|More than a few blurred distinctions.|
When You Say “Evangelical,” You’ve Said a Lot of Things So Many Others Say. (In other words, “You keep using that word. But I do not think it means what you think it means.”)
What’s in a word? For those of us seeking to communicate clearly, too often the answer is “far too much.” For example, when the word is “Evangelical” the variety of definitions is so diverse as to make the word nearly meaningless. That has not always been the case, but today there needs to be some clarification.
|"Assumes facts not in evidence."|
Many confuse the term “Evangelical” as representing at least a portion of “the religious right,” those who crusade for a more comfortable and convenient social environment in which to pursue their narrow view of “Christian culture” amidst a “sanctified” society. Try as they might, however, the term does not fit, leaving the would-be Ecclesial Emperors without the clothes in which they would cloak beliefs and behaviors that are entirely incompatible with the Evangelical label.
You should know, though, that I do have a dog in this fight. Being “a theologically conservative Christian holding a high view of scripture and a subsequent insistence on salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone” (I believe that to be an acceptable definition of “Evangelical.”) requires me to reject two of the most prevalent practices of “the religious right.”
First, and worst, the politically-motivated are looking for such “Evangelicals” as will arrogantly augment, if not entirely eliminate Christians’ dependence upon answered prayer. They preach that we should pursue, in addition or instead, mass-market fund-raising approaches to accomplish our social-engineering goals through adversarial litigation and lobbying for legislation.
|John Hancock did not sign The Gospel.|
The methods are bad enough. But what if they were successful? I reject not only the prescribed means, but the ends toward which these efforts are directed. The politically conservative among us offer Evangelicals a false utopia. This paradise would be devoid of dissent against whatever they define as their distinctive doctrines. They would prohibit the disaster of allowing individual disobedience, lest it lead to social dysfunction. And they would suggest they could defeat the effects of depravity by destroying its source: the availability of temptation. But God did not send His Son into the world to eradicate the dissenters, the dysfunctional, the disobedient, or even the depraved. The Son’s calling, and ours, is to alleviate the suffering, illuminate the escape route, and welcome those who would join us in doing the same.
Why do I reject the utopia offered by the religious right? Because it’s the wrong goal, pursued along the wrong path. Religiously-enforced behavioral constraints (i.e., emphasizing moral behavior and ritual participations as the core elements of “Christianity”) are as ineffective an end as the means to establishing them are unbiblical. And for an Evangelical (so far as I understand what the term was intended to mean), that is inconceivable.
More to follow shortly.