One of the advantages of being Catholic is that, whether you agree or not, at least you know who speaks for you. When a controversial subject needs to be discussed, there are vehicles and forums to help it get a hearing with the right people around the table.
Who coordinates the discussion for evangelicals? When we have difficult issues to ponder, who makes sure they get talked about by the right voices, with conviction and civility?
I think it was Mark Noll who wrote that at one time you could pretty much define a person's relationship to evangelicalism by how they would respond to the name Billy Graham. There was a pretty clear sense—not just of what evangelicalism stood for—but that its core leaders and organizations were tied together by a thick strand of overlapping relationships. The leaders often had gone to school together, done ministry together, or served on boards with one another. The evangelical community had large deposits of what Robert Putnam would call social capital—relational interconnectedness.
This didn't mean that every issue got consensus—or even politeness. We have always had a fair number of cranky characters. But there was generally a sense that the main players around the table at least knew and understood each other.
It's not clear that the players know each other so well today.
It's not clear they're all at the table.
It's not clear we have a table.
Scot McKnight, that thoughtful New Testament professor/author/blogger, said recently that evangelicalism seems increasingly divided into different factions. The centrifugal force is greater than ever. And emotions around factional identity seem to run hotter. (Scot said, in what came as a surprise, that the single topic that will draw the highest number ...