Sometimes, I think in our efforts to define who we are, we often start with what we are not. I’ve been raised in an Evangelical home. I have Pentecostalism in my family, we also have Anabaptism deeply rooted in our history. I have charismatic friends. I have conservative fundamentalist friends. I have Catholic friends, I have Protestant friends.
Socially, Spiritually we are becoming a mixing pot. Protestants have found great comfort in Catholic writers such as Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen. Likewise, I am seeing many Catholics around me are extremely Evangelical.
What does Evangelical even mean if this is happening? Mark Noll and David Bebbington describe an Evangelical as the following “an evangelical is a Christian Protestant for whom the central ideas are the leading authority of Scripture, the necessity of personal conversion, the centrality of the death of Christ on the cross as a substitutionary atonement, and the importance of a life of active following Jesus, seen in such things as Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, and deeds of compassion and justice. ”
If this makes you an evangelical, I would consider myself a quasi-Evangelical, maybe a neo-evangelical.
I believe in the authority of Scripture, and substitutionary atonement through the cross, and I believe in Discipleship ( I think this is what they’re getting at). These are all good things. Reading your bible, praying, going to church are good things, and in this sense, I am an evangelical.
However, it appears to me, that any form, sect, denomination of Christianity cannot be truly complete unless its centrality of its being, its belief, its action is represented by the resurrection of Christ. Christ’s death on the cross demonstrates so beautifully who he is, and what it means to be a Christian, but, it is not the resurrection.
My own beliefs on spiritual formation and discipleship are not also represented properly by this definition. Reading your Bible and praying, albeit great, does not make you more like Christ. The latter half of that represents, I believe, a better fit for formation. To be like Christ is to engage in acts of Compassion and Justice, however, things like prayer and reading your bible, doesn’t get you there, nor, does it make you more like him (even though they draw you closer to him)
Maybe, I am not an Evangelical. Maybe, I am a neo-evangelical. Maybe, amongst a lot of other things happening around us, the definition of Evangelical is changing.