It used to be in vogue to be post-evangelical. And to some extent I can understand this. People understand evangelicals often according to those who speak the loudest while at the same time defining it the narrowest. For those who became post-evangelical it was a protest of sorts about an all too limited theology and all too shallow view of society. This conversation continues still now with Rob Bell, and there with Scot McKight, and over here with Tony Jones.
For many it seemed like post-evangelicals had lost the truth, lost the way, lost the life which comes with modern Christianity. But these post-evangelicals always claimed they were working their way back to the way, truth, and life of Christ, and his Gospel, the euangelion. But then Robert Webber helped us to back off a bit and to think about pragmatic and younger evangelicals. And now people just busy themselves with out-maneuvering each other with historical and biblical investigation about what being evangelical really means.
For me, since I’ve been at Marquette, a catholic university, I have just returned to calling myself an evangelical (it always make me laugh when the student here ask about my evangelical religion). Perhaps I like the scandal it makes when people who used to be evangelicals find out that I still consider myself one (they are often now either disillusioned with the church, or have turned into Anglicans…One post-evangelical, now Anabaptist, philosophy student audibly guffawed during when he found out it was still an evangelical!).
But, I think I’m going to make a change. I would like to think of myself as a Pre-Evangelical, as one who is waiting for these little turf wars to die down, one waiting for a re-birth of the truly Evangelical. I’m want to be a Pre-Evangelical, not as one trying to get behind a fundamentalist/liberal divide or the modernist debates of the 1920’s, or recover some authentic 19th-Century religiosity, but one looking forward to a glorious dawn, one could even say the return, the parousia, toward which the Evangel points and proclaims.
I claim to be a Pre-Evangelical because the Gospel has yet to totally take root, to fully transform me. As John tells us, “what we will be has not yet been made known,” but because I am being made into the image of Christ, who is The Evangelical, we know that “when he appears, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2) and only then will I be able to claim to be an Evangelical.
So who will join me? Let’s start a movement, a revolution, of Pre-Evangelicals. But let it not be through publishing contracts or conference circuits, let it not be through blogs and tweeds, let it not be through doctrinal emphases or identity markers, but let us Pre-Evangelicals live, proclaims, follow, give, die, and rise again with Christ the Evangelical. Let us not argue over being a post-Evangelical, but living into the Gospel as something before us that leads us on.