The Original Evangelicals aren’t Evangelical?!?

Just noticed this in John Fea’s odds making for the evangelical vote this November:

Some evangelicals continue to oppose Trump and have not made it clear what they will do in November. I am thinking here of Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse (if you can call a Missouri-Synod Lutheran an “evangelical”) and Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore. Perhaps some of these folks are praying that something might happen in Cleveland next week that leads the GOP to pick another candidate. Others might be praying that an independent candidate will arise at this late date. These are long shots, but let’s remember that evangelicals believe in miracles.

Now, regulars at Old Life know that Ben Sasse, despite having grown up in the Missouri Synod, is actually a Reformed Protestant — even an elder in the United Reformed Churches I believe. That may be too much insider 2k baseball for John Fea. But there it is.

The main point pertains to John’s parenthetical remark about whether we can call Lutherans “evangelical.” For starters, the original Protestants, the followers of Martin Luther, were and still are known as evangelical. So don’t Lutherans have the copyright on being evangelical?

A related concern is if a good historian has enough sense to wonder about classifying a Lutheran as evangelical, why are the same historians so ready to put put Presbyterians in the same round hole as Pentecostals and Wesleyans? I mean, if you have the slightest hesitation about Lutherans, shouldn’t you also wonder about Protestants who didn’t like Billy Graham (for his pro-choice theology)?

7 thoughts on “The Original Evangelicals aren’t Evangelical?!?

  1. Thanks, Darryl. I am glad my parenthetical remark about Sasse, the LCMS Church, and “evangelical” prompted you to write an ENTIRE POST here at Old Life. (By the way, I like the new design of the blog.).

    According to Sasse’s Wikipedia page:”Sasse grew up a Lutheran and was baptized in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. He later became an elder in the United Reformed Churches in North America, and served on the board of trustees for Westminster Seminary California. He is now currently a member at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, a church of the LCMS.” The Wiki page cites this website:

    For what it’s worth. Maybe the Wikipedia page is wrong.

    Your point about Lutherans as “evangelicals” is a fair one, but I do think that calling LCMS “evangelical” is complicated. I say this as someone who taught a lot of LCMS students at Valparaiso between 2000-2002. Many of them did not entirely connect with the evangelical subculture and certainly did not talk very much about being “born-again” apart from their catechism and confirmation classes.

    But I am no expert.


    P.S. I liked the point in your Chronicle piece about evangelical support for Trump having something to do with evangelical’s historical attraction for outrageous public figures like Sunday et. al.


  2. Thanks, John. I’ve been trying to get out of evangelicalism for a long time, but like Ron Wells used to say, I don’t know where to send my ID.

    Please come back after my other post (if you like).


  3. “These are long shots, but let’s remember that evangelicals believe in miracles.”

    Some evangelicals are also cessationists who believe that there will be no forthcoming miracle. Some evangelicals believe in the Pre-Tribulational Rapture and perhaps a Trump presidency would signal that the Apocalypse is at hand and any minute now they would be secretly caught up in the air and leave this sorry world behind. If so, why oppose Trump? Perhaps Trump is the Rod of Iron meant to punish America of its many sins. If so, then we can’t and should not oppose him. America is being punished righteously.

    The sincere efforts of Cultural Reformation and Redeeming the Cities are on a collision course with Biblical prophesy about man’s increasing sinfulness at the End Times. I see Trump as this generation’s Tower of Babel.


  4. “Evangelical”….what a messy term. Yet we find so many theonomic type / take dominion/ culture warrior types that habitually want to identify with “Evangelical” (having there cake and eating it too) yet continue to get the cart before the horse. They seem addicted to the theology of glory (culture wars) rather than the theology of the Cross. As in this rather tone deaf article.

    What Mr. Joel Belz and many others need to come to terms with is that these “Evangelicals” have not disappeared, they are right where they have always been in the same churches that won them over to a different gospel, to a culture warrior Jesus and all manner of beliefs which habitually get the gospel wrong.

    I’m with ya on wanting to turn my “evangelical” card in. It is also like Michael Corleone, ” just when I thought I was out they pull me back in”. 🙂


  5. If I remember right, Sasse went back to being Lutheran when he became president of that Lutheran college and then swallowed up that other college, but I could be wrong.

    The Reformed Baptists are not really Baptists, and the Lutherans are not “evangelicals”, and Carl Truman writes as a “catholic” when he writes for First Things, but Mike Horton is an “evangelical” when he represents that collective against Trump.

    Oliver O Donovan —”Simone Wei proposed, in her wartime tract The Need for Roots, that it should be prohibited to PUBLISH ANY OPINION ON ANY SUBJECT IN THE NAME OF A COLLECTIVE BODY. “


  6. Philip Cary an Anglican who teaches at an “evangelical” (Eastern) college but who is Anglican with a Lutheran /Augustinian theology—“What the sacramental word tells me is not: “You must believe” (a command we must choose to obey) but “Christ died for you” (good news that causes us to believe). It is sufficient to know that Christ’s body is given for me. If I cling to that in faith, all will go well with me. And whenever the devil suggests otherwise, I keep returning to that sacramental Word, and to the “for us” in the creed, where the “us” includes me. Thus precisely the kind of faith that is insufficient to get me admitted to the Reformed sacrament

    Cary is not the only theologian who equates assurance that we will continue to believe with having a “theology of glory”. He thinks even “old school” Reformed folks are in danger of becoming “evangelicals”

    Cary—“Mere belief in the truth of the creed and trust in my baptism—is all the faith I have. If Luther is right, it is all the faith I can ever have, and all the faith I need. The Reformed tradition generates pastoral problems that cannot be helped by the sacrament, because neither word nor sacrament can assure me that I have true saving faith. “


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