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entertainment driven, and emerging nuances that haved turned the rich traditions of evangelicalism into something that no longer represents what it once meant.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.
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.”