Evangelicalism: McKnight Clears the Bases

Over at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight has banked his response to the Christianity Today essay on Al Mohler. The article spurred my own thoughts about the future of evangelicalism earlier this week (Manifesto, & addendum).

Here’s the heart of McKnight’s post:

Here’s my big point:Evangelicalism is changing. What used to be called “fundamentalist” is now occupied by the word “evangelical” and we have in the case of Mohler a genuine fundamentalist — and I’m using this word analytically and not derisively — who is reshaping evangelicalism because he’s reshaping the SBC… What we also are witnessing is the end of generous evangelicalism, what I often call Big Tent Evangelicalism that has been noted by a coalition of gospel-oriented people.

This is the concern that I expressed in my follow up, when I argued for conviction without sectarianism. The challenge of keeping space at the table for a broad coalition of gospel confession Christians is not one that this new evangelicalism is interested in pursuing.

Quite the contrary, those with powerful voices of leadership, who are fighting for the term, are interested in making the evangelical world smaller. And those with moderate positions aren’t interested in fighting for anything. But if we don’t care, we also will have no right to complain when there is no more space for us in North American evangelicalism.

As I quipped to a colleague, who said she wasn’t concerned about the conservative activists such as the Al Mohlers of the world: “Neither were the moderate Southern Baptists in 1982.”

Thanks for adding your voice to this, Scot. I think that what’s happening is a pretty big deal.

5 thoughts on “Evangelicalism: McKnight Clears the Bases”

  1. I remember well the coup at SWBTS when Dilday was removed back in the 1994. I was stunned. It is worthy to note that Mohler became president at SBTS the year before. I was an undergrad at UT – Austin at the time and had regular contact the SBC student group and broader evangelical community. I continue to see that the early 90s in Texas set the scene, theologically and politically (with the election of Bush as governor), for what we’ve experienced for the last decade throughout the nation.

  2. So basically, what there needs to be is a very active and outspoken seminary president to take the reigns and prove to be a reasoned counter-voice to Mohler’s diatribes. Seminary presidents have quite a bit of power, so I’d like to see others step up. We also need to see annual conferences and church planting movements from evangelicals who are not fundamentalists. We need people to step up and organize events, organizations, etc. This will help us keep unity and the “big tent” mindset alive, as well as give people something to follow.

  3. Thanks for bringing this to our attention again. Some random thoughts:
    1. I care most about “evangelicalism” and its leadership because it is so massively influential on so many Christians. I wouldn’t want to see Mohler as the prime representative (for insiders or outsiders), though I’d prefer him to some other people that HAVE filled that role.
    2. Most evangelicals I know (dominated by non-denoms, or mega churches that function as nondenoms here in the northeast) are pretty ignorant and have little interest in theological sophistication. NONETHELESS they tend to be a bit dogmatic and excluding of other Christians and practically speaking NONevangelical with nonChristians. Mohler might actually help them.
    3. I care secondly about evangelicalism because I might someday be seeking a job with an institution (church or otherwise) that thinks it’s important to be part of that category. Mohler wouldn’t help them be hospitable for me.
    4. Otherwise (though I’m not sure how much of myself is left in that “otherwise”) I wouldn’t care too much, because I’m okay going to churches with people who wouldn’t think I’m a Christian. Its even kind of fun sometimes. The ultimate ecumenism.
    5. I always want to have room for people that don’t have room for me, be they atheists or fundamentalists.

    1. I resonate with this quite strongly, Matt. You’re getting at here what I was trying to get at when I began my “evangelical manifesto” with an assertion that I wouldn’t care so much about the word if people weren’t trying to take it away from me. There are important reasons for hanging onto it and fighting for it, not least because there are people who need to have a larger field to play on when they claim that name for themselves (and go out looking for jobs… :) )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.