Jump In, the Post-Evangelical Water is Warm (even if the pond is small)

First I am vinegary, now I’m crabby. This is the latest indignity from Scot McKnight who doesn’t care for my definition of evangelicalism. (Okay, he says I’m “a bit” of a crab. But as with pregnancy, how can you be a little bit of a crab?) My demeanor came up not with my wife but in discussion of McKnight’s post about David Schwartz’s new book on the evangelical left, which McKnight calls the best book he’s read this year.

To get that endorsement, McKnight rejects the older definition of evangelicalism that has haunted Reformed types, such as this common lament among evangelicals who prefer the First to the Second Pretty Good Awakening:

More specifically speaking, [an evangelical is] someone who believes the Gospel is centered on the doctrine of justification by faith and the principles of sola fide (by faith alone) and sola scriptura (by Scripture alone), he added. “The Gospel is a message about redemption, it’s a call to repentance from sin … and a summons to yield to the Lordship of Christ.”

Abuse of the term “evangelical” is not new. Nineteenth century preacher Charles Spurgeon had decried the fact that the modernists of his day wanted to be called evangelicals even though they abandoned all the evangelical principles, according to Johnson. Such a label would give them “instant credibility” and easy access to people who believed the Bible, he said.

McKnight rejects this definition because it “wants evangelicalism to be old-fashioned fundamentalism, the kind that pre-Carl Henry and pre-neo-evangelicalism’s coalition and pre-John Stott” [sic]. For that reason, he prefers a definition like David Bebbington’s four-fold grid: “crucicentrism, biblicism, conversionism, and activism.”

It strikes this crabby Calvinist as odd that a person who identifies himself as an Anabaptist and who has identified with if not being a leader of the emergent church — that would be McKnight — would so readily approve Bebbington and Noll who read evangelicalism much more through the lens of the Puritans and the eighteenth-century awakenings than through Finney and radical reform the way Dayton and McKnight do. Where does crucientism come from after all if not from those hegemonic Calvinists and Puritans who were breathing the fumes of Dort’s Limited Atonement?

But the reason for bringing this up is not to define evangelicalism but to engage McKnight’s query about who gets to define evangelicalism. Apparently, McKnight thinks that he can decide who gets to offer a definition. Those who demur are crabby.

What McKnight misses by dismissing my critique of evangelicalism as stemming from a Reformed bias is that I actually took Don Dayton’s critique of George Marsden to heart. Almost twenty years ago, Dayton made a habit of pointing out how the evangelical historians associated with the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College had misrepresented evangelical history. He was particularly annoyed by George Marsden’s history of Fuller Seminary, which in Dayton’s estimate slighted the Holiness/Wesleyan side of Fuller for the sake of highlighting its Old Princeton/Westminster heritage. I see merit in Dayton’s point, at least regarding evangelicalism as something much bigger and broader (and more abstract and virtually meaningless) than the Puritans-to-Edwards-to-Hodge-to-Machen-to-Ockenga-to-Graham narrative. It is a partial reading of the New Evangelicalism to see it as a reiteration of New School Presbyterianism. It is also partial to see Finney and Wesleyanism all over the Fuller faculty and curriculum. But by acknowledging that everyone can look in the mirror of evangelicalism and see themselves and their predilections in it, in Deconstructing Evangelicalism, I was actually trying to liberate born-again Protestants, like McKnight, Dayton, and McLaren from their Calvinist captivity. You don’t like Reformed hegemony? Fine, you can have evangelicalism. We’ll keep our churches, thank you very much.

This is the thanks we get?

At the same time, I can understand why McKnight wants to hold on to evangelicalism as a movement. Chances are that he and his fellow “evangelical” bloggers would not have outlets at Patheos if each writer had to be identified by the particular communion to which he or she belongs. Would Patheos sponsor an Anabaptist, Wesleyan, or a Swedish-American pietist channel? I doubt it since the number of these “movements” are not as large as the broad and soupy category of evangelical.

So I see McKnight’s reasons for preserving his status in the evangelical movement. But I didn’t think evangelical radicals, emergents, or lefties were that invested in preserving the status quo. Radical reformation indeed (or in word only)!

75 thoughts on “Jump In, the Post-Evangelical Water is Warm (even if the pond is small)

  1. Defining eeeevangelicalism and the relative merits of the e-word may be one thing. But when it comes to religious identifying, I wonder if Bill Clinton’s political thumb nailing is useful: if you think the 60s (Billy Graham) were mostly a good thing, you’re probably a Democrat (an eeeevangelical). If you think the 60s (Billy Graham) were mostly a bad thing, you’re probably a Republican (confessionalist).


  2. I guess one question is if “non-evangelicals” are allowed to define what’s “evangelical”. I certainly agree with Don Dayton (and Timothy Smith) in their protest at the Hatch/Marsden/ Noll hegemony. So of course Horton and DGH have the right to attempt to describe “evangelicals”, but why would they want to? Unless of course they continue to believe in the “myth of influence”, by which they can become patrons for certain folks to get jobs in the “evangelical academy”?

    Another question is if Horton and DGh will get to the point where they deny being “evangelicals”. It’s one step along from not claiming to be “evangelical”. If Mcknight with his rejection of penal substitution is an “evangelical”, then somebody needs to update Machen with a book called Christianiity and Evangelicalism.

    McNight is no Conrad Grebel, not even a Harold Bender or a John Yoder. So what makes him “anabaptist”? Are all pietists by definition “anabaptists”? Do Wesleyans escape being “anabaptist”
    because they water baptize infants?


  3. Yeah, the subject or this post (sort of) makes me even more crabby. As we approach Reformation Sunday (in most confessional churches) the celebration of “protest” against indulgences, most notably represented in the form of the 95 Theses, seems to be largely forgotten – or ignored – in “evangelical” congregations. One is lucky to join in singing “A Mighty Fortress” (the tempo often augmented and rephrased to please contemporary tastes) with no mention of Luther or any other reformer in his (their) defense of sola scriptura against the medieval church and its mis-use of the latter. A pox on them all!


  4. McMark, I am following the definitions of evangelicals — no hegemony here — and I am letting my people (Reformed Protestants) go. We don’t need to control the world. If Calvinists want to be evangelical, go ahead and consider yourself the same as a Pentecostal.

    As for McKnight as an anabaptist, according to Theopedia, he is. Nuf defined.


  5. “Tell ‘ol / Darryl / Let his people goooo!”. The image of you as Moses (Heston) or Pharaoh (Brynner) is pretty terrific.


  6. D.G. Hart,

    Let me apologize in advance if you think this should have been sent through e-mail, but I was hoping that some of the posters here may help.

    I am currently a grad student in American Studies, and a huge part of my research is the interplay between American Protestantism and politics. Part of my argument is that the term Evangelical has so many different meanings, understandings and interpretations that it has become practically useless as a category of measurement. And cultural studies (my audience) should become familiar with church/denominational traditions to get a better handle on what is meant by Evangelical, when deployed in differing contexts. Or avoid the label all together.

    Your book Deconstructing Evangelicalism has been an incredible wealth of information. I was wondering if there has been other academic work on the problems of the label Evangelical?
    I’ve found an article “Measuring Evangelicalism: Consequences of Different Operationalization Strategies” by Hackett and Lindsay in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. And the chapter “We’re All Evangelicals Now”: The Existential and Backward Historiography of Twentieth- Century Evangelicalism in the book American Denominational History: Perspectives on the Past, Prospects for the Future. It gives a brief overview of the debates around the modern usages of the term (you are mentioned). And I purchased The Evangelical Historians: The Historiography of George Marsden, Nathan Hatch, and Mark Noll (you mention it in Deconstructing).
    But is there more?

    PS. : I hope I don’t come off like I’m trying to get you guys to do my research, but the brain power around this site is powerful, (at least when it comes to American Protestantism 


  7. Adam, the pitfalls of thumbnails. But it’s not that Republican is to confessional as Democrat is to eeeevangelical, rather that eeeevangelical is to Graham as confessional isn’t.


  8. But have you really been let go from evangelicalism, if you keep instructing “evangelicals” about what you think they used to be? Until we (anabaptists or reformed) “let go” attempting to talk about their (evangelical) history in order to influence their present by holding up one version of their past as true, perhaps there has not yet been sufficient alienation.

    Like Calvin who said all those bad words about the Roman Catholic church except for the parts of his inheritance he was unwilling to refuse (sacramentalism, immortal souls, collaboration with magistrates), there are many Reformed folks who say bad words about evangelicals but can never quite do that as outsiders, since they are still holding on to their membership cards as “evangelicals”.

    But of course my complaints about lack of separation from evangelicals should also keep me from ever using the “anabaptist” word again. What it has come to mean is different in so many ways that it’s like the difference between Toplady and John Piper. Can you imagine Toplady saying– “but I am an Arminian also”?

    But hey, at least Arminians believe in the supernatural? So do JWS and Mormons.

    I never bought the Barth kool-aide like my friend Don Dayton, but I watch too many movies to still be a fundy.

    Smaller and more segregated ponds….


  9. Reading Ahlstrom last night about evangelical expansion in the south in the 1700s. For a time the New Side Presbyterians did quite well there, but eventually they were outdone in spectacular fashion by the Baptists. The New Side Presbyterians, still being Presbyterians, insisted on learned ministers (even if it was a Log College education — later a College of New Jersey/Princeton education). Thus there was always a shortage of qualified ministers. The Baptists, however, had no qualms about sending an itinerant minister to do a revival, converting a farmer, and shortly thereafter letting that farmer take over as a farmer/minister of a new church. Wow – how does a Presbyterian compete with that when it comes to numerical growth?


  10. Luther P., I haven’t kept up with the literature on evangelical definitions of late and I’m not sure the discussions have advanced much since Marsden vs. Dayton. I do suspect that the political scientists keep up with defining matters for the sake of polling data. Corwin Smidt and his companions did a lot of work in the 1990s and early 2000s. I think he is now retired. But I suspect their stuff still holds up for contemporary discussions, at least as far as indicating how the definition goes.

    I continue to think that the antebellum era is the key period for shaping Anglo-American political outlooks (and it carries over to modernists, fundies, and evangelicals). There the work of Richard Carwadine, Allen Guelzo, and Daniel Walker how on the links between evangelicals (from New School Presby’s to Unitarians), Whigs, and Republicans are key.

    As a historian I’d follow the historians more than the political scientists. I also believe that the way the evangelical right and evangelical left look back to the antebellum era as the great instance of evangelical political activism makes those definitions of evangelicals or Protestant coalitions important for what you’re working on.

    Hope that helps.


  11. According to McKnight’s definition a Catholic is an Evangelical:

    “Biblicism: the term does describe those who form theology by focusing on the Bible.
    Crucicentrism: the term focuses on the saving, substitutionary atoning death of Jesus.
    Conversionism: the term focuses on the necessity of personal faith and witness.
    Activism: the term was more focused on missionary and evangelistic work, less on justice, but it meant both.

    You fit those? You are evangelical. You don’t? You aren’t.
    I can have my opinions about who is and who is not, but it won’t get us anywhere. Except it can get some folks into trouble if someone says they are not evangelical.”


    I wonder if McKnight would call the Pope an Evangelical. But would the Pope call himself an Evangelical?

    My head is spinning…


  12. I continue to think that the antebellum era is the key period for shaping Anglo-American political outlooks (and it carries over to modernists, fundies, and evangelicals). There the work of Richard Carwadine, Allen Guelzo, and Daniel Walker how on the links between evangelicals (from New School Presby’s to Unitarians), Whigs, and Republicans are key.

    This is very valuable, thanks!

    Your article Mainstream Protestantism, ”Conservative” Religion, and Civil Society. Led me to Steve Bruce’s Conservative Protestant Politics (sociology of Religion) and eventually to Eric Kaufann’s The Rise & Fall of Anglo-America (political sociology). Studying Christianity in the United States is not enough, that is to say, although race has had a profound organizing, ethnicity has had an even more profound influence on the contours of race and religion. That is Anglo-Protestantism formed how Christianity should be understood in the United States, and the issue of the term Evangelicalism is an extension of that inner-ethnic conflict.

    As an aside, my research started because of my grandmother who was a second generation Presbyterian, from Puerto Rico, and although my grandfather was an influential Pentecostal preacher, she remained pretty much a Calvinist. Neighbors would jokingly refer to her as a Anglo-Pentecostal (the anglo was a reference to here Calvinist sympathies). Also, I grew up in a community of Black Baptists and Presbyterians who remained Calvinist (while many other were drifting away). I remember outsiders referring to them as Afro-Saxons. Radical Black nationalists of the 1960 used to refer to WEB Dubois and other Black intellectuals from the turn of the century, as Afro-Saxons (many were no Calvinist, Atheist even, but it was a reference to their Presbyterian and Congregationalist upbringing). All that to say this, Hispanics and Black Protestants who had close relationships with confessional traditions were socialized into American society through a specific tradition within Anglo-Protestantism, while Hispanics and Black Protestants who were socialized through Holiness and Pentecostal traditions, were socialized quite differently. Although low-church Protestantism is another tradition within Anglo-Protestantism, their relationship with Anglo-Protestantism was different because the church structures were looser; vetting seminarians was practically non-existent, they were really “on their own” to construct their theology and social practices…now I’m thinking aloud.

    Presently in all Black and Latino churches, there is a tendency to use the term Evangelical differently in the congregation that is evangelical as the gospel as it formed from the reformation (even the Low Church traditions seem to do this), while outside of their churches they understand it as a form of Republican politics. They don’t make the connection with the Neo-Evangelical movement, but they seem to understand that Evangelical in the political sphere has a different meaning than in their theology.

    All that to say, the devil is in the details, and the generic Evangelical does not capture how socio-political changes on the ground, not as much as specifically studying not just Protestantism but Anglo-Protestantism.


  13. Nate, “is the Pope Catholic?” But something tells me a Catholic would describe himself as evangelical sooner than an eeeevangelical would describe himself as catholic. Still, both have much more in common than either would be willing to admit. And if the eeeevangelical definition of faith is experiential, as in “a personal encounter with the risen Christ,” then the descriptors are somewhat interchangeable: Roman piety invented the still, small voice and coveted quiet time (“spiritual discipline”). Daily praying Jesus into the heart and life isn’t just for eeeevangelicals.

    The question may be for confessional Protestants to look in that mirror and say whether they see pietism staring back. And the challenge may to affirm being catholic (without being Roman), evangelical (without anti-ecclesial), and apostolic (without being Pentecostal).


  14. Zrim, that would make sense why evangelical churches lose congregants to Rome and vice-versa. As you describe, when you boil it down to the fundamentals of either, you find strong continuity.

    I would have reservation though since many (not all) “eeevangelical” churches still preach the gospel (although truncated or convoluted) whereas Rome has neutered it entirely. Many of us were raised (and saved) in eeevangelical churches, not Roman.

    Speaking of finding pietism in the mirror, this could be helpful.


  15. Sorry, this is not clear:

    That is Anglo-Protestantism formed how Christianity should be understood in the United States, and the issue of the term Evangelicalism is an extension of that inner-ethnic conflict.

    The inner-ethnic conflict comment is a reference to Kaufmann’s argument that the Modernist-Fundamentalist conflict was partially about how Anglo-Protestants/American would understand their ethnic identity. It wasn’t only about that, (obviously, it was about theology!) but it contributed to basically an ethnic identity crisis.


  16. Many “evangelicals” now describe themselves as “catholics”. In particular I am thinking of the new group of “baptist sacramentalists” who teach that water baptism has efficacy in God’s causing and creating regeneration. But I don’t think dgh is wrong to call out attention to the question of the party affiliation of “evangelicals”. As in—you don’t have to be a whig to be an evangelical, but if you are not, then you can’t lead us or define us.

    Some of us have forgotten that apostolic admonition: “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer” (2 Tim. 2:4). I don’t for a minute believe Paul there advocates a withdrawal from society. But I do maintain that this admonition and so many others provide us a clear warning against entanglement with the worldWhen the pastor or leader writes in such a way that they are easily mistaken as party loyalists rather than discerning voters, then they are involved in civilian affairs and potentially seduced by the world’s siren song. When the Christian leader’s comments reflect the vitriol and venom, the poison beneath the lips of asps and vipers, then we’re taken by the world in a most deadly way. The “Christian” commentary has left the world with the impression, once again, that to be a Christian is to be a Republican.And it’s gone further: It’s sometimes suggested that there’s nothing supernatural about being a Christian–all our concerns are just the world’s concerns thinly veneered with religious language



  17. Luther P., race and ethnicity rule! Much of the momentum of 19th c. evangelicalism comes from the way Anglo-American Protestants encounter “the other kind” — Irish, Germans, etc.


  18. I wrote this over at “Jesus Creed”

    Why use the term Evangelical? What does it get you that “Protestant” wouldn’t?

    This seems to be an argument grounded in modern American politics, and less about theological questions.

    If people would identify which type of Protestant tradition they are working from, that would explain the form of their “Evangelicalism.”

    An Evangelicalism that is separated from their Protestantism seems to be something that’s more socio-political, than theological.

    Either way, ALL Protestants are evangelical. If we were to accept that, how many of you would then argue “Who is a Protestant?”


  19. Nate, my vinegar levels may be too high, but I’d give equal odds on hearing the gospel in either church. Maybe that comes with not having been raised in either, converted into eeeevangelicalism only to hear the gospel for the first time years later from confessional Prots.

    Luther, I hear you. But that said to Nate, when I think evangelical I think the five solas. It seems to me that catholic was once in the same boat, but both are biblical and historical terms. So if I can let catholic roll off my tongue every week in public worship, is evangelical so compromised as to be worthless? Is it wise to choke on the e-word the way evangies choke on the c-word?


  20. I think a lot of evangelicals get the basic gospel right, it’s what to do in light of it that I think they sometimes stumble. That and the sacraments, and church discipline, and the regulative principle, and church polity, and election, and…


  21. It seems that US politics are the driving force here. I mean, like you said, there are eeevangelicals and Evan-gelicals. Maybe make a law that forces everyone to use Neo-Evangelical, and leave evangelical alone? At some point wouldn’t we have to, somehow separate the two? Maybe capitalizing Evangelicals, much like we capitalize the “S” in the Sanctified Movement to distinguish it from the term “sanctified” all Christians use. We separate catholic (universal) from Roman Catholic.

    I don’t know, but the term e/E/eeeevangelical is just so amorphous, and it just confuses everybody. I remember, in my sociology of religion class, going off on Christian Smith’s introduction to American Evangelicals: Embattled and Thrivingbecause of his history, which starts it off with the Neo-Evangelicals but then his sleight of hand, which basically assumes Neo-Evangelical history for all of Protestantism. (And now the dude is getting his Rome on, I understand).

    But no one in class cared, because there is just a much more powerful political force to keep the terms ambiguous…I don’t know


  22. Luther – I don’t see politics driving it as much as a desire to appeal to as many people as possible, for noble reasons (so that lives may be changed for the better) and for pragmatic reasons (so that big mortgage payments can be met). There are a lot of evangelical megachurches that are pretty apolitical (at least from the pulpit). I observe one closely here in my hometown. 1800 seat beautiful auditorium in a town of 50,000 (half of which are college students).


  23. Erik,

    Yeah I get that, but…so far I have categorized some the different types of eee/E/evangelicals.

    eee/E/evangelicals as Pop-Protestantism, whereby the lowest common denominator of generic non-offensive Protestantism is assumed. This way you don’t get complicated theology, and you can sell products to a larger population of consumers. This way you can package things like sex toys and pole dancing. Can you imagine sex toys for Protestants? Or sex toys for Mainliners? Or sex toys for Pentecostals? Also, Hart’s Methodist example of specific denominational histories being relabeled as evangelical history. He’s right, in DE, how would that sell if it was Methodist history? (Don’t have the book with me.)

    eee/E/evangelicals as Right-Wing Protestants. In the political realm, they to depend on an ambiguous and amorphous understanding of eee/E/evangelicals. Do you think Roman Catholic Republicans would appreciate being told they are really “just like Protestants”. Would Richard John Neuhaus or Rick Santorum be happy to have been on a list of “The 25 Most Influential Protestants in America”? Imagine how Republican activists would fare if they used “Protestant” instead of “Evangelical.”

    And don’t get me started on the me-too-ism of leftists trying to appeal to a broader amount of folks. Let me lay my cards out on the table, I’m pretty leftists in my politics (no, I’m not into liberation theology, or social gospel stuff, or will claim Jesus was all about the poor, I just have leftist sympathies), but I would never allow someone to teach my kids that Jesus was basically a socialist anti-imperialist and that’s the gospel, and that’s Evangelicalism. Or claim, racists aren’t going to heaven, or some stuff like that. As a matter of fact I expect that from leftists but not folks who claim “the traditional faith.”

    I have more, but I think you can get the point. By saying there are good things to appealing to a broader scope of folks, seems to be doing things to the Gospel, the Gospel never asks us to do.

    I think marketing products and marketing the latest political trends hoping to grab vast amounts of consumers are two sides of the same coin. Give that coin to Caesar.


  24. All liberals (those who believe in American democracy) end up agreeing with Troeltsch (Social Teachings of the Christian Churches) that the kingdom of Jesus Christ cannot be of itself political and is not itself political in liberal secular society. Thus liberal ideology insists that all Christian witness must take place at a point at least once removed from “pure religion”.

    This liberal ideology of Troeltsch puts Christians in the service of its ideology and yet insists that Christians are being given freedom. Sure, the churches are visible, but they have agreed in advance to have no power in society, and thus the way is cleared for a “liberal” nation-state to set the agenda for individual Christians if they want to see anything change.


  25. We can still be active (to a certain extant) to change our society, without claiming the Gospel told me to do it. I’m active in labor (ie wages, unions and the like) but I wouldn’t claim that I’m engaged in bringing the Gospel to workers. I would never claim socialism is Christianity, I argue for these things because they help my community, not because Jesus commands social justice. When I attend church, I wouldn’t expect my pastor to endorse my views from the pulpit, or enforce the arguments for management as well.

    Now I’m willing to accept part of the criticism from scotmcknight, leveled at Hart, since I’m Calvinist as well. “EricW, Hart’s a bit of a crab on this issue; he’s also vested in a Reformed theology that disavows its evangelical interest.” Right, engaging in mass conversions and lowest common denominator theology seems to be an aspect of particular forms of the Protestant tradition; but to claim we disavow our “evangelical interests” because we have no interest in their form of evangelicalism seems to go too far. Who made him Pope of Protestantism? So now low-church folks get to dictate how all Protestants need to form their evangelicalism?

    Now I’m sounding crabby.

    Crap, I just posted this at Jesus Creed.


  26. Erik, granted I’ve not spent much time in Catholic churches (beyond the occasional marriage of a cousin or two), but plenty within eeeevangelical churches. More often than not the gospel is presented in terms of an inward experience with the risen Christ. That’s not getting the basic gospel right. It’s to get it quite wrong.

    Again, I’m not wild about scrapping the term evangelical anymore than catholic from what it means to be Reformed. But it does seem to me that those who would push for scrapping should at least be able to admit that eeeevangelcial churches are as bankrupt as Rome when it comes to the gospel.


  27. Zrim – That sounds Barthian. If you are talking about Evangelical churches that come out of a fundamentalist background (say Southern Baptist, or Christian & Missionary Alliance, or Evangelical Free Churches) they talk about sin and how it separates us from a holy God. They encourage people to accept Jesus’ sacrifice as the remedy to that problem. I think we Reformed people sometimes make the gospel too complicated, as if you need to endorse everything in the three forms to be saved. I would argue there are an awful lot of people who come to saving faith in evangelical churches. I have more issues with the lack of maturity they gain once they are there due to limited theological teaching, but I don’t think they all get the gospel wrong. If we say that salvation is only found in conservative P&R churches there is going to be a lot of elbow room in heaven.


  28. It kind of comes back to how broad the movement is – from Joel Osteen to Al Mohler, from Rob Bell to John Piper – it’s hard to generalize. They need to do a better job of policing their own vs. conservative P&R people having to do it.


  29. Unlike Rome you do not have an elevating of the church to be above Scripture or the notion that it is faith plus works that save you. You may take issue with exactly what some evangelicals are placing their faith in and why, but they do not share Rome’s errors on Justification (at least the conservative evangelicals don’t).


  30. I don’t know Erik, to the degree it centers on what’s happening within me, whether more formally in the sacramentalism of Rome, or less informally in evangellyfish prayer closets or walking aisle’s because I really mean it this time, they both strike me as largely missing both the object and comfort of our faith.


  31. Bingo, Sean. Like Don Matzat said, there’s elevating the church over Scripture (Rome), reason over Scripture (liberalism), or experience over Scripture (evangelicalism). Even more reason to love Lutherans (not Barth).


  32. There is not of a lot of emphasis on being saved “from God, by God”, I’ll grant you that. The local baptist evangelical megachurch that I study (and was a member of for a decade or so) has nothing in their statement of faith about the original sin of Adam which I think leads to their not being able to fully embrace election. It’s almost as if I am speaking a foreign language when I try to talk with them.

    One thing that is interesting is that, like their Baptist forebears, they don’t insist on seminary training for pastors. The head pastor didn’t go and several of the men who have come up through the church and have gone on to pastor “daughter” churches didn’t go. I tend to think they might avoid debate because they lack confidence in their abilities. A Reformed guy who has been through the confessions and learned to think systematically actually has abilities these guys lack. My pastor, who was trained at Westminster (CA) has JW’s running away from his door calling him “rude”. By making “experience” on par with knowledge evangelicals are indeed vulnerable. I’ll take knowledge which leads to confidence in Christ as our righteous savior over subjective experience any day.

    I’m reading Kruger’s “Canon Revisited” right now. Trying to get comfortable with an apologetic for Scripture that can be used against both the Catholic and the atheist.


  33. The biggest thing I am thinking through is how you embrace sola scriptura in light of biblical criticism, supposed lack of corroborating evidence, alleged contradictions & errors, supposed late dates, supposed inconsistencies between the gospels & Paul, etc.. Rome has an answer by appealing to apostolic succession and placing the Church over Scripture. I’m not saying it’s a good answer. As Protestants we have to argue on the merits of the Book itself. Do we have answers that can win over a skeptic who only accepts their five senses and corroborating evidence that is independent of Scripture? Is this a futile project? It’s a fascinating subject.


  34. Erik,

    I’ve heard Kruger’s is good. It’s on my reading list. I’ve heard he follows Kline on canon and covenant, (the one presuming the other, along with the ex-nihilo creative power of inspiration). Kline’s is about the most sound refutation of Rome’s claims to superintending the canon that I’ve read.


  35. I have Kline’s “Kingdom Prologue” by my bed (along with way too much other stuff). I need to get to it. I need to adopt a cocaine or meth habit to get all of the reading done that I want to do. Would the elders cut me a break?


  36. Re. my previous comment, it would be fascinating to be able to interview Machen on how he processed his time studying in Germany. I actually have a book called “Toward a Sure Faith – J. Gresham Machen and the Dilemma of Biblical Criticism, 1881-1915” that I need to read. Hart touches on this a bit in his Machen book, too, but I don’t recall how much.


  37. Erik,

    Kline’s treatment on canon is ‘Structure of Biblical Authority’ It’s much shorter, so maybe all you’ll need is half a speedball.


  38. Sean: ” it centers on what’s happening within me, whether more formally in the sacramentalism of Rome,…”

    mark: Can you explain how the efficacy of Reformed sacramentalism is not internal (happening within)?

    1. If the sacrament is only about an objective promise, why not give the sacrament to all sinners?
    2. If the sacrament has efficacy only for some to whom it is administered, how can we know that it was God using the sacrament and not some other factor which was instrumental in God’s grace to those persons (created within grace, or infused and imparted grace, or even some non-internal grace)?
    3. If the other factor is God’s gift of faith in the gospel, then would it be safe to say that this faith to obey the gospel (“hearing”) was not an effect of the sacrament but rather of God using the Word?
    4. If this faith in the gospel is not the effect but the condition of the efficacy of the sacrament, what are the effects of the sacrament?

    I am not asking if the effects are automatic or delayed. I am not even asking how some receive the sacraments without effect (except perhaps new covenant curse). I am asking what are the effects of the sacrament on those who are effected. Sean, you seem to deny that these effects are internal. So far, so good. What are they? What is the efficacy?


  39. Erik, nothing at all against knowledge (or the church, or reason, or even experience), but I’m not sure its privileging is the antidote against that of experience. The privileging of knowledge is the Gnostic error. It’s the one Reformed logicians and others demanding epistemological self awareness seem most susceptible to.

    The intellect, the church, reason, and experience are all very good as far as they go. But the Protestant category is faith. It’s the material principle of the Reformation that follows from the formal principle of scriptura and corresponds to the theology of the cross, the others to that of glory.


  40. Zrim – I absolutely agree, but it all comes down to what your faith is in. Whether you are a Catholic, a Protestant, or an Atheist at some point you are going to put your faith in something and you are going to use circular reasoning to decide what that is. I am going to write on that as I continue reading through Kruger’s “Canon Revisited”. I am going to start today with a few comments on Cross & Stellman’s moving to Rome as a solution to their problem of having to defend “Sola Scriptura” as Protestants.


  41. McMark,

    Rome’s position is that the sacraments, ex opera operata , infuse grace via priestly mediation unto inward moral renovation. So Rome’s sacramentalism IS internal. Not sure where you read me as saying otherwise?


  42. I have a post up called “Why Roman Catholicism is Not the Solution to the Problem of Sola Scriptura – Michael Kruger’s ‘Canon Revisited’ on the Jason Stellman, Bryan Cross Problem”.


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  44. Carl Truman: While Milton is the poster child of the seventeenth century for Hobson, there were other voices calling for an understanding of church and state which certainly pointed towards the modern liberal state. John Owen, for example, a high Calvinist if ever there was one, argued for toleration of Protestant sectarianism in 1660s. That his argument served his own personal cause does not render it invalid or insignificant. ‘Good liberalism’ can easily be held by the most theologically and traditionally doctrinaire of people.

    Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/06/30/liberalism-reinvented-by-carl-trueman/#ixzz3769ukkCH


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