Why am I so Grumpy? (about evangelical history)


Late last week someone accused me of being grumpy about evangelical history (I’ve been writing about it here and here).

Well, beyond the reason that I’ve already stated, here are a couple of reasons that get under my skin.

  • First off, I’m part of a historically Holiness (though non-Wesleyan) denomination (the Christian and Missioary Alliance) which practices healing and engage in world mission, and until the breakout of the “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” controversy really didn’t see a problem with women leading churches.  But in the last twenty years, that and other doctrines and practices have been criticized by those who are adopting a more Neo-Reformed outlook because they think it is the way to more effective “evangelical” ministry.  That makes me a little cranky.
  • Sadly, my denomination is hardly the only one this is affecting.  I’ve talked recently with a Nazarene District Superintendent who told me that after part of his denomination began engaging with the Emerging Church that a small, yet extremely vocal contingent, begun pushing the Nazarene church toward Neo-Reformed thought as a way of protecting against a perceived liberalism in the Emerging Church.  The same is happening in the Brethren Church, the American Baptist Church, and others.  That makes me a little cranky.
  • I’ve heard from people ministering overseas that Neo-Reformed missionaries actively disparage Wesleyan and Pentecostal missions for being cult like and not preaching the real gospel.  That makes me a little cranky.
  • I continue to read for Neo-Reformed pastors, bloggers, and leaders a woefully misinformed history of  evangelicalism that at times feel intentionally misleading. That makes me a little cranky.
  • I repeatedly see young pastors with little theological training being told by Neo-Reformed leaders that their theological heritage cannot be trust and that “real” doctrine is contained in 5-point Calvinism.  That makes me a little cranky.
  • Certainly this is a bit anecotal and personal (which is why I didn’t say all this in my Missio Alliance posts), but I think that actualy my experiences are very typical once we start talking about it.

But really, I’m not that cranky at all (people that know me in flesh and blood actually think I’m pretty laid back and fun).  But I AM passionate.  I’m passionate about my evangelical heritage, and I’m very hopeful for God’s mission.  And to be honest, I am worried about the future of evangelicalism (broadly defined as I’m doing in my series) if it begins to feel that it is only “truly” evangelical if it is Neo-Reformed.  Of course this worry can only be fully explained when I get to the end of my series over at Missio Alliance.
imgresBut this doesn’t mean that I hate Neo-Reformed pastors and leaders, and certainly I don’t despise those that attend their churches.  I hope to continue ministering alongside them as fellow evangelicals.  And I’m excited about of a possible round-table happening next June about the nature of the gospel between prominent Missio Alliance and Gospel Coalition leaders.

But I won’t engage these round-tables as an “inferior” evangelical, nor will I overlook the messages being sent out that presume as much (I think much could be said for so-called “gospel-centered” emphases, but that is for another time).

So yes, I’m a little cranky, but also super hopeful.

4 Replies to “Why am I so Grumpy? (about evangelical history)”

  1. My husband says I get cranky too about theological issues- because he is usually the one who gets my frustration when I feel I can’t share it online and need to take the ‘higher ground.’ You are not alone!

  2. Thanks for this summary. I think it gets to why you have some skin in the game. I grew up in a fairly evangelical region- at least the congregations i was in contact with leaned more evangelical than anabaptist. At the same time, though, I ran with a crew of people who deeply valued Anabaptism. The story telling then was more Anabaptist with evangelical leanings in theology- since, there are some overlaps. I just never experienced a tension much- not feel today there is much to be lost or gained. Now, I do admit that I cut my post-liberal teeth much before the surge of Neo-Reformed theology. So when I hear some of those ideas put forth, I hear a more generic American exceptionalism combined with a theology of election. That is when I get grumpy. But hasn’t that kind of thinking (at least American Exceptionalism) permeated even Mainliners? Or is the struggle for defining evangelicalism an animal all its own?

    1. JoshuaBrockway Josh, I think ultimately you are right about American exceptionalism and Christendom permeating both the evangelical and mainline traditions, and that is because Christendom defined the evangelical consensus before the fundamentalist controversy, and was indeed part of what made both fundamentalism and modernism attractive to its various constituents.  That is why now, 100 years later, we need the Anabaptist impulse to keep from having this happen again via the Neo-Reformed.

  3. I am Nazarene and I was unaware that there were other evangelical denominations dealing with groups of people who are pushing for Neo-Reformed theology. It really has been frustrating especially the way they force their opinion upon others and then refuse to dialogue.

Leave a Reply