelian dialectic of the suspicion of labels. Maybe you can elaborate on that? It sounds very interesting.

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