1. Lack of distinction (identity). The term is used in many diverse ways. It could refer to Baptists, Methodists, Bible Churches, non-denominational, charismatics, Calvinists, Arminians, Roman Catholics, Mormons, conservative Protestants, extremist political activists, political parties, missions organizations, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Benny Hinn, George Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. If all of these people, groups, and organizations can be called “evangelical,” what does it mean to be evangelical? The umbrella of evangelicalism has become too large and I don’t know if we can change it.
2. Lack of a theological center (orthodoxy): What do evangelicals believe? If you were to ask this to the above named groups and people, you would get so many distinct answers that anyone could bask in the shade of its protection. But evangelicalism did not start out this way. It was built around the center of Christ and our need for Him and a strong belief in the ultimate and final authority of Scripture. I assume that these confessions would narrow the list above by half. If we are going to use a name, let us understand where it came from.
3. Lack of practition (orthopraxy): From the article: “Mark Bailey, president of the Dallas Theological Seminary and a self-described ‘biblical Christian,’ says ‘evangelical’ is taking a beating because ‘people who preach values in its name didn’t live up to their values in their actions and politics.'” I agree (but I am sorry, I just don’t like the label “biblical Christian”–sorry Pres. Bailey). If we don’t have a center, how can we act according to the dictates of that center? Because of a belief in the above mentioned truths in #2, an evangelical understands the difference between essentials and non-essentials and is persuaded of the need to share the essential Christ with others in humility and grace. But because the umbrella of our doctrine is so large, it is hard to distinguish what an evangelical is by the way they work, worship, and relate to others. To the outside world, we are seen only as those who hate homosexuals and who vote Republican. How did we get that from #2?
4. Association with fundamentalism (misidentification): From the article: “Now the word may be losing its moorings, sliding toward the same linguistic demise that “fundamentalist” met decades ago because it has been misunderstood, misappropriated and maligned.” Ouch! I will let that one stand.
Do you think that I am fighting a losing battle attempting to hang on to this word? After all, what is in a word?