As I’ve navigated my way through the Christian and evangelical worlds in the years since my embrace of Christ, cracks have developed between my understanding of God through scripture study and direct experiences with God and the traditional “evangelical” approach to those subjects. Some examples:
- While I hold scripture in extremely high regard, I have trouble accepting the modernist doctrine of inerrancy. The fact is, when I read the scripture, there are points of disagreement within the text which I cannot reconcile with an inerrant reading of it. That being said, I believe that God in his sovereignty has directed the writers of the scriptures and the church in its development of the canon and therefore while the scriptures may not be inerrant, they are inspired, authoritative, and the ultimate rule in our faith. We are not to reject their teachings (but we may find that they teach us something different than we had always thought or were taught that they said). As I like to say, “I do not believe in inerrancy, but in something which is functionally the same.”
- Evangelicalism tends to get caught up in its own certainty. There is a tendency within evangelicalism to believe that one’s own (or one’s churches own) interpretation of the scripture is definitively “the truth” and that anyone disagreeing with those teachings needs to be “corrected.” I have learned again and again that my beliefs are only my best approximation of God’s truth at this time, and can only be held on to lightly. I believe Jesus affirms this position when he discussed the concept of “new wineskins.”
- I have been troubled by the lack of inclusivity among many evangelicals. Jesus modeled a radical inclusivity which reached out to even the most “sinful” of individuals, and which did not require any sort of hoop jumping to come into fellowship with himself. But for most evangelicals, that inclusivity has a limit. We’re a radically inclusive people, unless you’re gay, or (in some cases) liberal, or what have you.
- Evangelicalism is far too focused on individual salvation rather than the expansion of the kingdom of God. While I believe that initially, we must be transformed individually, I do not believe God wants us to linger long in this place. He always brings salvation (in the form of inner healing, physical healing, and spiritual reorientation) first in order to move our focus outward to the world so that we may be agents of salvation and bringers of the kingdom of God to others. But in our “I” orientated worship songs, the “I”-ness of our prayers, and the inward focus of so much of what we do, I believe that envangelicalism tends to miss this key point.
While these are my immediate critiques of evangelicalism, I by no means want to imply that evangelicalism is without merit. To the contrary, as a post-evangelical attending an evangelical church, I believe that evangelicalism continues to be one of the key ways God is working in the world. Internet Monk has an excellent post which outlines some of the strengths of evangelicalism which I appreciate as well.
But in the end, at this point in my life, while I continue to associate with the evangelical expression of God’s church, I consider myself to be post-evangelical and believe that it will be the emerging church and its many “posts” (post-evangelical being only one of many) which will best show the gospel’s relevancy to our post-modern, post-Christian western society.