So, I have a thesis: Evangelicalism is the new Liberalism. Now that’s a pretty bold statement, so we need to define terms, examine the situation, and determine if I’m right?
Defining the Terms:
This is difficult to define precisely. We can start by saying what it’s not:
Not the Lutherans in Germany (for any Germany listeners)
Not thedoctrinesthat were originally associated with evangelicalism: the five fundamentals, with a focus on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, and the need to be born again to be saved.
A voting block.
A watered-down version of Christianity. (We see this in the fact that Evangelicalismas a wholehas begun to capitulate on the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage…not the political question, but the Biblical question)
Ryan Meeks (Eastlake Community Church)
A Christianity that is almost solely focused on personal relationship and personal experience.
By ‘Evangelicalism’ I mean what it has become:
This might take a bit of effort to define as well, because we think of liberal as left-leaning, anti-war, socialism, etc. But that’s not historically the meaning. In fact, in the early 20th century, the liberals were theGod and Countrydefenders who were pro-war, anti-communism, etc. Every mainline liberal church had an American Flag and sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic for the 4th of July.
The Resurrection of Christ was impossible, based on scientific fact, so there had to be another explanation.
The Bible was obviously the words of man and was subject to error.
The virgin birth was obviously impossible, and so was not true.
They emphasized the “personal” nature of one’s faith…so much so that they began to make concessions for different beliefs:
Through the decades, there were areas of commonality between these two groups – especially during the cold war years. As things moved into the 70s, there was a shift and the Jesus People movement became the anti-culture to the Hippy movement…but both had similar premises of love, relationship, downplaying doctrine, etc.
And this is where Evangelicalism splits from liberal theology for a time. Through the 80s and 90s there is a kind of back and forth between liberalism and evangelicalism…but both have similar backgrounds.
Where does it get problematic? I’d say that evangelicalism was never committed to doctrine. It was always something that was convenient and accepted in the culture so they kept it. But as soon as it became rejected by many people, the doctrinal days of evangelicalism was over.
As each doctrine was challenged, evangelicalism held on longer than the culture, but eventually gave in. Evangelicalism’s biggest weakness, in my opinion, is a desire to be accepted.
Now the LGBT and Transgender issues
Orthodoxy (what we believe) grounds orthopraxy (how we live). But when orthopraxy takes over as the predominant need (and in a twisted way) it redefines orthodoxy. So the doctrine of God gets redefined to mean that God is okay with divorce in the church. God is fine with gay marriage in the church. God is cool with transgenders being accepted in the church.
In the end, evangelicalism can’t separate the two kingdoms, and so the kingdom of God ends up looking like the kingdom of this world (since they failed to make the kingdom of the world look like the kingdom of God).
Evangelicalism, then, prioritizes personal relationship with God over doctrine and cultural engagement and acceptance over doctrine. This is why Evangelicalism is the new Liberalism.