It would seem that every so often designations lose their value. I have talked about this much in this blog as I have lamented the demise of evangelicalism. I have watched the roots of evangelicalism rot, splinter, dry out, and die. I am was an evangelical. I find that it is hard to call myself such without dying the death of a thousand qualifications as I attempt to disassociate my designation of this tradition from the aberrant free-church, modern, postmodern, entertainment driven, and emerging nuances that haved turned the rich traditions of evangelicalism into something that no longer represents what it once meant. If Joel Osteen, R.C. Sproul, Benny Hinn, Chuck Swindoll, Oral Roberts, J.P. Moreland, T.D. Jakes, Jimmy Carter, Billy Graham, Brian Mclaren, Pat Robertson, and John Piper all distinguish themselves as evangelicals, then we must admit that the disignation both means everything and nothing at the same time.

It is no one’s fault I suppose. These things just happen. “The Coming Evangelical Crisis” came without warning. A lot of warning. It is a crisis indeed.

I have sat as a spectator of the emerging church. I have agreed with much of their assessment of the current situation of the day. I have agreed with them that the evangelical church is either focusing too much on non-essentials or has no focus at all. I have had hopes that this tradition might morph into something of value and dignity. But as of late it has become increasingly (and painfully) obvious that this tradition has a root of bitterness that is causing it to submerge into the depths of obscurity and irreverence. I have tried to submerge with it in hopes that the anchor of compromise might be losened. But the anchor is connected to the stern and it’s threads are not breaking. I have even been working on a blog in which I was going to argue that the values that birthed the emerging church look identical to the values that birthed 20th century evangelicalism. Come what may of this blog, I believe that the emerging church has sunk and it is beyond rescue. It lays at the bottom of the ocean right next to the once mighty ship of the liberal church. Modern and postmodern at rest together.

Yet, in my mind, all is not lost. There is hope. There is always hope. We may not have a name any longer, but there is the continued and growing presence of an ethos among those who recognize the need for progression and stability in Christianity. This ethos is shared by those who understand the deep roots of evangelicalism which extend through the passions of great Reformation into the committment of the early church. It is shared by those who find themselves in the history of the church and the Scriptures. These desire to pioneer the church into the next generation, not by settling for existing designations that, while rich, lack the ability to move forward, but by a true sense of semper reformanda (always reforming). This is an ethos that reforms by becoming incarnate to the culture without sacraficing doctrine or tradition that makes the church different. Aren’t we supposed to be different? Isn’t light different than darkness?

Can I start a new tradition? Well, not really a new tradition, but a new designation that represents the ethos of so many of those who have gone before us. If I can, I will call this tradition “Historic Evangelicalism.” Yes, it is not really different, but it is really different. The “Historic” qualifies “Evangelical” so that people don’t mistake that this tradition is rooted in history. Not only will this tradition be Gospel-focused and Christ-centered, not only will it be theologically robust and biblically literate, not only will the Scriptures be the final authority and non-essential issues be non-essential, but you will have to traverse the halls of church history to arrive at the lecturn. The “historic” will anchor us as we humbly recognize those who have gone before us upon who’s shoulders we stand. The “evangelical” will push us forward as the Gospel of Christ necessitates Christ’s incarnation through the church into whatever culture we find ourselves. The “historic” will give us permission to recognize the value of tradition as guide and teacher that joins our hands with the saints of the past. The “evangelical” will allow us to develop in our understanding as God’s revelation becomes clearer through the development of doctrine. The “historic” will ensure that we are consulting Augustine. The “evangelical” will ensure that we are conversing with our neighbor.

I am not Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Fundementalist, Evangelical, Baptist, Presbytarian, Lutheran, Anglican, non-denominational, or an emerger. I am a “Historic Evangelical.”

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    4 replies to "Can I Just Start a New Tradition?"

    • Geoff

      I have forsaken Evangelicalism for Christianity (Acts 11:26)

    • Kara Kittle

      Why not? There was no Calvinism before John Calvin. Or no Lutherism before Martin Luther. We all have an individual walk with Christ and understand Him where we are. If you want to start a new tradition I don’t see anything wrong with it. As long as it follows Truth and you are led by the Holy Spirit.

      But wait, we do have new traditions…

      worship in our car is ok while we are driving even to places we know we should not go.

      eating pizza while doing a quasi-Bible study

      using movies to explain God


      So it appears we have entered into a new area of Christianity based on technology. We have RSS feeds that is the absolute latest words from our religious leaders and now I learn that people Twitter the sermons and ask text messages. After 2,000 years we see the way worship has changed. Imagine just relying only on spoken word…would we believe?

      But Pattonism? I am sure right now the anti-Pattonists are sharpening their claws. But I don’t see why not. I mean there was no Moses before Moses. So if God calls you into why not?

    • Peter Jordan

      I was an “evangelical” as well. I now am Orthodox. I think history will lead you there as it led Jaroslav Pelikan, if you follow the history of the Church & how we got where are. I am not an evangelical but I am Evangelical.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.