Roger Olson posted an excellent article by Mike Clawson (hubby of Julie Clawson) on his blog last week. It was about the fundamentalist roots of evangelicalism and their contemporary implications. In the comments (and Roger always has tons of comments) Olson reminded everyone of an article he wrote 12 years ago for Christianity Today. I subscribed to CT back then and remembered the article. I went back and found it but what I did not remember was just how contentious things were.
In the article Olson is trying to fight off criticisms from the ultra-reformed, or rabbid-Calvinist wing of the Evangelical camp. Folks like MacArthur, Piper, Driscoll, and Mohler – besides being continuously contentious – are always throwing around words like heresy and orthodoxy at folks like Olson, Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren (all former pod guests).
Here is the thing: there is no Evangelical Orthodoxy
I love reading books like Revisioning Evangelical Theology by Stanley Grenz, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage by Donald Dayton, History of Evangelical Theology by Roger Olson. I was part of the the Lussane gathering of young leaders in Malaysia. I was very vocal last summer that Evangelical is not only a political term but has deep theological implications and is inherently and historically theological (I used Bebbington’s 4 indicators) .
But there are two things I think need to be clear:
I got a book called the Evangelical Catechism. It is a compilation of consensus beliefs from 200 leaders, pastors, and thinkers that were surveyed. I like the book – but that is not the same as a catechism! We have no Pope, no ability to call a council, no catechism … so we need to knock it off with the “Orthodox” insistence and throwing around the word “heresy”. LOOK: there actually is an ‘Orthodox’ church and they think that the likes of Driscoll, MacArthur, and Piper (as well as the rest of us) has lost their way! *
1) There is no evangelical catechism and there is no evangelical orthodoxy! I proposed earlier this week that a dynamic conversation is the best we can hope for (I am partial to the Wesleyan quadrilateral). Can we have consensus? Ok. Can we have conversation? Absolutely. Is there a governing body to enforce your brand of ‘orthodoxy’? NO – so knock it off. Get some new words in your vocab. Think of some other ways to say what you want to say and stop pretending like you believe only what the early church believed. It fantasy at best and delusion at worst.
2) You can’t kick me out of the family. We all have siblings that think we are off and even wrong. Some brothers don’t talk to each other for years … but they are still family. That is not what determines if you are a part of a family! It is not how it works. So snuggle up sister! We are in this together, like it or not, we have the same parent, we were birthed through the same water, and we have the same blood. We don’t have to agree on everything – but stop trying to kick me out of the ‘fam’ bro! We are in this for eternity.
Now I know someone will come along and say “I told you its a meaningless term” … but I want to say
Hey Mr. Jones – if you don’t want to be evangelical that is fine. But some of us call this family and it means a lot to us. If you are done with the term, fine. But to us it has deep meaning we still use it as a family name. If you don’t count yourself as a member anymore – that is your call. But stop telling us who are inside the conversation that Evangelical doesn’t mean anything. It does to us.
We may not have a catechism or an actual orthodoxy, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t a living branch on the family tree.
I also shared some thoughts about Christian unity and conformity on a TNT episode.
* I appreciate the real Orthodox and have learned much from them.