4 Stars Out Of 5
A Glimpse into the Broad Range of Views on Evangel
January 6, 2012
Life Long Reader
Howard City, MI
For decades Evangelicalism has been in a constant flux and there is no sign of it slowing down. The nature of this flux centers on Evangelicalism's very identity. But the nature of Evangelicalism itself hinges on defining two important terms or ideas: "What is the evangel?" and "Who is an evangelical?"
As if answering these questions were not controversial enough, throw into the mix the fact that everyone wants to have the answer(s) but not everyone agrees. Thus, within broader evangelicalism there is significant confusion and lack of unity about who is an (e)vangelical and what is (E)vangelicalism. This is a debate, and sometimes war, that has waged for decades and will continue for years to come.
It is a commonly held belief, applied to many arenas, that he who defines the terms wins the debate. Since Evangelicalism is so divided and spread out the question naturally arises, "Who gets to define these two terms/ideas?" Is any one definition correct? Can any definition be wrong? Can anyone be an evangelical? What does it take to be considered unevangelical?
In an effort to present and possibly come to more of a unified consensus on the definition of these terms Andy Naselli and Collin Hansen have edited the new book Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. This book brings together the views of four leading voices within Evangelicalism today. The contributors and their respective positions are as follows:
1. Kevin Bauder - Fundamentalism
2. Al Mohler - Conservative/Confessional Evangelicalism
3. John Stackhouse Jr. - Generic Evangelicalism
4. Roger Olson - Postconservative Evangelicalism
There are no doubt other slices within Evangelicalism that could have been represented but these four views seem to be the most dominate and have a large following.
In reading the book you will find that there is much agreement on the fact that it is the gospel that defines and unites believers. It is the evangel that is to be the center of the evangelicals life and any movement that claims the name Evangelical.
What is not too commonly shared is who is an evangelical. Bauder is the narrowest though he and Mohler are almost on the same page. Stackhouse and Olson are close as well and closer than I Stackhouse might want to admit. Mohler provides perhaps the bet way to view the gospel as the center in that it also implies and sets boundaries. This by definition means there are some in and some out. Olson definitely disagrees and sees Evangelicalism more as a tent in we are all under in which all are facing the center and hopefully moving towards it. A tent however has boundaries even if it has how walls. No tent covers everything.
Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism is a great glimpse into a few of the many views on the movement of Evangelicalism and professing evangelicals. This seems to be a timely book but considering the fast pace at which Evangelicalism changes I am not sure it will be a timeless book much less a good historical reference book in the decades to come. Never the less, this is a good read and will prove a challenge to all readers alike.