For Scot, this marks a significant shift in evangelicalism. It shows that some of the most prominent and powerful leaders in what is called evangelicalism today are trying to bend it back toward a form of fundamentalism.
The evangelicalism that emerged in the mid-20th century (“neo-evangelicalism”) self-consciously separated itself from fundamentalism, rejected radical separatism and embraced a more profound engagement with the world, and practiced a greater tolerance for theological diversity in their cooperative relationships with fellow Christians.
But Mohler lives out and preaches a different evangelical story: the evangelical world and America are falling apart at the moral seams, and only a commitment to the old-fashioned story can sew those seams back together and save evangelicalism and America.
McKnight laments this development:
This new story of evangelicalism is sad for people like me who have always believed Evangelicalism was a Big Tent coalition of those committed to the basics of the gospel but more than willing to tolerate differences on all kinds of levels.
Evangelicalism for many of us has been a generous evangelicalism. As I said above the numbers are on the side of the older Big Tent coalition, but there is a major, major problem: the old guard coalition is not composed of fighters. Theyâ€™ve only known peace and cooperation. What is perhaps the secret here is that many of us became evangelicals to escape fundamentalism. Â For us, thereâ€™s no turning back, which means we may find ourselves disenfranchised from evangelicalism.
Todayâ€™s scene is not what it was. Itâ€™s a new era. When Al Mohler is on the cover of CT, when he represents the shrewd and powerful takeover of a former liberal-to-moderate seminary, when he has publicly claimed any form of evolution is inconsistent with the gospel, and when he is seen as the voice of American evangelicalism, a new world stands before the American evangelical. Itâ€™s actually an old world.
The question is Who will speak for the Big Tent coalition? Count me in.
The iMonk mic is open. I encourage you to go over to Jesus Creed and read Scot McKnight’s reflections. Then, if you would like to discuss his observations with the iMonk community, come on back and join in.
I would like to know: What say you?