What Evangelicalism Has Accomplished
The evangelical movement has been evaluated recently in a very pessimistic manner in books such as No Place for Truth, by David F. Wells, and The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark A. Noll. Both authors are distinguished members of the evangelical community. But while they call attention to the defects and limitations of evangelicalism, they show an inadequate appreciation for positive factors and achievements that reflect God's blessing on this movement.
As one who last year celebrated 50 years of seminary teaching, I may be in a position to add something on the positive side of the ledger: the gains of evangelicals in the United States since 1945.
Seminaries. In 1945, only a handful of seminaries that were accredited members of the American Association of Theological Schools could clearly rate as evangelical. In 1995, there were 125 accredited Protestant seminaries in the United States. Of these, 55, or 44 percent of the total, are clearly evangelical. This figure shows a spectacular shift in the center of gravity of theological education in this country.Students. In 1945, a large majority of seminary graduates were from liberal seminaries; this was often interpreted as a sign that evangelicalism was dying and that the future lay with the progressive mainline churches. In 1995, full-time equivalency enrollment records show that students in evangelical seminaries almost equaled those in other seminaries (19,116 compared to 21,679). Add to this the fact that many evangelical students are studying in mainline seminaries (sometimes because of denominational pressure), and that the majority of conservative doctoral students are choosing liberal schools because of their superior libraries and international prestige. Since ...