January 23, 2018

Three Questions About Post-Evangelicalism

Demotivato post evangelical1. 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.

Comments

  1. Something that I’ve observed (and this is purely anecdotal, so take this as a “FWIW”) is that the majority of folks leaving TEC for other forms of Anglicanism here in the States are looking for a more evangelical expression of the Anglican tradition. E.g. ACNA and the groups that joined to form it. In Europe, however, it seems that the trend among disaffected Anglicans is toward more traditionalism (Anglo-Catholic and whatnot). I’ll be suprised to see much movement here in America from the Pope’s offer. I bet most of the movement in that area will be from the other side of the pond.

    That leads me to wonder whether Evangelicalism is a very American phenominum. Does that mean that post-Evangelicalism is also very American?

    • speaking as an outside observer, it seems that in regards to the TEC that folks are moving one way or the other to escape the ooyey-gooyey tepid luke-warm middle, does that make sense?

      again, i’m can’t speak from experience but i believe i have read that in the C o E, the low church evangelicals and the high church Anglo-Catholics actually have more in common with each other than the Broad Church middle

      • Yeah, that may be. Like I said, this was all from personal observations. I just wonder how much of this is uniquely American.

  2. Isn’t adding an ethnic congregation a good thing and a sign of real good growth? I mean, isn’t that at the root of the SBC’s problem? That they are overwhelmingly seen as “white” (and non-ethnic “white” at that–so no Poles, Czechs, Serbs, Slovaks, et al) in a nation that is growing more diverse.

    • It’s great. I’m all for it. I rejoice and didn’t imply otherwise. But It’s not evangelism to get someone to affiliate with your denom. It’s “growth” by affiliation and the “growth” as the new ethnic congregation grows. The SBC is declining, but it can look like it’s growing if you know how to look at the numbers.

      • Oh, I see. I thought you were referring to a phenomenon where the SBC was starting an ethnic congregation that was SBC, just ethnic. Is what you’re referring to, affiliating with an existing ethnic church group?

      • the SBC is starting churches, many of them ethnic. Recent SBC growth with ethnics, however, has included a good deal of affiliation and affiliate growth.

  3. “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” was a popular quot with my statistics prof in evil, state engineering college. I believe it’s relevant here, but where you sit is how you stand.

    I identify with the CEC because I’ve seen it in my own tradition (Cambellite). While the circus was not as spectacular, the trends, innovations, and tendencies were very similar, even if of their own flavor. And the TR discernablogging community is really no different than the the old-guard CoC preachers calling out those of us due to our lack of sound doctrine as “false teachers.” *Gospel Advocate* or *Contending for the Faith*, anyone?

    My dabbling in evangelicalism has showed me that the whole thing [western Christianity] is a house of cards (not just my para-denomination), and that the grass isn’t greener across the church yard fence. So, I guess I don’t necessarily identify as “post-evangelical” as much as I identify as a post-campbellite, if we are technical.

    And I think that is what Michael is getting at.. we all are post-“something” if we have found ourselves here in the wilderness.

  4. What do I do with “Ablaze!”, which is seen by many as an abandonment of ancient traditions by Lutherans, in favor of a more church growth/seeker-sensitive model? I made the move from evangelicalism to Lutheranism to slam face first into this. Bit of a shock.

    • Sorry that has happened.
      Many of us in the confessional camp call it ‘Aflame.’

      There are still many liturgical and confessional congregations, it requires some searching around. The LCMS is facing some tough but necessary decisions in the relatively near future concerning diverging views on worship and evangelism.

      • As an ‘evangelical,’ it always drove me nuts to hear “It requires some searching around.” Who cares how orthodox a denomination or synod’s website is if the member churches do what they want?

        • No one is as p***ed off about the ‘searching around ‘ as myself and many of my brethren.

          ‘Who cares how orthodox a denomination or synod’s website is if the member churches do what they want?’

          Unfortunately that’s the way things are in every denomination and tradition now. Every man(read that Pastor) does what is right in his own eyes. Even in the RCC, although to a lesser extent.

          The advantage to belonging to a orthodox (at least on paper) denomination is that the congregations that remain faithful have the doctrinal confessions and usually the Constitution and By-Laws of the organization in their corner. Also, you pretty much know what you are getting when you find a faithful congregation.

          My friends tell me that even 30 years ago you could travel across the country and drop in to any LCMS congregation on a randon Sunday and be sure you were going to be on page 5 or 15 in the hymnal and have a better than even chance to receive the Lord’s Supper. Sadly those days are gone.

          • I tried a conservative Lutheran church near me. Nice people, but it felt downright Baptist– unvested clergy, eucharist once a month, etc. Now I’m driving 40 minutes to attend a rather “high church” Anglican parish.

    • I think a lot of good things are happening in the LCMS (hymnal, study bible, devotion book, etc.), and Ablaze! is doing many good things. But there’s this idea that the unchurched or non-European are not going to care about liturgy, but want community and services. I do not think the two are mutually exclusive. I also think the liturgy will not die if something other than hymns are used. It’s just hard convincing the more missional-minded that no one is going to march out the door if we proclaim the creed, pray the Lord’s prayer, include the prayer of confession, proclaim forgiveness, end our prayers in, “Lord, in your mercy…”. Sure, call it all aiadaphora and throw it all in the trash, but will what is put in its place be any less so?

      It could be the LCMS was hit hard by mega-church defections, and may be intimidated by attacks, like Hybel’s declaration that the Lutheran church is a “hopeless cause”. It’s leadership needs to be couageous and not only stand up to such crap but also be bold enough to tell evangelicalism to get its act together or give back the name “evangelical”.

  5. Contemporary America in general has this notion that all social ills can be fully addressed through formulas, procedures, and verbal and definitional engineering. Racism and racial economic disparity? Affirmative action and the PC language register, problem solved! (At least if you’ve done these things you can tell yourself you’re a good liberal, done your part, are de facto and officially not racist, and if everyone agreed with you and acted as you did then the problem would be solved. Either that or you’re a conservative and typically don’t accept that there’s a real problem. But each approach hides from, rather than engages, reality.) Didn’t mean to get political and feel free to reject my politics– I just meant to illustrate a point. The Christian is not obliged to adhere to radical politics but is obliged to adhere to radical Christianity.

    American evangelical culture is right now tied to American culture in a practically symbiotic kind of way, so of course the culture-evangelical is going to think in this logic. This logic always amounts to fixing a busted aircraft carrier with duct tape. Playing by these rules and existing in a tidy, controlled universe for long enough will make you believe in a subconscious kind of way that there’s a formal causality connecting well-defined, institutional solutions to problems. That there can’t possibly be a problem unless there exists a neat solution for it.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, that’s my take on the haters. I don’t have the patience to deal with that kind of intellectual dishonesty.

  6. “There is no movement, no leaders, no conferences, no books.”

    To quote Comrade Witherspoon, from “The Man Who Was Thursday”, in reply to Lucien Gregory saying that anarchists do not eat human flesh:

    “Shame!” cried Witherspoon. “Why not?”

    🙂

    I have no dog in this fight, but good gravy, Michael, the level of flapping about “post-evangelicalism” is only matched by the current Anglican/Episcopalian flapping about the evils of Rome and the poaching Pontiff and his annexation attempts.

    You’re trying to describe your experience, which judging by the comments on here resonates with a lot of people, and they’re taking it as you trying to tear down the One True Church because you’re a minion of Satan sent to sow doubt and dissension. We’re *all* post-something. Dang sure here in Ireland we’re, you could say, post-Catholic: the ‘good old days’ are long gone and the Church is having to adapt and reconsider a lot of things.

    This doesn’t mean ditching doctrine; it means looking at how things are done, were done, and could be done, and what the changes in the civil culture mean about how best effectively to preach the Gospel. For one thing, condoms are openly on sale in supermarkets nowadays, which is one hell of a change from my young adulthood (back in the 80s) and that kind of total reversal in attitudes means that a new method of teaching about the proper ends of sexuality is needed.

    I know America is a lot different, but I’m fairly sure that ‘doing it the way we’ve always done it’ is not going to work any better for you guys.

  7. I liked the phrase “apostate liberal in sheep’s clothing.”

    I don’t know what is going to happen with evangelicalism in the future. It is so deeply incultured that it seems that it might not go away, but on the other hand many people are happy to leave it.

  8. What on God’s green earth is the “discernment blogosphere” and why should I care what it thinks?

    • Thank you. Ever feel like you walked in 5 minutes from the end of a 30-minute lecture?

      • A lot of the time, esp. in Christian circles. I still couldn’t tell you what TULIP means, but it sounds really hip and trendy.

      • AND it appears all the theology I learned from my parents (both seminary educated) has been forgotten. I’m a Baptist, what I call a Classical Baptist, which means I’m pretty much a religious anarchist. No one talks about soul compentancy or the priesthood of all believers anymore. Talk about anti-establishment doctrines!

        • Ross from KY says:

          “No one talks about … the priesthood of all believers anymore.”

          Some of us do. And we used it in our search for a new church. And it sure did eliminate a lot of choices.

      • Ross from KY says:

        “Ever feel like you walked in 5 minutes from the end of a 30-minute lecture?”

        This web site is like walking into the last 5 minutes of an 8 year lecture. 🙂

        After a 1 1/2 years I’m just beginning to catch up. On some topics. Maybe.

      • textjunkie says:

        Yup–from a non SBC, non Lutheran point of view, there’s an amazing amount of untranslated jargon. 😉 Google is your friend, though googling on “TULIP” without adding some other restrictions doesn’t really help… ::chuckle::

  9. I’m an evangelical turned Lutheran, which surprised me. It’s complicated. Anyways, I still miss the missional emphasis in evangelicalism, which is almost non-existent in Lutheranism. This “post-evangelical” term is meaningless to me because I still see myself as an evangelical who holds to Lutheran theology, or vice versa. There are many people who are also in this theological place but don’t even know it.

  10. I’ve been reading IM for a long time…..and I am often confused as to what exactly “evangelicalism” and “post-evangelicalism” mean….too confused to figure out whether I am really one or the other.

    I am starting to have the sneaking suspicion that the confusion and angst is not singular to evangelicalism, but is being felt throughout most forms of Christianity. Whether it’s liturgical churches leaning towards the more “seeker-sensitive” tactics that have ben around for the last 20 years, or evangelical churches seeking to become either more liturgical, or more emergent…it seems that there is great confusion all around.

    We are a generation on the edge, dealing with more areas of information and the need to somehow cohesively make sense of them than we seem capable of managing at the present.

    We are longing for a “true” path to live life and know God without making the same mistakes we have already seen play out in our lives.

    We are restless….all of us. Event the discern-a-bloggers are working out their restlessness and confusion….usually by taking out the low-hanging fruit, or castigating everyone else.

    • Good observations Terri. I’m too tired to say much but I do think in many western church circles of various kinds, we are empty and restless. Hopefully, we are longing for more of Christ and less religion, however it’s packaged. We need the Spirit to lead us in a proper disillusionment and not one based on narcissistic angst.

  11. Yeah-my move out of the FInney-esque circus of evangelicalism into a more theologically/historically/generally grounded church (grew up SBC, now I’m PCA) was attributable to quite a few factors. One of the most consistent and earliest voices I listened to on that journey was yours.

    I guess I consider myself a post-evangelical in the sense that going to a church where the gospel isn’t central, where theology is derided, where community is replaced by a tv screen, etc ad infinitum, is not going to work for me. But I think that’s a good thing. I do attend a church where every week I hear the gospel preached from the Bible, where I know and am known, and where our understanding of the Gospel leads us out the doors and into our neighborhoods.

    So it always weirds me out when I read a blog and one day is blasting Finney, or purpose-driven, or whatever, and the next is blasting you. You ain’t perfect, but you are arguing for essentially the same journey most of the Reformed blogosphere say they want everyone to go on-out of shallow forms of American faith into the deep waters of life with Jesus. Documenting a sociological phenomenon along the way a heretic does not make.

    I want to be charitable here, but it’s hard to believe they draw such wrong conclusions without willfully choosing to misunderstand you.

  12. I wonder if there are any plans for more traditional protestant denoms to streamline the movement of evangelical leaders and congregations to transfer credentials and membership? RCC made a bold move to reach out in the name of unity toward Anglicans. I think others could learn from that. I think there would be a lot of people that would be happy to move from Baptist or Presbyterian to Anglican or Lutheran etc but the move is too costly and would force many to give up their ministries to make the switch…..

    • Or for ministers to be recognized between communions. All very Jesus shaped and therefore unlikely. Whoever is not with us is our opponent and all that.

      • My dad’s on the vestery at an ACNA-affiliated church. In his diocese, it’s the bishop’s discretion as to whether or not folks ordained in other traditions need to go through additional schooling to transfer their ordination. So far, it seems his diocese has been pretty open to transfers. According to the ACNA docs, there needs to be some sort of competancy in Anglican issues, but the specifics are left up to the bishops.

        It should be noted, that the Episcopal seminary closest to me has a one-year program in “Anglican Studies” or whatever that is mostly for folks who were ordained in other traditions that are seeking to transfer to TEC. Again, I think they need a sponsoring bishop to become a postulate, but that makes sense from the Anglican/Episcopal model of church government.

        All that is to say that transfer of ordination within all aspects of Protestantism (even from non-mainline to mainline) is more common than you might think. I do think, however, that in most of the mainlines, you need to have an M.Div or equivalent. A bachelor’s or associate’s level bible school degree probably wouldn’t cut it.

        • Postulancy takes how long? Additional schooling costs how much? What happens if you live near a bishop that doesn’t make it easy? My point was not that it was impossible or that it doesn’t happen. My point was that it is costly (in terms of time, money and emotion) and likely requires pausing or halting a ministry to do. I would argue that it might happen even more frequently if there was a set process that was straightforward, consistent and smooth.

          • Postulancy is usually the term when you’re doing your schooling for the M.Div, but in the case of someone transferring to TEC, I’m assuming it’d be the year you’re doing the Anglican Studies bit along with some time as a transitional deacon (which is traditionally a year or so). I think that the bishop can waive some or all of that.

            It seems that in my dad’s diocese, what has typically happened, is that the bishop and other ministers (the candedate’s e.g. local priest/pastor/presbyter, the local vestry, the local deacons) meet with the candidate to discuss their calling. If they’re qualified and their calling is affirmed, they become a transitional deacon for some OJT time before becoming a priest/presbyter. Again, I think the transitional deaconate is usually for a year or so.

            Each denomination (and sometimes diocese) will have their own way of doing things, and each case is unique. But I don’t see someone looking at a minister ordained as a Baptist and saying that their ordination is invalid. It’s just that each group will have their own specific requirements that must be met.

    • L. Winthrop says:

      It wouldn’t work for denominations that reject apostolic succession. The U.S. Episcopalians have some kind of accord with Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians on that basis–not all of them believe in the doctrine, but they’ve apparently set things up to where ordained ministers in fact have this lineage. The Baptists would never go for this.

  13. Steve Newell says:

    Michael,

    If an individual moves from “Evangelical” to Reformation (Lutheran), doesn’t that make the person “Pre-Evangelical”? I’m not trying to be cute, but the term “Post-Evangelical” could imply a move to something “new” and not a return to what is existing prior to “Evangelical”.

    In addition in the LC-MS, the many churches have the word “evangelical” in their name but it has a completely different meaning. In Germany, the Lutheran churches were called “evangelical” and not “Lutheran”. For Lutherans, “evangelical” means “Of the Gospel” with Christ being the Evangel.

  14. “whatever post-evangelicalism means here at IM, it’s my own label used my own way”

    That’s exactly it. Much of the confusion surrounding Michael’s use of terms “evangelical” and “post-evangelical” has to do with the fact that he uses those terms very differently from just about everyone else. It all hinges on what we mean by “evangelical.” Does it refer only to the weak and flawed points in our contemporary ecclesiology or is it defined more broadly as a set of theological essentials that transcend the divisions of high church vs. low church?

    From my perception, Michael uses “evangelical” in a narrower sense than most, mainly as a negative heading under which to gather the shortcomings of what most would call evangelicalism. “Post-evangelical” seems to be a term he uses more broadly to describe efforts to reform or remedy these shortcomings, for better or worse. If a (theologically evangelical) Baptist becoming a (theologically evangelical) Lutheran can be termed a “post-evangelical” shift, this is not the type of radical change most people associate with the term.

    Similarly, it sounds like Michael’s understanding of the “coming evangelical collapse” is far less cataclysmic as it sounds. I don’t think Michael is suggesting that Christianity Today, Compassion International, Wheaton College, InterVarsity or Gordon-Conwell Seminary will self-destruct anytime soon, but rather that many of the “cheap tricks” used by evangelicals in the past will no longer work.

    Please correct me where I’m off the mark. My goal is not to debate but to understand.

  15. Michael,
    the first paragraph of your answer to question #1 was my answer too. At the end of the ’90s, I no longer “fit” evangelicalism as I had known it for 30 years. In 2000 I moved to a “conservative” PCUSA church because the people there loved me and let me serve. I identified very much with the emergent folks for several years, including McLaren and Jones (A. and T. both) because they were the ones who were giving voice to/respecting my questions and talking about the things I saw as important- not just complaining, but trying to figure out a more coherent meaning, and from that, a “more biblical” way to be and to relate. Willard, Webber and Newbigin opened some windows and let in a lot of light- and the theology of evangelicalism mitigated mightily against the God those three were showing me was to be seen through scripture. I could no longer find any “good news” in that theology. Ironic.

    In 2001 I discovered N.T. Wright. Not the controversial Paul work, but the Christian Origins series (which is every bit as “dangerous” but has somehow slipped under the radar…). “New Testament & the People of God” and “Jesus & the Victory of God” were an earthquake that shifted my reality. All the previous answers offered for my questions couldn’t hold a candle to the Meaning that Wright set forth. There is nothing like Wright’s view anywhere in the Reformation (though that is where Wright locates himself), or yet in Rome; recent discussion by some SBC professors claiming Wright is an advocate for Rome just shows how thoroughly and completely they misunderstand him. No, its kinship is with the Eastern church. I was really thrown for a loop when I discovered that, because I had theretofore intended to remain some kind of Protestant.

    I became Orthodox mainly because of Wright’s big books on Jesus, and the Meaning and Reality which they set forth as they worked in me over several years. Wright’s thought is there in Orthodoxy, and lifted into a Meaning and Reality that is even larger and more seamless. And as for “The Resurrection of the Son of God”, nobody -but nobody! -parties because of the Resurrection like the Orthodox!

    In moving to a “pre-evangelical” place, I suppose I have rejected the Protestant evangel, but I have no wish to repudiate all the good things that I did receive from being a Protestant for more than half my life- the help given me in trying to follow Jesus to the best of our understanding and in good conscience, from many kind people who loved me and whose walk with God I would never call into question. I suppose I would be viewed by some people as apostate- and I’m happy to be associated with anyone who has your heart. That’s why I keep coming ’round these parts.

    Dana

  16. I am post a certain type of evangelicalism, which probably doesn’t represent all of it. However it was marked by these traits:

    1. Constant pressure to devote finances to the organisation.
    2. Offers of leadership (read: trumpt up titles) in exchange for hours and hours of effort
    3. silly claims about “promises” from God that simply weren’t borne out by any evidence (aka, they never happened)
    4. Proof texting when reading scripture
    5. Bad music (CCM)
    6. Pressure to wear jeans and a shirt (because Jesus apparently wore nice clothes)
    7. A social sub-culture that was embarassing
    8. claims of personal authority that exceeded responsibility (“church aint a democracy” type justifications, “leader led church” catch phrases)
    9. Disregard for scientific evidence and conclusions a priori, without consideration or disucssion of evidence

    I’m no longer there. and have no wish to return. That makes me post something… post what? I dunno, what was that?

  17. M,

    I have abandoned evangelicalism. I am approaching 43 and have read all of the major works. Blah, Blah Blah. I am not going to become anything else. For me to think I could join this or that and it will do this or that is ridiculous. Along time ago I handed a young women a tract and she told me that it didn’t work. Meaning Christianity. I thought about that for nearly 20 years. Well she was right. That dog don’t hunt.

    All of the endless rows of books and the endless clicking of sites and the endless downloads of MP3’s. They literally contribute nothing to the betterment of anybody except swarthy millionaire preachers. Self promotion cum hucksterism. 2000 years of scamming.

    • Christiane says:

      Dear M,
      Go hang out with the monks in a Franciscan monestery for a week or two.
      No one will hand you a ‘tract’.
      There are no swarthy millionaire preachers there.
      No self-promotion or hucksterism.
      Just peacefulness.
      Very healing.

    • Anthony, I have some very similar sentiments, but I’m still in a place where I separate Jesus himself from swarthy millionaire preachers, bait-and-switch tactics, self-help, and pretty much every other scam perpetrated on us in the name (but not the Spirit) of God.

      I’m not trying to convince you. I’m just saying that we’re not that far apart in some ways. When you say “that dog don’t hunt,” I resonate with that. But IMHO, “that dog” doesn’t have the first thing to do with Christ. Endless rows of books and MP3s, swarthy millionaire preachers, and self-promotion are utterly useless. Jesus, however, was utterly brilliant. When I follow *them,* it doesn’t do anything except ruin, crush, and destroy. When I follow Him, it changes my life. In little bits and pieces. Slowly. But surely!

      This is part of the reason I’m so disenfranchised with evangelical culture. I think that most of that culture (but of course, not all of it) has developed out of people operating with the best of intentions . . . but it so much of it sure has gone all wrong, and it’s taking so many wonderful people with it.

      • Jeremy,

        Thank you. I hopefully didn’t come off as a total jerk. I like Michael. His site has enriched my life.

        I have tried. I give up. For now. Maybe?

        • You certainly didn’t come off as a total jerk, Anthony. Like I said, we aren’t that far apart. I love that you were comfortable talking about the place you find yourself in today . . . that’s one of my favorite things about this place.

          BTW, ordered Factory Girls (the book) today. Wonder if that’s what you were talking about. Even if you weren’t, I appreciate getting pushed in that direction.

        • I’m fairly certain a substantial part of the readership here says or has said exactly this. It’s like modern Christianity (at least in America, and apparently elsewhere, too) is a giant mob, chasing us, demanding that we conform or be cast out, that we not just accept but embrace the quirks that keep each congregation or denomination separate.

          Many of the commenters I’ve seen over the past five years have managed not only to get out from in front of the mob, but to end up behind it, in a place the mob abandoned long ago. They seem to have found something in Christ that they never found in Christians or modern Christianity.

          Myself, I’m still at the “getting out from in front of the mob stage.” While I can give intellectual assent to what I want Christianity to look like, I don’t actually believe it any more. I admitted to someone the other day that the only label I can claim is that of agnostic – I’m not certain of anything any more. Maybe I’ll end up at the place out back where these others have, and maybe I’ll just keep going at right angles to Christianity. Whatever. I’m past the point where I’m going to pretend to believe something I don’t just to keep other people happy.

          So I don’t know that lack of belief is the end of the road for either of us. I didn’t expect to end up here when I started, so it seems silly to think I can predict where I’ll be in another five years, or fifteen, or fifty.

        • Christopher Lake says:

          Anthony,

          As a former agnostic who became a Christian at 29 (*despite* growing up surrounded by a sometimes toxic Christian culture), I am curious about the meaning of some of your words. When you say that you “tried” and “it didn’t work,” what do you mean? Does the “it” refer to Christianity itself, or to the trappings of bad, cheesy “Christian culture”?

          If you mean Christianity itself, what were you hoping for Christianity to accomplish in your life? How did it not “work”? Often, it is helpful in these discussions for each of us to define his/her terms. Otherwise, we are not really understanding each other.

    • They’ve contributed to the betterment of me. That makes one.

    • Anthony,
      What you have described isn’t the gospel but a perverted form of Christianity. And Christianity isn’t the gospel either but a man-made exercise in-search-of.

      The gospel is Jesus, pure and simple. Follow him. You are right not to follow that other stuff.

  18. How can Lutherans be post evangelical when they are the originals? I prefer authentic Evangelical. (Jn) (is that how the cool kids do it?)

    The more I read the less I understand this postevangelical project.

    From reading I’m for about a year, I’d guess the definition is something like the realization the the evangelical desire to avoid doctrine is impossible, that there is such a thing as evangelical doctrine, as shown in its practice, and that evangelical doctrine is unique to our times and out of accord with scripture and tradition? But then what? Some go RCC, some EO, some Lutheran, some reform their own denomination, and some emerging.

    • I said that evangelicals moving to Lutheranism or Anglicanism are moving in a post-evangelical direction, i.e. finding the resources of the ancient church as their way through or out of the evangelical wilderness.

      And btw, Baptists were the original Christians. John the Baptist and all that. 🙂

  19. My own thoughts.
    American evangelicals:
    1) Appeasing God to earn favor.
    2) Appeasing fellow Christians to show my work and value in Christ.
    3) Don’t question or show uncertainty.

    Post-evangelical:
    1) My uncertainty is valued.
    2) My status in Christ is most certain.
    3) Recognition that historical creeds and liturgy have more value than the crashing waves and wild seas of American evangelicalism, i.e. defining the truth of Christ how I wish or the latest author seeking to make me “better”.

    • I’m all for confessional certainty, but I’m not for dealing with every doubter as an apostate. I don’t see the point of treating those who differ over non-essentials or secondary matters as enemies of the faith. I think some of the advertised levels of certainty are toxic and sometimes worse.

      • Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could agree on something relatively simple (like the Creeds)? It’d make drawing the “orthodoxy” line a lot simpler and more clear!

        • During a recent Bible study, when we were talking about “who” *is* or *isn’t* our brother/sister in Christ (just in a denominational sense, not in a personal sense), I suggested that I like to use the Apostle’s Creed as a basis for determining if the “central tenets” of the faith line up and there can be Christian fellowship based on those very basic beliefs.

          This was met with what seemed like a great deal of discomfort, and statements such as, “Well, then you let the Catholics in, because they believe the Apostle’s Creed”, and so on and so on (they used other denominations/traditions as problem-child situations, but I can’t remember them all, but it included issues like infant baptism in the Lutheran church, and all sorts of other “concerns”).

          I kept saying, “exactly!”. Well, in the end, it didn’t go that well as far as them understanding my point.

          Then I arrived home and saw that my order had arrived from Amazon and Frank Schaeffer’s new book, “Patience with God” was in the mix with other non-Kindle-available books (grrrr). I opened it up and noticed that one of his chapters, Chapter 7, was entitled, “The Only Thing Evangelicals Will Never Forgive is Not Hating the ‘Other'”, to which my immediate gut response was twofold: firstly, it rang sooo true based on the discussion I had just come from, and secondly, we often can’t even agree on who “the other” is, but we know they’re out there and they’re anybody who isn’t “just like us”!

  20. I use the term post-evangelical, and I think it communicates to most of my friends, my general “out-of-touch-ness” with evangelical culture. I often refer to myself as part of the “Ancient Future Movement,” and most people actually have a glimmer of a clue as to what I’m getting at.

  21. Well, the Reformed Baptists may be post-evangelical, but unfortunately they’re not post-fundamentalist, so maybe they’re actually pre-evangelical.

  22. Even though I moved out of institutional evangelical-style Christianity and into the home/simple church model several years ago, I still find myself keeping my lifeboat in the general vicinity of the ship I jumped. Maybe I miss it in some ways. Or maybe I’m just curious if it’s actually going to sink. It certainly seems to be listing, though most of those still on board don’t seem to notice — and I certainly have a hard time getting them to understand why I and my fellow cast-a-ways-by-choice are sitting out here in a lifeboat, when we could be playing shuffleboard and ordering room service.
    And while it was really tough those first few years without any of the props, supports, or structures of institution to shield us from the elements, I think our little group of lifeboaters is starting to develop identity and purpose. If nothing else, we’ve certainly gotten to know each other a lot better — sometimes a bit more intimately than individualistic Americans like us are generally comfortable with. And I believe that intimate knowledge has better equipped us to fellowship, worship, pray, and serve together as a spiritual family unit — and to love and accept one another in spite of all the not-so-pleasant things we’ve learned about each other.
    We’re also starting to connect and trade some mutual support and encouragement with some other groups of lifeboaters in our general area. Whether or not this represents the beginnings of some kind of movement or the beginning stages of a new institutional form (just another ship in the scattered fleet of Christendom) — I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I guess I’m starting to lose my former loyalty to things like “correct” church models and utopian visions of what the church should be. For the time being, I’m content to focus my loyalties toward Jesus, my boatmates, and anyone else who’s willing to share friendship in Christ with me.

  23. I don’t get all this “labeling” thing. I came to this site by referral, can’t even remember who referred. I read it, I liked it (agree or not) and I come back. I don’t care if you are pre-post-ex-or-non if you make sense you make sense. I hate labels. To me it’s just intellectuals trying to brand you and box you so they don’t have to think to figure you out.

    I was a Methodist, then on the fringe of the Jesus Movement, then branded cult member. Now I’m an “EX” everything accept Christian. But it seems like that’s not good enough anymore, you have to be a Christian with an extended sub-category, sub-niche and every day people want to add more extensions.

    Every time we categorize someone, we just said “Now I’ve figured you out and your are not allowed to change”. I plan to change hopefully every day for the rest of my life, so don’t plan on making a name tag for me…

  24. Michael,

    Would you or anyone else be willing to respond to my comments from yesterday @ 6:33 pm? I’d like to know if I’m understanding the use of these terms (evangelical, post-evangelical, the coming evangelical collapse etc.) correctly or not.

    Thanks.

  25. I know that a picture is always a good idea in a blog post. I just wish you could’ve chosen something a little less infantile than a po-motivator.

  26. Post-evangelicals are moving beyond American evangelicalism with its emphasis upon moralism, cultural warfare, and pragmatism. In the process, they are rediscoverying the gospel (evangelion). The negative connotations that have stuck to the term, “evangelical” have ruined the word. Evangelicals used to be the name for those Christians who emphasized proclaiming the gospel. Overtime, they got busy doing other things along side the gospel message rather than in concert with it. So, the mission of evangelicals became the gospel AND everything else. Eventually the gospel was neglected by emphasis upon everything else. But it’s so easy to do, and it WILL happen again. As long as we view our message as the gospel AND homeless care AND sanctitity of human life AND holiness AND church growth AND worship AND redeeming the culture AND apologetics, the gospel message willl always get lost in the shuffle; our primary motivation will become something other than the gospel. The answer is finding a way to make all of our activities an expression of the gospel. Any activities which do not proclaim the gospel need to be re-evaluated and re-prioritized, but not necessarily abandoned.

    The priority needs to be given to those activities which directly proclaim the gospel, such as the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments. I keep hearing about churches trying to re-focus, re-define, re-organize, re-start. Typically, this is an effort to define the church’s mission statement in terms of a target audience, a style of worship, a primary message, or a primary service. Rarely do I hear about a church re-focusing on the gospel. For as much as I struggle with the phrase, “purpose-driven”, there is some truth to it: the church’s purpose is to proclaim the gospel, to seek and save the lost – to its current members and to those still outside. That purpose is accomplished through the Holy Spirit and performed in the grace of God under the cross of Christ – not by our ernestness or enthusiasm.