BEYOND EVANGELICAL – The Book

“A recently published e-book I can highly recommend is Frank Viola’s Beyond Evangelical.”

~ Roger Olson, Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University.

Beyond

Description

Recent studies indicate that evangelical Christians are known by the world as people who are narrow-minded, judgmental, self-righteous, legalistic, callous, hard-hearted, politically partisan, and quick to attack their own. Why is this, and is there a viable cure?

The evangelical Christian world has fractured into four main streams. One of these streams has grown weary of the Christian Right vs. Christian Left squabbles and vitriolic disputes. If this describes you, then you are not alone. And you will be encouraged to know that God is raising up a new breed of orthodox Christians who are breaking free from the Christian Right vs. Left quagmire.

Beyond Evangelical explores the changing face of evangelicalism and introduces readers to a growing segment of the Christian population who do not fit into the Right or Left categories, but who are marked by an uncommon devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ as this world’s true Lord.

You can listen to the first chapter which answers the question: What Does Beyond Evangelical Mean?

Introduction – The Birth of This Book 

In May 2011, I began a series of posts entitled Beyond Evangelical, short for beyond evangelicalism.

Hundreds of thousands of people read the series from all over the world and many asked me to turn it into a book. That request is the genesis of this work.

In addition to the original series, I’ve added new chapters that haven’t been published anywhere before. I’ve also added some blog posts from my old, dusty archives that go along with the theme.

Beyond that I’ve added a list of source materials that delve deeper into the subjects, including a list of quotes, blog posts, and books written by various authors (mostly theologians, scholars, and pastors) who are saying many of the same things.

I’ve also added a chapter where I respond to questions and objections to the original series. (Be sure to read that chapter as it will help clarify the content and prevent misunderstanding.)

The overwhelming majority of people who read my original series resonated strongly with it. The series captured the yearning of many Christians who wish to see the face of evangelicalism changed.

In short, a growing number of Jesus-followers are tired of the Christian Right vs. Christian Left wars. They don’t fit neatly into either camp, yet they don’t want to leave the evangelical fold. They simply want to see a higher expression of evangelicalism for the 21st century.

Historians and semioticians agree. The face of evangelicalism is changing rapidly and the fissures in the movement are becoming more obvious each day. Civil discourse among evangelicals is rare. The norm is to draw battle lines and throw rocks at one another across those lines.

Some authors have argued that evangelicalism has been co-opted by the Republican party. Others have argued that mainline churches have been co-opted by the Democratic party. And the turf war is getting increasingly uglier. All told, countless Christians are weary of the intramural squabbling and vitriol that comes from both camps (right and left), and they are looking for a higher, deeper, more Christocentric expression of evangelicalism.

That’s where this book comes in.

It seeks to give vision and language for a new kind of evangelicalism.

Note that I am not alone in taking a “beyond evangelical” position on numerous theological and social issues. Scot McKnight, Roger Olson, David Fitch, N.T. Wright, and the late Michael Spencer are some of the more prolific writers of our time who have been calling the body of Christ to a newer expression of evangelicalism that better bridges the horizons of Scripture and culture. (You can read quotes by them in Chapter 18, along with many others.)

Unfortunately, the writings of all of these men have been grossly misrepresented by some of their detractors. Consequently, if you read a critique of this book (or the blog series that inspired it), be sure to read the pages that follow carefully to make sure that the critique accurately reflects the content of the book and is not a work of straw man argumentation.

While I welcome disagreements with what I’ve written, disagreeing with things I’ve never said or believe is a different matter. The latter is intellectually dishonest to say the least. So if you disagree, be sure that you’re disagreeing with what I’ve actually written in context.

My hope is that the Lord would use this little book to give encouragement, clarity, language, and inspiration to all Jesus-followers who are disaffected by the right vs. left wars, believing within their hearts that a higher way exists. If that describes you, then you are certainly not alone.

Frank Viola

June 2012

Psalm 115:1

P.S. Should you have any questions about this book, just go to my FAQ page and post your question in the comments section.

Contents 

Introduction: The Birth of this Book

1.  What Does “Beyond Evangelical” Mean?
2.  Four Divergent Streams in the Evangelical Fold
3.  Clearing the Terrain
4.  You Are Not Alone (A Collective Confession)
5.  A Repeat of History
6.  The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Evangelicalism
7.  Why the Christian Right and Left Won’t Adopt Me
8.  Sinning Differently Than Others
9.  Cutting the Moral Line
10. Moving Beyond Legalism & Libertinism
11. Moving Beyond Deconstructionism
12. Moving Beyond Self-Righteousness
13. Moving Beyond Sectarianism
14. Moving Beyond Calvinism & Arminianism
15. The Turning Tide
16. The Coming Evangelical Collapse
17. Answers to Questions and Objections
18. How Evangelicalism Lost Its Way (Other Voices)
19. A Beyond Evangelical Approach to Reaching the World
20. Forgotten Words of Jesus

Afterword: Continuing the Conversation

Appendix: Three Ways to Be Connected

Order Today

Order on PDF (the PDF version includes color)

Order on Kindle

Order on Nook

This book will not be in paperback or hardback – only eBook.

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Comments

  1. Tommy says

    Hey Frank, I was a little disappointed that you weren’t able to choose the 5 links, but I understand after reading half of them and especially after you told me what’s on your plate right now. I’ll be praying for you and your suicidal friend. Thanks for serving the body so freely. It’s a blessing to see a blog post in my inbox each weekday and not have to pay a penny for any of them. Your service is invaluable and I don’t take it lightly. I hope you won’t quit. Be encouraged brother.

  2. says

    As a very vocal advocate for print and bookstores, I’m obviously disappointed. As a fan of your writing who won’t be buying a Kindle or Nook anytime soon; doubly so.

      • Jennifer says

        I appreciate your gracious and honest answer, Frank. I used to be someone who resisted electronic books and I’d whine about them, even being hostile to the authors. But I was convicted that I was acting like a spoiled brat. Now I do what you do and print them out, not a big deal. Just some paper and ink. So what. I’m glad you’re also going to continue to release print books too as I prefer them, but it’s okay with us if you want to do e-books. I know that self pub. printed book is very costly. So for those who whine about e-books, I’d like to say, pay for the printed copy yourself or else be quiet, put up or shut up. LOL.

        • Jeff Knight says

          Thank you for these words Jennifer and your boldness to share them. They convicted me. I confess I only read print books so I was upset that Frank did this one in eformat only. Though what you said was right. If I am not willing to pay for it I need to shut my mouth and check my heart. I’m sorry Frank. I’m going to print your book out and am happy you aren’t giving up on print books either.

    • says

      Tommy, Paul, as a fellow passionate advocate for local everything – including bookstores – I certainly understand your disappointment. But as someone who coaches many independent authors, I can tell you that bringing a book in print is about 10X more difficult than releasing an eBook. Authors – even established ones – don’t always have the time, funds, and energy to release in print format. I, for one, would much rather see Beyond Evangelical in e-format than not at all. And who knows? If this gains enough traction, it may be either picked up by a conventional print publisher, or Frank might decide to release it via the myriad of print-on-demand options.

      Also, eBook vs. local stores need not be a zero-sum game. Google Books works with thousands of independent bookstores to offer eBooks that these stores financially benefit from.

      Times are changing, and eBooks are here to stay. I think that with creativity, we can find ways to support local economies while engaging this expansive new delivery system.

  3. says

    Looking forward to reading after seeing the description. I would rather be known for my love for Jesus and my love for others, than the things I am against. Sounds like a very timely book. Thanks Frank!

  4. says

    Just bought it, and had it delivered to my tablet. I’m looking forward to reading – some time in airports over the next week or so will aid in that! :)

  5. Jamie says

    Your ebooks will be the the last straw in breaking me down to get an electronic device thingy/ nook /ipad/ kindle… *sigh* I must admit, as an avid reader, the thought of having me entire library at my fingertips anywhere I go is exciting.. but I still have reservations… call me old fashioned, but I like the feel of paper and being able to write notes and highlight and scribble all over everything I read!!!

    *blah*

    print a paper book! LOL!

  6. says

    Looks like I’ll have to miss this one. I do not have a Kindle or Nook and I am not the type that can sit at the pc and read approximately 110 pages. I suspect, I am behind in the modern electronics way of publication and purchases of same. I appreciate your excerpts of your book. It sounds like a great read!

  7. John says

    Just finished the book, Frank. It’s excellent! I kept thinking that it picks up where “UnChristian” left off. It gave me words to describe how I feel and what I’ve seen. It’s written really well too. Love the positive solutions and encouragement. Well done!

    ps. Realy lovin’ the Colossians series on the podcast. Amazing stuff.

  8. Michael says

    Is this the book you were saying stay tuned about when you were talking about how you interpret the word. Like when you were quoting Barth in saying “the Word is true”?

  9. says

    just read the first chapter Frank and look forward to reading the rest of the ebook! Really like the questions you pose and the arrangement of the subject. Things that have spoken to my own heart. Yes, “Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” Ps. 115:1 (TNIV). Thank you for showing Christ in you, who is beyond all we could ever hope or imagine (paraphrase of Eph. 3:20).

  10. Dr Tobey Huff says

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You are appreciated. Will there be a Hardcopy of the book available as well? I actually have friends who need to read this who do not have computers. My work in Vanuatu and the South Pacific Islands has benefited greatly from your writings as they dovetail into the teachings of Christ and His Kingdom. Peace and Grace.

  11. William Timmers says

    Is this THE BOOK that you had been working on while you were on Blogging exile?

    I am ordering it now!

    • says

      No, it’s not that one.

      Here are some important quotes from the book for those who haven’t yet read it –

      Note that I am not alone in taking a “beyond evangelical” position on numerous theological and social issues. Scot McKnight, Roger Olson, David Fitch, N.T. Wright, and the late Michael Spencer are some of the more prolific writers of our time who have been calling the body of Christ to a newer expression of evangelicalism that better bridges the horizons of Scripture and culture. (You can read quotes by them in Chapter 18, along with many others.)

      Unfortunately, the writings of all of these men have been grossly misrepresented by some of their detractors. Consequently, if you read a critique of this book (or the blog series that inspired it), be sure to read the pages that follow carefully to make sure that the critique accurately reflects the content of the book and is not a work of straw man argumentation.

      While I welcome disagreements with what I’ve written, disagreeing with things I’ve never said or believe is a different matter. The latter is intellectually dishonest to say the least. So if you disagree, be sure that you’re disagreeing with what I’ve actually written in context.

      Question: Someone told me that the words “fundamentalist” and “fundamentalism,” “religious right,” and “left wing / right wing” are derogatory terms. I don’t think this is true. I have read a lot of stuff by evangelical writers who use these terms readily. Am I right?

      Frank: You are dead right. I suppose that any term, even “Christian,” “American,” or “Muslim,” can be used derisively. But fundamentalist/fundamentalism – Religious Right/Religious Left – left wing/right wing are used by historians and evangelical scholars all the time.

      Just read Chapter 18 and you will find that Roger Olson, Scot McKnight, N.T. Wright, the late Michael Spencer, The Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, and the representative authors of Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism all use these terms as neutral descriptions.

      In addition, the voice of establishment evangelicalism – Christianity Today – uses these terms frequently, along with countless other writers including George Mardsen and Mark Noll (the foremost American historians on evangelicalism).

      That said, no term in this book (or in the original series that gave birth to it) has been used derisively. All terms have been used historically and analytically. Any rational person who reads this book will easily recognize that.

      Question: Someone made the accusation that anyone who uses the word “beyond” to describe a group of people is claiming that they are beyond everyone else. I personally think this suggestion is crazy, but what is your response?

      Frank: You are right. If this were true, then James Barr thought he was better than (or “beyond”) everyone else when he came out with his book, Beyond Fundamentalism, Jonathan Merritt thought he was better than everyone else with his Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars, and Brian Harris thought he was better than David Bebbington with his Beyond Bebbington, just to give a few examples.

      This accusation is a judgment of motivations, which only reveals the heart of the accuser.

      As was already stated, “beyond evangelical” is short for “beyond evangelical-ism” which is a theological movement and ethos (as Roger Olson points out). There’s no suggestion or thought that those who take a position that goes beyond (or that’s “post”) evangelicalism are better than or ahead of others. It simply means that (for them) the conversation has moved passed certain ideals to other issues.

      The truth is, Christians who have moved beyond evangelicalism (or those who are “post-evangelical” as Michael Spencer used the term) are sick of the elitism that is connected with certain segments of the evangelical coalition. Scot McKnight and I have taken dead aim at the spirit of elitism and sectarianism in our writings. (See Scot’s discussion of it in Chapter 18 and my discussion in Revise Us Again and Jesus Manifesto.)

      Again, I’ve always encouraged Christians to follow their vision, conscience, and passion regarding what they believe God’s will is for the world. And I applaud believers who are laboring in the trenches with respect to God’s Kingdom work. As I’ve written and spoken elsewhere, such work is important to me, and it’s something in which I’m actively engaged myself.

      Question: Are you the only voice who is influencing those who are moving beyond evangelical?

      Frank: No, and I’m happy about that. I’m one of many voices. Chapter 18 underscores some of the diverse voices who have taken beyond evangelical positions on various issues. In that connection, my blog (titled, Beyond Evangelical) draws people from both the Christian Right and the Christian Left. But the majority do not fit neatly into either camp. Most of its readership resonates strongly with the four notes of beyond evangelicalism outlined in the first chapter.

      Question: Are Christians who have moved beyond evangelicalism postmodernists?

      Frank: No. I’ve found that most post-evangelicals appreciate that postmodernism did a good job of deconstructing the arrogance of Enlightenment empirical modernity which is contrary to Christianity. (Empiricism says that anything which cannot be proven by the five physical senses is unfalsifiable, and thus, is not real. God, spirits, angels, demons are all unfalsifiable and hence should be seriously doubted.) Postmodern thinkers shredded that way of thinking.

      At the same time, the deconstructionism and relativism that is part of certain kinds of postmodern thinking is not fully compatible with the claims of Jesus Christ and His followers. Those who have moved beyond evangelical, I’ve found, are neither modernist nor postmodernist in their thinking. See Chapter 11.

      Check out the book at http://frankviola.org/2012/06/11/beyondevangelical/

      The historical parts are sourced in Mark Noll, David Bebbington, Scot McKnight, Roger Olson, David Wells, David Fitch, and others who are noted to be the leading historians on evangelicalism to date. We can’t look into the future properly without learning the past.

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