Evangelical Free Fall

Ours is a day of crisis—on the international political scene, throughout Canadian and American culture at large and also within the inherited structures of North American Evangelicalism. The latter is currently going through a time of enormous dislocation and alienation from its past. Certain sectors of Evangelicalism think and act as if Evangelicalism came into being yesterday and that therefore only the present and future matter. In so thinking and acting, these sectors are cutting themselves off from the rich resources located within their own history that reaches back to the period of the 16th-century Reformation and beyond to the Ancient Church in the Apostolic and Patristic eras. The result of this willed amnesia is significant disorientation as to where the church must head since there is no idea as to where the church is coming from. This way of dealing with the past also leaves the church completely at the mercy of the winds of the current culture and the long-term result is a situation of drastic compromise where the church is in bondage to the zeitgeist.   In response to this conscious—or as it may be in some cases, unconscious—rejection of the past, other sectors of Evangelicalism are all for recovering the past, but not through the medium of their specific heritage. These Evangelicals are rightly tired of the baptized version of 21st-century North American culture that is being passed off as biblical Christianity. They want to be in touch with their roots, but seem to have lost the power to discern which roots with which to reconnect. The long-term result of this second option is a widening of the boundaries of Evangelicalism to the point that whatever might have been distinctive of the Evangelical position is in danger of being lost.

No wonder a recent observer of the scene of worldwide English-speaking Evangelicalism has said that it appears to be in free fall!