Twenty years ago, Thomas Howard, the brother of devotional writer Elisabeth Elliot, wrote a book titled Evangelical Is Not Enough. His basic argument was that rituals don't necessarily lead to dead religiosity. Instead, sacramental rites and liturgical rhythms can bring us closer to Christ. Howard was an Anglican at the time, and later became Roman Catholic.
I've been on a similar journey. I grew up Baptist, lost my fundamentalist faith, became interested in the ancient traditions of the church, attended a Lutheran parish for a time, and eventually wound up Eastern Orthodox.
Like Howard, I now stand on the opposite side of the liturgical fence from most evangelicals. But I've come to a different conclusion than "evangelical is not enough."
What is evangelicalism, anyhow? Evangelical seems to be an adjective more than a noun. Evangelicals tend not to identify much with their particular churches, preferring to be known as "mere Christians." There are both evangelical Baptists and evangelical Episcopalians, though the Baptist and Episcopal churches are about as far apart as country music is from classical.
For all their diversity, evangelicals hold several principles in common. This list isn't exhaustive, but here are some key emphases of evangelicals:
(1) Salvation is by faith alone, not works.
(2) The Bible is the standard for Christian doctrine and practice.
(3) Everyone needs a personal relationship with Jesus.
(4) "The church" means all Christians everywhere, and there is no "true" or "perfect" church this side of heaven.
When I became disillusioned with the Baptist faith, I eagerly drank up the writings of Catholic and Orthodox apologists (often former Protestants themselves) who challenged these four principles. ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more