Labels don’t tell the whole story.

With friends like this, who needs enemies?” That’s what many of those labeled as “left evangelicals” in Richard Quebedeaux’s latest book The Worldly Evangelicals are certain to ask. If he didn’t repeatedly make it clear that he considers himself a “left evangelical,” the reader might well think that Quebedeaux is a “right evangelical” who wants to expose the errors of wandering brethren who need to be called back to the fold. And if they won’t return, they should be expelled.

A common response to the book will be for readers and nervous leaders associated with donor-dependent schools and evangelistic organizations to think that the author is distorting the picture about the particular groups with which they are associated but may be closer to the truth about others. It would be better to reserve judgment across the board on Quebedeaux’s assertions and accusations.

Quebedeaux wants to help nonevangelicals (both religious and secular) understand who evangelicals are, what they believe, how they behave, and where they are changing. He also wants to alert (or warn) evangelicals themselves about where he thinks they are headed and whether they really want to go there.

It’s hard to guess how much the nonevangelical will be helped here, since such a welter of individuals and groups are named and located. The impression one receives is more that of jumping beans hopping around on a checkerboard than pieces of a puzzle being firmly joined together.

However, one hopes that nonevangelicals who trouble to read Quebedeaux’s book carefully can lessen some of their misunderstanding of who evangelicals are. Quebedeaux consistently defines the core of evangelicalism quite satisfactorily: “That group of believers ...

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