Why We Still Need ‘Evangelicalism’

May 30, 2023 by

By Rollin Grams, Bible and Mission.

Evangelicalism has fallen on hard times, and some—including myself—have wondered from time to time if we could simply avoid the problems surfacing by using ‘orthodoxy’ instead. I would argue, however, that we need to push through the present challenges and retain not only the term, ‘Evangelicalism,’ but also revive what it is: a particular movement in Christianity with its theological identity and mission. This post focusses on the historical and theological identity of Evangelicalism. I I would like to suggest that the terms are not equal and, in fact, Evangelicalism captures three movements in history: early Christian orthodoxy, Reformational theology, and spiritual awakening.

First, however, we need to appreciate why ‘Evangelical’ has become problematic. There are several reasons, but the key one, in my view, lies in how the term ‘Evangelicalism’ is used over against other group identities and ends up being understood in part by them in various contexts. So, for example, political journalists have turned Evangelicalism into a voting bloc, especially in America. This, in turn, divided Evangelicals themselves, with a minority but elite group distinguishing themselves from candidate and then president Donald Trump. Some of these progressives moved so far to the left in a variety of ways that they ended up undermining the meaning of the term ‘Evangelical.’ Other Evangelicals have found conservative Roman Catholics and Orthodox alliances more meaningful on issues such as abortion and homosexuality than the views of certain progressives still holding onto the term ‘Evangelical.’ Some European Evangelicals have become disheartened by the dominance of American Evangelicalism in the West. These definitions of ‘Evangelical’ so confuse the meaning of the term that many would simply rather do without it.

Read here.

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