Is ‘Evangelicalism’ Collapsing?

In our recently released book (Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church), in the introductory chapter (which Myk and I co-wrote) we address and seek to clarify how it is that we understand the politically charged language of Evangelical relative to our usage of that lingo in our chosen nomenclature of ‘Evangelical’ Calvinism. Yesterday, Brian LePort wrote a post for his blog entitled: A Coming Evangelical Collapse?; in the post LePort offers examples of people and posts that might illustrate this portending trend. I think, though, in order to adequately answer this question—is Evangelicalism collapsing on itself?—we need to define what in fact this rather amorphous term might mean. The fact of the matter is that there are different ways to define this term; there is the more contemporary loose application of this term when it is used to define the by and large phenomenon of the American and parts of the Western church (Roger Olson is helpful in describing this kind of Evangelicalism). But then there is another understanding of the language of Evangelical which is what Myk and I try to describe in the opening chapter of our book. This other understanding represents a more historic usage of this terminology, and thus provides a more theologically rich account of what it might mean to be Evangelical; here it is:

The word “Evangelical” carries something of a three-fold significance. First, and most importantly, we believe the readings of the Reformed traditions offered in this book hope to remain consistent to the witness of Holy Scripture—the euangelion—and thus it is evangelical primarily in this way. This is also what makes it thoroughly Reformed. Second, it is, we believe, a theology that is genuinely “good news.” That all are created good by God, that all are included in Christ’s salvific work, and that salvation is by grace alone and Christ alone is truly good news. And finally, it is Evangelical in that it does share a common boundary with that movement known as Evangelicalism. Evangelicalism as used here denotes a movement that is biblical, that is reformational, that is, it affirms the formal and material principles of the Reformation: sola scriptura and of justification by faith alone. An Evangelicalism of this type is self-consciously post fundamentalist in it commitment to the Word of God and the task of world evangelization within transdenominational fellowships. It is these common commitments which enable an Evangelical Calvinism to legitimately embrace more than one denominational tradition. [Myk Habets and Bobby Grow eds., Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church, (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012), 10-11.]

Is Evangelicalism collapsing? Maybe parts of it. But can the the kind of Evangelicalism that Myk and I describe actually collapse? I don’t think so! As long as Jesus Christ as the ground and center of what defines an “Evangelical” Christianity; as long as commitment to his Holy Scriptures as the norming norm of Christian faith and practice is understood as central and definitive witness to Jesus Christ and what it means to be a free and Evangelical Christian; then I don’t see how it is truly possible for a Reformed Evangelical Christ conditioned Evangelicalism to collapse. Maybe the vestiges of the man made ghettos of Evangelicalism are collapsing, but, then, those should collapse.

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