The word, of course, is evangelical. Was a day when it described someone who affirmed the Gospel of Christ, along with such fundamentals as His deity and virgin conception, along with the full authority of Scripture.
Now? Who knows?
The media never got the word. It could not get straight the distinction between evangelical and evangelist. I always tried to correct folks who misused the word, nicely. Now I'm thinking I won't bother. The term may not be salvageable.
For a rarity, an AP article is well-titled Definition of evangelical in dispute, and pretty much delivers. It cites a poll that has evangelical Protestants outnumbering Roman Catholics in Ameria -- but then notes (correctly) that "the definition of 'evangelical' is open to dispute."
It cites Randall Balmer, who fancies himself an evangelical, yet has written a book bashing socially/politically active Biblical Christians. Abortion is one area where Balmer thinks is "fellow" evangelicals are 'way off, since the choice of whether to have babies killed for being imperfect or inconvenient is “properly left to a woman and her conscience.”
I heard Balmer on Michael Medved's radio show, and he could equally have been James Carville, Barry Lynn, or any other ignorant leftist. In fact Medved, who is a practicing Jew, was defending evangelicals -- against this "evangelical"!
And then there's Jack Rogers, formerly of Fooler... sorry, Fuller Theological Seminary. He wrote a book years ago attacking the fact of Biblical inerrancy. At that time, many of us were warning of the slippery slope onto which one leaps when one abandons a robust affirmation of the inerrancy (i.e. truth) of Scripture. Rogers was among those tut-tutting and assuring everyone that it was a recent invention, and a doctrine we'd all be well rid of.
And now the article mentions that Rogers "advocates full acceptance of same-sex couples and gay clergy."
You who join me in heartily detesting Christianity Today (an "evangelical" magazine) will love this:
Asked whether Balmer and Rogers are evangelicals, Christianity Today editor David Neff (another lay Episcopalian) says they’re “in a very small minority” on issues like gays and abortion. He’d consider them still within the fold “if they employ evangelical discourse and display evangelical piety,” basing conclusions on the Bible rather than on current social science.Well now; isn't that special?
I'm minded as well of Clark Pinnock. I'm having to labor through Four Views of Salvation in a Pluralistic World. It's a book where guys from four different perspectives on the finality of Jesus and how that works out soteriologically have at it. On the distant left is apostate John Hicks; then barely to his right is Clark Pinnock, then other more conservative writers.
To focus on Pinnock, he keeps insisting that he is an "evangelical" -- over, and over, and over, and over -- while bashing Calvinism, saying God doesn't always get His way through He tries His best, praising Mohammed and the Buddha, saying that God works in other religions as well, and that we should listen and learn from other faiths, and a ton of other billowy blah, blah, blah.
But he's an "evangelical."
And, among his other false teachings, Pinnock is an "evangelical" who denies that God inerrantly knows the future. That's right, he's an open theist. Now, you may or may not know this, but -- and this is classic modern "evangelicalism," the Evangelical Theological Society has given attention to his declension, miserably.
"Miserably"? Well, chart this. In 2001, the ETS "voted ...overwhelmingly to affirm what almost every Christian in the history of the church has always believed -- that God knows everything, including the future decisions of his creatures." In other words, they condemned open theism, and called scholars affirming it to repent.
Repent, or what?
Well, they then took the next step, when those false teachers refused to resign, of entertaining charges against Clark Pinnock and others, which would result in their being ejected from the "Evangelical" organization.
And then, after study and debate, the organization hugely failed to eject the two against whom charges had been made. This, of course, vindicated them and all "open theist" false teachers as real, live, card-carrying "evangelicals."
Then we could add "evangelical" Richard Mouw, of "evangelical" Fuller seminary, apologizing for past Christian attempts to evangelize Mormons. Mouw further said that the true gospel (i.e. evangel) could be found in Mormon teaching, if one picks and chooses correctly.
And then there was Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), who said "Most evangelicals still regard Mormonism as a cult" (emphases added; i.e. some don't regard Mormonism as a cult, but are still evangelical).
So what does "evangelical" mean, anyway?
More and more, it looks like "whatever" is the best answer. Leaving us with what? "Fundamentalist" has been rendered almost useless, "Reformed" is good but problematic, and doesn't emphasize what I'd most like emphasized. "Biblical Christian," or "Bible-believing Christian" may be better, though all sorts of rabid loons would say the same.
Hm. Back to "Calvidispiebaptogelical" for me, I guess, then just explain it. Or FundaCalvidispiebaptogelical?
Ay, yi yi.