In 1987, the controversial Catholic priest Hans Kung famously published a book titled, “Why I am Still a Christian.” For some reason that book, which I read many years ago, came back to my mind recently, and started me thinking about why I am still an Evangelical Christian.
I first came to faith in God and learned confidence in Jesus in an Evangelical church. Many of the people who have been the most help to me in learning to live an authentic Christian life have been Evangelicals. I pastor an Evangelical church. Why wouldn’t I be an Evangelical?
I can think of reasons. For one, Evangelicals like to put on a show. Literally. Worship in Evangelical churches often deteriorates into an entertainment hour, with people choosing their church by the genre of music that’s used. The unchallenged authority of personal preference in worship, or in any other matter of faith and practice, is a very troubling development.
Something else about Evangelicals I don’t like: we too quickly borrow the latest methods used by secular businesses to achieve our goals. If the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan taught us, the Evangelical message is sometimes “We’re the cool kids on the block.”
Then there’s the fact that Evangelicals are eager to get people into heaven but unskilled at helping them live on earth. We tend to focus all our energy in getting people “saved” – helping them make a decision for Christ – but do little to help them remain spiritually solvent thereafter.
I have also seen Evangelicals employ means that are inappropriate to their chosen end. Too often Evangelical preachers manipulate people’s emotions and play on their fears, in an attempt to get them to choose heaven. But when the sermon is over and the emotion fades, the new convert finds he has nothing to stand on and is all too likely to fall.
And then there’s David Brooks stinging assessment of Evangelicals. He says that “Intellectual standards in the evangelical community are not as high as they could be,” and explains “that what drives people away the most [from Evangelicalism] is a mixture of an intellectual inferiority complex with a moral superiority complex.” Ouch!
I don’t deny any of these things, and yet I am still Evangelical. Why?
I am still an Evangelical because Evangelicals are people of the book. A Bible-less Christianity is like a map-less expedition. It can be done, but the explorer will probably not know where he is or where his goal lies. The Bible is our map and the Spirit our compass – a map and compass held in highest regard by Evangelicals. I, like many Evangelicals, have found the Bible to be the single biggest help to me in learning how to live and love as a Christian.
I am still an Evangelical because Evangelicals still call people to decision. The value of making a line-in-the-sand, do-or-die decision is inestimable. Jesus called people to decision. So did the Apostles Peter and Paul, and so do Evangelicals. I have not found that people become Christians by accident. God does not override people’s wills and force them into faith. They need to make a decision, and Evangelicals – more than any other Christians – understand that.
It’s not that decision is missing from mainline Churches and Roman Catholicism, but it is often understated. I have known many people raised in the Church of Rome (and I love them; I married one) who have told me that they did not understand the time of their confirmation to be a time of decision. They just stumbled through it, doing what they were told.
I am also an Evangelical because Evangelicals are some of the most compassionate people in the world. It is ironic. It can seem as if Evangelicals are only interested in getting people into heaven, yet they spend more time and money than anyone in keeping people fed, clothed and cared for on earth.
Those are a few of the reasons why I’m still an Evangelical. But what is more important – more important by far – is that I’m still a Christian, and I’m not ashamed to say so.
First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 6/6/15