Lee surveys some responses to this discussion about how Reformed folk should relate to contemporary evangelicalism. None of these responses really gets to the issue of definition. There’s a great body of secondary lit (and this list is very selective and omits some major contemporary studies) on this, some of which I survey in the forthcoming book, Recovering the Reformed Tradition.
Neither Lee nor the other folks he cite gets to grips with the actual state of evangelical-ism today nor do they grapple with the problems that Darryl has raised, nor do they address the reaction by those who control contemporary evangelicalism to those Reformed folk who wish to provide “ballast,” as one writer put it, in the evangelical ship.
I for one am not happy to be mere cargo. Just so Roger doesn’t have a fit, let me be clear: I’m not asking to pilot the USS Evangelical. I don’t think the good ship Evangelical is sea worthy. She needs to be dry docked and overhauled, and I don’t see that happening.
For those who haven’t bothered to read the other posts on this, let me say again, I’m all for the historic definition of “evangelical,” but if one reads the current lit on how “the evangelicals” define themselves, they don’t include us. The current reigning definition has little to do with us. When the evangelicals define themselves, they don’t include the Reformation or when they do, it isn’t normative for their definition. They relate to it the way the Anabaptists did. What hath Geneva to do with Muenster?
Let’s be honest. The problem is that this all devolves into politics and the struggle for control over 60 million people, some prestigious academic institutions and the like. A few years back in a learned evangelical journal, Mike Horton proposed that we define evangelicalism as a village green where folks who have common interests can come and talk. This should have been appealing to those who want to include Open Theism in the ETS (as opposed to those who want to treat ETS as a sort of evangelical quasi-ecclesial court) but Roger Olson said “No way!” Why? He insists on the “big tent” metaphor? Why? Because he’s winning. A place to talk isn’t sufficient. He wants a place with boundaries that he and other post-con evangelicals get to define. If Roger and the rest are defining “evangelical,” and if, to avoid being marginalized, we’re going to define ourselves as “evangelical,” without specifying clearly what we mean by that, then how do we avoid the conclusion that we’re letting “the evangelicals” define us? Why would we want to do that? How does that help us to become more faithful to our calling? I don’t accept the premise that there’s something missing from the Reformed faith with which we need to supplement it. We don’t need a little dose of Pentecostalism or whatever any more than Calvin or deBres needed it in the 16th century.
No, I’m not an angry ex-fundie. I loved my SBC congregation and they loved me. It’s just that, having embraced the Reformed confession of God’s Word, I just can’t sail on their ship and their tents don’t interest me. I’m happy to meet them in a park to talk and I’m happy to do as the confessional Lutherans have done for a long time (e.g., Robert Preus and Rod Rosenblatt) and offer a voice whenever the evangelicals would like to hear it, and I will continue to define myself as “evangelical,” but to insist on using the word “evangelical” unqualifiedly, as if there’s no controversy about who is in or what it means, is not very helpful either to contemporary evangelicals or to confessional Reformed folk who have enough trouble keeping their own ship on course.
ps. Most of what I’m doing here is just echoing what C. Van Til said back in the 1930s. According to Bratt, one of the great fears of some/many in the CRC, in the early part of the 20th century, was that the CRC would become swallowed up by what they called “Methodism,” by which they meant what we today call “evangelicalism.” CVT warned about evangelicalism in Cornelius Van Til, “Wanted—a Reformed Testimony: A Common Witness of Reformed and Evangelicals Inadequate for Our Time.” Presbyterian Guardian 20.7 (July 16, 1951): 125–26 and 136–37. Yes, in some contexts, however, he did occasionally describe the Reformed as “evangelicals” as against liberalism.
See also See George F. Marsden, The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970); idem, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism: 1870–1925 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980); idem, ed., Evangelicalism and Modern America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984); idem, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987). Donald W. Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage (New York: Harper and Row, 1976); idem, “The Limits of Evangelicalism: The Pentecostal Tradition,” and “Some Doubts About the Usefulness of the Category ‘Evangelical,’ in The Variety of American Evangelicalism, eds Donald W. Dayton and Robert K. Johnston (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1991). Dayton and Marsden (and others) have been engaged in a long-running debate about the roots and nature of modern evangelicalism. See George Marsden, “Demythologizing Evangelicalism: A Review of Donald W. Dayton’s Discovering an Evangelical Heritage,” Christian Scholar’s Review 7 (1977): 203–211 and the Christian Scholar’s Review 23 (1993): 12–89 which features essays and responses by Marsden, Dayton, and comments by several evangelical observers. See also See D. G. Hart, Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004). See also, D. G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002). D. G. Hart, That Old-Time Religion in Modern America: Evangelical Protestantism in the Twentieth Century (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2002), David F. Wells, No Place for Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) and idem, God in the Wasteland (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994). Michael Scott Horton, “Reflection: Is Evangelicalism Reformed or Wesleyan? Reopening the Marsden-Dayton Debate,” Christian Scholar’s Review 31 (2001): 131–55. Roger E. Olson, “Response: The Reality of Evangelicalism: A Response to Michael S Horton,” Christian Scholar’s Review 31 (2001): 157–62. Michael Scott Horton, “Response to Roger Olson’s Reply,” Christian Scholar’s Review 31 (2001): 163–68.