Seventh in the Series “Evangelicals in Search of Identity”

One of the chinks in the armor of the contemporary evangelical movement is the defensive and reactionary stance of some of its influential leaders. That was not Billy Graham’s perspective in world evangelism nor was it the founding orientation of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

What will be the result if the evangelical mainline, like the newly aggressive far right, echoes a religious jingoism that merely ignores or rebukes multiplying nuclei of discontent and forfeits their creative potential? It is not unlikely that neoevangelical forces will pursue theologically mediating and then ecumenically concessive relationships and align themselves with a chastened neo-orthodoxy rather than a retrogressive orthodoxy.

Had late nineteenth-century evangelicals more dynamically asserted a truly biblical ecumenism and adequate socio-political interests, had they given guidance to the forces of discontent and been less resigned to a reactionary withdrawal from newly emerging centers of power, the early twentieth-century churches might have followed a sounder ecumenical and socio-political course. Now the critical question before establishment evangelicalism is whether in the late twentieth century it will duplicate the mistakes of a previous era.

Discernible changes in the evangelical arena are already in the making. Evangelism is seen increasingly as the proper burden of the local church or churches and as best effected through the faithful witness of believers at work and at play. New methodologies are already in wide use, many having been shared through Key ’73.

Magazines like Eternity, Reformed Journal, and Christian Herald are openly discussing, even if at times with a debatable emphasis, ...

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