11 January 2013

Rescuing "Evangelicalism" (the concept, not the movement)

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the original PyroManiac blog back in July 2005Phil explains why true historic evangelicalism as a concept is worth saving, while the movement known as "American Evangelicalism" isn't.

As usual, the comments are closed.

For the record, I have no sentimental attachment to the term evangelicalism or the visible movement that now employs that name. What's important to me are the principles of historic evangelicalism. I have explained a little more fully what that entails in an article posted here. Those wishing to delve into this theme more deeply should also read the document and subsequent discussion posted here.

The question of whether the evangelical movement is dying, dead, irrelevant, irreformable, or whatever, is not my primary concern in the series of articles I've been posting. If asked, I would say the large movement that has represented "American evangelicalism" for the past century and a half ...is in its final death throes...

Actually, that's a really optimistic assessment. My strong suspicion is that the movement is well and truly dead, and we shouldn't mistake the bloated and expanding size of its corpse, or its occasional spontaneous post-mortem twitches, for signs of real life.

I'm not interested in reviving or reforming that movement. Neither church history nor Scripture gives us much encouragement to work for the reformation and perpetuation of organizations and movements. Earthly institutions and human campaigns always decline and decay. Even the Protestant Reformation had its main impact outside the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic priesthood, and the papacy—although those were the visible institutions the earliest Protestants originally set out to reform.

Institutional reform almost always fails. Twentieth-century evangelicals who stayed in the mainline denominations ultimately failed to reform any of them. We shouldn't be the least bit surprised or discouraged by that, but we should learn from it. Our concern should be for truth and principles, not for visible institutions, organizations, and movements.

To be as clear and concise as possible: What I am eager to see preserved and perpetuated are the sound, biblical ideas that sparked the evangelical and fundamentalist movements, not the corrupt cultures that ultimately overwhelmed them and led to their predictable demise.