1. Why did you start using the term “post-evangelical?” Aren’t you aware of how that term is perceived in the discernment blogosphere?
This will seem hard to believe, but I simply wanted a way to say I was moving past evangelicalism to something else, but that something else wasn’t what would cause me to say “non-evangelical,” at least using the generally accepted understanding of evangelicals. I wasn’t in any way trying to identify with post-modernism or the emerging church. The Ancient-Future Evangelicalism of Robert Webber really described me, but that label was unclear to me at the time and I still see it as being more ambitious than I ever want to be with “post-evangelical.”
The discernment blogosphere use of the term is synonymous with “apostate liberal in sheep’s clothing.” I notice a graphic at teampyro that says something about tours of the post-evangelical wilderness. Well, my post-evangelicalism is a way of navigating through the evangelical wilderness with the resources of the broader, deeper, more ancient church. I think the discernment blogosphere is talking about Mclaren, Bell, etc.
Let’s be clear about something: whatever post-evangelicalism means here at IM, it’s my own label used my own way, with a few friends along for the ride. There is no movement, no leaders, no conferences, no books. Tossing “post-evangelical” around as a term that describes the opposition from the reformed blogosphere’s point of view has nothing to do with me, unless you want to get down to issues like “are Catholics Christians?”, etc. My discontent with evangelicalism isn’t a rejection of the Protestant evangel.
2. How can you deny that the numbers of evangelicals are growing? How does that numerical growth affect your claim of a “coming evangelical collapse?”
First, if someone takes evangelicals seriously when they start talking numbers, they should know that at the sources, evangelical numbers vary wildly.
Second, what generally registers as an evangelical is someone who self-reports as an evangelical. Have you considered what this actually means?
What percentage of evangelical churches have membership? Meaningful church rolls? Are we talking about people who say they are evangelicals because when they do attend a church, it’s evangelical? Do they mean they vote for the GOP? Are they pro-life? Do they listen to evangelical media/ Like K-Love?
Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that we’re talking the evangelical niche-market and not a seriously definable group of people? Why do I have the feeling that evangelical conviction and American self-definition are being mistaken for one another?
One of the reasons I am convinced we are going to have a collapse is because I am convinced no one really knows if most evangelicals are “there” at all. If they are “there,” what is the level of their loyalty? How easily can they not be “there?”
It’s more than a bit optimistic to say that evangelicalism is growing because of reasons that actually forestall an eventual collapse. Evangelical growth among Hispanics and immigrants is undeniable. Growth in selected small segments of evangelicalism is true and good growth. But megachurch growth is transfer and re-affiliation growth. Much of evangelicalism is spin and “low loyalty.”
Look at the numbers in the SBC. The denomination “grows” in various ways, even as it moves closer to generational free fall and the loss of thousands of churches. I’m grateful for the kinds of growth we have in the SBC, but if you are SBC you know what’s actually going on in most of that “growth”: rebaptisms, baptizing children and adding ethnic congregations.
3. Did I hear someone say you would see a Baptist becoming a Lutheran as making a “post-evangelical” turn?
Yes. I believe that the move from evangelicalism to Reformation traditions, such as we saw in the creation of the Reformed Baptist movement starting in the 1960s, is an example of discontented evangelicals looking at the theology of the larger, deeper, more ancient church and making a move in that direction.
That’s certainly true with evangelicals moving to Lutheranism and Anglicanism.
So, ironically, some of the Calvinists who are the most vociferous critics of what I’m saying are examples of a move in a post-evangelical direction.