Why I’m Not an Evangelical

I think I have finally nailed what my problem is. It’s that i’m just not an Evangelical. I was for the better part of my Christ following life very integrated and involved at a local church associated with the Evangelical Free Church. Which is no where near free of Evangelical’s humorously.

On the of tenants of the Evangelical and the Free church is that they celebrate diversity of theological thought and faith tradition except where it conflicts with a handful of their statements of faith. Which as it turns out appear general but really aren’t.

The latter 5 years of my involvement were more bore more frustration than fruit which ended with me leaving to join another smaller faith community.

As I reflected on the diverse range of celebrated and historic faith traditions I think i’ve realized that the brand of American evangelicalism that is popular in the US is simply not for me. Friend of Nail to the Door Kurt Willems wrote a great article which spurred my thinking on this called “You Might Be an Evangelical Reject If..” I think the conclusion for me is where that is true that I am a Evangelical reject the real problem is that I am simply not an Evangelical.

If I was to dive deeper on why I think this is it would be because much of the current brand of American Evangelicalism we encounter today is highly influenced by reformed Calvinism. Inherent in that is still a mentality which is engrained into Calvinism which is the idea that it is the only true expression of biblical Christianity. This viewpoint is arrogant and does not allow for genuine theological dialogue.

Now the crux of this issue does not necessarily reach full steam until someone who is not an evangelical, like me, tries to get into leadership. Evangelical churches as well as the Free church that I was apart of is entirely comfortable with different brands of theological thought by their attendees but not by those in leadership or more specifically their approved teachers.

I understand the need to protect and guard certain essential doctrinal points, however what I find hard to swallow is when one view assumes that their’s is right and everyone else is wrong and in need of correction. This is the mindset I find in Evangelicalism. Of course I recognize that not all evangelical church’s face this problem or have non-open-minded people in them. Simply that generally I find it more frequently there. AND of course it exists in other faith traditions because people are human and most humans don’t know how to disagree well. None-the-less I find the non-open-minded-ness less in the other faith traditions I have explored.

This is also at the heart of why I think many young people in American churches are voicing their frustration and exploring new ways of doing and being the church. I feel they too have recognized that they are simply not Evangelical. The problem is we are theological mutts as our friend Carson puts it. Because of this perhaps we should start a church just for theological mutts called the Pound.. HAHA.

If I was to say what I resonate most with i’d say its a mix of Wesleyan, Anglican and Mennonite Brethren with perhaps a little Amish sprinkled in for fun.

6 thoughts on “Why I’m Not an Evangelical”

  1. Dan Martin

    Yeah, I think I decided the Evangelical Free Church version of a “big tent” is more like “don’t ask, don’t tell.” As long as you smile and sing the songs and don’t ask any hard questions, you’re welcome…

  2. Jason Hess

    “Evangelical churches as well as the Free church that I was apart of is entirely comfortable with different brands of theological thought by their attendees but not by those in leadership or more specifically their approved teachers.”

    So true and sad. I think our local churches would be better off if there was diversity within the pastoral staff… not necessarily on the core fundamental teachings but at least on all the peripheral stuff.

  3. Penny

    I had this same experience with E-Free. I also think you are really hitting on something with Reformed Calvinism having a much greater influence on Evangelicalism as a whole than we realize. I’m not ready to give up the Evangelical label, but I understand why you are. Great post!

  4. Derek

    “If I was to say what I resonate most with iā€™d say its a mix of Wesleyan, Anglican and Mennonite Brethren with perhaps a little Amish sprinkled in for fun.”

    Look at that, you’re Evangelical after all. šŸ™‚

  5. John Wright

    To be fair, I think the Evangelical Free Church is in the reformed tradition. They just take fewer positions on what is popularly called the distinctives. Things like the rapture.

    For me, I want a church with a clearly defined theology. I also want a Christian community that transcends the local church. The big church can have all sorts of views in it and I would without hesitation include those you mentioned as part of that larger group. I just think churches need to have a teaching philosophy otherwise there is chaos. If one week someone says one thing and the next someone else says something the exact opposite then that is chaos.

    There are the essentials that all Christians should accept but they are far fewer than what I consider my distinctives. Dispensationalism for example. I am a dispensationalist but I do not think those holding to other views aren’t Christians. I also believe that Jesus is God and part of the Trinity. I absolutely do question whether someone is a Christian who does not hold those views.

    So don’t let the teaching approach of a church get you down. I’d just look around for a church that holds to what you believe. Keep studying the bible and God will guide your steps.

    1. Dan Martin

      Hey John, thanks for commenting. I won’t presume to speak for Ben, who wrote the OP, but we see eye to eye on plenty, which is why he’s an occasional guest author on this blog.

      To some extent, I see your point that the real issue may be that, though Christians, neither Ben nor I is in concert with much that has styled itself “Evangelical.” We’re both of us irreconcilably opposed to Calvinism/Reformed theology in most of its distinctives … not, as you pointed out, that we would deny the faith of those who hold to such (see this post for a sense of where we draw those lines), but that to us, the Calvinist distinctives are so utterly incompatible with the God of Scripture as we see them that they push the boundaries of legitimacy and, more importantly, may actually drive people from Christ entirely (see my take on that).

      Of course, in the years since Ben wrote the above, the term “Evangelical” has also become more deeply associated with a political party and philosophy that we find not merely distasteful, but downright heretical. So there’s that, but that’s another conversation I suppose …

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