Who decides who is evangelical?

Scot McKnight is starting a new, and significant, discussion at Jesus Creed today called “The End of Evangelicalism.”  I think this is an important discussion to have, and he begins by asking two key questions.  Enjoy.

Many today are predicting the (even imminent) collapse of evangelicalism. Others, like Brad Wright, show that evangelicalism is flourshing, while others, like Chris Smith, show that while it may be flourishing it is not what it used to be. At work here are two questions that I want to deal with before we go another step:

What is evangelicalism? I have been, am and will stand by David Bebbington and Mark Noll. Evangelicalism is a movement in the Protestant church shaped by differing but clear emphasis on four beliefs: the centrality of the Bible, the centrality of the atoning death of Christ, the centrality of the need for personal conversion, and the centrality of an active mission to convert others and to do good works in society.

Who decides who is evangelical? No one, really. Others, mostly. There is no one who decides who gets to carry the evangelical card but there is a a general conviction on the part of others who is “in” and who is “out.” I have an opinion, and you may have an opinion, and the one with the louder voice or the bigger voice might be the most compelling but … let this be said: God does not equate “Church” with “evangelical.” But because it is a movement, and for some the movement is so important that it is nearly the same as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, it matters deeply to some.

But what does matter is that evangelicalism is a longstanding movement, it seems to unite millions of Christians in the world, and it is contested.

Continue reading McKnight’s full post here.

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