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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. 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. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    59 replies to "Evangelicalism in One Simple Chart"

    • z

      I’m a little confused about what the future to ancient arrows are supposed to mean?

    • C Michael Patton

      We are rooted in the past, finding identification with those who have gone before us, but we are not stuck in a rut of irrelevancy. This is a very hard balance to keep.

    • John

      What’s an example of being stuck in a rut of irrelevance? What used to be relevant, but now is not?

    • C Michael Patton

      Liturgy in a language that no one understands. Requiring people read only from KJV. Not allowing for changes is music. Failing to know the difference between form and function. Functions stay the same but the form is elastic.

    • John

      I would certainly agree with the language thing. What do you mean by not allowing changes in music? Are you saying that music becomes irrelevant with time?

      And what examples do you have about form and function?

    • C Michael Patton

      Allowing for wholistic learning through, say, integration of technological function and seeing advancements as a gift.

      One church I know of will not allow the music to be placed on PowerPoint slides. Another does not know allow any instruments to be electronic. Some don’t allow Sat services. The function in each of these is worship or the gathering together of believers. The form is the how when and where which Evangelicalism does not see intrinsically tied to the Gospel message. It is very elastic and can house a variety of traditions and methods so long as the form of such things does not become dogmatized.

    • C Michael Patton

      Also, “personal” refers to the need for a personal relationship with Christ (i.e. faith does not get inherited from your family or church). One has to know Christ and establish a relationship with him.

    • John

      But… Surely you’re not saying that if a church simply does not want overhead slides or instruments it is therefore somehow becoming irrelevant. Why are instruments better than no instruments ipso facto?

    • C Michael Patton

      No. Not at all. It is simply if they have a philosophical or theological allergy toward such things, they are not representative of this aspect of evangelicalism.

    • John

      Lets say I have a philosophical objection to instruments because people become too dependent on them, and worship can’t take place unless you have a massive pipe organ, or a whole amp and sound system set up, and all the musicians who can operate it, whereas using voice only music means worship can take place without a special quorum of elite musicians turning up. Does that philosophical objection make one non-evangelical?

    • C Michael Patton

      Well, it depends on how essential it is to them. If it is their opinion and they see it adiapha, then no issue. One can be Evangelical and believe that certain forms are better than others so long as they are not “dogmatized.”

    • C Michael Patton

      adiaphora

    • John

      And how would you be able to recognize when it is dogmatised? I mean, take one of these big rock band style evangelical denominations. I picture myself as part of the leadership committee suggesting we hold a service without instruments, and it having about zero chance of getting up. I’d imagine part of the discussion would sound like this “the people have come to expect this type of music, and won’t accept or want what you propose”.

    • C Michael Patton

      Whenever you separate and lose unity from another church denomination or tradition based on an adiaphora is when it has been dogmatized to the degree that one loses the evangelical distinction (at least in this particular area).

    • John

      How do you recognize this loss of unity?

    • C Michael Patton

      It can be subtle or explicit. Some outright claim that other churches are not true churches or call call their salvation or spirituality into question. More subtly, some just snub other fellowships and don’t invited them to lunch. I know of some traditions and denominations that have churches right next to each other and the pastors have never met!

    • John

      So… The Regulatory Principle of the Reformed churches, that holds that it is wrong to use musical instruments… are the reformed churches non evangelical, or are they evangelical as long they invite each other to lunch and don’t question the salvation of other denominations? It is ok to have theological objections to instruments or not? It would be interesting of you say reformed churches are non evangelical.

    • mbaker

      John,

      i believe you are arguing against a non-essential point regarding orthodoxy. That is quite different than dogmatism, which stresses non essentials over orthodoxy, believed by a certain group, like what translation of the Bible to use, or what type of music to perform, or the hyper-charismatic fringe. Folks can take their choices in those instances but we cannot dismiss orthodoxy because of what they believe. I certainly don’t think that was what Michael was trying to say.

    • John

      Michael: “Well, I don’t think they accept the evangelical distinction but so long as they don’t ostracize other churches or denominations I would qualify as such (so long as the meet the other distinctives). ”

      Interesting that the mother ship of Protestantism, the reformed churches and Westminster confession et al is contrary to the evangelical distinctives.

      So… My Orthodox priest recently attended an Anglican Church service. Does it mean I am an evangelical?

    • mbaker

      John.

      You said:

      “Interesting that the mother ship of Protestantism, the reformed churches and Westminster confession et al is contrary to the evangelical distinctives).”

      How so specifically? It is one thing to say that but another to produce proof, other than fringe dogmaticism.

    • John

      mbaker: not sure what you’re saying. Michael conceded that the reformed churches don’t accept an evangelical distinctive by holding to the Regulatory Principle. What part of that you take issue with isn’t clear.

    • C Michael Patton

      So long as you meet all the distinctives in the Chart. There is a lot of freedom in Orthodoxy to go to maximalism or essentialism. Maximalist of any denomination would obviously not qualify.

      Remember the Ruperdus Milendes creed: “In essentials unity…”

    • C Michael Patton

      I consider Bradley Nassif to be evangelical even though I asked him one day if he considered himself to be and he said he could not as a distinctive he saw was identity with Protestantism. I understood his point but I think he missed the bigger picture of what evangelicalism is all about.

    • mbaker

      John,

      Wlth all due respect, I think you are making some accusations but dodging the real question. What it is that you are specifically disagreeing with here?

    • John

      mbaker, I don’t know that my aim is to “disagree”. I’m just observing that Michael has defined the Reformed churches as lacking evangelical distinctives, and has defined Eastern Orthodox ( or at least most of them) to be evangelical.

    • John

      I might also observe that RCs with their “separated brethren” theology would also seem to now be evangelicals. I guess almost everyone is now evangelicals.

    • William Orris

      Mike, John, mbaker, I would be interested in how or where any of you might fasten the term “relevant” that is often used to describe or justify what we do today within the Evangelical Church and where it might appear on the Wheel?

    • John

      William: I think Michael’s view of “relevant” is continually adapting the church to the latest fads, so that the church looks exactly the same as the world, same music, use of technology, etc etc. I think Eastern Orthodox would say this is what makes the church irrelevant. If the church looks exactly like the world, just like a secular rock concert, then why go? There is no sense if the other worldly, no sense that it is different.

    • Dale

      ONLY scripture!

      Oh, and also: our two favorite catholic creeds.

      So, NOT only scripture.

      Semper Reformanda!

      Except when it comes to the extremely confusing formulas drafted in 325 and 451, by catholic bishops and the emperor, who of course have no special authority. Keep repeating those, or you’re out. And don’t ask too many questions about them. We know that no one will ever come up with a better interpretation of the scriptures than they did.

      Sigh.

    • mbaker

      John,

      I still want you to answer my question and stop blaming it upon CMP’s answer, however flawed you may it is.

      Please be more specific if you want your own comments to be taken seriously here. I am always ready to listen to both sides of the story as long as they are not ad hominem, without any basis in fact.

    • Recovering

      Too much included on this chart, IMO. I like your other charts better.

    • John

      mbaker: I don’t know what you want. You accused me of disagreeing with something, and I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

    • mbaker

      John,

      I am not accusing you of anything except for being more specific in your reasons for objecting to this post.

    • John

      What objection are you referring to mbaker?

    • C Michael Patton

      John,

      I Catholics cannot be evangelical due to sola Scriptura.

      Churches that don’t use instruments would only be non-evangelical I they break fellowship and/or call into question the legitimacy of a church that disagrees. Reformed Churches normally don’t. Do you have any info saying that the Reformed churches break fellowship with those who disagree?

    • C Michael Patton

      The “semper reformanda” distinctive is very closely tied with “future”. The church is reformed and always reforming give latitude in our ecclesiology. Some people (such as Scott McKnight and Daniel B Wallace) believe that ecclesiology is the weakest part of evangelicalism. But to standardize is for the tradition as a who would break with the founding constitution to some degree. Therefore, we must stick the Alister McGrath who believes that the reason why evangelical Protestantism has fluoride to such a degree is due to it elasticity. I agree but the elasticity does not extend into its distinctives, doctrinal or otherwise.

    • C Michael Patton

      Stupid I phone. I could not even understand that last comment.

    • mbaker

      John,

      I think you know full well what i am referring to. If you don’t then you are clueless and just commenting here to to make your personal opinions known without any real back-up. So I will ignore your posts until you can do that, without playing the innocent victim.

      That simply does not work with me.

    • John

      Michael: ” I agree but the elasticity does not extend into its distinctives, doctrinal or otherwise.”

      But I thought not being dogmatic about stuff like instruments was a distinctive. You conceded reformed churches break that distinctive. Now you seem to be saying if you break a distinctive, you are not evangelical. Why do the reformed get a free ride on this, but Catholics don’t get a free ride on sola scriptura?

      Also, why does sola scriptura form a key non negotiable point whereas being dogmatic on instruments does not? After all, sola scriptura is at best, not particularly clear in scripture, and you’ve struggled mightily to state your position on tradition. In fact, if Catholics are out because if tradition, I’m not entirely sure whether you should be out too, since you claim to put a lot of stock in it. It’s a very subtle point to get kicked out on.

      mbaker: I’m just asking questions.

    • mbaker

      John,

      Then answer them as well as they are asked of you.

      Thanks.

    • John

      BTW Michael, do you consider Brasley Nassif a sola scripuraist?

      mbaker: asking about my objection when I didn’t make one is a “when did you stop beating your wife?” question .

    • C Michael Patton

      I already said the instruments do not qualify. Ones dogmatism must lead to separation. Catholics don’t qualify. Remember the Pope?

      Maggie seems to he’d to SS billing pull themselves in for the.

    • John

      “Ones dogmatism must lead to separation. Catholics don’t qualify. Remember the Pope?”

      Yeah but you defined separation as not going to lunch together and questioning each others salvation. Since Rome talks about “separated brethren” and the pope is seen lunching with even the Dalai Llama, there doesn’t seem to be separation by your definition thereof.

    • C Michael Patton

      No. You missed it. There is also the saying other churches are not legitimate churches. Rome does not qualify.

    • Pete again

      Hi CMP,

      I’m sure that 99% of Protestant Evangelicals would NOT agree with the original Nicene-Constantinople Creed.

      Therefore, I don’t think that it belongs on your chart.

      Should I elaborate?

    • anonymous

      so grateful for “the good news” we have. thanks for the great chart and discussion

      we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose we labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within us. Col 1:28-29 for we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Rom 12: 5

    • Dave Z

      Wow, this one’s fun so far. Michael, that’s a pretty fancy chart. New software?

      And either you’re (generously) mixing some Bailey’s into your morning latte or your phone’s predictive text is getting the better of you…”Maggie seems to he’d to SS billing pull themselves in for the.”

      Regarding relevancy (for those who questioned it), young people, especially, value technology. It’s been integrated into their lives from the first day they watched a Barney show. Most of them have never heard music that wasn’t based around electric/electronic instruments. It’s who they are and all their friends are just like them. So when they see a group of people, say, a church, who reject technology such as electric instruments or PowerPoint, the first thing they think is “These people don’t know anything about who I am, I can’t relate to them, so why should I listen to them?” And the church becomes irrelevant to them.

      Regarding the charge that such things make the church looks just like the world, maybe it does. So what? If you look at two people, one a believer, one not, they look pretty much the same. How ’bout that? Believers look just like unbelievers. You’d never tell the difference just by looking because it’s internal. It’s what they believe that makes the difference, not what they look like. Same with churches.

    • C Michael Patton

      That was weird. It must have been something about Sola Scriptura that Catholics reject and are therefore disqualified.

    • C Michael Patton

      Pete, its an aspiration.

    • cherylu

      Oh, the mixed blessings of modern technology! Gotta love it. (Or maybe not.)

      I shut my predictive text feature off. It got the best of me too many times.

    • John

      Michael: “No. You missed it. There is also the saying other churches are not legitimate churches. Rome does not qualify.”

      Who is saying who is not legitimate Michael? I think its you who is saying Rome doesn’t qualify. Which is ironic, because you said the Reformed are ok IF they don’t go so far as to be bad guys and question the legitimacy of other churches. But I think you question the legitimacy of Rome, and toss them out, thereby making yourself non-evangelical!

      Dave Z: Maybe you’re right, but maybe you’re not. Do you want the church’s legitimacy to come from “understanding who you are” via use of electric guitars etc? That makes the church’s legitimacy on the same level as listening to AC/DC because they also “understand who they are”. Or does legitimacy come from having a counter-cultural message that they can’t get elsewhere?

    • Dave Z

      @John: Understanding who they are opens the door to communicate the message. It’s a way of speaking their language.

    • Irene

      Michael,

      you said up in #14,
      –“Whenever you separate and lose unity from another church denomination or tradition based on an adiaphora is when it has been dogmatized to the degree that one loses the evangelical distinction (at least in this particular area).”–

      If this is true, doesn’t this disqualify almost every Protestant denomination, including non-denominationalism, from your definition of evangelical? If you separate over “nonessentials”, you’re not evangelical? OK, then why, now, do all these Protestant churches call their differences “nonessentials” and their basic similarities “essentials”? Did they really split over nonessentials? Then they can’t now use this definition of evangelical to describe themselves. (Or else what used to be an essential is now a nonessential, and that doesn’t sound good at all.)
      Or what am I missing??

      ——

      I can tell this business of calling Protestant churches “illegitimate churches” or “ecclesiastical communities” really irks you.
      [btw, this site has also used “Fundies” and “Roman Catholic” despite that not being what those groups call themselves. I’ve tried to make the correction about the RC thing, but have just learned to live with it. Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.]
      I think there’s a difference of def on the term “church”. Maybe you equate church with a gathering of believers? (I’m not trying to put words in your mouth.) The pope has a diffferent def that must include apostolic succession. So when he says you’re not a church, that’s not the same as saying you’re not believers.

      —–

      That creed, “in essentials unity…” Couldn’t anybody say that? Of course pretty much anybody would be flexible with what they consider nonessential. I think what really matters is what the essentials actually are, and who says so.
      So is the Nicene Creed really an essential of Evangelicalism?

    • Pete again

      John said: “Maybe you’re right, but maybe you’re not. Do you want the church’s legitimacy to come from “understanding who you are” via use of electric guitars etc? That makes the church’s legitimacy on the same level as listening to AC/DC because they also “understand who they are”. Or does legitimacy come from having a counter-cultural message that they can’t get elsewhere?”

      Oh John, you are so dramatic! Oh the hyperbole! “Oh, they will start to play AC/DC to stay relevant!”

      Settle down! Calm down! That will NEVER happen in church that calls itself Evangelical…they will never jump the shark and go that far.

      Take a chill pill.

      Um…on second thought…never mind what I said John, time to panic:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vUt4pJgHZQ

      (Where do we fit this in CMP’s Circle of Trust diagram?)

    • John

      Pete: I never said the church would play ac dc. I said if the church’s relevance comes from playing music that’s similar to the world, then it’s authority is on the same level as ACDC.

    • mbaker

      Irene,

      You said:

      “The pope has a diffferent def that must include apostolic succession. So when he says you’re not a church, that’s not the same as saying you’re not believers.”

      While I understand your strong belief in the Catholic church as your church, that does not mean others who form a church are not one in Christ’s eyes. It only requires belief in Him, and we are a church, because we are HIS body, of whom the head is HIM and him alone, That is His definition of a church, not an apostle, not even the Pope or any other denomination who declares otherwise.

    • Irene

      Mbaker,
      My intent is to point out the difference in terms.

    • mbaker

      Irene,

      Please define the difference in “terms, as you put it, as to what I have spelled out, not just your beliefs as a Catholic.

    • Irene

      Mbaker,

      Sure. When you say the word “church” and the pope says the word “church”, you both may pronounce it the same and spell it the same, but you don’t mean the same thing. You define “church” as any gathering of believers, as you said in your comment just above. The pope defines “church” as, in a nutshell, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. The Apostolic means that the “church” has apostolic succession / valid holy orders /priests descended from the apostles, and therefore valid sacraments. So according to the Catholic def, Protestant “churches” are not true churches. I don’t think you would even want to fit that definition.

      I’m not particularly trying to defend that def now, although I do agree with it. I’m just pointing out that when you’re dealing with terms like church, illegitimate church, and ecclesiastical community, it helps to be specific and know exactly what each other are talking about.

      Just like, is Pluto a planet? Depends on which definition you use. Are Protestant “churches” true churches? Depends on whose definition you use. So the pope is not calling you unbelievers, or saying you have no connection to God, he’s saying you don’t fit the Catholic def of “church”, which is more than a gathering of believers.
      Make sense?

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