Saturday, August 20, 2011

Whose on First?

That can make your head hurt! Today, I am wondering "whose on first theologically?" I am seeing more can more quotes and quips from mega-church rock-stars and I can't keep up. More and more blog posts are being written to advance various view points from various groups and camps. Not only do you need a score card to keep up, it is easy to become as confused as poor Lou Costello. Sometimes my head hurts!

Some of the groups or camps that exist today are numerous. Many people have confused the terms evangelicalism and fundamentalism. These are two distinct groups with different approaches to the gospel application to the world.

Evangelical - An evangelical is someone who is part of evangelicalism which began in Great Britain in the 1730s. It became widespread in America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Within evangelicalism there are areas of distinctions: Conservative evangelicalism, open-evangelicalism, and post evangelicalism.

Key Composition of Evangelicals

Conservative Evangelicals - these consider themselves both evangelical and fundamentalist because they believe in the practices of evangelicalism when it comes to the gospel and they hold to a fundamental view of the Scriptures.

Open Evangelicals - these are typically found in the United Kingdom, specifically in the Church of England who hold to a traditional emphasis on the authority of the bible but at the same time maintaining an open approach to cultures and other theological positions which may be more inclusive and/or liberal than other evangelicals. Some try to combine conservative theological views with liberal social applications.

Post-Evangelicals - these evangelicals have been characterized as a "movement" that is dissatisfied with evangelicals. These types are often associated with and found within the emerging church movement. Apparently they are difficult to "classify" since they can be "all over the board."

Key Commitments of Evangelicals

Personal Conversion
Active sharing of the gospel
High regard for biblical authority
An Emphasis on the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the Son of God

Key Camps within Evangelicalism

Traditionalists  - this camp is characterized by a commitment to specific Protestant beliefs closely related to the basic fundamentals of fundamentalism

Centrists - this camp is more socially conservative, avoids politics, supports much of traditional Christian Theology

Modernist - this camp which is a small but growing segment is much more ecumenical and possess more tolerance and diversity in their beliefs

Fundamental/Fundamentalist - early on, evangelicalism was dominated by "fundamentalist" beliefs. Fundamentalists rejected all liberal theology, mainline denominations, and held to separation from the world and worldliness. Unfortunately the movement became known for the kooks and the fringe who became known as "Fighting Fundies." Men within the movement began to move away from these types and a split developed in the Evangelical Fundamental Movement.

Neo-Evangelical - soon after WWII ended a theological split took place among evangelicals concerning how believers are to respond to an unbelieving world. Some believed that the church must engage the culture directly and constructively. They also began to distance themselves from "fundamentalists" and did not want to be known by the term due to the bad publicity many were giving to it.

Harold Ockenga coined a new "designation" in 1947 by the term "new evangelical." Ockenga wanted to emphasize the positivism and non-militancy that characterized evangelicalism, especially fundamentalism. This camp decided to abandon a hard line militant biblical stance and adopt dialogue, intellectualism, non-judgmentalism, and appeasement. The also wanted to apply the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas in society.

Ecumenists - for a time a number of voices both "fundamental" and "neo-evangelical" believed that evangelicalism had apostatized with this new direction. Ecumenism is the movement within Christianity that aims at "the recovery in thought, in action, and in organization, of the true unity between the Church's mission to the world (its apostolate) and the Church's obligation to be one."Thus, ecumenism is the promotion of unity or cooperation between distinct religious groups or denominations of Christianity.

Emergent/Emerging ChurchesThe emerging church (sometimes referred to as the emergent movement or emergent conversation) is a Christian movement of the late 20th and early 21st century that crosses a number of theological boundaries: participants can be described as evangelical, Protestant, Catholic, Anabaptist, Adventist, liberal, post-liberal, reformed,charismatic, neocharismatic, post-charismatic, conservative, and post-conservative. Proponents, however, believe the movement transcends such "modernist" labels of "conservative" and "liberal," calling the movement a "conversation" to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature, its vast range of standpoints, and its commitment to dialogue. 

Participants seek to live their faith in what they believe to be a "postmodern" society. What those involved in the conversation mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship, modern evangelism, and the nature of modern Christian community. Members of the movement often place a high value on good works or social activism, including missional living.

CharismaticsThe term charismatic movement is used in varying senses to describe 20th century developments in various Christian denominations. It describes an ongoing international, cross-denominational/non-denominational Christian movement in which individual, historically mainstream congregations adopt beliefs and practices similar to Pentecostals. Foundational to the movement is the belief that Christians may be "filled with" or "baptized in" the Holy Spirit as a second experience subsequent to salvation and that it will be evidenced by manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Among Protestants, the movement began around 1960. Among Roman Catholics, it originated around 1967.

Third Wave - The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit is a Christian theological theory first introduced by C. Peter Wagner to describe what he believed to be three historical periods of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the 20th century and beyond. In his 1988 book, , Wagner defines the three waves as follows:

  • The first wave at the beginning of the twentieth century with the rise of the Pentecostal movement, beginning with the Azusa Street Revival;
  • A second wave during the 1960s as the Charismatic movement spread throughout some Protestant denominations, as well as the Roman Catholic Church; and
  • A third wave during the mid 1980s.
The visible body of Christ is being torn to pieces by every new idea that comes down the pike by those who reject historical biblical theology for new ways or ideas. Rebellion permeates the visible church. Many want to deconstruct or actually demolish the visible church believing it to be archaic, failing, and unresponsive to the social, economic, and education needs of the world.

As an evangelical that holds to the fundamentals of the faith and rejects the tenets of both neo-evangelicalism and the emergent church, I believe we must get back to the basics of the bible and make disciples, not sectarians of all nations, teaching them to observe everything that Christ taught.

I would like to state my opinion if I may, I believe we are going downhill, and very rapidly. I do not think as each group develops and breaks away that we are improving on Christianity or the visible church. I think the further the visible church removes itself from the highest view of the authority of scripture, the highest view of redemption and conversion, and the highest view of separation and holiness the church moves the ranker it gets. I believe it has reached the point within Reinhold Niebuhr statement, "The church is like Noah's Ark, if it weren't for the storm on the outside, you couldn't stand the stink on the inside."

I think evangelicalism slid downward when the fringe discredited the fundamentals of the faith; I think the neo evangelicals slid downward when they rejected the tenants of fundamentalism, I think the emerging movement is a major slide downward with its rejection of even neo-evangelicalism. The Charismatic movement has been the greatest disturbance and divisive movement within the church.


welcome to my world of poetry said...

I loved the video though I can see why Lou costello got confused and can easily see why you're confused also. Perhaps we ought to change our email address to

Have a good week-end.

Petra said...

This is why we need to keep God at center, and not idolize man or isms. He is the only Anchor, the only Answer to the confusion, the only solid Foundation, the only Truth, the only Savior, the only Justifier and Keeper of His promises and His saints. Perhaps that is why it first has to seem most hopeless, to show that He is indeed the/our ONLY Hope.

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you for this historical explanation and especially for your comment: "I think the further the visible church removes itself from the highest view of the authority of scripture, the highest view of redemption and conversion, and the highest view of separation and holiness the church moves the ranker it gets."

Churches that try to become all things to all people end up being nothing to anyone. The purpose of corporate worship is not entertainment or social justice, but to glorify and praise God, give Him thanks, preach His Word, encourage fellow believers, lead others to Him, and stand for what we believe based on His Word.

I have been trying to summarize my beliefs drawn from God's Word in my blog, "Saved by Grace." Please check it out if you can: