I have read: The Road to "Elder" ado: Restoration Confusion about "the good old days of evangelical churches" and I confess that
a) I don’t find it very attractive (in either a historical or current setting)
b) it seems to bear little resemblance to the "classic" view of what evangelicalism is. From the Evangelical Alliance: What is an Evangelical?.
this historical and theological background, the following five points,
adapted from key studies of the movement by David Bebbington and
Alister McGrath, represent a workable summary of Evangelical
- Biblicism – Through the Scriptures of the Old and
New Testaments, the God who is objectively ‘there’ has revealed
universal and eternal truth to humankind in such a way that all can
- Christocentrism – God’s eternal Word became human in the historical man Jesus of Nazareth, who definitively reveals God to humanity.
- Crucicentrism – The good news of God’s revelation in Christ is seen supremely in the cross, where atonement was made for people of every race, tribe and tongue.
- Conversionism – The truth of the eternal gospel must be appropriated in personal faith, which comes through repentance – that is, a discernible reorientation of the
sinner’s mind and heart towards God.
- Activism – Gospel truth must be demonstrated in evangelism and social service.
c) As seems to often be the case from New Frontiers it is a very narrow definition of evangelical (something we have seen often in the past from the likes of Adrian Warnock).
Adrian often refers to himself as a Reformed Charismatic, yet it seems that here (again) reformed charismatics are equating their position with evangelical. As an evangelical Methodist our evangelical history is compatible with (b) above (Bebbington’s 5 characteristics) yet seems quite different to the points that BWAHOA looks for in his experience of New Frontiers.
The points that BWAHOA has read are:
- Priority of preaching the gospel of individual salvation at every opportunity
- Absolute insistence on a born-again experience for salvation
- Love of, and knowledge of, God’s Word
- Desire for doctrinal purity
- Abhorrence of liberal creeds and intimate knowledge of the errors of Rome
- Spiritual unity of the Saints without compromise of doctrine.
- Daily walk governed by scriptural principles.
- Recognition of the condition of backsliders, correction in the Church
- Infilling of the Spirit linked to sanctification, not gifts or manifestations
- Traditional, scriptural worship without excesses
- Pre-millennial eschatology, with expectation of apostasy before the Lord’s Return.
- Heavenly goal; rewards sought in heaven rather than on earth.
Overall it seems to me that defining "the good old days" as this specific combination falls very short of the whole of what it is to be evangelical. Instead they end up with something that is inflexible and with very different priorities (the lock hold on "traditional" worship is typical of this).
It is a somewhat Thatcherite version of the gospel (all about me), the activism of historical evangelicalism has completely disappeared. The Christocentrism has been redefined (no incarnation, just the cross). The Conversionism now is not for all (limited to those who we consider doctrinally pure). The Biblicism has lost any idea of all understanding for all as it gets locked into rigid patterns and presentations. The Crucicentrism has become centred on the model of penal substitution (hence BWAHOA’s focus on "the blood").
My picture of evangelicalism today is far different, hearing Joel Edwards speaking at Greenbelt confirmed for me that I am not a wierdo on the extreme but instead this hard, tough, evangelicalism without compromise is in fact not the norm.
My dream for evangelicals today (certainly within the Methodist tradition but also in many others) is that we grasp with both hands our historical view that
- has as a backbone love, respect, obedience for/to Scripture
- lives out a deep hunger for Jesus that we see in commited discipleship
- placees the cross so much at the centre that we want to explore it from every angle
- we expect change and treansformation of self and society in response to God and in the power of the Holy Spirit
- seeks to be active for Jesus in every aspect of their lives and communities.
But all this should be done in a Christlike way with love, compassion, mercy, respect and relevance. It will not lock people into patterns from the past but through conversion and discipleship free them from the chains of today (idols, materialism, poverty, debt, suffering, anger, hatred, war, hopelessness, stress, purposelessness, …).
Oh and I have not forgotten, unlike the list from BWAHOA this will be for all people, of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities and denominations that means it is for all the people God loves ie all people.