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The Evangelical Meltdown


Upon revisiting former President Jimmy Carter's book entitled "Our Endangered Values"; it confirmed to me once again that Evangelicalism isn't what it once was.  Carter is a Southern Baptist.  He considers himself to be an Evangelical but not a Fundamentalist.  On the other hand, among other labels I've been branded with, an Evangelical Fundamentalist, although not entirely accurate, comes close to who I am.  Since being raised in an Evangelical family, I believe I can safely say that my parents generation of Free Methodists considered itself to be both Evangelical and Fundamentalist.     


The hero of the Free Methodist denomination was, and I assume still is, John Wesley (1703 - 1791).  Wesley was a prominent Bible teacher in the First Great Awakening that swept across England in the 1700's.  This movement was in sharp contrast to the Reformation Movement that had grown stale and impersonal.  Wesley, and those like him, emphasized the necessity of having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  They preached, or evangelized, this gospel everywhere they went as Jesus commanded.  The First Great Awakening in England found its way to North America in the 1800's in what is called the Second Great Awakening.  Modern day Evangelicalism emerged from these revival movements.       


When I was a youth, Evangelicals considered themselves to be Fundamentalists.  The term Fundamentalist came into being in the late 1800's in reaction to a German liberalism that was attempting to infiltrate the church.  Those holding to this liberalism denied the fundamental truths of the Bible as understood by Evangelicals.  They rejected all supernatural content of the Bible.  This undermined the doctrine of the Deity of Christ which Evangelicals believed was fundamental to all things Christian.  Evangelicals were thus labeled Fundamentalist because they embraced the fundamental truths of Scripture as they viewed them.  By the early 1900's the term Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism were pretty much synonymous.


In the 1970's I began to note a trend taking place among Evangelicals.  Some Evangelicals weren't as fundamental as their forefathers.  As a matter of fact, Fundamentalists were often labeled "fighting fundies", a derogatory term denoting their vigorous, fierce, and inflexible, stance in their fight against liberalism.        


Now, as Jimmy Carter makes clear, not all Evangelicals consider themselves Fundamentalists.  Not all Evangelicals are evangelical in the historic sense of the word.  Not all Evangelicals hold to the fundamental truths of Scripture.  This departure from Fundamentalism was seen in Carter's presidency.  Although I do understand his reasoning, he took a more liberal approach on many issues.  For example, he opposed abortion on a personal level but he did not oppose it on a public political level.  He takes the same position concerning other issues as well, including same sex marriage.        


Other men, like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, who were educated in very Evangelical universities, have recently taken this move away from Fundamentalism even farther.  They have adopted a new liberalism similar to the German liberalism of the 1800's.  They lead a movement called the Emergent Church.  They do not believe the Bible to be God's inspired book to live by.  For them, the Bible at best is an inspirational book, with questionable historic and scientific content.  They join in worship with adherents to other world religions for the sake of unity.  They have no problem with same sex marriage, but they do have a problem with those who espouse a Biblically based morality. 


We now live in a time when Evangelical Fundamentalists are mentioned in the same breath as Islamic Fundamentalist extremists.  Evangelical Fundamentalists are often considered extremists, and you know what people think about extremists these days.  This extremist label is a false portrayal and an unfair representation of those holding to a Christian Evangelical Fundamentalism.  We follow the lead of Jesus as seen in John 18:36.   We do not advocate violence in the promotion of our cause as the word "extremist" now implies.  We will, however, use whatever legal and political means at our disposal, as the Apostle Paul did, to promote the Biblical truths by which we live.       


Are we in the midst of an Evangelical meltdown?  I'll let you ponder that over.   For me, I choose to follow the faith of my father, albeit with a little less humanistic legalism.  I choose to stand for the fundamental truths of Scripture.  If I'm labeled an extremist for my stance; I have no control over that. 


As the prophetic admonition was proclaimed to Israel in the Old Testament, so it is proclaimed to the Evangelical world today.  Shake off the complacent sleepiness that seems to be blanketing much of Evangelicalism.  Let's muster up the Holy Spirit led inner fortitude, the spiritual guts, and the needed Biblical based backbone, to stand, not only against an unbiblical liberalism, but against the anti-Christ culture in which we live.  As Proverbs 16:25 (NIV) states, "When the storm has swept the righteous stand firm forever."  As the Apostle Paul put it, "Stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know your labour in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV).  Also, as the Apostle James said, "Be patient, and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near" (James 5:8 NIV).    


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