Three Types of Evangelicals

Though I am not crazy about the term “Evangelical” because it seems now to mean whatever a given person wants it to mean (which is to say that it no longer has any objective meaning), like it or not, that is the category most of us fit into.

Over on The A-Team Blog, Roger Overton interviewed David F. Wells about his new book The Courage to be Protestant and asked him about Wells’ “three constituencies” of modern evangelicals.

Based on Wells’ answer, it seems that the marketers and the emergents are taking over and many of the classicals, when they are not changing sides, are capitulating in their quest to be “culturally relevant.” That phrase “culturally relevant” was used so much at our last church that you would have thought it was in the Bible somewhere.

Here’s the Q & A on that topic; links to both parts of the interview are at the end.

Q: In the first chapter of The Courage to Be Protestant you map out three constituencies that make up the current evangelical world: classical evangelicalism, church marketers (or seeker-sensitives), and emergents. To help familiarize our readers with your book, could you briefly explain each of these groups and the problems they pose for Christianity?

A: There is no time when the Church is perfect but there are times when it is better and others when it is worse. My view is that in important ways we are leaving behind better days, even as being “born again” gains cultural acceptance and as megachurches become more numerous.

It is the deep sense of truth, the truth that God has given us in his Word, that defined the earlier evangelicals and this sense is now fading in comparison to the desire to be culturally relevant. We should, of course, be engaging culture but not so that that culture defines who we are and what we want and how we go about our church business. It is “sola Scriptura” not “sola cultura”!

The marketers are in danger of building the Church by cultural means because they have adopted from the business world all of the tricks of marketing that make corporations successful.

The emergents are in danger of building the Church by cultural means because they have allowed themselves to be infiltrated by a postmodern mood which imagines that knowing what is true is arrogant, that the way we make connections with Gen Xers. is by being so diffident that we are unsure how true Christianity really is or what its demands actually are.

Check out the two part interview: Part I Part II


About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
This entry was posted in Books, Emergents, Evangelicalism, Interview. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Three Types of Evangelicals

  1. Arthur Sido says:

    Another T4G book, I am working through it now. Great stuff, a good read and hard hitting like Machen (only less wordy). Wells really gets the culture and the church and how too often we mistake the two.

  2. Thanks for the info! I wondered if there were any comparison to Machen since it seemed like he was going down the same road.I first read Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism almost ten years ago after heargin Michael Horton recommend it on the White Horse Inn. Intersting that much of what he said about Liberal Christianity in the 1930’s or so could be said about most of the seeker/emergent brands of evangelicalism now.

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