Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Evangelicalism’s Radical Diversity 6

posted by Scot McKnight

Choir.jpgI’m going to have to be sensitive on this one: Steve Wilkens and Don Thorsen say their new book, Everything You Know about Evangelicals Is Wrong (Well, Almost Everything): An Insider’s Look at Myths and Realities say that not all evangelicals are Calvinists.

I have to be sensitive here because bringing up Calvinism these days, with the resurgence of Calvinism among the NeoReformed, can draw heat if one is not careful. 
But Wilkens and Thorsen are right: Evangelicalism, at least as they define it (and I agree with them), is a Big Tent and it includes those who are committed to the Bible, to the cross, to personal conversion and to an active Christian life. All in a Protestant key. But all also processed through the revivalism of American history, including the missionary movement, that included both Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards and Arminians like John Wesley and Finney and those who are neither one nor the other in emphasis, like Billy Graham and the Neo evangelical coalition that formed around the 1950s.
As Don Thorsen observes in his opening to this chp, the minute one suggests one is an Arminian, one hears the words Pelagian or semi-Pelagian, and those words — which speak of human freedom and are often used as the bogeyman that knocks down all enemies — and then the argument gets ugly. 
Scholars like Don Dayton and Robert Johnston (The Variety of American Evangelicalism
) have clearly shown that Western evangelicalism — and let’s not even bring up global stuff here because it would trump the case — has an Arminian dimension. But there is a clear and powerful voice today that wants to say that only the Reformed branch of evangelicalism is truly evangelical. Wilkens and Thorsen disagree, and this chp is worth your reading if you need to brush up on this issue.
Question: Is it true that Calvinists fear Liberalism while Arminians fear Fundamentalists? Is this a generally accurate issue or too general to be of use? Do you think Calvinists are more theory-based while Arminians are more praxis-based?


Their contention, and I agree with them, is to welcome Calvinists in the Big Tent, but also to say that not only Calvinists are to be in the Tent. It’s a Big tent and not just one kind of Christian tent.

They have a nice few pages describing Calvin and appreciating Calvinism. Then they sketch the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.
1. Total depravity vs. universality of sin.
2. Unconditional election vs. conditional election
3. Limited atonement vs. unlimited atonement
4. Irresistible grace vs. resistible grace
5. Perseverance of the saints vs. assurance of salvation
Three elements that shook Calvinism and manifested diversity for evangelicalism: revivalism, the importance of the experience of faith, and the emergence of other kinds of Christians, like Anabaptists, Anglicans, Quakers, Pietists, Methodists, etc..
They also say an evangelical is someone who is neither Liberal nor a Fundamentalist. Agree or disagree?


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Luke

posted August 4, 2010 at 1:31 am


Thanks for this, Scot. The bickering about which tradition gets exclusive rights to the label “evangelical” has nearly made me want to give up the term for good. If labeling myself as an “evangelical” means I will be associated with all the things mentioned in this book, then it’s better for me to drop the title. I think to the outside world the defining evangelical trait is the political issue (i.e. Republican). However, to the reformed evangelicals I think they believe the defining evangelical trait is Calvinism. If you’re not Calvinist, you’re Pelagian & don’t have a high view of Scripture. It’s quite comical, actually.



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Nitika

posted August 4, 2010 at 2:13 am


“Is it true that Calvinists fear Liberalism while Arminians fear Fundamentalists?”
I would say conservative Arminians fear Calvinists. A certain degree of liberalism can be tolerated, but Calvinism is just wrong.



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Dan

posted August 4, 2010 at 7:42 am


Is it true that Calvinists fear Liberalism while Arminians fear Fundamentalists?
I’m an Arminian and my heroes are C.S. Lewis (Arminian) and Francis Schaeffer (Calvinist). I can debate Calvinists in good spirit because I know it is a debate about the meaning of the text. I cannot so easily debate a liberal because as Schaeffer put it, the Word of God is not found in the Words of God, the text becomes almost a hindrance to finding the “spirit of Jesus”. Everything is in the realm of the subjective.
I would say evangelical includes fundamentalists (Machen, Schaeffer) but excludes liberals, (Bultman, Schleiermacher).



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Phil

posted August 4, 2010 at 7:48 am


I’ve made this suggestion a zillion times, but why can’t “evangelical” be defined simply as one who believes the message of the Bible to be “good news”–which is the original etymology of the word “evangelical”. That would mean, of course, that it is not just “good news” for me personally (or for the elect), but for everyone!



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Darryl

posted August 4, 2010 at 8:33 am


I appreciate you bringing this up. Coming from a “Restoration Movement/Church of Christ” background I think the polarity of “liberal=Armenian/conservative=Calvinist” is quite funny. No one could ever accuse Churches of Christ of being liberal (they’ve been accused in some circles as being radical fundamentalists)! Yet, their viewpoint is very Armenian!
I do not see how either view point would represent a low view of Scripture. It seems we tend to use labels to make it easy to reject another person’s viewpoint without actually engaging it. “Oh, you obviously have a low view of Scripture.”
Here’s an idea: why don’t we accept the other guy’s word on what he/she believes? You’re an Armenian? You believe God inspired the Scriptures? OK.
In my opinion (for what it might be worth): both groups have a high view of God’s sovereignty just expressed in different ways. God demonstrates his sovereignty by controlling everything or God demonstrates his sovereignty by giving freedom and yet still holds everything together and accomplishes his ultimate will.
We are not saved by our intellectual prowess, ability to reason, or good works. We are saved by God’s grace. I hope we can accept one another whether we wear the “right” label or hold to Calvinism, Armenianism or something in between.



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Scott Morizot

posted August 4, 2010 at 9:13 am


Darryl, I’ll note that Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official state religion (in 301) and that while most Armenians are Christian, they probably aren’t very familiar with the modern disputes between Calvin and Arminius. [g] (Sorry, couldn’t resist the snark.)



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Bill

posted August 4, 2010 at 9:14 am


All evangelicals agree with the basic affirmation “scripture only.” Yet, many modern evangelicals are weary of the filters that systematic theologies place on scripture. In particular, if one is a Calvinist, the person has to force all scripture to say what the Calvinistic hermeneutic requires. Obviously, there are many scriptures that clearly counter the tenants of five point Calvinism. As such, Calvinism no longer affirms “scripture only.” Instead, it affirms the Calvinistic reading of scripture. Cessationism is a classical example of this. The Calvinistic reading becomes the inspired and only true reading of the text. All other readings and experiences that do not conform to Calvinism are in error. This is problematic. It reminds me of the King James only argument and sounds very much like the tyranny or human tradition. The Pharisees did the same thing to the Tanakh (Old Testament). Their traditions caused them to resist Jesus, his works, and his true interpretation.



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Robin

posted August 4, 2010 at 9:46 am


As the resident calvinist I guess I’ll have to take up the banner. What do calvinists fear? In my experience it probably is theological liberalism. We don’t really care that much about arminians as long as they hold a high view of scripture, guys like Mohler and Piper get along great with any number of arminian theologians and noone would dare cross the patron saint of the baptist church, Billy Graham. We really aren’t even concerned much about blasphemous atheists like Chris Hitchens either because they understand what they are doing; Doug Wilson has a great DVD out with Chris Hitchens and it isn’t hard to find calvinists that appreciate Penn and Teller because of their honesty about the bankruptcy of evangelicals that don’t evangelize.
The one thing that tends to get our panties in a bunch are people that claim to be Christians who undermine the authority of scripture. For some calvinists this means they get uptight when Christians don’t use the word ‘inerrancy’ in every sentence, for others it just means that we get upset when we see blatant attacks on the authority and trustworthiness of scripture (ala MacLaren in ANKOC).
I would also encourage some readers to become more familiar with diversity within calvinism. One reader mentioned cessationism as a red herring. One of the 3 or 4 most influential calvinists in the US right now is C.J. Mahaney, a noted non-cessationist; the most influential Calvinistic systematic text is Grudem’s which does not promote cessationism.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:11 am


“Is it true that Calvinists fear Liberalism while Arminians fear Fundamentalists?”
There are plenty of fundamentalist Arminians . As someone already mentioned, there are many fundamentalists in the Restoration churches and I would add the Pentecostal/charismatic churches, which also tend to be Arminians and more fundamentalist.
I’m not at Calvinist — but I’m not sure I’d call myself Arminian either. I don’t “fear” fundamentalism, but I do think it can be dangerous. So can liberalism.
“Do you think Calvinists are more theory-based while Arminians are more praxis-based?”
Obviously a generalization, but I think it hold true on that level.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:15 am


Where does Open Theism fit in this? If Evangelicals are Protestants “committed to the Bible, to the cross, to personal conversion and to an active Christian life.” I assume they would include open theists like Greg Boyd in the tent? It seems like a lot of Evangelicals want to throw them out though.
I like Boyd a lot and am even sympathetic to open theism. If Calvinist want to throw Arminians out of the tent then I’m sure they’d consider me already out the door. :)



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T

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:22 am


Robin makes an important point re: calvinists and cessationism. There are still no shortage of calvinists who are unfortunately loud cessationists (maybe fearing tongue-speakers more than liberals!), but the number and prominence of those who are not cessationists is nothing to sneeze at. I tend to think that it is the virtue Robin mentioned, calvinists’ goal to let scripture be primary in their theology, along with a vibrant and growing global Church community that is practicing the gifts, that makes it harder and harder for calvinists to make cessationism a necessary part of their systematics. No calvinist really feels at home in a theology that allows thin biblical inferences to trump multiple robust and express biblical teachings and examples anyway. Most calvinists in my experience that are cessationist would rather not talk about it at all for that reason!



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Robin

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:25 am


I think it is false to suggest that calvinists want to throw arminians out of the tent. I have never heard that suggested. Inclusion in the evangelical tent (as designed by calvinists) requires justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and it requires a high view of scripture. I assume most calvinists would argue that open theists don’t have a high view of scripture, but I am honestly too ignorant of open theism to make any declaration regarding that. I have never heard a calvinist say that arminians like Billy Graham or Paige Patterson or Dr. Dobson should be kicked out of evangelicalism, or even rampant anti-calvinistic preachers like Ergun Kaner.



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Robert

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:27 am


I would also point out the modern or at least recent groups inspired by Charles Finney: Keith Green, Last Days Ministries and parts of Youth With A Mission. These were/are very evangelical, charismatic and Arminian.
(caveat: YWAM is a large and diverse bunch in which strict Calvinists can be found as well.)
Of course I was predestined to be an Arminian.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:30 am


I don’t want to make this a topic of cessationism, but I do agree that cessationism cannot be derived from a “plain reading” of the text, however, I do think it can be inferred from an understanding of the text. I certainly don’t think it has to be. I’m skeptical of modern sign-gifts. I lean cessationist, but I’d say I’m open.
However, aren’t Calvinist usually the ones arguing for the “plain meaning” of the text? (Honest question).



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:34 am


@Robin #12,
I was responding to Scot’s quote, “But there is a clear and powerful voice today that wants to say that only the Reformed branch of evangelicalism is truly evangelical.”
As for Open theism and high view of scripture. I think Boyd has a very high view of scripture. You can disagree with his interpretations of scripture, but he uses scripture to defend his open theism: http://www.gregboyd.org/category/qa/open-theism/



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Robin

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:38 am


Responding to T,
I agree that most calvinists hold a high enough view of scripture to be uncomfortable with doctrinal positions that have very little biblical support. This is one reason I am somewhat uncomfortable with Sunday church replacing the sabbath – the biblical case looks thin. Regarding cessation, I have very few biblical arguments for it; I have been in several calvinistic churches that were non-cessationist, the only thing that was expected was accurate biblical presentation of the gifts – so if God moved somoene to speak in tongues we would also expect Him to move someone to interpret, since that appears to be the biblical pattern.
Lastly, on evidence. I don’t know if I’m in the calvinist majority on this one, but experience and evidence are almost inconsequential to me. Neither the holocaust, nor the great depression, nor the current great recession can convince me that God is not both sovereign and good when his word tells me otherwise; likewise, if I thought there was a really good biblical case for cessationism about the only thing that would make me believe otherwise is seeing the dead raised or an amputated arm regrown, the types of evidence I have seen are unconvincing one way or the other. For the record almost all calvinists still do believe in divine intervention (like healing) just not divine interventioneers (like healers). It was A.W. Pinks “Sovereignty of God” that hammered home early on that what is happening in the newspapers is not the accurate measure of God’s sovereignty.



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John

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:40 am


My thanks as well for putting this issue up for discussion.
Frankly, this is often an argument that makes me want to join Anne Rice and quit “Christianity”, and focus on following Jesus. The long and very ugly history of this “debate” is one of the many blots on “Christianity”, which should make all of us cringe.
It would be helpful here to identify people who no longer identify with either category [ and it is important to remember that Calvin and Wesley and all their contemporaries are human beings, who have never been credited with divine revelations ].
As someone involved in Christian engagement with the university, I find this debate to be at the center of evangelical failure. People pick sides on this issue and then try to foist their perspective on non-Christians. As a result, we have Christians completely unable to engage rock music, cosmology, medical ethics, ancient religion, primitive cultures in the Kalahari, rocket science, outlawed torture by U.S. government officials, inner city poverty, science fiction, business enterprise, economic failure, etc., etc., et al.
As I see our situation today, “diversity” is the only game in town, because we are finally awakening from some kind of drug overdose, and discovering that “Christianity” is often presented as if it is irrelevant to most of human reality. Then when we discover apprentices of Jesus actually doing deeds of mercy, justice and engagement, we find it impossible to put them in one of the “theological” [i.e., human theory] boxes.
Enough for now. This discussion has only begun, and in my view, will never end. The cosmos is a teeming plentitude, and as J.B. Phillips tried to teach many years ago, we have a very great big God, Father, Son and Spirit, who is concerned about the whole thing – back billions of years, forward many years more, and all the way out to the current edge of the universe.



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Robin

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:54 am


Re: cessation
I’m not a cessationist, but I am skeptical. The thing that makes me skeptical is the lack of follow through. If someone is really an apostle or prophet then their teaching and prophecy should be recorded and added to scripture. If you’re not willing to do that then you admit you don’t think they are legitimate in the same way that Paul and Peter and Isaiah were. If the gifts have not continued in the same manner so that we should record and study the words of apostles and prophets like we do the rest of God-breathed scripture, then I am unsure why distinctions like apostle and prophet should still make a difference. If you are worried about potential false prophets, just hold them to the deuteronomical (levitical?) standard for dealing with false prophets.
Anyway, it is a gray area for me, but I am convinced that most non-cessationists don’t really practice what they preach.
“But there is a clear and powerful voice today that wants to say that only the Reformed branch of evangelicalism is truly evangelical.”
I’ve been in calvinistic circles since I became a Christian. My first book was Desiring God by Piper and my second one was Knowing God by Packer. I went to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for a year and have attended seminary churches for years. I have friends that run the length and breadth of calvinism, including really hardline Presbyterians that like Joe Morecraft (the guy that tried to excommunicate Doug Wilson) and I have never, not once, heard anyone suggest that arminians shouldn’t be considered evangelicals. I think this is just a bogeyman, if there is a clear and powerful voice it isn’t speaking loud enough to be heard by 90% of calvinists.
Re: Boyd – again, I’m too ignorant to understand the beef with him.



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Pat

posted August 4, 2010 at 11:15 am


I think more and more people fall somewhere in the middle versus strongly in one camp or another. I also find that an increasing number of people in Calvinist and Arminian churches do not even know the distinctives of these doctrinal stances, much less that they’re in a church that subscribes to one or the other.
Whether Calvinists fear liberalism, according to some enemies of Calvinists, they believe they can live anyway and still get into heaven.
In my experience, some Arminians are very fundamentalist. So again, I don’t know that we can definitely say that either camp is one way or the other.
As to your last question, Evangelicals can be liberal or fundamental. Again, no exclusivity to that title and thus the confusion to the world because indeed our tent is very large even as we attempt to exclude people because we feel there’s no way that they could believe what they do and be Evangelical.



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Daniel Wilson

posted August 4, 2010 at 11:21 am


I like your point of view here. I probably agree that an evangelical doesn’t have to be either liberal or a fundamentalist. I am an evangelical Christian, yet I am neither a fundamentalist nor a liberal. Assuming that fundamentalism is grouped with conservative politics, I am not conservative politically, yet neither am I a liberal. I am like many, one who seeks balance by seeking social justice balanced with the morality and ethics of the scripture. I am Arminian and do like your chart of the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, especially point 5. Thanks.



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kevin s.

posted August 4, 2010 at 11:23 am


Robin,
The beef with Boyd is that he believes that God understands the future, but is also in a position to change it. The corollary to this is that God is not all-knowing. If the future is subject to change, then it is not knowable.
As such, Calvinists argue that open-theists believe in a God who is not omniscient. Such a God is sufficiently distinct from that of the creeds that those who worship him are not saved.
While I think open theism has some heretical implications, I find this characterization grossly unfair. If God knows and understands all possible consequences, the notion that circumstances could change hardly seems to impugn his sovereignty or omniscience.
Regarding Arminianism, the argument I have heard, which may or may not be espoused by the majority of Calvinists, is that Arminianism is simply an intellectually inconsistent brand of open theism. As such, Arminians are saved only by virtue of their ignorance, a position I find more than a little condescending.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm


@kevin s.
There does seem to be an intellectual superiority espoused by many Calvinists.
As a non-Calvinist, I find it a bit offensive. I’m certainly not an intellectual giant, but neither am I ignorant.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm


Of course my possible misuse of the word espouse doesn’t help me. :)



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John

posted August 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm


What about considering “radical diversity” in all of Christianity?? The poor Roman Catholics are going nuts over this. Try as they might, and inspite of all their might, followers of Jesus are no longer limited to a few western European based countries, and to only a few domains of life.
And the same holds true for all denominations. Sadly, because “Christians” are organized into organizations, this now leads to huge fights and political power plays. What to do.
In short, it seems to me that we are now running up against a new Reality – The Church, Christ’s Church, is a whole lot bigger than any of us are willing to conceive. Humans want control. Jesus wants His disciples, apprentices, to spread His Good News.
I am afraid this sounds romantic, idealistic and naive. But, we are definitely living in the Age of Pentecost. And I for one do not have the temerity to think I can control the flame throwing Holy Spirit.



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Bob Porter

posted August 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm


I am really enjoying this post!
As has been mentioned, labeling is almost always a problem. Prejudice is a likely result of labeling. Too often, we label people so we can dismiss them.
The simplistic nature of an either-or situation is usually also a problem. It seems to me that in most carefully defined Biblical interpretation systems, we are forced to focus on half of what scripture seems to teach and explain away the other half.
One of my favorite quotes is G.K. Chesterton?s ?Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and by keeping them both furious.?



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DRT

posted August 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm


Great fun.
Would someone clarify for me the practical implications of the evangelical big tent? Are we talking about cats and dogs worshiping together or both just being called pets?



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David Miller

posted August 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm


Are there no contemporary equivalents to the early twentieth-century liberal evangelicals?



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm


@DRT,
Both? I’ve certainly been to churches where there were charismatics and cessationists, Calvinists and Arminians, progressives and fundamentalists, old earthers and young earthers, etc all worshiping, serving, and fellowshipping together. In fact, I’ve found this experience quite common in SoCal.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 12:27 pm


@27 David
Perhaps Peter Enns and Kenton Sparks are good examples?



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Your Name

posted August 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm


ref: DRT at #26 above.
Why the metaphor of cats, dogs, and /or pets?
I thought by now it was clear we are dealing with a great and grand Zoo, as God’s people from quite literally “every tribe and nation” show up for “the marriage feast of the Lamb”!!!
Are we prepared to join the feast? Or, are we like the people in Jesus’ parable – slow of wit, and still outside???



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Mark Baker-Wright

posted August 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm


If this seems nit-picky, I apologize in advance, but I’m struck that the discussion question pits “Liberal” against “Fundamentalist.” In most of the circles I walk in, the natural opposite of “liberal” is “conservative,” not “fundamentalist.” And I do think that most people would see “conservative” and “fundamentalist” as not entirely equivilent terms.
Indeed, I almost want to read Scot’s question as to suggest that Evangelicalism is “conservative,” just not so conservative as to be “fundamentalist,” which I’m reasonably confident was not his intention.



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John

posted August 4, 2010 at 1:07 pm


Harvey Cox – The Future of Faith [Harper, 2009]
I am fully aware that no one here would include Harvey Cox in the evangelical big tent. However, this report of his is relevant.
p.85 Cox reports of the opening of thw World Council of Churches conferennce in Canberra, Australia, in 1991, where a Korean woman theologian was accompanied by Aboriginal dancers with gongs and clap sticks at the opening.
“German Bishops, American Methodists, and Orthodox prelates were learning, many for the first time, that the era of Euro-American churchly dominance was over. The future of Christianity would be culturally, racially, and theologically heterogeneous.”



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Jim Kane

posted August 4, 2010 at 1:18 pm


Scott,
I am Wesleyan/Holiness and I lived for 15 years in the heart of Reformed thinking – Western Michigan. Over that time, I valued more and more my partnership and friendship with my Calvinist brothers and sisters. The church is larger than both. God is great than both. And we will be together for ever on Resurrection Day.



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RJS

posted August 4, 2010 at 1:26 pm


John,
Interesting that you bring up Cox and his book Future of the Faith. I did a short series of posts (here) on his book last fall and found it interesting. One thing that stood out toward the end of the book was that Cox is ambivalent about the growth of Christianity in the global South – even in the rapidly growing Pentecostal churches. It is too conservative for his taste. For the most part Christians in the global South actually insist on belief in God and in Scripture, and they don’t find all faiths valid. His version of liberal Christianity is a one among many type faith.
This is where I draw a rather sharp line in the definition of liberal vs. conservative. I do find belief in God and scripture important and in the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. All faiths are not equally valid on any level.
So evangelicalism is conservative (so is much in the RCC, mainline … including fundamentalism). Fundamentalism built large walls defining in and out and demanded withdrawal and separation. Here we have a serious problem.
What evangelicalism does not do, or at least should not do, is build large fences accepting only specific doctrinal positions within the tent. Evangelicals (we hope) do not separate and refuse to associate or cooperate. We can live with a level of disagreement and difference.
The face of evangelicalism, the face of Christianity will change with increasing prominence of the “Age of the Spirit” in the global south and in the West.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 1:27 pm


@Mark Baker-Wright
I don’t think people fear conservatism. They fear fundamentalism.



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AHH

posted August 4, 2010 at 2:23 pm


They also say an evangelical is someone who is neither Liberal nor a Fundamentalist. Agree or disagree?
Disagree on the 2nd part, with caveat that both “Liberal” and especially “Fundamentalist” are slippery terms.
George Marsden discusses defining “fundamentalism” at the beginning of his book Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism which can be viewed on Amazon. His definition is:
… an evangelical who is militant in opposition to liberal theology in the churches or to changes in cultural values or mores …
So I think “fundamentalist” has to be considered a sub-category of “evangelical”. Otherwise we’d have to deny the Evangelical label to Machen, Lindsell, Falwell, Mohler, MacArthur, and a lot of others who are/were undeniably fundamentalist in outlook but that I think most of us would consider evangelicals.
An interesting side discussion (maybe not for this post) would be the definition of fundamentalism. Often it is used as a pejorative for anybody significantly more theologically conservative than the speaker (I’m probably guilty of that myself). I would submit that there are 2 main characteristics of Christian fundamentalism:
1) Biblicism taken to a very high degree (“inerrancy” not only firmly held but viewed as a litmus text for orthodoxy)
2) An “us vs. them” mindset, the sort of “militant” approach mentioned by Marsden.
Then one might think about what fraction of “evangelicals” in the US (and in the world) fit those 2 characteristics — in the US I’d say less than 50% but not much less.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm


I liked how fundamentalism was discussed in Rachel Held Evans book, Evolving in Monkeytown: “?holding so tightly to your beliefs that your fingernails leave imprints on the palm of your hand?”



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gingoro

posted August 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm


I would agree with AHH except to add that a few years back neither fundamentalists nor pentecostals wanted to be considered as evangelicals. Yes most accepted an evangelical position but they wanted to differentiate themselves from evangelicals.
Some fundamentalists considered even conservative evangelicals to be liberals in the Harvey Cox sense. Separatistic fundamentalists often wanted nothing to do with other churches or ministers in their same denomination who did not meet their standard of Christian.
I would add a 3rd characteristic of fundamentalism to be the holding of a YEC opinion on origins. In some circles Biblicism was not only a litmus text for orthodoxy but a test for whether or not one was a Christian. Often fundamentalists rejected almost any kind of higher education, especially that from secular universities. Thank God I escaped.
Dave W



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T

posted August 4, 2010 at 3:49 pm


kevin s. (21),
That’s a good summary of how to charitably and fairly view open theism. I don’t know if I buy open theism, but based on interactions and games with my 5 year old, I know I don’t have to be omniscient to be able to predict and even “be sovereign” over a great deal from her perspective. Certainly God could also leave room for our choices to have impact and yet still retain ultimate sovereignty and control within an range he chooses.



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Liz

posted August 4, 2010 at 3:57 pm


I have spent time in Calvinist circles (PCA), Seeker Church circles (Willow Creek) and now Arminian circles (Methodist). I embrace broad tent evangelicalism and pray that as a younger generation becomes less connected to a particular “brand” that there can be a coming together to work united for efforts in evangelism and social justice.
What concerns me, however, is that the tendency in some Calvinists circles to equate their brand of theology with salvation. And to disparage the work of those doing genuine ministry as “shallow” or even “apostate” (i.e. the recent tempest over John Piper’s invitation of Rick Warren to the Desiring God conference). I like the old adage “Unity on essentials; diversity on the non-essentials; charity in all.”. I admire those leaders whose theology is coupled with a genuine humility and love – which is the greatest sign of Christian maturity.



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RJS

posted August 4, 2010 at 3:57 pm


T,
Isn’t the story we read in scripture of exactly this sort? I am really uncomfortable with Calvin’s commentaries where he writes off any response by God to human action (any hint God reacts) to “accommodation.” I don’t see how we can read scripture as scripture and not leave some openness in the picture.
On the other hand there is, in scripture, an element of knowing, determining, and revealing future which gives a picture of sovereignty and omniscience. We can’t eliminate this from our understanding either.



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DRT

posted August 4, 2010 at 4:41 pm


It seems to me that the big tent will never be able to include fundamentalists precisely because they define people who do not believe what they believe as not saved. If one were to hold their beliefs strongly enough to be a fundamentalist, then wouldn’t they immediately have to actively condemn others in the church because they don’t live up to their beliefs?
I don’t see how we can possibly have strongly held beliefs about salvation and be in a big tent, or medium tent. It is incompatible, isn’t it?



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Cam R.

posted August 4, 2010 at 4:55 pm


RJS,
What you are describing is what alot of Open Theists believe? That the future is both partially open and partially determined. Which makes room for human free will, prophecy, and sovereignty. So most open theists are actually partial open theists. :)
Charles Pinnock was expelled from the ETS for affirming open theist. I think their reasoning was that open theism allowed for human choice in cooperating with God’s will–God wouldn’t force his will on anyone. Therefore inerrancy of scripture couldn’t be guaranteed and then because of this Pinnock couldn’t hold to inerrancy.
I am not sure if this was corrected or not. It seems like inerrancy technicality.



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Amanda

posted August 4, 2010 at 5:17 pm


Re: Cam @42.
Um, in 2003, the ETS voted, but Pinnock was not expelled. IIRC the vote was 66% in his favour.



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Cam R.

posted August 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm


Amanda #44,
Thanks for the correction. This is a good thing to be wrong about.
As well, I meant Clark Pinnock.
Maybe the tent is bigger than I thought.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 4, 2010 at 5:42 pm


Although 34% still wanted him kicked out. :)



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John

posted August 5, 2010 at 10:44 am


A thought about the “big tent” image and the “breakup of evangelicalism”.
It seems to me that evangelicalism in fact has never been a “big tent”, but only a “place” where people milled around in the same general vicinity. There were always spots in the general “place” where specific groups congregated, but everyone stayed in the same general area. Of course, there were and are the occasional and untoward shouting matches, and of course some of the specific groups go so far as to get organized, some into specific denominations, others into loose networks. And, of course, some of these groups try political power plays to “take control”.
However, these power plays will never work. Evangelicalism, whatever one defines it to be, is simply too big. Where is everyone going to go? Yes, some will get fed up and join either the Roman Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox out of frustration with the lack of system, and maybe liturgy, but virtually all will stay in the general “place” and make do as best they can.
Things will be messy for a while, as evangelicals finally respond to the host of social and Biblical issues being thrown in their faces. In the old days, all this could be avoided, but not today. Dawkins, the environment, racism in the church, etc, etc., are in everyone’s faces all the time, forcing people to engage whether they want to or not.
When Mark Noll wrote his book Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, he spoke of anti-intellecualism as the heart of the problem. Today, anti-intellectualism is harder and harder to sustain.
In short, I think that the image of the “big tent” has confused us about the reality of what evangelicalism is, and what will be happening in the future. I think the image of a “place where a lot of people are milling around” makes more sense of the reality we have and will have for a long time into the future.



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John

posted August 5, 2010 at 11:19 am


ps. Of course, we are simply living out the reality imposed by the Protest-ing Reformation. Very discomfitting – the founding Reformers did not come together, except in a general “place”, and we have all been living with that reality ever since.
I do not foresee an end to this situation, this side of the Eschaton, especially when now some are now welcoming Roman Catholics into this “place”. Ah, I already hear the screams of derision.
Lots of controversy, but also lots of opportunity to bear witness to Jesus’ instruction – Love God and Love neighbor !!



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Aaron

posted August 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm


Robin,
I am glad to hear that in your circles no one has talked about kicking arminians out of the evangelical tent. But those feelings are out there among Calvinists here are the comments made by John Piper, who actually uses the inflamatory word excommunication:
?Here?s my rule of thumb: the more responsible a person is to shape the thoughts of others about God, the less Arminianism should be tolerated. Therefore church members should not be excommunicated for this view but elders and pastors and seminary and college teachers should be expected to hold the more fully biblical view of grace.?
my goodness…



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John

posted August 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm


Aaron,
My goodness indeed. These are the kind of words and attitude which has sparked so much interest in the recent decision by Anne Rice to “quit Christianity” !! No wonder so many have responded to her blog, much to her surprise.
Yikers, one begins to wonder if we all should “jump ship” !! However, this and worse followed the start of the ongoing Protest-ing Reformation. Why should we be suprised. Deeply disappointed, of course, but not surprised.



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kevin s.

posted August 5, 2010 at 5:06 pm


Aaron,
I don’t know that the word is quite so inflammatory when used in the negative.
John,
I very much doubt that Anne Rice was reformed. John Piper is a great man. He lives the gospel in ways many Christians wouldn’t even consider doing. He is presently taking a sabbatical to challenge the sin of pride in his life. I can’t imagine very many leaders making the decision to do so.
However, there is sharp dissent from many of his positions within the mainstream evangelical community. Anne Rice seems to have left the church out of frustration with far more settled answers within the evangelical community.



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Richard

posted August 5, 2010 at 5:28 pm


Anne Rice was RC I believe but maybe I’m wrong.
Re: Piper, his attitude, and his followers.
I’ve learned to appreciate Piper’s original work (i.e. Christian hedonism, etc) but I don’t bother with listening or reading if he is tackling someone else’s work. The ego and uncharitable attitude having nothing to do with Jesus but it’s amazing what we justify in “defending the TRUTH,” as if if real truth needs defended.



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Richard

posted August 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm


“They also say an evangelical is someone who is neither Liberal nor a Fundamentalist. Agree or disagree?”
I would initially disagree but am curious as to how they define “liberal” and “fundamentalist.” My parents (conservative evangelical) are still trying to figure out how I became a “liberal” by reading my Bible and studying to serve as a pastor…



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