I’m thankful for soul-searching, for attempts to dig deep. So I’ll give some credit to Mark Galli, Editor in Chief of Christianity Today, the best-known evangelical magazine, for giving it the ol’ post-Wheaton try. I would encourage you to read the linked article because it’s a mostly good-faith effort to grapple with the profound issues currently facing the evangelical church, written by someone still living within the confines of the evangelical church.
Here’s Galli’s big revelation: those profound issues stem from the notion that much of the evangelical church, and indeed much of the Christian Church in America as a whole, has forgotten God. Evangelicals have forgotten God. People fleeing the evangelical church have forgotten God. It’s one big exercise in abdication and collective amnesia.
Well, not exactly. In many cases, no.
Let me begin with the usual disclaimers. Not all evangelicals are the same. Not all evangelical churches are the same. My comments here pertain to the evangelical movement as a whole, not to individuals or to outposts along the edges of the frontier. They have to do with majorities, with cultural and ecclesiastical trends, with the heart that is deep within the heart of evangelicalism.
I’m not an evangelical. I’m not a post-evangelical. Been there, done that, for forty years. I’m a Catholic, and the reasons for that are many, but the biggest one is because I recognize that there’s a 2,000-year witness there that is remarkably consistent as it pertains to many societal issues that have been largely abandoned by evangelical Christianity. These issues do not constitute “the Social Gospel.” They constitute the Gospel as it has been understood for two millennia. They are not the domain of social justice warriors. They are the domain of Christians and Christianity, and those who have abandoned those emphases have done so in spite of the consistent witness of the Law, the Prophets, Jesus, the Apostle Paul (to name some biblical touchstones) and the 2,000-year-old Christian Church.
So you’ll have to pardon me if I question the basic assumptions of this article. It’s not that what Mark Galli writes might not be true. I’m sure those arguments are true for some people. But they are not the whole story, and there are big pieces that are entirely missing simply because, when seen through evangelical lenses, they simply are not visible. Nevertheless, they are real.
Here’s what’s missing: Many will leave evangelicalism not because they have forgotten God, but because they remember God. Many will leave because they desire to remain faithful to Jesus. Many will leave because they recall that Jesus said that the distinctive mark of His disciples, the evidence of His reality before a watching world, is love, and because they see precious little of it in the evangelical world, which currently supports policies that seek to actively harm people already born.
I do wish those pieces were a part of the soul-searching process. The process might lead to more accurate conclusions if they were.