Blogs are about thoughts, rants, opinions, and sometimes irresponsibly rash statements. Well, this post may be identified as any or all of those.

What has become of evangelicalism? Maybe I am naive and my few years of experience and identification with the “movement” is not enough to ask the question “what has become?” but my thoughts are there.

What has become of evangelicalism? Ask the average evangelical what kind of a Christian they are and they will probably say, “I am one who follows the Bible literally.” What does that mean? It means that they believe what the Scriptures teach. This is truly something that is noble, and when the Scriptures are understood correctly and believed, this is from God. Ask the average evangelical where their beliefs come from and, of course, they will say the Scriptures. This is indeed good so long as they interpret the Scriptures correctly. Ask the average evangelical, who they are accountable to, and you will hear the echo of the same, “I am accountable to the Word of God.” This is indeed hopeful so long as the Word of God that they read is mediated through an untainted interpretation. Ask the average evangelical to whom they are accountable for their interpretation, they will most certainly say that they are accountable to the Holy Spirit as He bears witness of the truth. This has credit so long as it is the Holy Spirit that is guiding them. Ask the average evangelical how they know that it is the Holy Spirit guiding them in their understanding and there will probably be a period of silence. Finally the response will come, “I just know. When the truth comes to you, you just know.” This is not good.

What has become of evangelicalism? Maybe I am naively hopeful about the movement that in so many ways is so full of hope, life, and love. Maybe I am not jumping ship because of the binding of my traditions. Maybe the lines are being blurred in my mind because of the true rich tradition of true evangelicalism.

What has become of evangelicalism? Ask the average evangelical about the history of the Church and they may tell you about their first building campaign. Ask the average evangelical about Martin Luther and they will speak of the civil rights activist. Ask the average evangelical about the way church should be done and they will speak of “big church” and Sunday school.

What has become of evangelicalism? How did we lose respect for the Holy Spirit through our arrogance and disrespect for the His movements? When did our Independence become greater than His? How did we lose respect for the Church through our individualism? How did we lose respect for Ireneaus, Athanasius, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Basil the Great, Martin Luther, and the like? When did the Holy Spirit quit working through them? When did the Holy Spirit limit Himself to us? When did God’s light get restricted to our tradition?

What has become of evangelicalism? How many can define and defend their beliefs historically? How many better reflect the mentality and arrogance of the restorationist movements such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses? (At least they recognize that their movement is novel.)

What has become of evangelicalism? How many of us can define the movement beyond the moral majority of the eighties? When did the twenty-first century evangelical subculture become the theo-utopia? How did we get such a big God in such a small box? When did the evangelical box become so small? Who created this box?

What has become of evangelicalism? Ask the average evangelical this question and the word “become” will find no relevance. Popular evangelicalism has become a mentality that does not ask the past for advice.

What has become of evangelicalism? How many years of life do we have left?

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

    8 replies to "What has Become of Evangelicalism? An Evangelical’s Lament"

    • jntowers

      Would it be too succinct an answer to say that evangelicalism has become American-ized? i.e. overly emotion-based, shortsighted – both forward and historically, needing instant gratification, having to have everything in terms that are palatable and understandable to our feeble minds, etc….

    • C Michael Patton

      Nathan, that is a good insight. I do think that what we are talking about is American evangelicalism.

    • Chad Winters

      I mostly agree Michael, but I think part of the issue is in the phrase: “The average evangelical”, who I assume would be similar to “the average Christian”. I’m not sure but it seems likely that similar answer would be had from “average Christians” since nearly the founding of the Church. There have always been more milk drinkers than meat eaters as paul would have put it.

      If you asked these question to a 1950’s christian grocery store owner, would he have done better? If you asked them of a 12th century peasant, would he have done better?

      I don’t know…..I do think evangelicals need to readopt something like the Catuchemen where new believers are given the basics of the faith. The present method of getting them to “pray the Prayer” and then listening to random sermons on Sunday for the rest of their life does not give a basic foundation. Sermons are primarily for exhortation and devotion not basic teaching, its like giving some the trimmings and interior and wall hangings for their house without a foundation or walls to hang them on.

    • C Michael Patton

      Chad, I do think you are right. But the issue is that we adopt the name “evangelical” to say something distinct. We are not just Christians, but we are evangelical Christian. My lament come mostly from an understanding of what the distinction “evangelical” is supposed to mean.

    • Chad Winters

      ahhhh…..I have to admit I have never really been sure what evangelical was supposed to mean. Does it mean “serious” or “devout” or “mature” or “protestant” or “non cultural” or non-worldly”?

      the root would mean someone who evangelizes, but that is not the way it is used. I
      I need to do more study of the history of evangelicalism myself.

    • James Snapp Jr

      Dear Michael,

      Hmm; I happened to notice that it looks like while you were writing this,
      the Internet Monk guy (Michael Spencer) was writing something about
      the good and promising traits of evangelicalism, at
      (or you can just visit and scroll down to the article).

      It was interesting to contrast and consider both essays. You may find his
      comments mildly encouraging.

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.

    • C Michael Patton

      Yes, I did see that. I was encouraging. He also posted a link to this post.

    • James-the-lesser

      Evangelicalism? There ain’t no such animal. What does Robert Schuller have in common with John MacArthur? Even Billy Graham has been quoted as saying, “Evangelicalism is a great mosaic God is building, but if you asked me to, I’d have a hard time giving you a definition of what it is today.”

      Mind you, this is the same Graham about whom Martin Marty writes, evangelicals can be defined as “people who find Billy Graham or his viewpoints acceptable.”

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