Is the label ‘evangelical’ sustainable for Christians in our post-everything world?
I became a Christian at the age of 20, while doing my honors work in philosophy at the University of Michigan. Up until that point, I was an atheist, being raised by atheists. My childhood home had a sign declaring, “The Moore’s, The Atheists,” and a barrel for Bible burning—seriously. That’s why when I converted to Christianity, I had nearly zero history with organized religion and was utterly unfamiliar with a great many terms and labels that came with my conversion.
One of the most important labels I inherited at the time was “evangelical.” I was told that was what I had become, an evangelical Christian. It seemed right to me, because, after all, I had not become a Catholic, Pentecostal, fundamentalist, or Orthodox Christian, I had become an “evangelical Christian,” and that meant something to me at the time.
At the time, as I learned about the ecosystem of the variety of Christian expressions, evangelicals cared deeply about intellectual engagement, spreading the message of Jesus to the world, working together to accomplish that mission, and had a commitment to personal spiritual transformation. That isn’t to say these hallmarks didn’t also present themselves in other forms of Christianity, but after my conversion in the early 1990s, I found them all to be replete within evangelicalism.
How has evangelicalism changed
At its core, evangelicalism is a global expression of Protestantism, which is patently “trans-denominational,” and fundamentally concerned with the spread of the Christian message through mission and evangelism. At its best, evangelicalism was a highly ecumenical movement that enjoyed a long era of engaging issues of social good and …