Archives For evangelicalism

Fog lifting from a field on a December morning in Oregon. © R. Anderson Campbell, 2011.

Fog lifting from a field on a December morning in Oregon. © R. Anderson Campbell, 2011.

I’m done with “spiritual formation.”

I’m over it and you should be, too. Let me explain.

In much of the evangelicalism, “spiritual formation” is only an veiled way of referring to disciplines or practices intended to be undertaken by an individual for the sake of the individual. This compartmentalization of faith, this dualism, must stopContinue Reading…

That's me, moderating the question and answer time with Rachel Held Evans and Roger Olson.

That’s me, moderating the question and answer time with Rachel Held Evans and Roger Olson.
Photo credit: Loren Kerns. See the original image.

Yesterday I had the honor of being part of a seminar called “Does Evangelicalism Have a Future?” put on by George Fox Evangelical Seminary as a part of their Ministry in Contemporary Culture series. I first proposed this seminar a year ago, for somewhat selfish reasons. I wanted to get two people that I greatly respect (Roger Olson and Rachel Held Evans) in a room together to hear them talk about a question that I’ve been struggling with for the past several years. In the marketing for the event I wrote,

In a time when “evangelical” has more of a political connotation than a convictional connotation, we need bright voices that can help sort through the noise and imagine a way forward for those who call themselves evangelical.

I still call myself evangelical, but find that I must often follow that with “but let me explain what I mean by that.” In the US, and likely elsewhere, the word “evangelical” has become synonymous with white-male-fundamentalist-Republican-Christian. Those of us who don’t fit that description often find ourselves using the evangelical moniker to our own detriment. It would be so easy to just stop using the word, but I’ve found that problematic as well.

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future sunglasses

We are in the midst of some big changes within evangelicalism in North America. For many, the word “evangelical” means “right-wing Republican Christian fundamentalist.” So what are those of us who still call ourselves evangelicals, but are made crazy by right-wing fundie Republicans, to do? The course a lot of my peers have taken is to stop using that label, to call refer to themselves as “post-evangelical,” or to join the growing ranks of the Nones. I think that doing those things only serves to remove otherwise sane voices from an increasingly insane fundie evangelicalism, and it does nothing to witness to the long (and non-fundamentalist) history of evangelicalism. I’ve written about that history elsewhere, so I won’t rehash it here.

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Some twenty years after he published The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Noll wrote a follow-up, of sorts: Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. In it he hopes to offer a way forward out of the pragmatism of 19th and 20th century evangelicalism, while still remaining rooted in the evangelical stream: “The message in this book for my fellow evangelicals can be put simply: if what we claim about Jesus Christ is true, then evangelicals should be among the most active, most serious, and most openminded advocates of general human learning” (Kindle location 22).

For this, Noll looks to early Christian creeds as a lens through which evangelicals might develop a distinctly Christian mind. He writes, “If evangelicals are to make a genuine Christian contribution to intellectual life, they must ground faith in the great traditions of classical Christian theology, for these are the traditions that reveal the heights and depths of Jesus Christ. Intellectually, there is no other way” (loc. 307).

Nicene-creed

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