Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A word means just what I choose it to mean

The word "evangelical" if often held up as word once clear in its meaning, but now subject to a bewildering number of defintions and uses, many of them empty of historic theological categories.

To illustrate the point here is an extract from Rob Bell's interview with The Boston Globe, 26th September 2009:

Q: OK, how would you describe what it is that you believe?

A: I embrace the term evangelical, if by that we mean a belief that we together can actually work for change in the world, caring for the environment, extending to the poor generosity and kindness, a hopeful outlook. That's a beautiful sort of thing.

Q: Is religion a part of that?

A: At the heart of the Christian story is resurrection, the belief that this word [sic] is good, and that, as a follower of Jesus, a belief that God hasn’t abandoned the world, but is actively at work in the world. Even in the midst of what can look like despair and destruction there is a new creation present.

However, in his address at Miller Chapel, Princeton Seminary, 17th September 1915, B. B. Warfield said:

...good words are still dying all around us. There is that good word "Evangelical." It is certainly moribund, if not already dead. Nobody any longer seems to know what it means.

Does anybody in the world know what "Evangelical" means, in our current religious speech?

The other day, a professedly evangelical pastor, serving a church which is certainly committed by its formularies to an evangelical confession, having occasion to report in one of our newspapers on a religious meeting composed practically entirely of Unitarians and Jews, remarked with enthusiasm upon the deeply evangelical character of its spirit and utterances.

So, confusion over the meaning and use of the word "evangelical" is not exactly something that has crept in during the last thirty years.


Augustinian Successor said...

Where is sin in all this? An evangelical believes that the human is a sinner BUT God is the Justifier. Without this, we simply can't make sense of this world's misery and corruption. So, because of the Cross, evil is not the final answer. Only then are we preaching the good news.

Augustinian Successor said...

So Rob Bell is wrong. He may be extremely popular even amongst the Reformed, but he's wrong about being evangelical.