January 18, 2021

IM Recommended Reading: Who Speaks for Evangelicals?

By Chaplain Mike

An interesting piece over at Out of Ur blog by John Ortberg asks the question, “Who speaks for evangelicals today?”

This question reflects the diversity in the movement that exists under evangelicalism’s umbrella today. It wasn’t long ago, Ortberg says, that evangelicals had a sense of “relational interconnectedness” and that it was clear who their main spokespersons were.

This was the “classic evangelicalism” of the post-war era, established and led by such public icons as Billy Graham, Carl Henry, Christianity Today, Wheaton College, and the evangelical schools, faith missions, and publishing houses. But a lot has happened in a couple of generations to cause a multitude of disconnections within the movement, dividing it into various factions.

One reason is that evangelical leaders tend–like our society generally–to be more narrowly niched. Some are leaders of local churches–Bill Hybels and Rick Warren and Andy Stanley. Some work in spiritual formation–Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson. Some of them are New Calvinists; some head up parachurch organizations (in the 1940s and 50s, this was a disproportionately large part of evangelical leadership–beginning with Billy Graham himself.) Today some are identified more generationally. Scot [McKnight] mentioned the names that his college students are highly aware of and in tune with–including Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, and Donald Miller.

I expect another reason why the ties that bind evangelicals are becoming looser is the change in church/faith landscape. When I was growing up in the 1970s, a large part of evangelical identity was who we were not: we weren’t Catholic and we certainly weren’t mainline, liberal, establishment, pipe-smoking, sherry-drinking, hush-puppy wearers.

But those distinctions are no longer quite so clear. Some Catholics are quite evangelical. And the mainline is no longer the adversary it used to be.

As we move past the first decade of the 21st century, is it more proper to speak of evangelical “movements” rather than a “movement”? Evangelicalism has always tolerated its share of diversity, but now it seems that the various factions have moved out from under the big tent to go their own entrepreneurial way, and when they do communicate, they spend more time debating one another than they do with speaking into American society with a common voice that represents a united mission.

Of course, this factionalism has been accelerated by advances in technology, which exercises a relentless centrifugal force on unity and community of all kinds. Anyone can start a blog now and with enough followers, a new element of theological diversity emerges. And any spark of disagreement quickly gets blown into a wildfire. The recent blogosphere buzz over John Piper inviting Rick Warren to speak a a conference is but one example.

Perhaps the work of someone like John H. Armstrong and his book, Your Church Is Too Small, which calls for relational and missional unity around a credal orthodoxy is needed more than ever in our day. Can the Gospel-believing church ever hope to meet the challenges of fulfilling the Missio Dei in today’s world if we aren’t:

...of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose; do[ing] nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard[ing] one another as more important than [ourselves]; looking out not merely for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others? (Philippians 2:2-4)

Unity in faith and mission may well be the greatest challenge of this century for followers of Christ. Otherwise it may come down to every man for himself. And who will speak for Christ to a lost and dying world?


  1. Though he’d never claim the mantle, I’d say that John Piper is the leader of the Evangelical Movement. And frankly, that’s just fine with me.


    • Interesting that you would say that, Brad. In Ortberg’s article, he reports Scot McKnight as saying, “the single topic that will draw the highest number of responses in a blog is not sexual orientation or politics, it’s mentioning John Piper.”

      I wouldn’t call him a unifying voice at this point.

      • John Piper?

        Surely you jest.

      • Sounds like Scot might be a little jealous of John’s ministry. I think his DoG by far is the most far reaching ministry today and holds the greatest hope for bridging the divide between evangelicals, mainlines and even emergents. His secret is pretty simple. He preaches the Word of God, and values it, unlike most major church and para-church organizations that either place Scripture as subservient to the ministry or just simply don’t care for it in any meaningful way.

        • So one has to be “jealous” of Piper’s endeavors to disagree with you that he does not represent anywhere near the majority of evangelicals, for lots of different reasons?

          Sounds like you might be letting your intense admiration of one man blind you to the realities and diversity of evangelicals.

          • “So one has to be “jealous” of Piper’s endeavors to disagree with you that he does not represent anywhere near the majority of evangelicals, for lots of different reasons?”

            I don’t think that’s even remotely close to what I said.

            “Sounds like you might be letting your intense admiration of one man blind you to the realities and diversity of evangelicals.”

            Actually, while I very much appreciate John’s ministry, there’s no huge admiration on my part. I think I’m more of Keller “fan” at heart. I was just answering the fundamental underlying question and assertion in the post, and not surprisingly, the reaction here about Piper (and all evangelicals for that matter) was predictably over-the-top hostile.


        • Please…

    • Are you kidding? Just his views on gender alone alienate him from a large portion of evangelicals. I don’t want to get into a discussion about that, but surely you realize that he is not universally liked or even respected in all evangelical circles. Or perhaps you don’t.

      This is why no one will be able to claim this this person or that person is “the leader” or “speaks” for evangelicals, because there are so many factions and therefore so much controversy about nearly every high profile “leader”.

      • Yuk.

        • Savannah says

          Are you disagreeing with what I’m saying, Matthew, or are you just referring to me personally?

          Or perhaps just not feeling very eloquent today?

          • Yes – I was not feeling very eloquent…….

            “Are you kidding? Just his views on gender alone alienate him from a large portion of evangelical”s

            Well, we could go on and on could’nt we?

            -Believe in the suffiency of Scripture and the will alienate one from a large portion of evangelicals.

            – Believe in a Soveriegn God who condemns people to a literal hell will alienate ” ” ” “.

            – Believe in a God who hates sin and pours out wrath will alienate also….

            – Believe in the true gospel and that will alienate too!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Believe in the true gospel and that will alienate too!

            Does this mean if you alienate people in general, that means You Must Have the True Gospel? Or does it mean you’re just being obnoxious?

    • He represents the neo-reformed movement – not evangelicalism as a whole.

    • “the” leader?

  2. So, where is the line between evangelicals and post-evangelicals?

    • Post-Evs are evangelical in doctrine but have moved outside the bounds of ev. culture.

      • Thank you! I’m new (I only heard of iMonk because of Michael Spencer’s passing) and that’s the first time I’ve seen somebody actually say what a post-evangelical was. By evangelical culture do you mean politics? or is it deeper/broader than that?

        • Many postevs have certainly been disenchanted by culture war mentality, but they have also moved away from an inadequate understanding and practice of worship, a model of church that reflects corporate American business, an adoption of marketing and consumer perspectives, an ignorance and rejection of Christian history and tradition, and a view of the Christian life that revolves around the church and it’s programs rather than living out our faith and vocations in daily life in full participation in the world.

          • Thank you very much for the detail. I guess I more-or-less thought that that was what evangelicalism was supposed to be. So would you say post-evangelical is more a revival/reformation than an abandonment or “moving on”? Sorry for all the questions, I don’t mean to derail the original topic. I just find that it is very hard to figure out what “Evangelical” means since no one person seems to speak for it, there’s no official organization, but because I don’t belong to any denomination it seems to be the nearest label I can find. I’m starting to suspect though that I’m somewhere between evangelical and post-evangelical. Bebbington’s criteria are good but so vague I’m not sure it’s super helpful.

      • Nice definition.

      • What does it mean to be “evangelical in doctrine”?

    • I tend to think of “post-evangelical” as descriptive of anyone who has a background in evangelicalism, but for whatever reason finds the standard evangelical church life lacking.

      A good example is the early 20s kid who was raised in a Calvary Chapel church. After college they are exposed to some other Christian traditions and see things good in them. After wards, they do not feel comfortable and/or understood at their home church anymore.

  3. Evangelical is used in such a broad way these days.

    Watch ‘Jesus Camp’ and that fruit loop of a lady is claiming she is ‘Evangelical’……

    • Wait, how isn’t that lady Evangelical?

      • I believe she is a fundamentalist. My best understanding is that evangelicals are the in-between bulk of protestantism between the right extreme of fundamentalism and the left wing of mainline liberalism.

        • She’s Pentecostal/Charismatic. (I assume you mean the largish lady (blonde?) who led/taught the kids.) That’s not the same as Fundamentalist, which tends to be anti-Pentecostal/Charismatic. Think John R. Rice. 🙂

          • Fundamentalists tend to be dispensationalists, and therefore might share the same end-times/rapture eschatology as Pentecostals. But as dispensationalists they don’t believe in the gifts of the Spirit today, so are anti-charismatic.

            Ain’t we one big dysfunctional family?

  4. Steve Newell says

    Theologically, American “Evangelicals” are all over the place. There is no coherent theology that binds them together. For example, there is no Book of Concord, Westminster Confession that American “Evangelicals” can agree on. It is very hard to have an individual speaking for American “Evangelicals” since they cannot agree theologically what they believe and why they believe.

    • I second Steve. I still don’t know exactly what I’d say to define the word evangelical if someone asked me. And if evangelicals don’t have a defining doctrine, or creed, or structure, then it’s inevitable that they’ll be looking for constantly changing spokespeople who can shape and direct this amorphous movement. I don’t know that this is a healthy situation for either the followers or the leaders.

    • Steve Newell says

      Another thought: Many American “Evangelicals” are more defined (self-defined) by their politics than by their theology.

      • Maybe so reg. the politics, but I’m fairly certain that this is changing at a steady rate as many refuse to be pigeon-holed as totally far right on every issue; there is a lot of push back on this issue.

        • My first thought was that evangelicals were in large part defined by politics. That is the way I define them and I assume that the Republican party speaks for them. If there is a variance between the mainstream GOP and evangelical views on an issue, I’m not sure what issue that would be.

          Maybe that is changing with things like immigration reform. But even there I note that the evangelical leaders supporting something other than “throw the book at the illegals” are taking a lot of criticism.

    • I still think most, if not all Evangelicals would uphold the definition as presented by Bebbington:

      Biblicism, Crucicentrism, Conversionism, and Activism.

    • I agree with Steve. It’s impossible to define who will speak for evangelicals since ‘evangelical’ covers such a wide range of beliefs and even worldviews (e.g. political views) that the term means little more than ‘anything but extremely liberal Christian’. As Roger Olson notes, today most fundamentalists consider themselves evangelical, as well as many of the folks on TBN, and within that range there’s even room for non-Trinitarians!

      Until some new term and basic set of doctrines can be agreed on I don’t think we even have a ‘momement’ any longer, much less a leader who speaks for it. We really have come to the ‘every man does what is right in his own eyes’ point, which I think is one of the appeals of Roman Catholicism (though I am not Catholic).

  5. Amen, CMike. You elude to gospel transformation. If the gospel and living it became the uniting thread among evangelicals what a force we could be for Christ. Perhaps that’s what Piper has in mind. I hope he’s at least starting the dialog.

  6. Today’s evangelicalism was largely formed out of a reaction to cultural forces. Prior to this, evangelicals were known for what they were “for,” not for what they were against.
    Now that there is not so much emphasis on these controversial things and our society’s views about them have change (largely in a good way I believe), there is no unity.

    Although I would call myself an evangelical, I do not identify with present day evangelicalism simply because it’s not the real deal.

    I have come to identify more with my denomination. They are my family that is held together by mission, creed, and discipline. I have personal relationships with many of them that involves love and accountability. At least when there is a controversy or disagreement, I can pull out the official UMC Book of Discipline and the Bible which we declare is the source for all matters concerning the faith.That’s a whole lot better than swapping proof texts and quotes from our favorite teacher (personal popes).
    I see and hear of a lot more people identifying with their denomination. People are calling themselves Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Methodists.
    And that’s fine with me. At least then we can have some meaningful talk about doctrine and commonalities instead of slandering “liberals” and talking about how “bad” the world (specifically America) is getting.

    • What about people who have no denomination? Theologically I think I’m closest to a Presbyterian but I’ve never set foot in a Presbyterian church so I wouldn’t claim to be one.

      • Well, I only stated that I see a trend in people identifying more and more with their denomination. For example, in my denomination there are more and more of my generation reclaiming a Wesleyan heritage. I know that other denominations are doing so as well.

        I understand why some shy away from denominations but I think there are some dangers in this postion. For one, you lose a strong identity that can shape, mold, and direct your life in Christ. I don’t believe my Methodist tradition is infallible but sure has made a tremendous impact on me and my family’s spiritiual life. We know who we are, what we belief, and how to grow in the love of Christ.

        I think there is also a loss of understanding the Christian faith as being part of a family. We don’t call others brothers and sisters for no reason. I love that I can visit other places and still find a church that is part of my denominational family.
        Now, I know that we can and should experience the family of God with others simply because they know Christ. I think this is what has held evangelicalism together and the reason it is falling apart is because devotion to Christ and the experience of knowing him and the power of the Holy Spirit is not happening among evangelicals.
        But it is good to experience the blessing of God’s family along with the blessing of shared belief and doctrine.

        • Josh, I think you are on to something: “Although I would call myself an evangelical, I do not identify with present day evangelicalism simply because it’s not the real deal.” I’ve been saying something similar for years… evangelical does not have a definition anymore, only vaguely positive or negative connonations depending on where a person is coming from.

          Josh wrote: “I have come to identify more with my denomination. They are my family that is held together by mission, creed, and discipline. I have personal relationships with many of them that involves love and accountability.” I second your words!

          I am becoming more and more “Baptist” as I study Scripture and seek to follow Christ. I’m sure I would be on the other side of the fence with you on a number of issues. But, at least now, as you said, there is a starting point to discuss doctrine, sharpen each other in our Christian walk and understanding of Scripture (instead of using our Bibles like dull swords to bludgeon each other to death!), and worship together our triune God who reconciled the world to himself through Jesus Christ (even though likely never in the same local fellowship in this present age).

          I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a return to “denominationalism” instead of the predicted disappearance of “denominations” that was all the rage in the ’90s. A church can model itself on whatever is the going fad at the moment, but Willowcreek and Saddleback and Mars Hill (whether Driscoll or Bell) will not be there for MY home church when it celebrates building into God’s kingdom or goes through struggles that need outside intervention. Our denomination, on the other hand, will!

          • I agree with you, Ron. I just don’t see the predicted “fall of the denomination” coming.

            You’re also right about being able to fellowship and minister together because we know our commanilities since we both come profess to be either a Methodist or a Baptist.

            It’s a whole lot easier to focus on what matters when we know what we disagree on.

            I think much of the whole “I’m just a plain ol’ Christian/ denominations are bad” attitude is not so much a desire to not be divisive but plain laziness – just too lazy to flesh out what they believe and therefore not confident enought to engage criticially with others in meaningful dialogue about the faith.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        What about people who have no denomination?

        They often end up in the “Non-Denominational Denomination” — in practice, something like an Independent Fundamental Baptist with the labels filed off.

        • They often end up in the “Non-Denominational Denomination” — in practice, something like an Independent Fundamental Baptist with the labels filed off.

          ’round these parts, the “Non-Denominational Denomination” is more likely to lean (lightly) Charismatic than Independent Baptist. Go figure.

  7. David Cornwell says

    John Piper certainly does not qualify as a source of unity for me. I have to look to the ancient creeds. History and tradition offer many clues as to where to find unity. Josh writing about the UMC and its unifying principles has a good point. The Articles of Religion had their birth in the Church of England. The UMC has always had a strong evangelical sub-strata which is in evidence in some of the seminaries, many churches, and also the influence of Asbury Theological Seminary (which is independent, not UMC).

    I’m not trying to sell the UMC, just making a point. Much the same can be said of any historic denomination.

    For me unity demands some sense of history and tradition, thus the creeds, the sacraments, the liturgy, the promises we make to each other, the discipline, and the service.

    As for being “evangelical” I’m not sure who is a spokesperson. There seems to be many who would be, but not many have authority. Time will tell.

    Everything is changing.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Who Speaks for Evangelicals?

    Fred Phelps? 🙂

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Bad HUG, bad!

      • besides that, Mr.Phelps doesn’t really “speak”, unless shrieking thru a bullhorn counts as ‘speaking’…..

    • Phelps can’t be an Evangelical. He’s a Democrat.

    • HA!!!

      Fred Phelps is a noble spokesman for evangelcals!!

      On a more serious note…does it bother you that many Evangelical leaders don’t take on Fred Phelps? I mean come on…Brian McLaren says something and John Piper, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur, D.A. Carson have to respond.

      I’ve never figured this out. Not just with Phelps but with so many others…ie Pat Robertson, John Haggee, Jerry Falwell (when he was living…) Maybe evangelcals need to police themself before they start to police society.


      • Phelps gets enough negative press in the media that people don’t have to “take him on.” He does a pretty good job of it himself. His church is mostly family members and is more of a cult than a church; I don’t see his church growing by leaps and bounds.

        McLaren, on the other hand, is the poster boy for the emergent movement; his version is a theologically liberal version of the post-evangelical meme. On one hand McLaren’s post-evangelical critique of a lack of proper praxis is valid, but his increasingly non-evangelical theology needs to be critiqued, since it doesn’t get as much press as the orthopraxis argument.

        • McLaren is trying to make evangelicalism, which is basically conservative, paletable to liberal-leaning young people. For example, on the gay issue he says that he has lots of gay friends, that it’s wrong not to welcome them into the church, but then the biblical verses on this are clear too, so why don’t we declare a 25-year moratorium on talking about the issue? On creationism, he “doesn’t dare” say that God couldn’t have created the universe in six days, but that the other side ought to be accepted as Christian as well. Conservatives accuse him of selling out, liberals see him as trying to “spin” evangelical Christianity in such a way as to trick liberals into joining a religion that may not be right for them.

        • I’m currently reading McLaren’s A NEW KIND OF CHRISTIANITY. Whereas I was not terribly attracted to A GENEROUS ORTHODOXY (but I didn’t really read it all), what I’ve read so far of A NEW KIND OF CHRISTIANITY has been good, and resonates more with me (so far; I’ve only read the first 7 chapters out of 22) than MERE CHURCHIANITY.


          • and he denies penal substitution………….!!

          • Matthew Johnston says:
            July 28, 2010 at 1:04 am
            and he denies penal substitution………….!!

            So do many of the Eastern (and I assume the so-called “Oriental”) Orthodox churches.

            Or if they don’t deny it, they relegate it to a low place in the list of explanations of the atonement.

          • iMonk Fan aka EricW says

            (This is EricW trying to bypass the “waiting moderation” trap)

            Matthew Johnson:

            Have you ever read Athanasius’ On the Incarnation?


            (It’s not long, and it’s something that every Christian should read at least once.)

            This is the same Trinity-defending, Orthodox-Christianity-defining Athanasius who opposed Arius.

            He wrote this hundreds of years before Anselm wrote his Cur Deus Homo.

          • If one denyiespenal substitution openly and willingly, whilst being irreconciliable then he / she is a heretic….

          • Then you have hereticized most of the Eastern Orthodox Church. 🙂

          • Then so be it – to deny that is to deny Christ

          • Matthew Johnston says:
            July 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm
            Then so be it – to deny that is to deny Christ

            Uh…. sure.


            Yeah, right.


          • In fact, I would suggest that any Christian or church that considers confessing and professing the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement as being an essential element of the faith, and/or as what defines one as being a Christian and having faith in Christ (versus denying Christ), is a cultist or in a cult, or is at least heterodox if not heretical.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Have fun hunting down all those Heretics, Matthew.

            Remember A.W.Pink…

          • If you have to believe in penal substitutionary atonement to be a Christian, I’m not a Christian. Just call me “Christ Follower” or something like that.

            I find it hard to believe that in order to forgive my dog who won’t stop barking, the Godlike thing to do is substitute my daughter and kill her very painfully. I find it even harder to believe that many Christians embrace a God who requires blood sacrifice.

            Paul was unable to conceptualize God without blood sacrifice; that’s all he knew. Too bad he never met Jesus in person or a lot of his wacky ideas would have been knocked out of him, ala’ Peter.

        • One doesn’t have to dis’ Paul to question the assumption or assertion held or put forth by many that the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement is all-sufficient or absolutely correct or mandatory.

          A study of church history and the various doctrines of the atonement that have been believed by Christians or expressed by theologians and Church Fathers will show that the Scriptures allow for various views and doctrines re: this.

      • What I should also add is this. I used to be an evangelical Christian. Today I am largely agnostic, it happened over time and for multiple reasons. I like this blog a lot because it dives into the reasons that became tipping points for me for losing my belief in the church and God.

        This was one of the many issues for me. I got tired, so, so tired of having other people speak for me or become my representative. I would get horrified that Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell would say what they would, and no one would refute it or rebuke or correct them. I learned that sin became very subjective and the Bible was nothing more than a weapon used in a subjective way. The lack of love and grace shown by many evangelical spokesman for me was horrifying and reminded me more of the Pharises in their approach.

        It also became a huge obstacle in my relationship with others. I remember one time several years ago inviting a co-worker to church. We were doing an outreach and encouraged to invite 1 co-worker. I invited someone who I respected and loved, and the question he asked me is “What is Pat Robertson going to speak about this time? Does he give sermons from his location in the Norfolk area that are beamed in your church? Do you know if he’s going to talk about abortion?” Already I saw the door was closed because of the likes of Pat Robertson it just keeps getting worse. And I found myself getting compared more and more to that and I felt so sick at times. Its also predictable…the next time there is a natural disaster – hurricance, earthquake, tornado, etc.. Its almost guaranteed that someone will say something outrageous and so far from the truth.

        Even some of the more mainstream guys would say stuff as well that horrified me. John Piper made comments which the IM covered on this blog. I’m sorry Mr. Piper I don’t think God sent a tornado on the ELCA Church becuase of what they were debating about homosexuality. If God uses tornadoes to punish people than I guess the states of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, North and South Dakota have a lot of repenting to do.

        While I lost my faith for a whole number of reasons..I couldn’t stand seeing how skewed Christianity was. Its a faith for the proud, the self rightous, and not for the sinner. That’s what I leanred by my “spokesman”….


      • I get what you are saying, Eagle, but if the leader(s) were to “take someone on” each week, you could spend many months at that and never get around to leading your flock to greener pastures. I thing there is a time and place for exactly what you are saying, and my pastor has made a comment or two about Joel Osteen and other prosperity types. Fred Phelps is so blatantly hateful, I don’t know if there are too many in our congregation that are confused by him . Certainly many are saddened by him. I agree we do need to ‘police our own’, but at the same time we are all very broken jars of clay, and in need of the Saviour’s touch, and always will be.

        Hoping you find the comfort of HIS hands and heart today
        Greg R

        • Greg you made my point exactly. Whenever church leaders speak out about someone its always in criticism of the same individuals: Brian McLaren, Joel Olstein, Tony Compallo, etc… It’s always the liberals or the prosperity gospel crowd. I would suggest that many evangelicals while condemning the prosperity gospel have bought into it. Listen to them describe their life and how they are blessed by their job, job promotion, home in American surbibia, healthy kid being born, or returning from Asia safely as a missionry. It’s nothing but the American Hortio Alger story. If you life is difficult or having problems than the “You must be living in sin, or God is punishing you” garbage comes out. That was part of what happened to me in mega churches that were either non demonintional or Bible believing.

          But google what John Piper, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur or others say about the previous mentioned people. They sure make time for criticizing them in blogs, sermons, books, magazine articles, etc.. Fred Phelps is a marginal figure and never was a threat. But the fact that Pat Robertson would spew hateful talk time and again for almost two decades and and no one challenges him. That’s awful. Its like what Jerry Falwell said about September 11, since no one in the evangelical church called him on the carpet I gues that means that he was speaking the truth. Meeting his reponse with silence suggests a tactit approval. I don’t know..but maybe he did speak for the evangelical church. If that is the case I’d like to know why God was so angry at the many innocnet workers killed in the World Trade Center. And if this loving God is going to be vengeful to go after innocent people in such a sick way…than I want to part in him.


          • Oops…i meant to say that I want no part in him. That’s how I was trying to close…


          • Points well made and rec’d…. maybe there is some kind of ‘silent code’ of sorts in the clergy realm where it’s OK to slam Phelps and Osteen, while everyone else (approx) get some kind of free ride. I can see that; needless to say , those aren’t the rules here….. the counterbalance seems to be that our ‘lover’s quarrel’ needs to stay just that and not a b-tch fest, if you catch my drift. I thoroughly agree with the direction of your post, and am convinced that we need clarity, courage, and compassion so that our very fallible and human leaders stay between the rails. If the accountability the had/have within their own local congregations was more concrete, the need for what we’re are talking about would be less, IMO.

            Within the body at large we need GOD given discernment and disagreement, mixed with large doses of humility and brotherly kindness. Not either/or, but BOTH/AND. Thanks for the back and forth.

            Greg R

        • DreamingWings says

          I totally agree with the need to spend plenty of time for ministering to ones’ congregation. And that a war of theology with this many potential opponents looks (well, is) incredibly time consuming and anger-making. That said, Jesus seemed to regularly find time for slapping down the legalists and religious bullies of his day. And in public most of the time. Perhaps a mental change of focus would be helpful. Its not so much about standing up TO the bully; but standing up FOR his or her victims. We must indeed remember that we are all broken. But, doesn’t that also means that we should do everything possible to prevent further breakage in others?

  9. What’s wrong with diversity? Seems like looking to “Leaders” got evangelicals into this situation…….

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It’s a question of balance.

      Look to Leaders too much and you have a Dear Leader riding you booted and spurred.

      Look to Leaders too little and you have an Anarchy.

      Unity without Diversity and you have an anthill of total conformity.

      Diversity without Unity and you have Yugoslavia.

  10. Betsi Freeman says

    Hey everyone, I just wanted to say thank you so much for praying for me when I was questioning God earlier on this site. God really did a miracle in my life since then, and I hope I never stop being humbled by His Church’s amazing responses to my heart’s cry. He has a wonderful, unifying cycle of grace, and we all have to just stand in awe of HIM sometimes to get it right when times are tough.


    No longer “Help?”

    • good news puts fat on the bones….my wife will be glad that I just read Betsi’s post and gained 3 pounds at least…. happy Tuesday to ya, Betsi..

      Greg R

    • Praise God, Betsi. This is great to hear.

    • Betsi,

      That is great news, and thank you for sharing it. I hope that you stick around and join us frequently.


  11. oy vey
    Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian theological stream which began in Great Britain in the 1730s.[1] Most adherents consider its key characteristics to be:

    A belief in the need for personal conversion (or being “born again”)
    Some expression of the gospel in “effort”
    A high regard for biblical authority
    An emphasis on teachings that proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus.[2]

    Isn’t everyone an evangelical who believes in the cross of Jesus and wants to spread the good news of that changing faith?

    • Shammai,

      As a Catholic I can honestly accept all 4 of your key characteristics of evangelicalism without hesitation. But, many wouldn’t consider me an evangelical. (and some would consider me lost.)

      • Likewise: I’m with Anna. After decades of frustration with what was to me the doctrinal rootlessness of American protestant evangelicalism, I arrived at my true evangelical home in the Catholic Church and have experienced unmatched joy since my conversion.

        This blog is heartening to me in many respects because it is one of the few places. Where Catholics and protestants are engaged in quality dialogue. With time, Anna, I think more and more post -evangelicals will recognize us as brothers and sisters in faith.


        • Sorry for the awkward typo at the beginning of paragraph two above.

          In spirit with the topic of this conversation, one spokesman for evangelically inclined Catholics is Fr Robert Barron at the wordonfire.org website.


  12. I thought it was John Boehner?


  13. Hi Mike,
    Boyd and Eddy’s book “Across the Spectrum” gives a good elementary introduction to the diversity in Evangelicalism.

    Many evangelikcals on the “right wing” of evangelical theology and politcs do not recognise those at the “left” end (which are variously called post evangelicals, post conservative evangelicals, progressive evangelicals and radical evangelicals) as being evangelical. This is a great pity.

    John Arthur.

  14. Uh, Joel Osteen people. Where have you been. He speaks for us all. (jn)

    Greg nailed it (way above). The term “evangelical”, as it was originally defined (speaking post fundy, non Lutheran US here) is practically unknown these days. It is now a catch-all for “protestant” (thanks main-stream media).

    Wish Michael was here; would love to dialog about how the terms “post evangelical” and “evangelical wilderness” really have no meaning in everyday speak – since no one has the same understanding of “evangelical”.

    For what it’s worth, my personal vote goes to John Stott. But that just reinforces my point!

    – Craig

    • In Latin America the term “evangelico” usually refers to all Protestants. They don’t really distinguish between differing types of Protestants down there because there were so few of them until after the 1960’s. There was no Reformation in Spain and Portugal, and so all of Latin America remained 99% Catholic until very recently. It is still 85% Catholic more or less, and the “evangelicos” have been gaining steadily in numbers and in credibility with the public. But the term is used widely and also includes Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        In Latin America the term “evangelico” usually refers to all Protestants.

        Sort of became the word for “Not Catholic”, eh?

  15. Allan Schwarb says

    Who will replace Dr. Billy Graham to become the next Evangelical leader?

    Whoever it is will have an uphill climb as some Evangelical leaders are reporting:

    (1) “The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that there is not much of an Evangelical mind.”

    Evangelical leader and noted historian, Dr. Mark A. Noll, _The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind_, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (October 1995).

    (2) Eminent Protestant professor, Dr. Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary, Historical Theology and Church History), advises his students every year:

    Christianity’s default position is the Roman Catholic Church.

    Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism.

    Dr. Trueman’s bottom line?

    Unless you awake every day knowing why you’re a Protestant, you should “do the decent thing and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church.”

    • I think the Eastern Orthodox Church would contest both his “default position” assertion and his advice.

      Can anyone say “Filioque”?

      And many of us would hardly consider his suggested action to be “decent.” He is being sarcastic, isn’t he?

  16. I’d probably put Rick Warren as the most prominent US ch leader near the middle of the evangelical spectrum. He’s got enough bible, enough social justice, a good enough communicator and leads a megachurch, so he ticks enough boxes. Not that he speaks for everyone, but you’d struggle to find someone who does.

    In Australia the two high-profile protestant streams are contemporary pentecostal (Hillsong is the most well-known brand) and Calvinist (in particular the Sydney Anglican diocese), with most of the rest of evangelicals fitting roughly between them. That in between sector (baptist and similar) doesn’t really raise its voice in the streets, so the first two are the high-profile ones, so there’s no big spokesperson in the middle like Warren who would be considered representative of the majority.

  17. cermak_rd says

    Did Billy Graham even speak for the black evangelical church? It seems that has always been its own entity–a people formed from a different crucible and with its own struggles and therefore its own theology.

    Today, in my neighborhood I see Spanish speaking churches (mainly charismatic) springing up. Again, these folks struggle is different, I would imagine their theology is going to be different.

    And then there are the Vietnamese, Korean and Mandarin churches I pass on my walks (they have English translations under the native language signage, otherwise I would not be able to identify the specific languages). I would imagine these churches are unique to that cultural milieu.

    But even if you come to European-derived evangelicals, there are urban, rural and suburban environments each which has its own culture. There are regional differences, Butte, Montana, San Antonio, Texas and Toledo, Ohio do differ despite having a common culture defined by TV.

  18. Dan Allison says

    Well, Dr. Piper certainly speaks for one subset of evangelicals, but we’re far more fragmented (or to put it more positively, diversified) than we were in the 50s and 60s and Billy Graham was the dominant public figure. Charles Stanley speaks for one group, John Hagee for another. Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis continue to be strong voices in the “liberal” wing. Tim Keller is certainly a powerful voice, as is Eugene Peterson. As an Anglican and an Englishman, I don’t think NT Wright can be considered “a voice of evangelicals” but his influence is certainly strong. Rob Bell and Donald Miller couldn’t be considered “evangelical” leaders but they are certainly voices for the “emergent” wing, to the extent that can be considered evangelical at all. And I guess I might mention Osteen, although I’m not really certain that what he does is evanglism.

  19. “As we move past the first decade of the 21st century, is it more proper to speak of evangelical ‘movements’ rather than a ‘movement’?”

    Yes. Why does there need to be one leader? Otherwise, why not Benedict XVI? If unifying under a central figurehead is so important, why not just undo the protestant reformation and go back to Rome? I’m serious! As a protestant, I trust B-XVI a whole lot more than Piper, Warren, Driscoll, and Mohler combined!

    I honestly don’t think centralized leadership is necessary. I wish there would be a way to re-establish ecumenical counsels, where there would be at least credal unity, but I think that is impossible, because the counsels represented an imperfect system that was doomed to schism from the very first one.

    I think we are partly in this mess because leaders like Falwell tried to force evangelicalism under one umbrella for political expedience; the diversity which existed before then, which could have been our saving grace now, was lost forever. Evangelicalism has become marginalized and minimalized. We jettison anything that doesn’t lend to holding the fragile cultural war front line together. It is no wonder we are a mile wide and an inch deep.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      When you face an enemy line “a mile wide and an inch deep”, you concentrate into a Schwerepunkt opposite a weak point on that line, punch through, then exploit the breakthrough and roll him up from behind. Once you punch through (not hard when it’s “an inch deep”), it’s all over but the screaming.

  20. That Billy Graham was considered evangelicalism’s leader is probably why the movement is on life support/ That anyone would would consider Rick Warren to assume that mantle is as good a reason as any for removing that life support.

  21. @Mr.Ox

    very well said, sir: this is my take also, and the more I consider the fallen nature of ALL leaders, the more convinced I am of this
    “I honestly don’t think centralized leadership is necessary.”

    this point is great , as well: we are better of with MANY voices, not just ONE
    “I think we are partly in this mess because leaders like Falwell tried to force evangelicalism under one umbrella for political expedience; the diversity which existed before then, which could have been our saving grace now, was lost forever.”

    thanks for your posts
    Greg R

  22. Are you guys serious? You deny penal substitution??

    IM writers – I urge to cover this.

    • We don’t necessarily deny it. I, in fact, largely ascribe to it. But along with many in the church, past and present, I don’t consider it to be the only or only valid/acceptable/Scriptural explanation or doctrine of the atonement. As I said, read Athanasius ON THE RESURRECTION. Read what Christians believed about Christ’s death before Anselm of Canterbury set forth the doctrine in CUR DEUS HOMO in the 11th century. A good place to start, besides those works themselves,is Jaroslav Pelikan THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION (5 volumes). Read and learn the history of the doctrines and dogmas you subscribe to or have been taught. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ve been influenced by Augustine, and how much your Christianity comes from the Roman Catholic Church, even if you consider yourself to be an anti-Catholic Reformation Protestant. Augustine has shaped your thinking in ways you don’t even realize. After Pelikan, go the the Fathers themselves. Read Irenaeus. Read Cyril. Read Tertullian. Read Justin Martyr’s Apologies and his Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew. Read the Apostolic Fathers. Learn what CHRISTIANS believe, not just what your sect/cult/denomination has taught you, or told you that “heterodox” or “heretical” Christians believe.

      Tolle lege. 😀

    • Oops. That’s Athanasius ON THE INCARNATION (my post is being moderated, so maybe this will show first; I wrongly wrote “Athanasius ON THE RESURRECTION.”

    • It’s my understanding that discussion about the atonement within evangelical faith is not so much about whether one denies penal substitution or accepts it. It’s more about whether it is of greater weight than other metaphors used to explain what Christ did for us. Some view it as the foundational metaphor, and all others are secondary. Others view it on a more equal level. For example, many in the early church emphasized the “Christus Victor” theme (Christ’s triumph over the powers of sin, death, and evil), but Christ did so because he provided a substitutionary atonement. They did not deny the doctrine, only stressed another aspect of Christ’s work more.

      I have not commented strongly about this part of the discussion because it is not dealing with the main subject of the post. I’ve let you folks duke it out a little bit, but we should really save this topic for another day.

  23. I gave Him a crown of thorns, He gave me a crown of righteousness. I gave Him a cross to carry, He gave me His yoke which is easy, His burden which is light. I gave Him nails through His hands, He gave me safely into His Father’s hands from which no power can pluck me. I gave Him a mock title, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ He gave me a new name and made me a king and a priest to God. I gave Him no covering, stripping His clothes from Him, He gave me a garment of salvation. I gave Him mockery, casting the same in His teeth, He gave me Paradise. I gave Him vinegar to drink, He gave me Living Water. I crucified and slew Him on a tree, He gave me eternal life. It was my sinfulness that put Him there. It is His sinlessness that puts me here.
    -Derick Bingham

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