It seems that the topic of evangelicalism and its somewhat fluid demarcations have struck a cord with many of our visitors, so I wanted to re-address the issue from a different perspective. James’ post asked questions concerning the lowest common denominator of evangelicalism, and from that, we’ve had several interesting issues raised. He decided to remove it since the responses forced him to realize that one could see revivalism as more essential to evangelicalism than the two convictions he proffered. And revivalism’s importance for the evangelical identity is precisely what I want to explore here.
It seems that many see a genetic link between evangelicals and revivalism, in some form or another, and that it is a necessary (albeit not sufficient) attribute of being evangelical. My question for us here is whether or not this could explain some of the friction within the camp at large? Not to be overly reductionistic, but wouldn’t one way of seeing the conservative/liberal debates of the last century be in terms of the centrality and denial of revivalism respectively? Likewise, I can’t help but wonder if those of us who bemoan the evangelical (stereotypically speaking of conservative American evangelicalism) obsession with staying “relevant,” and constantly lowering Christian practice, worship and living to the lowest common denominator are really just hitting the wall of revivalism? Could we understand the missional, emergent and spiritual formation discussions in light of this issue – as those who, in trying to be biblically responsible, have in the end denied a central tenent of the movement they wish to breath new life into?
In other words, does being evangelical neccessitate preaching a revival-oriented gospel, leaving every other non-revivalist gospel outside the moniker “evangelical” (even though it be considered roughly “Christian” but no doubt disconcerting nonetheless)? If this is the case, could we see revivalism as the subconscious and cultural reality that actually orients the other main features of the movement so that the theological distinctives are really “theological distinctives in light of the revival-gospel?”
What are your thoughts? Is this too reductionistic to be helpful, or can this be used to talk about the nature of evangelicalism and the movements that have never found a true home in the conversation?