Evangelicalism is not perfect. No informed person should make such a claim. Evangelicalism has its problems—big ones. This is nothing new. But I believe the strengths of Evangelicalism outweigh the weaknesses and present a better option than any other tradition. Otherwise, we would not be Evangelical!

While I often write about the weaknesses of Evangelicalism, sometimes complaining about our shames and blind spots, I want to do something different here. I am going to give a short list of what I believe to be the major strengths of Evangelicalism and why I believe Evangelicalism is still the best option:

1. Evangelicalism can celebrate diversityin necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. This is the dictum of Rupertus Meldenius (often mistakenly attributed to Augustine) which presents Evangelicalism’s celebration of unity and diversity. It means, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Evangelicals, I believe, like no other Christian tradition, can appreciate and celebrate diversity while at the same time adhering to a unifying center. Whether it be in worship style or liturgy, house churches or mega churches, Evangelicals recognize that all people are not alike and that there is room for subjective preferences. Evangelicalism, as a movement, cannot prescribe or proscribe the way people should be in areas that are based in non-essential personal preferences. We can recognize that God has created people differently—and this was intentional. If people have a personality that does not respond well to one style of worship, they are free to celebrate their diversity without feeling the obligation of adapting their style to some traditional norm.

As well, when it comes to non-cardinal issues of the Christian faith such as mode of baptism, belief about end times, views of creation, or even one’s view of predestination, Evangelicalism is not dogmatic. This does not mean that Evangelicals, such as me, do not or cannot have strong convictions in these areas: it just means that we recognize their relative importance in comparison to cardinal beliefs such as the person and work of Christ. Therefore, to be Evangelical is to be able to allow for and even, in many cases, celebrate diversity.

2. Evangelicalism promotes true conviction: Evangelicalism, representative of historic Protestantism, is built upon a distrust of one man’s or one institution’s ability to infallibly be dogmatic regarding truth to the exclusion of one’s personal convictions. In other words, Evangelicals hold to the position that belief cannot be outsourced to any human authority or tradition. Evangelicals believe that truth must be “adduced” by the individual before it can be truly believed. It is not that Evangelicals don’t recognize or respect authorities other than themselves, but that they understand that belief is ultimately an internal act of an individual’s will which requires true personal conviction. Evangelicals recognize the risk of “putting a Bible in everyone’s hands.” We recognize that in doing so we are allowing for the possibility of error and heresy. But we also recognize that the possibility of true conviction necessitates the possibility of error. In this, it is worth the risk. The personal conviction, however, should be fueled and fed from trusted outside sources, but, in the end, those outside sources cannot make the decisions for us. Therefore, in my opinion, Evangelicalism allows for true conviction more than any other Christian tradition.

3. Evangelical allowance of true scholarship: Closely connected to the second is the allowance of true scholarship. (Here is where I am really going to get into trouble.) Evangelicals are not under a necessary mandate to conform to a particular traditional system. The scholarship produced in biblical studies and theology is not an exercise in confirming an established tradition of dogma. If one were simply to enter scholarship to prove what a tradition mandates they prove, scholarship would become an exercise in confirming prejudice. This is not true scholarship.

Evangelicals are free to question, search, deny, confirm, doubt, and change to an extent that dogmatic traditions are not. Again, this is risky, but, in the end, it does not mandate a certain conclusion and can evaluate the evidence more objectively. In other words, Evangelicals don’t have to be lawyers defending a client of tradition, but they are instead investigators of truth. They can be critical scholars. Whether or not we always practice this is a different matter. But the issue is one of allowance. Evangelicals can be critical scholars who are willing to let the evidence take them wherever it leads, not simply to a predetermined destination. Therefore, I believe Evangelicals can practice true scholarship to a degree that other traditions cannot.

4. Evangelicalism is still evangelical. What I mean is that Evangelicalism is still committed to the spread of the Gospel more than any other Christian tradition. Evangelicals, with all their faults, do consistently present the need to have a personal conversion to Christ. I think that Evangelicalism still recognizes the problem and solution better than others. We are sinners who are in need of rescue. The cross is the apex of history, and we must personally have a conversion experience by trusting in Christ as our Lord and Savior. The focus is not the church, liturgy, or traditions.

I think that these reasons provide the basis for why I believe Evangelicalism will always remain strong even in the midst of our weaknesses. Also, please understand that it is the “spirit” of Evangelicalism about which I am speaking, not the nomenclature. In other words, even if the designation “Evangelical” were to go out of vogue (which could be the case), the spirit of Evangelicalism will always remain.

Please understand, too, that I respect other Christian traditions. I love the faith and stance of all those who, traditionally or not, are Christocentric, believing Christ—the God-man—is the center of all things. But, I would hope that everyone might understand that I am Evangelical for a reason. I simply believe that it offers strengths that are stronger than the strengths of other traditions. I also believe that its weaknesses are not as weak as the weaknesses of other traditions.

It is because of this I believe Evangelicalism is still the best option.


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. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    120 replies to "Why Evangelicalism is Still the Best Option"

    • #John1453

      I’m a bit puzzled to be told that what I have been describing is fundamentalism rather than evangelicalism. I’ve referred to and quoted from documents and writers who purport (in their opinion at least) to be talking about evangelicals.

      It’s no surprise that evangelicals have been very conservative culturally and intellectually. Isn’t that why Carl Henry wrote his book in ’47? Evangelicals have not yet escaped those roots, though his and B. Graham’s work are now paying dividends. Nevertheless evangelical cultural has, for those reasons and others, not historically been one that celebrates diversity of any kind. The reformers, especially Luther, persecuted and killed my Mennonite forebears, though one couldn’t really call them “evangelicals” in the sense of evangelicals being a culturally distinct and identifiable group.

      As for Catholics, it is correct to say that they consider themselves the one “True” church (with a capital T), but that does not mean that they believe we are going to hell. The most recent relevant document on this is the one that the current pope released through the Vatican in 2007, in which it was stated that the Second Vatican Council’s opening to other faiths – including “ecclesial communities originating with the Reformation” – had recognised there were “many elements of sanctification and truth” in other Christian denominations, but had also emphasised that only Catholicism was fully Christ’s Church. The document said that other Christian faiths “lack elements considered essential to the Catholic Church”.

      Still, I guess the evangelicals are a bit better because we’ll at least allow a Catholic to take communion in church (even though a Catholic is not supposed to take communion anywhere except in a Catholic church). If the focus is solely on “True” church, then I agree that you are correct, but the problem is that evangelicals don’t use such conceptual categories or language so it ends up being a bit of an apples and oranges thing.

      Regards,
      #John

    • #John1453

      I’ll challenge all of CMP’s other points eventually, but at this juncture I only have time to add a comment about his point #4, that they are still evangelical, that is, spreading the Gospel.

      George Barna of The Barna Group has stated that “There does not seem to be revival taking place in America. Whether that is measured by church attendance, born again status, or theological purity, the statistics simply do not reflect a surge of any noticeable proportions.” Moreover, he has also found that “…evangelicals remain just 7% of the adult population. That number has not changed since the Barna Group began measuring the size of the evangelical public in 1994….less than one out of five born again adults (18%) meet the evangelical criteria.”

      The 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches found that the The Assemblies of God, the Mormon church and the Roman Catholic Church were the fastest-growing major denominations in the United States in the previous year. While the AoG have been a part of the National Association of Evangelicals since 1943, there is still the RCC growth that contradicts CMP’s point # 4 as being an evangelical distintive that makes it a better option.

      I do agree that evangelical is a good option, I just don’t agree that it’s the best option.

      regards,
      #John

    • EricW

      I do agree that evangelical is a good option, I just don’t agree that it’s the best option.

      regards,
      #John

      Okay, I’ll bite: What do you consider to be “the best option” (i.e., the one that is better than any other tradition), #John1453, or if there is not one, the ones that are better than Evangelicalism – and why?

    • John

      (1) A lot of the differences in evangelical worship come from doctrinal disagreements. Regulatory principle vs charismatic vs traditional and so on. Whilst evangelicals may in many cases accept differences as lower in importance than other things, that doesn’t prove that evangelicals “celebrate” this diversity.

      In any case, would Paul have “celebrated” setting up half a dozen churches in Corinth to suit everyone’s individual preferences? Seriously?

      (2) How is conviction more “true” in the bible as divine teaching than a conviction in the Church’s teachings as divine teachings? You assume your conclusion in labelling Holy Tradition as mere human teaching. Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, you should throw out the authority of scripture so that your convictions can be more “true”.

      (3) How is your commitment to the scriptures as the word of God (with all the necessary accompanying assumptions, such as traditional authorship, inerrancy of historical accounts etc), make you more open to scholarship? Rather, the object of your sacred turf is simply slightly different, but your sacred cows moo just like everyone else’s.

      In any case, the very act of being evangelical leads to the blind necessity to prove wrong things that fundamentally contradict being an evangelical. Things like the historicity of the episcopal apostolic succession. Here is a documentation of protestants dropping a doctrine because it conflicted with their pragmatic needs rather than true scholarship:
      http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/episcopacy-and-the-reformation/

      (4) What you win them with is what you win them to. If you are going to count in the evangelical camp all the populist movements that win people to easy believeism and prosperity gospels, and fundamentalist baptists and boston movement who think only they are saved, for all their enthusiasm, having travelled around on sea and land to make a proselyte; and when he becomes one, have they been made twice as much a son of hell? What evangelicaism is “spreading” seems to be an open question, since it morphs from one year to the next. Unless you want to narrow the term down to much smaller group, in which case it seems much more questionable if they are the most committed to the spread of the gospel.

    • mbaker

      John #1453,

      Normally, I admire your scholarship. but your number 3 seems to differ somewhat from your number #2.

      Could you please give more specific details as to what and why you consider the differences between the two to be?

      Thanks.

    • EricW

      mbaker:

      “John” and “#John1453” are two different persons, I believe.

      I may be wrong, but I think “John” is Eastern Orthodox.

    • mbaker

      Thanks, Eric W.

      #John 1453, if you are are not one and the same, I apologize.

      Perhaps the other John could elaborate.

    • #John1453

      “John”, who wrote post 54, is not the same as “#John”.

      I’ve been using #John1453 to differentiate myself from all the other John’s out there (John is North America’s most common male name). In fact, there is John with my same last name (but no relation, as far as I know) who is a convicted pedophile. Even weirder, he doesn’t live that far from me.

      I don’t think there is “a best option” out there. Certainly not one that is generally best. There may be a “best” for some people in relation to their personhood and unique life experiences, and there may be different “bests” at different times, but no overall best. And even if evangelicalism could lay a realistic claim to being the overall best, it wouldn’t be for the reasons set out by CMP.

      regards,
      #John

    • C Michael Patton

      Just got word this article will be posted on Patheos.com.

      Have not been able to keep up here since I left and am going to have to move on to other blogs.

      Thanks for the discussion folks. I like to engage on these comments every once in a while when I feel I need to.

    • #John1453

      Hmmm, from CMP’s latest post it appears that I have not made myself clear enough on Catholics and correct belief. So here goes again:

      1. There are beliefs that Catholics are supposed to adhere to, and many of those beliefs are uniquely Catholic. So I’m not saying that a Catholic is “free” to believe anything in the sense of being officially permitted to or in the sense that there are no doctrinal lines in the sand.

      2. However, having divergent, unorthodox or even heretical beliefs does not cause one to lose one’s membership in the Catholic church. People who support abortion, which the catholic church right on up to the pope and back down are officially and strongly against, are still catholics provided they don’t leave the church. The Kennedys, even Teddy, are still Catholics.

      That is very much unlike evangelicals. Evangelicals might still believe that Greg Boyd is saved, but most would not put him inside the evangelical camp, and many have tried to forceably evict him. Evangelicals, if they want to maintain their evangelical cred, most definitely cannot follow the evidence where it leads.

      Regards,
      #John

    • John

      mbaker: if your question was addressed to me, I don’t understand the question.

    • John

      “People who support abortion, which the catholic church right on up to the pope and back down are officially and strongly against, are still catholics provided they don’t leave the church.”

      I believe heresy gets you an automatic excommunication (Canon 1364). Given Canon 1389, I would expect that support of abortion would constitute heresy.

    • #John1453

      re post 62

      I’ve read that before (about the automatic excommunication). Technically true, but ignored in practice. Other than the recent case in Brazil, I’m unaware that anyone has been refused communion because of their stance on abortion. While that theology may put one’s soul in danger of an extended stay in purgatory it doesn’t, in practice, exclude one from taking communion or counting oneself as a Catholic. Moreover, my distinction between Catholics and evangelicals, contra CMP, still remains. Catholics will allow one to hold a wide range of beliefs while still allowing oneself to be counted a Catholic, whereas the same does not hold true for evangelicals. Cross one of the many evangelical shiboleths and one is no longer an evangelical, regardless of which church one attends, or what one’s personal life or actions are like.

      regards,
      #John

    • #John1453

      Re points 2 & 3 of CMP’s post

      Evangelicalism does not promote true conviction any more than other branches of Christianity, nor does it allow true scholarship.

      Bishop J. Shelby Spong is still an episcopalian, even though he holds to and promotes several heretical views (heretical to evangelicals, RCCs, pentecostals, and Orthodox). If he had started out as an evangelical, he wouldn’t be one now. But he is still an episcopalian. Hence, in the episcopal church (and in any mainline protestant church) there is far more elbow room to do true scholarship and to pursue the evidence where one thinks it leads than there is in any branch of evangelicalism.

      One of several areas where evangelicals cannot follow the evidence where it leads relates to Biblical historicity, the relationship of the Bible to contemporary ancient literature, and (in)errancy. As Peter Enns puts it, the evangelical response is essentially “Sure Israelite literature looks a lot like uninspired ancient texts, but don’t let that bother you. We can safely and quickly by-pass this to talk about how it is the Word of God despite this.” Though he did say that this was a bit of a caricature, he didn’t think it too much of one.

      It is true that some evangelical scholars are pushing the envelope in this and other areas, but its not because evangelicalism is a movement that promotes vigorous scholarship. Rather, evangelicalism is being dragged kicking and screaming into the world of modern scholarship and is definitely a johnny-come-lately. The scholarship of other protestant movements, and of the RCC, is far far ahead of evangelicals, both in the nature of their scholarship, their dominance of the fields of scholarship, and their promotion of true scholarship. That is not to say that there have not been excellent evangelical scholars, but is a more accurate picture of the evangelical movement as a whole.

      CMP’s four points look to me like the view from behind rose coloured glasses. If evangelicalism is going to make any progress in the next decade, it is necessary to have a realistic view of it.

      #John1453

    • John

      If the canons of the Catholic church say that you are not a Catholic, but particular congregations are ignoring the rules, are you still a Catholic?

    • #John1453

      I appreciate your interaction and comment, John, but I did not intend to send this thread off course and down a rabbit trail by addressing in more detail CMP’s reference to Catholicism. My point is only that Catholicism is far more tolerant of divergent viewpoints than evangelicalism (by tolerant I don’t mean accepting, I mean not giving someone the boot). It is true that, officially, there are some extreme views that will get one excommunicated from the RCC, but the list of those views is far far smaller than what would get one booted from the evangelical camp. Moreover, since evangelicalism does not have official, comprehensive, enforceable power structures in place, the “booting” takes place informally and more easily. If other evangelicals say that one is not evangelical, and most evangelicals agree, then that’s it. Sorry. No longer part of the party. Or one gets into “yes I am an evangelical”, “no you’re not”, “yes I am”, . . . // “yes he/she is evangelical”, “no they’re not” . . . A sort of boundary marking (like a dog peeing on the fence) that does not happen in RCC, Episcopalian, etc.

      regards,
      #John

    • I’m sorry, but I’m a little lost here. When I read the New Testament, I see the most narrow-minded, “fundamentalist” literature on the planet. You have Paul cursing people to damnation for adding to the gospel, telling folks to watch those who cause divisions against the doctrines the Apostles were teaching and to avoid such ones and telling his protegé to watch his DOCTRINE and his LIFE closely.

      Maybe the problem is one of too little latitude – but a hankering of a little too much latitude…

    • David Di Giacomo

      All of these assertions are merely an opinion based on perspective.

      1. Where you see a celebration of diversity, I see an increasing acceptance of relativism and reduction to a lowest common denominator which never ceases to get lower.

      2. Where you see true conviction, I see unbelief and a secular, as opposed to a christian, worldview.

      3. Where you see true scholarship, I see historical revisionism to justify the unjustifiable.

      4. Finally, where you see Evangelicalism “committed to the spread of the Gospel more than any other Christian tradition”, I see Evangelicalism more committed to the spread of Evangelicalism than it is to the spread of the Gospel. They are not the same thing.

      Quite frankly, I believe that more and more, Evangelicalism is more American than it is Christian. That’s why I left. I want the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Uncle Sam.

    • EricW

      David Di Giacomo wrote:

      Quite frankly, I believe that more and more, Evangelicalism is more American than it is Christian. That’s why I left. I want the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Uncle Sam.

      So, where did you go after you left Evangelicalism?

      And how and in what ways does your current environment/country/abode have what Evangelicalism lacked – i.e., “the Kingdom of God” or at least better access to it?

    • C Michael Patton

      Doug, I think that is nice in a very idealistic way. But sense 2000 years of church history have not allowed us such a stance and since non of us are Apostles, there are going to be a lot of areas that latitude must take place.

      Otherwise, bite on the tradition that you think has it all (or mostly) right and be dogmatic with them. Problem: which do you choose?

      I choose Protestant Evangelicalism, where there is freedom in expression and freedom in the areas that are not clear.

      Stating what you said is one thing, being able to find a way to apply it is another. Even the Church of Christ is becoming more liberal due to the failure of this idealism.

    • C Michael Patton

      David, where did you go and why is it better?

      (And it can’t be “no where” as “no where” is really somewhere. And it can’t be “to my own interpretation” as this will bring about more problems than any.)

    • C Michael Patton

      Folks, what I have seen here is a lot of criticism with absolutely no solutions.

      If Evangelicalism is not the best option, what do you think is? Is there a perfect option? Or is it purely subjective?

      I am quit impressed with some of your ability to criticize, but somewhat disturbed by your lack of substitution. Quite postmodern as it stands.

    • C Michael Patton

      Eric, nice. You beat me to it.

    • Dozie

      CMP wrote:

      “Evangelicalism can celebrate diversity”. And, “By definition, if anyone disagrees with even a minor point in the catechism, they are no longer Catholic.”

      By diversity then, do you mean variations of truth or the toleration of untruth?

    • CMP,

      Just to clarify…

      I agree that there are some issues which are simply not black and white – such as the nature of baptism. church government, etc. which are open for discussion. There are other things – the nature of God, man, the Word and salvation which ought to be closed-gate issues, otherwise it becomes a rather fruitless free-for-all…

    • L P Cruz

      Quite frankly, I believe that more and more, Evangelicalism is more American than it is Christian. That’s why I left. I want the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Uncle Sam.

      Well done David. Present Evangelicalism is the American version of Protestantism.

      I have left too, but I have gone back to the original Evangelicals – where the word was first attributed – the Lutherans.

      LPC

    • mbaker

      L P Cruz,

      Would you tell us why you believe the Lutherans were/are the original evangelicals?

      From my time at a modern Lutheran church, they seemed more like Catholics and Episcopalians with an an emphasis on liturgy, and repeating man made creeds rather than preaching the word of God. They even have a yearly book where you can go anywhere in the US and receive pretty much the same liturgical message on any given day, no matter where you are. Where is the Holy Spirit in this?

      And how is that evangelical rather than denominational?

    • Having slept on it, this discussion seems a little specific in that I haven’t quite noticed these problems in the UK, where I reside. Here, churches generally aren’t into the political scene, generally have theirs sleeves rolled up when it comes to social action and a generally wide set of beliefs are endorsed, and yet folks are still called “evangelical”…

    • Joe

      Evengelicalism in American, is “American” is the sense, unfortunately, that it combines right-wing nationalist politics, with religion; speaking as if God was an American Republican.

      Whereas, in contrast, in the Bible God never mentions America by name at all.

      Indeed, God comes to unite “all nations,” all tongues, all “peoples.”

    • Joe

      The authority that is cited here on what Evanagelicalism “really is” – the “Evangelist Manifesto” – explicitly states that it “does not claim to speak for all evangelicals.” Which is to say, it is not definitive at all.

    • C Michael Patton

      Joe, you are right, there is not defenitive statement about what evangelicalism is since it is a “spirit” build on assumed principles.

    • David Di Giacomo

      A couple people have asked me where I went when I left. I am now a catechumen in the Orthodox Church. I believe that it has unswervingly kept the faith of the apostles as all others have, to some degree or another, wandered from that fullness. I did not leave for “my own interpretation”. That’s exactly the kind of thinking I rejected in leaving Protestantism.

      Perhaps you might be interested to know, Mr. Patton, that you were a major catalyst in pushing me in that direction. I don’t mean anything bad by that. Simply, your very clear and able expositions of evangelical theology, contrasting it among other things with Catholicism, Orthodoxy and the Emerging Church, made me realize why I could not remain in Protestantism.

    • Cadis

      youch! IMO.

    • EricW

      David:

      Thanks for replying. I fully understand. We did the same thing a few years ago – i.e., after 2+ decades as Evangelical/non-denom/Charismatic Protestants, we made our way East (after ruling out Rome) and spent 3+ years in the EOC in an OCA church, 2 as catechumens and 1+ years after being baptized and chrismated. But finding I could no longer profess or adhere to the Orthodox teaching about the Eucharist and the priesthood, and after some further studies of church history and the development of the liturgy and church beliefs, I left, and my wife left some time after that. My godfather, also a convert, had left a few months before me after a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit that was like a scales-dropping-from-his-eyes experience, which also included a major physical healing. We’re all back in the boundary-less land of non-denominational Protestantism, but with all its flaws and problems, I think that’s where we’ll stay.

    • Joe

      What bothers me, is that though Evangelism invokes the “spirit,” on the other hand, it is a spirit based on a particular set of “principles.” But those principles, fundamentals, appear to many, to be extremely narrow; Fundamentalist.

      To be sure, I see Evangelicalism growing, since the days when the new Evangelicalism was over-defined as the American state religion, by Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchanan.

      At the same time, it retains its ties to those roots. And I don’t see it really keeping up, with Biblical scholarship, serious contemporary theology.

      For that reason, I read a little contemporary theology, and don’t attend church at all.

      Maybe that’s my religion: scholarly theology. With no church, at all.

    • C Michael Patton

      One thing that some have consitantly missed is the word “can.” “Can” is not an indicative. When I say I am still a Evangelical because of diversity, it is qualified by the word “can” not necessarily “does.” Evangelicals CAN celebrate diversity more than others.

      This does not mean that they alway exemplify this praise. However, Evangelicals do this much more than does Catholics and Orthodox, but both of those traditions would not think it a virtue to celebrate diversity in many of the areas which Evangelicals can and do, so keep that in mind.

    • geekborj

      Bro Michael did a fine point here indicating that “Evangelicalism is not perfect. No informed person should make such a claim. Evangelicalism has its problems—big ones. This is nothing new.” It rather seem to me that the true Christianism was never perfectly realized (in its full sense) because of inherent big problems. If the same is the most significant argument against the “other” Christianism (e.g. Catholicism, Orthodoxy), then what’s the advantage of being an Evangelical? Aren’t the “other” Christians also evangelical in the true sense?

      As described by Bro Michael here (though probably not authoritative for other Evangelicals) seems to contradict the Bible which Evangelicals supposed to preach:
      1. Evangelicalism can celebrate diversity: “that there is room for subjective [yet non-essential, personal] preferences.” But this is against what we observe in reality that evangelicals separate from each other (truest possible senses) creating their own group just because of not agreeing in “non-essentials” of the supposed ONE Faith. I believe St. Paul has been very particular about much disagreements within the Church as to whose position is better than the other (see his letter to Titus).
      2. Evangelicalism promotes true conviction that it “is built upon a distrust of one man’s or one institution’s ability to infallibly be dogmatic regarding truth.” Trust is one of the qualities of the Love as St. Paul elaborated in Corinthians. Without it the Church would fail and the love of Christ is given in vain. How come such “-ism” would be founded on the exact anti-thesis that God offered to Man? How come that God who trusted even Judas be betrayed by such distrust? If indeed Evangelicalism can promote “true conviction” then how come such “truth” can come in many different shapes according to one’s taste? When one sees a circle to be a square, isn’t the truth still that circle, not that one man’s opinion?
      3. The allowance of scholarship is therefore false as #1 and #2 “properties” contradict each other. Scholarship is based on the fact that “truth” can be found and that truth is one and unique, then some must be false and some true — there is no room for “diversity” in truth — there is only one and only one Will of God, and many men’s opinions. True scholarship means deepening in our understanding.
      4. Evangelicanism is not Christocentric, it is Man-centric. Why would the Church of God be concerned of Man’s whims and likes — scholarly approach, acceptance of differing opinions about “circles,” “diversity” of truth as convincing idea of the truth.

      If one would analyze what is essentially the same between the Latin (West) and the Greek (East) rites of the Catholic Church, i believe one would eventually find the ONE truth. I don’t seem to find this if I try to find the common beliefs of Evangelicals which is not found in the Catholic Church. Having more does not mean un-truth, it means having…

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Churchill: “Capitalism is surely the worst economic system, except for all the others that have been tried.”

      Adapting the Churchillian phrase:

      “Evangelicalism is surely the worst theological and ecclesiastical system, except for all the others that have been tried.”

      The others that have been tried: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Liberal Protestantism, Emergers.

    • #John1453

      CMP’s post #86 is an important one for understanding his series on evangelicalism. In that vein, it is also important to note his stress on the word “idea”. Those two points are a large part of what underlay my post (on one of the related threads) wherein I wrote that it will be interesting to see what definition CMP uses, not because there is a “best” definition, but because the definition will / will not be useful depending on what CMP says his purposes are. Then we can discuss whether the underpinnings of his definition are valid, and if so, what more can be said.

      I see evangelicalism primarily in sociological terms, which is why I see the “doing / does” as a more important category than the hypothetical “can”.

      Eagerly awaiting the next post.

      regards,
      #John

    • EricW

      If one would analyze what is essentially the same between the Latin (West) and the Greek (East) rites of the Catholic Church, i believe one would eventually find the ONE truth. I don’t seem to find this if I try to find the common beliefs of Evangelicals which is not found in the Catholic Church. Having more does not mean un-truth, it means having…

      IMO, some of “what is essentially the same” in those churches that differentiates them from most Evangelical churches includes them being:
      a) hierarchical in their organization,
      b) episcopal (bishop-led) in their government, with priests heading/serving individual congregations,
      c) creedal in their confession,
      d) sacramental re: chrismation, baptism, the eucharist, etc., and the use of things like holy water,
      e) liturgical in their worship,
      f) calendrical in their cycle of services and scheduled feasts and fasts,
      g) venerational with regard to saints, esp. the Theotokos/The Virgin Mary, and holy places and relics,
      h) eucharist-centered in their worship, with the eucharistic regarded as sacrificial (either a re-offering of Christ, or a re-presentation to God and the people of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice) and the bread and wine believed to be(come) the real body and blood of Christ, all of which can only be done/overseen by a priest or bishop.

      YMMV

    • geekborj

      That is a good observation, EricW. I would like to add the following:
      i) recommendation of living a holy life through frequent participation in sacraments of life: eucharistic feast, and confession (reconciliation and penance)
      f) Maintains the Ten Commandments and the Two Summary Commandments.
      g) Frequently uses “repetitive prayers” such as the Our Father and Hail Mary.

      As one might not immediately see, living a holy life is closely connected to maintaining the “state of grace” to participate in the communion (reception of Christ in the eucharist) — defined as being free from willful violation of the Commandments (“mortal sins”).

      Also, in the Eastern Rite, it is recommended hold on to the Eucharistic Fasting since the midnight before Communion while just about 1h before Communion in the Western Rite. Though the practice is different, the idea of readiness in spirit and body is required during Communion with Christ.

      One final note: the Eucharistic Mass is not simply a “re-presentation” or “re-offering” of the Lamb of God, it is rather the “real and direct participation in the actual offering of the Lamb in Golgotha/Calvary.” The Mass is a movement of spirit both in space and time — a taste of eternity, heaven touching earth (cf. Lamb’s Supper by S. Hahn)


      “so that all may be one”

    • Joe

      1) At one time, “Fundamentalism” referred to a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible. So for example, promises of physical miracles, bread out of the air, had to be taken as meaning just what they said; not as metaphors for say, the nourishing spirit of God coming from heaven.

      2) Today however, without be anachronistic, we might simply specify that there is a new “fundamentalism.” One which may not take the Bible literally, but still adheres to other similar, very basic (and probably false) “fundamentals.”

      3) And we might add, much of the New Fundamentalism, is related often, to Muslim fundamentalism. In its intermixing of religion, with nationalism/patriotism; and its turning away from the meek side of Jesus, to the advocacy of war and violence.

      In particular, American Evangelists, think “God and Country” really go together. Whereas in the Bible itself, God often spoke against “nations”; posed religion and prophets against “kings”; posed a God not just for one country, but “all peoples,” “all tongues.”

      God also warned about preachers who intermix their own politics or human ideas – the “traditions of men” – in with their religion. While those who confuse American national interest and patriotism with Christianity, in effect are doing that all the time. Continually.

      Indeed, your (MP) own opening statement here or elsewhere, presents God and America as just two parts of the same thing.

    • EricW

      One final note: the Eucharistic Mass is not simply a “re-presentation” or “re-offering” of the Lamb of God, it is rather the “real and direct participation in the actual offering of the Lamb in Golgotha/Calvary.” The Mass is a movement of spirit both in space and time — a taste of eternity, heaven touching earth (cf. Lamb’s Supper by S. Hahn)

      True. That is what it has become. However, the earliest liturgies make no reference to the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ, nor was there a prayer for such to happen, and the eucharistic language in The Didache has no connotation of it being a participation in Christ’s offering at Calvary.

    • L P Cruz

      mbaker.

      You asked why I think Lutheranism is the alternative.

      Firstly they focus on justification by grace through faith – JBFA.

      The liturgy is not where you should start about Lutherans. You should start at their catechism and in their Book of Concord.

      For example read Luther’s Small Catechism (w/ explanantions) then you will get a gist why they do the Liturgy. I recommend orthodox synods – LC-MS/WELS/ELS etc.

      Then there is the concept of Means of Grace. Evangelicals(modern ones) do not understand this concept that is why they could not think why Lutherans rally on JBFA but also believes in the efficacy of baptism and the Lord’ Supper.

      The HS is found in the Word and Sacraments.

      For people to say where is the HS in all of these, is to engage in mysticism or inner experience – which is not reliable.

      LPC

    • mbaker

      L P Cruz,

      Thanks for the specific resources. I shall certainly check them out.

      Are you open to questions? I know many folks are defensive about their particular beliefs, and feel threatened by being questioned. I am not one of them. Although I don’t want to offend anyone, I am a believer in specific, direct answers, without unnecessary rudeness, or evasiveness, since I believe any branch of Christianity should be open to scrutiny.

      So if you are game for further discussion as to why you believe Lutheranism is superior or equal to evangelicalism, so I am. Just give me a few days to study up first.

      God bless.

    • geekborj

      “However, the earliest liturgies make no reference to the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ, nor was there a prayer for such to happen, and the eucharistic language in The Didache has no connotation of it being a participation in Christ’s offering at Calvary.”

      Dear EricW:
      Since one mentions the Didache as reference as to how early Christians have regarded the Eucharist early on, i would like to mention the early Fathers of the Church as to how they elaborated the contents of that Catechism. We should notice our understanding of the Faith develop, we don’t keep our understanding under the ground like in the Parable of the Talents. Since all Christians know of it, this does not need to be mentioned in Didache. Only later when new members question it that Real Presence has to be defended and explained.

      Ignatius of Antioch
      “I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible” (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).

      “Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).

      Justin Martyr
      “We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

      Irenaeus
      “If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?” (Against Heresies 4:33–32 [A.D. 189]).

      Read more: http://www.catholic.com/library/Real_Presence.asp

    • EricW

      I know, geekborj. I read all those same quotes and more when I was considering becoming Catholic or Orthodox, and found many of them quoted in the conversion testimonies and books of Evangelicals who had become Orthodox or Catholic. And after I became Orthodox, I used to cite and refer to them whenever I discussed the “real presence” and the Eucharist with my Evangelical friends, and argued the same way. C. Michael Patton and comments here at Parchment and Pen have cited them and/or interacted with them in past posts that discuss the Church Fathers. I still have many of the books and several by Scott Hahn, including the book you mentioned/quoted in an earlier post in this thread.

    • geekborj

      All glory to God, EricW! One day, there will be one Church, the true Pillar and Foundation of Truth, she who is given the authority as Christ is given by the Father in His Incarnation. While Orthodox and Catholic have some differences, though much of political rather than theological. Could you please direct me where to find the differences between Orthodox and Catholic theology? Thanks.

    • EricW

      Yes, all glory to God! FYI, geekborj, I am no longer Orthodox, nor do I currently hold to the Catholic or Orthodox teaching of the Eucharist.

      Re: finding discussions of the differences between Catholics and Orthodox, you can probably find such information via Google. A brief list my former priest once gave included:

      Theological Differences
      1. Filioque
      2. The Papacy
      3. Purgatory
      4. Original Sin
      5. Atonement
      6. Indulgences
      7. Divorce, indissolubility of marriage
      8. Saints after 1054
      9. Views of each other (I understand that Roman Catholics consider Orthodox to be schismatic, but to have valid sacraments, hence a Roman Catholic can take the Eucharist from an Orthodox priest; but that’s a moot point, because an Orthodox priest can’t knowingly give the Eucharist to a non-Orthodox Christian. The Orthodox consider the Roman Catholics to be heterodox, not merely schismatic, and will not state that the Roman Catholic Church has valid sacraments.)

      New Roman Dogmas
      1. Papal Infallibility
      2. Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary
      3. Assumption of the Virgin Mary

      Christian Practice
      1. Fasting
      2. Chrismation separated from Baptism becomes Confirmation
      3. Communion of infants
      4. Form of Baptism: immersion vs. pouring
      5. Leavened vs. unleavened bread for the Eucharist
      6. Communion in both the Body and Blood
      7. When does the transformation of the Bread and Wine take place?
      8. One Liturgy a day vs. several Masses
      9. Unction vs. Supreme Unction (I think the correct term is “Extreme Unction”)
      10. Married vs. celibate clergy
      11. Sign of the Cross
      12. Legalism
      13. Priestly misconduct
      14. Varied forms of piety
      15. Icons vs. Statues

      The above is just a list; to explain or discuss them here would take many pages. You could talk with an Orthodox Priest, or perhaps read Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Michael Pomazansky- it’s online here:

      http://www.intratext.com/X/ENG0824.HTM

      Or read St. John of Damascus (St. John Damascene) An Exact Expostion of the Orthodox Faith. It’s online, too (but I can’t include 2 links in a single post here, so you can cut and paste the following URL into your address bar):

      orthodox.net/fathers/exactidx.html

      The EOC and the RCC are in some foundational ways more different from each other than the RCC is from Reformation Protestant churches. The EOC is not simply the RCC plus icons and minus the Pope, as I used to naively think. As Clark Carlton, a Baptist convert to Orthodoxy, has said, the EOC and the RCC/Protestants don’t even worship the same Christ (or perhaps he said “God”). One of his books is: The Truth: What Every Roman Catholic Should Know About the Orthodox Church. I wouldn’t vouch for all he writes, but it’s one person’s view of the differences between the EOC and the RCC, and that was your question.

    • Joe

      I think Evangelicals and Catholics are more or less equally dogmatic, deep down.

      The only freedom, many would say, is outside all churches.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.