I really wish someone would post online Philip Yancey’s most recent Christianity Today column, his last for a long while apparently. It is titled “O Evangelicos” and would serve as a nice companion piece, if not an incidental rejoinder, to this recent Patrol Mag editorial, itself not without merit.
I find it ironic that in the popular fulminating over “evangelicals” trying to come up with definitions for themselves, ostensibly because it’s a losing and wasted preoccupation, the critics have no trouble identifying “those evangelicals.” But if our unity is only to be found in our identity crisis commiseration, in our “definitional masturbation” (to use Patrol Mag’s phrase), we most definitely lose.
This is why my attempt at “definition” — evangelicals are people shaped by the gospel — had more to do not with philosophical common ground but with God’s Christ-formation in Christians. Yeah, that sort of makes the whole thing supernatural, and yes that requires evangelicals to see the fruit of the Spirit and the “mere Christianity” in believers in other denominations (and none), but I’m just naive and stupid enough to think God can do stuff like that.
As for evangelicalism: I agree, it’s collapsing.
As for the word evangelical: I’m with Yancey. We need not abandon it, just work harder at making it mean what it’s supposed to.
That said, and if you’ll forgive the bluntness, we won’t achieve this by hand-wringing about Obama under the banner “Evangel.”