Beyond Evangelical: Part VII

“I am prepared to go anywhere . . . provided it be forward.”

~ David Livingston

Today we complete our series on beyond evangelical. Some of you asked me to compile all the posts in the series into an eBook. I’ve decided to take you up on the suggestion.

The 80-page eBook includes the entire series along with many new chapters added, some of which have never been published anywhere else. It also includes a new Answers to Questions and Objections section. Click here to order the book.

***

As I’ve established throughout this series, those who have moved beyond evangelical (which is short for beyond evangelicalism) are neither on the Christian left nor on the Christian right.

They are neither fundamentalist nor emergent.

They are neither postmodern nor modern.

They are neither pietistic nor activist.

They are neither legalistic nor libertine.

Those who have moved beyond evangelical embrace elements of each theological/political position, yet they have gone beyond them.

At the very bottom, I’ve listed each part of the series to make it easy for you to share the whole set of posts with others (on blogs and websites).

What follows is a short and basic video that someone created that sketches the main passions of beyond evangelicals. In so doing, it also introduces people to this blog.

If you resonate with the content, share this post (or the video) with your friends. Those of you who are in your 20s and 30s, I’d like to especially encourage you to share it with others.

Why? Because according to the mail I receive, there are scores of Christians your age (20- and 30-somethings) who are turned off by both the Christian Right and the Christian Left movements and who are seeking a third way. They just don’t know that it exists.

Enjoy.

The Beyond Evangelical Series

Part I – What Does “Beyond Evangelical” Mean?

Part II – Four Divergent Streams (20s, 30s, and 40s)

Part III – Answers to  Questions & Push Back

Part IV – You Are Not Alone (A Collective Confession)

Part V – A Repeat of History

Part VI – The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Evangelicalism

Part VII – Summary & Video Trailer

Prologue: Why I’m Not Part of the Christian Right or Left, But Support Believers in Both Camps

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Comments

  1. Ron Duncan says

    I think Paul gave some good insight into the whole “who are you following” debate above:
    1 Corinthians 1:10 – 13 (NKJV) – “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
    What I see being said in the post is that it is time to stop dividing ourselves by the belief systems we follow and start living only by Christ in us.

  2. John says

    while i also see these shifts in myself and many believers, I do ask myself what are the weaknesses or gaps of this shift.
    I think that helps put this observable shift in context.
    So I interpret that being beyond evangelical is about going beyond the good, bad and ugly of the evangelical stream… as I’m reminded there are other streams of christianity that have unique graces such that anything approaching a balanced view of christs body and his work can only be seen by embracing all.
    Perhaps that is part of going beyond evangelicism… shifting away from a mindset that evangelicism represents the pinnacle of christian belief and practice with all other streams being nominal in comparison.

  3. Jason Rowinski says

    Frank…sorry this has taken so long to get back to…

    I’m the one who said that “Beyond Evangelicals” are likened to Classical Wesleyanism. For context – let me give you my view of what that means.
    Wesley’s genius was two-fold. (1) Theologically he managed to integrate the best of Eastern Church focus on healing, renewal, restoration of the Imago Dei within the framework of the more “legal justification” focused Western Church. That differentiated him from the Reformed tradition strongly and from all future limitations of fundamentalism. He was excellent at establishing the “VIA MEDIA – middle way.” (2) Wesley’s discipleship – specifically small, geographical, lay-lead “Class Meetings” were the context of how new life was lived out in geographical community as well as koinonia. I believe he was light years ahead of his time and the Church universal keeps coming back to his theological and pastoral methods in one way or another.

    What I hear you saying is that “Beyond Evangelicals” don’t want to be fundamentalists or liberals. They don’t want a private faith or a simple social-justice good works faith either. They’re good post moderns in that they are both/and types of people. Here again, Wesley’s double focus on “works of mercy” and “works of piety” points to a faith active with God, others, and the world. Wesley said there “is no holiness but social holiness.” And the early Methodists were actively engaged with God, others, and their world with major spiritual and social transformation as a hallmark.

    I see the theological framework for what has been stated about Beyond Evangelicals to be classically Wesleyan in this regard. Strip away some of the “modernism” of Wesley’s language and systems – that is surely needed. But his theological and ecclessiological genius seem to me to match up precisely with what Beyond Evangelicals desire (I am one of them and I’ve spent most of my ministry with them). This is how I understand Wesleyanism, however. Some may disagree with my simplification here, but I can’t see any points of disconnect between Beyond Evangelicals and true Wesleyans. Looking forward to this dialogue. Thank you!

    • says

      Wesley certainly had a great contribution. And you are correct in that he was influenced by the Eastern Church. However, I don’t believe I’d call his contribution “beyond evangelical” the way I’m using the term. As I pointed out in the first post, two key themes of beyond evangelicalism are the Eternal Purpose of God and living by the indwelling life of Christ. Neither of these were strong emphases in Wesley’s ministry, nor in his followers.

      It’s very possible that you are defining the Eternal Purpose differently than I am, as people typically have an idea of it that isn’t exactly what Paul had in mind (I believe) when he used the term. (See http://www.frometernitytohere.org for the way I’m using it and the related talks.) And while Welsey emphasized the Spirit’s power and work in sanctifying, this isn’t the same as living by an indwelling Christ (http://ptmin.podbean.com/2010/10/04/living-by-the-indwelling-life-of-christ/)

      Nonetheless, we agree that Wesley was a both/and person. But beyond evangelicals take the discussion beyond both/and.

      I appreciate your comment and hope you won’t be a stranger here.

  4. Joey Elliott says

    I watched the video again, and I see I was reading that into it. It didn’t say they weren’t evangelicals. Sorry about that. Probably, though, different examples other than Bell and Mohler would have been helpful. I only say that because many think Bell has (no matter what he says about himself) clearly stepped outside of evangelicalism, whereas I don’t know anyone saying the same about Mohler (or MacArthur, for example). If the “four notes of evangelicalism” are still pillars to stand on, among the others that have been added (Resurrection Life-centered, Body-centered, eternal-purpose centered), than I think that Mohler (on the right, and whoever on the left) will have an easier time coming beyond with us as opposed to Bell.

    • says

      Right, but you’re actually strengthening the main point. Christians, including evangelical “leaders”, squabble about the definition and who’s in and who’s out. Most of them agree that the canvas is spread VERY wide. I think Bell is a good example of this because he is recognized by the evangelical establishment (and their print voices) as being an evangelical, though some who are on the far right would challenge that. Someone like Stanley Hauerwas, however, doesn’t call himself an evangelical and isn’t regarded as such. Thx. for commenting and spreading the post to your peers.

  5. says

    Oh my gosh! I am so excited about today’s post and the e-book that will be upcoming. The video is wonderful. I was reading your post when you interviewed N.T. Wright on Simply Jesus and there was a comment you replied to that I thought was excellent in regards to being “Beyond Evangelical.” I think being able to communicate and describe what “Beyond Evangelical is all about is so very important. All you said in today’s post alone I find to be so meaningful and useful and it certainly does resonate within my very being.I’m sure the book will be a blessing to many. I am also thankful for the links you have provided that we can share with others in describing what “Beyond Evagelical” is all about. The gift you have in communicating and sharing with the body of Christ as you do in all your books and in your posts are truly priceless. I thank God for you and the many others that share their gifts and time with us all. Hats off to David Fitch also. Excellent video.

  6. Joey Elliott says

    The video implies that Rob Bell and Albert Mohler claim to be evangelicals, but aren’t because their views are so far either right or left. Is that an accurate interpretation of the implication in the video? If so, this is obviously true of Bell. I do not believe it to be remotely true for Mohler. He may be far right, but his influence on evangelicalism (even the beyond kind) is profound, and positive in my opinion.

    • says

      No, it doesn’t imply that they aren’t evangelicals. You’re reading that into it. There is no value judgement on either men nor their beliefs. The statement is simply saying that they both claim to be evangelical. Meaning, they are using that term for themselves and yet their views are poles apart. One could have easily used Jim Wallis and John MacArthur to make the same point. The point being, “evangelical” has become a clay word, and the diversity within “evangelicalism” is so wide that it’s lost any coherent meaning today. Many evangelical writers are making this same point, hence all the conversation about it and the new books coming out on it (like “The Spectrum of Evangelicalism”).

  7. Paul Castleman says

    I think “When the Levee Breaks” was an interesting choice for music…did you do that on purpose? LOL I find myself more and more interested in your viewpoints. I actually taught Pagan Christianity this past quarter in my Bible class, it was awesome! I liked it because it even challenged me as a full-time preaching minister! By the way, I have 7 of the 9 Zeppelin albums on vinyl!! Oh, what pure sound!! Thanks Frank for your vision and dedication to our Lord!

  8. says

    Thanks for your work. I’m a new subscriber. I know this is fully off-topic and has nothing whatsoever to do with the article, but I can’t find anyplace to ask! How is Viola pronounced – with a long or short “i”? I don’t want to mispronounce your name when speaking of your work!

      • Jennifer says

        Every Christian I know who is on the left loves Rob Bell. His views on hell, the Bible, and homosexuality are the same as the Christian progressives.

        • says

          Most progressive mainliners I know either have no clue who Rob is or consider him fairly conservative – it’s all from where you’re coming from, I guess. :)

          But none of this should distract us from Frank’s larger point – there is clearly something ‘other’ brewing here, alongside/in addition to certain more established eddies and currents in the river of God.

          • says

            I don’t know any evangelicals who would say that Bell is conservative (though they probably exist). And after his book on hell, covered by the major news networks and news mags, most informed people know who he is. He is a known figure who aligns in belief with what I’m calling “the left” just as Mohler is someone who aligns in belief with what I’m calling “the right.” Of course, there are people on the extreme left (and right), but they typically don’t claim to be evangelicals. Even so, pick your person to represent each if one chooses (Wallis vs. MacArthur, for instance). The overarching point remains. The word has become almost meaningless today, and there is something “beyond” but still “evangelical.”

          • says

            Hi, Ant & Frank,

            Now I feel a bit like the fifth-grade English teacher correcting semantics, so I’ll stop after this as Frank isn’t writing about Rob Bell or even evangelicalism. :)

            In short, you’re both right. Ant, the “they” is not evangelical Christians, but the “Christians on the left” that Jennifer references. I rub shoulders with a lot of Christians who are feminist, womanist, liberationist, process, eco-spiritual, etc., and when they see Rob Bell, they see a white guy talking about Jesus a lot. They think “conservative.” But these Christians don’t particularly identify as evangelical – not most of them. They didn’t grow up in evangelical culture, but come from Catholic or mainline Protestant backgrounds. So if Jennifer says “Every Christian I know who is on the left loves Rob Bell,” she’s probably referring to “progressive evangelicals,” within the (ever-broadening, as Frank points out) evangelical camp. Within that rubric, Bell’s pretty progressive. But within the larger mainline world, he’s a neophyte with potential. :)

            Frank’s ‘Beyond Evangelical’ series shows, however, that there aren’t just two polar directions one can go as a friend of God in the way of Jesus. Indeed, there isn’t just a ‘third way’ either, which is what Emergence Christianity attempted to be. There are fourth, fifth, and twenty-second ways of being faithful, and Frank is identifying (and indeed, helping to pioneer) one of them.

            I think that as long as there are a.) Basic human differences, b.) a Holy Spirit who likes to manifest diversity, and c.) the Internet, we will continue to see a dizzyingly variety of ways and means to enter into this wonderful journey of beholding & becoming like our Lord.

  9. Tim Stidham says

    I like the basic message a lot. But next let a 20something put together your video! (Text on a blue background?) But seriously, while some of the categories seem a little forced, the “beyond” portion is good. (For example, im not sure the “Left” would claim Rob Bell.)
    Yet a lot of Christians have had this “beyond” as part of their “evangelical” from the beginning. So I’m not sure it’s something new. But maybe it’s new that these folks are now the strongest voice in the movement. I think it’s much more biblical to focus on radical transformation than having the right “religious information”. Following Jesus, through the power of his resurrection life, experienced through the Holy Spirit! I think evangelicals in the Wesleyan branch have emphasized many of these aspects of faith. Some were distracted by legalism, however. My own Church of the Nazarene group is currently emphasizing very similar stuff.
    I especially think this captures the vision among evangelicals who were attracted to the early days of emergent, but were very disappointed with big turns in that trend.
    Christ lifted up and the faith lived out and shared in community rather than argued or debated individualistically.

    • says

      Not a question of “letting” a 20-something do the video. None have offered thus far, and it would have to be gratas work. Consider that an invitation. :-) If one looks at Bell’s stance on the big “issues,” his views align with the Christian left, though he claims the term evangelical. That’s the point. Bell is much better known that Jim Wallis, etc. As for your comment about “new” … you really need to read the previous posts. This was addressed. None of the parts are stand-alones. They all go together. :-)

  10. Brian Blauer says

    YES! What more can be said – you absolutely nailed it. We allow the “good” to restrict us from the “excellent.” It has always been and must always remain; “Christ in me, the hope of glory!” Thanks for your edgewise leadership and example of what a believer should look and sound like – just like Christ in this world.

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