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Evangelical Drifting – Going to Damascus

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Evangelical Drifting

The following is an excerpt from Michael Svigel’s RetroChristianity, pages 90-91.

As strange as it may sound, the center of some branches of evangelicalism seems to have moved toward the fringe of classic orthodox Christianity. In short, many evangelical churches are appearing increasingly more evangelical, but increasingly less Christian.

You see, the center of Christianity has always been Jesus Christ. It is not the Bible. It is not expository preaching. It is not a personal response to the gospel message. As important as all of these are for supporting the center, the focal point of right Christian faith is God the Son who became man, lived a life of perfect righteousness, revealed the Father, died for our sins, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, bequeathed the Spirit, and will come again. Through Christ we understand the Bible as the inspired and inerrant Word of God that points us to him. Through Christ we encounter the Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through Christ we have salvation and forgiveness of sins by grace through faith alone. Through Christ we are empowered to live a regenerated life by his Spirit. Through Christ we are incorporated into the church and receive instruction and power to carry out its mission. Through Christ we have a proper view of the depravity and neediness of fallen humanity as well as the ideal model and ultimate pattern of redeemed humanity. Through Christ we can anticipate the new world to come, when this fallen cosmos will be redeemed by his power and glory.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love the inerrant Word of God, powerful expository preaching, a clear presentation of the gospel of grace through faith, and all the things that mark me as an evangelical. Nevertheless, to the degree that evangelicalism has put “me and my Bible” at the center of the Christian worldview, it has removed Jesus Christ from the center. To the degree that is has focused on a personal, voluntary, and free-will response to  bare-bones gospel presentation, evangelicalism has reduced the profound person and work of Jesus Christ to mere propositions to be preached and data to be processed. To the degree that evangelicals have modeled their methods and structures after cultural forms supported by a few proof-texts, they have failed to measure them against the one model of all things human and perfect: Jesus Christ.

What if evangelicalism has unwittingly drifted not into heresy per se, but into a heterodox emphasis on things that were always meant to orbit around Jesus Christ and point to him? What if twenty-first-century evangelicals have replaced the Christ-centered community of faith and faithfulness with an insidious me-centered individualistic philosophy? What if the means of expressing the faith has become the faith itself? What if evangelicals have gone the way of nineteenth-century liberalism and have drifted from a conscious continuity with the great tradition of the church that has always placed Jesus Christ at the center of all things? What if we’ve gone so far astray that everything I’m writing now actually sounds “liberal” to you? In short, what if the “center” of much evangelicalism has actually migrated toward the “fringe” of authentic, historical, orthodox Christianity?

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