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Would the Reformers Recognise Evangelicalism Today?


If Luther, Calvin, Knox and the other Reformers were able to look at the state of evangelicalism today, would they recognise it as such? And more importantly, would they feel able to be part of it, or would they have to disassociate themselves from it, just as they did from Roman Catholicism in their own day?

For the Reformers, Evangelicalism was represented by adherence to certain truths. To the truth that God’s Word, the Bible, is absolute truth, the final rule of faith and conduct. That Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten Son, whose death for sinners atoned for the sins of men, and who is now seated at God’s right hand, exalted and glorified, and that he will return to receive home his church and to judge the world.

Today, the truth and the facts of the gospel have been sacrificed in favour of experience. In fact doctrine is seen in some branches of evangelicalism as being divisive and unnecessary. The good news message of the Gospel, (that while all have sinned and come short of God’s holy requirements, Christ died for sinners on the Cross,) is in some evangelical churches, hardly ever mentioned. Instead the common message is that we’re not really all that bad, – we’re pretty decent people, after all, and all that we need is to let go of our past hurts, failures and disappointments, to make us better, so that we can enjoy life all the more and be more fulfilled. And, hey! Jesus can help us with that!

But that’s not the Gospel.

Our worship reflects the lack of doctrine being preached in modern evangelical churches. RC Sproule quotes David F. Wells, who describes the crisis of the twenty-first century church as “vacuous worship.”. Sproule adds, ‘A vacuous worship is one that is empty of content. It is satisfied with platitudes, pop psychology, and entertainment. Such worship is devoid of the Word of God and of the authentic sacrifice of praise.’

In addition the import into evangelical terminology of ‘management speak’ has replaced biblical terms and theological language. We rarely hear evangelicals today speak about Justification by faith, sanctification, redemption and adoption. Instead they talk about church growth programmed, and that latest favourite, ‘Moving the church forward’ – whatever that means!

So, if Calvin or Knox were to drop into a seeker friendly service in a modern, evangelical church, would they recognise it as such?

Or has the modern word ‘evangelical’ simply lost it’s meaning?

From → Editorial

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