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More About Evangelicalism

December 7th, 2006 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew L. Anderson linked to an article by Dr. Matt Jensen of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola a few days ago, which sparked some fruitful discussion in the comments section. I emailed Dr. Jensen to see what he had to say on the interpretation of his article and he gave me permission to post the following:

"I know this discussion is a few days old (and with a blog a day is as a thousand years), but I thought I'd throw just a bit of context in about the piece I wrote. It was intended as a call to discipleship more than an assertion about the identity of Evangelicalism. I'm perfectly happy to run with David Bebbington's distinctives (which Chris Keller calls our attention to in the introductory article on the site) as a rough-and-ready definition of Evangelicalism. What concerns me in myself and in many young(er) evangelicals I know is a too-easy tendency to jump ship. Before La Mirada, I was pastoring in a Nazarene church in Kansas City. Now, I'm not even Nazarene. I certainly won't lose much sleep if some of those folks switch denominations. There are good theological reasons for wanting to become Anglican - or Baptist, for that matter. But it's not enough to simply build a T-chart and list out intellectual pro's and con's. I think we need to see such denominational switches as - or rather, I think they need to be responses to the call of God in and on our lives. Sometimes God will do just that. And then, the only fitting move is an obedient switch and an amen. But may we (may I!) never make such a move in simple reaction or fear. Further, if we do switch, I think it's important to learn to love and rejoice in the ways in which God met us in our (possibly at that point former) evangelical churches. A denominational move should be a move taken by a disciple from one ecclesial home to another. It should never be conversion. If it is (or if we speak of it that way), I'm afraid we risk denying the work of the Spirit."

Again, I think these are challenging words. As Chesterton would say, to love one's home means to see it as it is, but also to desire its betterment. It depends on which home God calls one to, but evangelicalism will never grow beautiful without those inside it who love it; Chesterton uses the example of Pimlico in his chapter in Orthodoxy, "The Flag of the World." Growing in the ability to do this requires spiritual transformation indeed!

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.