Alternatives and Elements
Hence, the rise of alternatives: the ancient-future movement spearheaded by Robert Webber, the emergent/emerging movement spearheaded by young thinkers and leaders, like Brian McLaren, who knew fundamentalism and neo-evangelicalism’s coalition wasn’t listening to the youth culture, and the revival of Calvinism among the NeoReformed, spearheaded – almost singlehandedly I think – by John Piper and those who came to his side. Within this NeoReformed movement is the massive influx of Southern Baptists, who were formerly neither as vocal in their Calvinism nor as concerned with the older neo-evangelical coalition but are now undoubtedly a (if not “the”) major voice in the NeoReformed and fundamentalist awakening among some evangelicals.
If these three movements are genuine alternatives to the older neo-evangelical coalition, there remain yet other elements in contemporary American evangelicalism: classic denominations, like the Evangelical Covenant Church and the Evangelical Free Church; megachurch ministries, which aren’t likely to go away anytime soon; and parachurch organizations that are the vanguard of multicultural evangelicalism as well as the keeper of much of what sustained the neo-evangelical coalition.
Throbbing through all of this are more narrowly-focused segments, like the spiritual formation movement, mapped by Richard Foster and Dallas Willard, like individual charismatic leaders such as John Eldredge and George Barna, like the house church movement or gatherings like The Q Conference and Catalyst and The Origins Conference, and like the Christian music and concert scene. Other elements include virtual reality,
and one dare not minimize the strength (or nonsense) of the internet
world of contemporary evangelicalism, and the very sophisticated forms
of cultural engagement and intellectual rigor, as one finds in John Wilson’s Books & Culture. I suppose one could plot elements all day long.
years ago the average evangelical Christian knew his or her pastor,
subscribed to a Christian magazine or two, listened to a Christian radio
station and its preachers and teachers, and read a few good authors
published by trustworthy evangelical publishers. Today the average
evangelical is spread across a global array of influences and resources.
The average evangelical today is a bricoleur
, one who cobbles together his or her theology from a variety of sources.
together, the neo-evangelical coalition, what I originally sketched as
the third sense of “evangelicalism” today, has fallen apart into a
variety of alternatives and elements. Some of these are vying for the
only true form of evangelicalism while others simply don’t even care
about the term anymore.