Eighth in the Series “Evangelicals in Search of Identity”

Not all proposals for advance necessarily guarantee or even promise dramatic evangelical breakthrough. Some may, however, be helpful in arresting fragmentation and in promoting a degree of progress.

1. The basic evangelical need is not for structural reorganization of a paraconciliar sort, nor for a channeling of evangelical bodies into currently existing conciliar structures. The future of the ecumenical cause lies neither in least-common-denominator cooperation nor in ecumenical pluralism that fixes attention on sheer numbers and aggregate weight. What evangelical renewal does require is recovery of the larger sense of evangelical family, in which fellow believers recognize their common answerability to God in his scripturally given Word and their responsibility for and to one another within the body of faith. Unless the new society gains visibility as an identifiable fellowship of holy love, righteousness, and joy, Christians will speak to the chaotic fragmentation of national life only in terms of isolated individual faith that needlessly forfeits corporate vitality.

In short, evangelical Christians must repent of the radical independence that aligns believers against believers in a spirit of competition and even of suspicion and judgment. In this context it would be interesting to trace the origin of such pejorative terms as “evangelical establishment,” “neo’s,” and “fundys,” terms that recall the Pauline censure of those who insisted ‘ “I am Paul’s man,’ or ‘I am for Apollos’; ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I am Christ’s.’ ” “Surely,” the Apostle exclaimed, “Christ has not been divided among you!” (1 Cor. 1:12, 13, NEB). What does it mean in the present circumstances of ...

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