Evangelicalism - a bird's eye view                             

Paul Benedict

 

Yes, "... publish and be damned 34"!

   

The spirit of evangelicalism has waxed and waned throughout recorded church history. The work of the pioneering apostolic church, as recorded in the Bible book of Acts, illustrates its deep commitment also to evangelicalism, missionary zeal and strict discipline. These core aspects are, in principle, common with many engaged in contemporary evangelicalism. Evangelicalism has regained its voice, although quavering at times, since its apostolic inauguration. Wearing different hats, its proselytising thread has remained.

 

In post apostolic times, medieval preachers like Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 - 1153) and Peter Waldo (1150 - 1218), preceded the pre-Reformation stalwarts: Thomas Bradwardine (c1290 - 1349): Wycliffe (c1329 - 1384) and the Lollards: Johan Hus (c1371 - 1415): Savonarola (1442 - 1498): Thomas Bilney (1495 - 1531): Thomas Cranmer (1489 - 1556): Hugh Latimer (c1485 - 1555): John Hooper (c1500 - 1555) and the Brethren of the Common Life (c15th century). The Reformation and post-Reformation Christians, Martin Luther (1483 - 1556): Huldrych Zwingli (1484 - 1531): and John Calvin (1509 - 1564): John Wesley (1703 - 1791): Charles Wesley (1707 - 1788): George Whitfield (1714 - 1770):Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 - 1892) were amongst those pre-20th century Christians who ably, amidst great controversy laid the basis for, and thus pioneered, evangelicalism. Notable too were the influences of the English and American Puritans and the less known Separatists of the 16th and 17th centuries. Public executions, rabid persecution, torture, and burning at the Stake at the hands of praying and devout clergy and their representatives, befell some. Religiously fuelled mob violence accompanied by murder and mayhem stalked cobbled streets, cloisters and forests.

 

Whilst the reprehensible religious crimes committed by the Roman Catholic Church, in the name of their Christ are historically verifiable, let us not forget that the Protestant wing of the Church committed equally heinous religious atrocities in the name of their Christ. Indeed, a veritable tit-for-tat seesawing  of religiously structured horror and mayhem! Human nature's expanding propensity for evil and to be able to separate theologically structured precepts from the warp and woof of everyday living is especially marked in all religions.

 

 The 20th century played host to further developments within evangelicalism's forays into the world. It is not this book's purpose to dwell on the minutiae of that expansion. One of the confusing but revealing growth areas however, was in the fragmentation and formalising of the evangelical movement into further bitterly opposing factions viz. the Charismatic, the Reformed, the Arminian, the Liberal, the neo-Evangelical and the New Theology plus an army of scattered independent groups. Grist for another book - not this one!

 

Divisions and disunity between evangelical groups are endemic. A similar situation was a cause of concern for the Apostle Paul (the presumed author of 1 Corinthians) where he wrote about those who sect-like follow their leaders (instead of their Savour) and thus make a mockery of the unity of the body of their Christ35. It would appear that despite the teaching of their divinely inspired writings, Christians (including evangelicals) are just not able to take their Bible's teaching seriously, when applied to their bread and butter practicalities of faith. The fragmentation remains, and personality-led groups continue to claw and fight their way to positions of power and eminence. This raises the question ... how can those who disregard their own teachings and knowingly live outside the parameters of their dogma, expect others to take proselytizing Bible verses to heart. Most confusing and, if I were an informed seeker, most unsettling. If you have the mind so to do, read an example of this scenario on The Veritas Project website36.

 

The renaissance of today's Evangelicalism grew out of the explosive and throbbing changes emanating from the 16th century Protestant Reformation movement. On 31 October 1517, in a theological rejection of Roman Catholic teachings and practices, the maverick Roman Catholic monk, Martin Luther (1483 - 1546), challenged the all-powerful Papal hierarchy. His chutzpah led to his eventual excommunication, the founding of the Lutheran denomination and the birth of Protestantism - the Protestant Reformation. The term evangelical labelled the Lutherans bent on their mission to redirect Christianity to sola Scriptura ... more accurately, to Luther's compilation of their Bible.

 

May we at this point in the foundation era surrounding the re-awakening of evangelicalism, turn our full attention to Germany's Martin Luther? Luther, during his early life was subject to episodes of deep depression. His spiritual beliefs could not assuage his many dark nights of the soul. It would appear that his religious faith was apparently not effective in healing that painful area of his troubled psyche. Did much of his overt activity help compensate for, and deal with, his sad depressive episodes? Karen Armstrong's pen pictures of Luther help to contextualise further this unique and controversial historical figure37.  

In his epic, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", William Shrirer writes also of Luther's negative impact on the German nation: "Through his sermons and his magnificent translations of the Bible, Luther ... aroused in the people not only a new Protestant vision of Christianity but a fervent German nationalism and taught them, at least in religion, the supremacy of the individual conscience. But tragically for them, Luther's siding with the princes on the peasant uprising,which he had largely inspired, and his passion for political autocracy ensured a mindless and provincial absolutism [that] reduced the majority of the German people to poverty, to a horrible torpor and a demeaning subservience ... [sharpening] the divisions not only between classes but also ... doomed for centuries the possibility of the unification of Germany38".

 

It is important to our understanding of evangelicalism that we see the Reformation movement in context. Martin Luther did not only inspire other great theologians and command a following of many lay individuals, thus giving birth to evangelical Protestantism, but he impelled the then politically unsettled Germany also towards a rumbling revival of historic anti-Semitism.

 

Over the centuries, Martin Luther has earned the rapt attention and recorded admiration of many, not the least being Adolf Hitler and other fellow Nazis who espoused Luther's overtly expressed anti-Semitic views.

 

Evangelicalism's midwife had been singularly unsuccessful in converting Jews to his Christ during early days of evangelistic zeal. Is that why he subsequently turn nasty? He advocated arson to burn down their synagogues and homes, wanted to disallow their rabbis from praying or teaching, and requested that the State intervene to get rid of them. They were the killers of his Christ and were therefore fit subjects for slaughter.

 

Luther's behaviour, whilst easily explained in an in-humane and savage

context, remains a source of serious concern when considering his Biblically enmeshed life and undoubtedly prayerful commitment to his God. It would appear though that he epitomised the harsh practices of the Old Testament in his callous tunnel vision determination to exterminate those identified as the chosen race. Did he base his philosophy on the recorded acts of his Biblical God? Did he illustrate the impotence of theology to reign in the duality of human nature?

 

Hitler's Mein Kampf listed Luther as being amongst the greatest reformers39.

 

Of interest is the information in Johah Goldhagen's book, Hitler's WillingExecutioners where, after the infamous Nazi-inspired Kristallnacht, "One leading Protestant churchman, Bishop Martin Sasse published a compendium of Martin Luther's anti-Semitic vitriol ... he applauded theburning of the synagogues ... he urged [the German people] to heed these words of the greatest anti-Semite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews40".  

Luther's logic derived not from science or reason. Was he reacting to yet another rejection? The Papal sceptre had summarily excommunicated him, and then the Jews had spurned his attempts to convert them. May we assume that he believed that his God approved of his actions - had he received a call from his God to encourage such atrocities and planned genocide? 

History records the acknowledgement of many Nazi leaders in acknowledging respectfully Martin Luther's despising of the Jew. Notable amongst them were: Walter Buch, the head of the Nazi Party court who also initiated the purging of homosexuals from the Party. After WWII he was sentenced to five years in a labour camp. Eventually, declassified as a war criminal, he committed suicide41.

 

Hans Hinkel, a Nazi official working in Goebbels's Reich Chamber of Culture drew his inspiration from Luther by stating, "Through his acts and his spiritual attitude he began the fight [that] we still wage today; with Luther's German blood [the] feeling against the alien elements of the Volk was begun ... 42".

 

Others linked to Luther's racist and xenophobic philosophies were: Eric Koch, the Reich Commissioner for Ukraine and President of the East Prussian Protestant Church Synod, Bernard Rust who served as Minister of Education in Nazi Germany, Hans Schemm, the Bavarian Minister of Education and Culture whose slogan was "Our religion is Christ, our Politics Fatherland" (sic).

 

Julius Streicher, the vitriolic publisher of Der Sturmer, when asked at the Nuremberg Trials if there were any other German publications that treated the Jews in the same way as his newspaper, replied, "Dr Martin Luther would very probably sit in my place in the defendant's dock today". He then went on to mention Luther's publication, "The Jews and their Lies". Streicher reportedly took twelve minutes to die at the end of Nuremberg's rope on Hoshanah Rabbah, the day that Jews celebrate their God's judgement on the fate of humanity for the ensuing year.

 

Luther, as a born again Christian, aged 60, wrote his infamous, "On Jews and their lies" in 1543. Predictably, many modern-day Lutheran scholars attempt to dig Luther out of his gravely horrendous anti-Semitism but they cannot honestly divorce historical facts from the man. Of greater concern is the fact that Luther's dogma was expounded in the name of his God and Lord Jesus Christ. It would appear that his "inspiring writings" gave added force to the persecution of Jews43. One can but wonder where the omnipotent Jehovah was hiding during this vitriolic attack on the Jewish people. Is this the same God owned by the "Jews for Jesus" and other evangelical bodies seeking to convert Jews? Is this the Adonai44 of Hebrew devotion who, for example, allowed the Russian, Spanish and Nazi pogroms to continue?

 

As an aside we need to recognize that, historically, anti-Semitism had found favour under John Chrysostom (AD347 - 407). This revered Christian monk is amongst the greatest of Roman Catholic saints. This saint's eight homilies exude his strongly held dislike and hatred of Jews45. How does this tie up with his apparently sincere prayers and devotion to the divinity who so loved the world that he gave his only born son ... 46"?

 

Having synoptically contextualised evangelicalism's historical foundations, let us now proceed to view its representation of Christianity. We will note the overtly judgemental, discriminatory harshness of the Luther era in many modern portrayals of evangelicalism. For example, sectors of the evangelical communion in the past apartheid South Africa had appealed also to its Protestant Bible to support its racist policies47. Not only amongst divisions within the Dutch Reformed denominations but also amongst others. In the world's largest democracy, the United States of America, an abhorrent racist stigma was entrenched in evangelicalism's Bible thumping Deep South constituencies (and elsewhere).

 

Now, let us return to Luther's 16th century Reformation. It was of European extraction, and did not migrate to the Orthodox Russian community or find a nest amongst the remnant of the members of the Byzantine Christian Church in Greece. Evidences of its influence are not easy to find in other advanced civilisations of Eurasia. The many selective inroads of the divine being into only certain areas of his creative genius remain a source of mystery. Equal Opportunity legislation challenges the statute books of YHWH's code of ethics. For example, male circumcision marked out his elect. Those not circumcised were not on the list of the chosen ones. The cutting edge into Adonai's covenant relationship was available for a mere snip - nothing more and nothing less. Ladies first?

 

The Covenant theologians and others within evangelicalism's fold paralleled the Roman Catholic ritual replacing the religiously wielded Hebrew knife with water. In this religious ceremony of great importance, a child (happily, girls are now included!), is subjected willy nilly to being either sprinkled with holy water, having water poured over their head or swiftly dunked and voila they are children of God. Adults are also included as appropriate. Indeed, Houdini would be greatly impressed - if not challenged - but more about Christian magic later. Happily, though, there is no possible genital mutilation of either gender - even in this era of cutting-edge technology. Christopher Hitchens has written a thought-provoking chapter on circumcision rituals - it is well

worth a read48.

 

The Reformation irrevocably split Christendom and affected political and social changes in European society during its founding 16th and 17th centuries. Luther's Ninety-Five Thesis, hastily published without his permission, became an instant best seller. The newly spawned and religiously tailored Deutsche search engine, with viscous precision, began its probing advance to the four corners of the globe. Except for the unaffected Baltic Lands, it left in its wake, death, murder, schism, pain, distress, joy, happiness, controversial theological changes and confusion, thus gabling the world with yet another religious dimension. The voice of the protesting Church, evangelical Protestantism, had been born again.

 

The unsuccessful Counter-Reformation (Gegenreformation) in Germany did not avert the bloody axe that soon divided families, neighbours, bodies, cities and kingdoms and swiftly, with cold, callous and dictatorial precision decapitated also the then Church-sanctioned version of the centuries' old and accepted pre-Reformation Holy Bible (Jerome's, Latin Vulgate). It lost its place as being the only God-inspired source of the Church universal. Can we assume that the divinity behind that Bible had carelessly, willingly, or negligently, but knowingly allowed countless numbers of Christians to follow an incorrect version of his instructions during the first CE millennium?

 

The German scholar and reformer, Philipp Melanchthon (Luther's associate at Wittenberg) submitted his Confessio Augustana (the Augsburg Confession) to the Emperor in the hope of a return to the Catholic Church. This was not to be and the controversial divide between the established and newly spawned Christian group became part of history. His efforts and the attempts of others did not achieve reconciliation with Rome. Melanchthon's work was to form the basis of the Lutheran denominational creed. Their entrepreneurial restructuring of the new theology effectively divided and shattered an already bubbling cauldron of divisive religious faith, reportedly corrupt practices, and contentious Christian dogma. Some sixteen centuries of rulings by Church councils, praying Christians and inspired doctrine was, in one era, swiftly abrogated. The Christian steed, evangelicalism, was saddled and ready to ride - and it did. The new kid on the block, Martin Luther, galloped roughshod over previous church council rulings. He inspired and led a truly dramatic theological U-turn. Luther and Melanchthon changed forever the purported, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" image of the then post-apostolic Church.

 

 To become the modern-day global movement, evangelicalism owed its resurgence to Anglo-American Protestantism49, which also under the influenceof the militant colonising exploits of Great Britain and the United States, established bases across the world. Roman Catholic pioneer missionary zeal soon faced the competitive challenges of evangelicalism's thrusts into the world of the heathens (sic). Significantly, many missionary endeavours often piggybacked initially on politically inspired colonisation that heralded also the bearing of trumpeted, though questionable, Christian values (sic). European Christians labelled those in Africa and elsewhere as pagans and savages - and the tags stuck until their gummy subjectivity began peeling off in the face of scholarship and humane objectivity.

 

Historically and prior to the Reformation, Christianity, hidden also in the scabbards of the armies of sword-bearing emissaries, in the name of their Christ, crusaded50 against all and any who did not love the Christian Lord and God of peace. They plundered, murdered and raped those whose religion emanated from the same Bible-based ancestral figure, Abraham. The Spanish Conquistadores51 forcibly planted the Cross of their Christ firmly into the violated bodies of the thousands representing a proud and ancient civilisation, decimating further their numbers by spreading not only their Gospel but also venereal and other diseases52. In the pursuit of wealth, power, prestige, increasing trade and bringing their salvation message to heathens (sic), Spain had extended its political power and the Gospel of peace and salvation whilst hacking its way into the bloodied and mutilated bodies of the indigenous inhabitants of the invaded lands.

 

Over the years, Evangelicalism's missionaries have trespassed uninvited into the privately evolving domains of civilisations that were different. In so doing, cultures were shredded and westernised dogma began to litter muddy streets, occupy thatched houses and disturb tranquil forests. Totem poles gave way to steeples. Suits and ties replaced loin skins and amulets. Religious cloning la westernisation's tailor-made ideology was in vogue. Egotism paraded also under the guise of missionary zeal - a carefully crafted catechism of religious fanaticism, steeped in the mistaken and tragically misguided belief that their divine being had commissioned them and their actions, barged insensitively over indigenous moral and ethical codes. Controversy, schism, blood, bigotry and mayhem, with rabid determination, brought the light of the world to many in heathen darkness (sic). Martyrs were born whilst the people labelled as savages (sic) were Christianised (or colonised)! Missionaries prayerfully forsook their own needy homelands to convert and, in so doing, escaped the responsibilities of ensuring that their own country was evangelised. The green grass on the foreign mission field gave pale-skinned bearers of the Good News open fields in which to share their message. Gullible converts, relatively uneducated and uninitiated in westernised critical thought and analysis capitulated to the new religion. Many missionary children, exported to boarding schools to enable their parents to serve the Lord, still bear scars of the forced separation from those with whom they should have bonded. Not a very good illustrative example of what their inspired Bible instructs about family life. It was on the foreign field of missionary endeavour that many otherwise ineffectual foreigners achieved ego boosts, recognition, and folklore status. Any resistance to both the missionary and their message was deemed as demonic influence. Was serious thought given to the often rapacious manner in which the arrogantly perceived ignorance of the local population was exploited in the name of a highly suspect way, truth and life concept? Demons, indeed!

 

However, against the bulwark of traditional Christianity, evangelicalism formed an eclectically packaged challenge to decaying religious formalism per se. Evangelicalism, overtly appealing to the Protestant Bible in all matters pertaining to faith and doctrine, claimed to have under their God, restored true Biblical Christianity to the world and within the Church.

 

"Evangelical Christianity is the world's fastest-growing religious movement ... there are 645 million evangelicals in the world, about 11% of the world's population ... the movement is growing 3.5 times faster than the world population, and Pentecostal and [many] Charismatic churches are growing 4.5 times faster ... that makes evangelical Christianity the fastest-growing major religious group and the only movement growing significantly through [the conversion ritual] ... "53.

 

 

 

 

 

My addition of "conversion ritual" is emphasised. Evangelicalism is defined and confined only within the echoes of the "born again54" mantra.

 

The term Evangelicalism55 has been a source of controversy, and the precise relationship or distinction between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism56 is often in dispute, where some of the more liberal Protestants often oppose the use of Evangelical to refer only to the strict "Bible thumping" Fundamentalists. This book draws no such distinction and accepts that the evangelical sector of the Church (found in mainline and other formally established groups), includes also those termed as Fundamentalists. Whilst splitting hairs may be fundamental to theological purists and apologists, it is unnecessary to embellish further the coiffure of dogma-structured hairdressing in this book.

 

Labels abound in sincere attempts to classify formal and informal groupings but, predictably, categorisation remains difficult - evangelicals swim in the same muddy rivulet spawned from the Protestant-led Reformation - albeit gravitating to their own cloistered, turbulent pools. Evangelicals derive from every social stratum and touch the lives of many. From the illiterate across to the well educated.

 

Whilst evangelicalism's missionary endeavours are in the main directed at the obviously more vulnerable and psychologically conditioned "poor and needy", its appeal deflects also to those on the upper rungs of society's ladder. For example, the publicised Christian experiences of one of the highest profile politicians of contemporary evangelicalism's "born again57" group, the 43rd President of the United States of America, George W Bush58, bears the fruit of their Bible's message. He is one of those classified as a living letter, seen and read by everyone59.

 

Of significance is the recorded fact that George W Bush's evangelically supportive God told him to go to war against Iraq. Bush declared also that he had given up the drinking of any alcohol because of his "being saved60". His ally, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, echoing statements from his friend George Bush, "Has proclaimed that God will judge whether he was right to order British troops to Iraq".  Contradicting warnings from advisers not to mix politics and religion, the [British] Prime Minister said that his involvement in politics sprang from his Christianity, and its 'values and philosophy' had guided him in public life61". It would appear, however, that the resulting cocktail of evangelicalism and reality does not mix well, whether shaken politically or stirred evangelically. Apparently, Iraq cost Blair his job - so much for the call of God to public office and subsequent guidance to intercontinental warmongering.

 

The army of ardently praying converts demonstrates Evangelicalism's hotline to their God. President Bush heard from God, as indeed did Oral Roberts who stated that God would kill him if he did not raise a total amount of $8 million by 1 March 1987. His army of supporters rallied and he received his full amount (and lived to tell the tale)62. What mystifies is the fact that Roberts's God should resort to what could be termed as manipulative blackmail or threats rather than miraculously "[supplying] all [his] needs63". We can but wonder about the early experiences of parenting that many have had and what impressionable role their father figure played. How an unbeliever could be convinced to love the Lord your God with all your heart knowing that if they did not, then zap, one strike and you are out is indeed a double whammy! Mind you, the United Kingdom's Dick Turpin swung from the end of a judicial rope for his notorious "stand and deliver, or else ... " modus operandi.

 

As an aside, we can only attempt to empathise with those many innocent men, women and children whose conscription as collateral damage victims in Iraq lifted again the veil on the USA-led My Lai horror in Vietnam. Would it be in order to enquire what Iraqis thought about their Lord God telling Bush and Blair to invade unilaterally their land, resulting in the tragic repetitively maiming and murder of people (civilians) by divinely sent destructively superior foreign firepower? Would Iraqis seek this same God as the one whom the Christians want them to embrace through his son, Jesus Christ? Do the Imams of Islam concur with George Bush's divinely given instructions? Have evangelicals replaced the sword with the bullet, bomb, the CIA and related organisations that seemingly came up with incorrect intelligence reports?

 

The euphemistically framed construct, occupation, rather than aggressive invasion by the united and powerful British-American duo, draws a most interesting parallel with the Nazi-led coup into Poland in 1939 ... a cynical use of spin indeed! The Iraq debacle will continue to haunt the political corridors of nations for decades to come - all because the divine being gave evangelicalism's George Bush (and Tony Blair - the poodle64), clear instructions.

 

The bullying psychopathic actions of the Iraqi dictator, the executed Saddam Hussein, replicated much Stalinist and Hitlerian behaviour. His ghastly regime, paralleled also in many other infamous and recent historical occurrences, including reports about the notorious Guantanamo Bay65 prison, sickens. What kind of parenting have so many past and present dictators had?

 

The American-British axis controversially declared war on Iraq (based on flawed intelligence - Bush's God slipped up somewhat). Despite thorough investigative efforts, no weapons of mass destruction have emerged. The official reasons for the invasion remain confused. The freshly bloodied pages of history drip with blood, gore and shattered masonry as the result of one of evangelicalism's prodigies declaring, "Thus says the Lord!" Interestingly, there are numerous occasions in the Bible when leaders made decisions and committed barbarous acts in the name of their God - who alone had given them explicit instructions; but more of this later on our journey.

 

The destruction of Iraq using sanctioned weapons of destruction has rattled the democratic cages of many. Does Iraqi oil have significance on the Monopoly board of power and global domination? Let us not forget that this all began when evangelicalism's trophy of Grace, President Bush, obeyed the voice of his God - followed by Britain's, God-led Tony Blair.

 

Then, again, did Gott Mit Uns on the buckles of soldiers' belts give divine credence from Prussian to Nazi times? Does the USA's In God We Trust phrase ring true or is it also a counterfeit exchange of superstitious mumbo jumbo - a written amulet? It would appear that to ask the question, "whose God or which God", needs prior definition.

 

Of recent vintage is the reported comment of Pat Robertson who regularly shares what his God has told him. He is reported to have said that God had told him there was going to be a mass terrorist attack in September 2007, but that God had not told him if it was going to be a nuclear assault, although he thought this was a possibility66. Robertson has an interesting record of public statements (including those of divine origin). He has reportedly said, "I have a relatively good track record ... sometimes I miss67". Do others give such revelatory "hit and miss" information? Is it the messenger, or the originator of the message, who is confused? It would be interesting to know in whom else God confided this nuclear threat. Would the United Nations or the American government have known about this divine warning - or was the good Reverend the specially chosen medium? Please note Chapter 5's comments about this kind of "prophetic" practice.

 

When individuals claim that God told them to do whatever as a defence in a homicide this is defined as a hallucination, and they are incarcerated to protect society from further harm. However, when a religious person declares that their God has told them to start a religion, make a pronouncement about an issue or invade a country that is not a problem at all. As Professor Richard Dawkins concisely writes, "Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, distinctly heard the voice of Jesus telling him to kill women, and he was locked up for life. George W Bush says that God told him to invade Iraq (a pity God didn't vouchsafe him a revelation that there were no weapons of mass destruction)68". So ... ?

 

The "God told me" concept lays the field wide open to further confusion. For example, the prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH), reportedly received the holy Quran, the sacred book of Islam, by direct revelation from the angel of God. Christian apologists dismiss Islam's source of authority on those grounds (as well as other reasons) but within the Christian Bible, there are numerous accounts of "revelatory" occurrences where Daniel and Paul join others from Genesis through to the book of Revelation. Is this another instance of the sooty Christian pot calling the Islamic kettle black? Scholars reveal that many events recorded in their Bible and the Quran differ. The devout followers of each religion revere their holy book - yet there are differences ... emanating from the same almighty, all seeing and all knowing God.

 

In similar vein, Joseph Smith the founder of the Mormon Church received divine revelations from his God. These gave his creative revelation, the Book of Mormon, access to open and unquestioned publication plus accreditation. CC Clark Julius chronicles succinctly the truly amazing account of Joseph Smith and, in addition to the publications read and cited in the Bibliography, his insights are well worth reading69.

 

The spectrum of dreams and visions, when attired in the robes of religion are always taken seriously by the conditioned faithful. If, however, the pious religious mantle is absent then "voices" are interpreted as a psychosis, hallucinations or whatever else. This discriminatory dichotomy demands serious consideration, does it not.

 

In 1942, the voice of moderate and conservative Protestantism adopted the term Evangelical and created the National Association of Evangelicals in the USA. In 1951, the World Evangelical Fellowship was born - the latter reviving an international body formed under Britain's Evangelical Alliance (founded in 1846). Eventually, after three years of consultation, the Evangelical Alliance (UK), part of the World Evangelical Alliance70, agreed in September 2005, its own revised creed, and adopted a fresh Basis of Faith adding, for good measure, the noun, justice. The latter inclusion no doubt fully satisfied evangelicals espousing the social dimensions of the previously heavenly-minded ethos of traditional evangelicalism. In general, this Statement of Belief would enshrine the majority views of most evangelicals. It is not the purpose of the book to comment on their eleven statements but merely to set out the clear boundaries of evangelicalism's stall.

 

"We believe in... 71

1. The one true God who lives eternally in three persons - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

2. The love, grace and sovereignty of God in creating, sustaining, ruling, redeeming and judging the world.

3. The divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God - fully trustworthy for faith and conduct.

4. The dignity of all people, made male and female in God's image to love, be holy and care for creation, yet corrupted by sin, which incurs divine wrath and judgement.

5. The incarnation of God's eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ - born of the [Virgin72 Mary, truly divine and truly human, yet without sin.

6. The atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross: dying in our place, paying the price of sin and defeating evil, so reconciling us with God.

7. The bodily resurrection of Christ, the first fruit of our resurrection; his ascension to the Father, and his reign and mediation as the only Saviour of the world.

8. The justification of sinners solely by the grace of God through faith in Christ.

9. The ministry of God the Holy Spirit, who leads us to repentance, unites us with Christ through new birth, empowers our discipleship and enables our witness.

10. The Church, the body of Christ both local and universal, the priesthood of all believers given life by the Spirit and endowed with the Spirit's gifts to worship God and proclaim the gospel, promoting justice and love.

11. The personal and visible return of Jesus Christ to fulfil the purposes of God, who will raise all people to judgement, bring eternal life to the redeemed and eternal condemnation to the lost, and establish a new heaven and new earth".

 

Evangelicalism pins its colours to the Christian mast. Its core values, carefully structured on the Protestant versions of their Bible and their declared inerrancy, radiate outwards. The need to teach the Scriptures, evangelise, and care in Christ's name are expected actions from all truly committed witnesses of the Gospel. Their source of authority being Sola Scriptura (the formal Protestant versions of their Bible), is its database.

 

Evangelicalism's acceptance of the supreme authority of the Protestant versions of the Holy Bible in all matters pertaining to faith and morals, and following strict orthodoxy in its crafted catechism of subjectively viewed cardinal doctrines, is not negotiable. Endorsing a pre-critical literal interpretation and understanding of their Bible is the clearly informed modus operandi of most literate, illiterate and committed evangelicals73.

 

Evangelicalism, in obedience to, and fulfilment of, the Gospel mandate, "Go into the entire world to preach the Gospel ... 74" firmly accepts that it has the responsibility to warn all sinners to repent and receive personally their Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. This introduces a competitive element into their globally directed proselytising, creating unending friction and rivalry without and within other Christian denominations and non-Christian religious groups, where what is termed sheep stealing, abounds. The power element, as a major part of their marketing equation, is in evidence.

 

Evangelicalism "is the movement in modern Christianity, transcending denominational and confessional boundaries that emphasise conformity to the basic tenets of [their interpretation of the Christian] faith [plus] a missionary outreach of compassion and urgency. A person who identifies with it is an 'evangelical', one who believes and proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word is derived from the Greek noun euangelion, translated as glad tidings, good or joyful news, or gospel (a derivative of the Middle English godspell, a discourse or story about God), and verb euangelizomai, to announce good tidings of or to proclaim as good news. These appear nearly one hundred times in the NT and have passed into modern languages through the Latin equivalent, evangelium. Biblically the gospel is defined in 1 Cor. 15:1 - 4 as the message that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day in fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures and thereby provided the way of redemption for sinful humanity. Three times the NT calls one who preaches the gospel an euangelistes (evangelist)75". The roots of evangelicalism nestle in the Protestant Bible and its openly unambiguous teaching; "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent76".  

 

Evangelical77 Christianity emphasises the urgent need for all sinners to make a God-inspired but personal commitment to Christ (to be "born again78"). The need to repent cognitively as a sinner, turning from sin and embracing their Lord Jesus Christ as personal and only divine Saviour is the bed-rock of authentic evangelical theology ... based on their Protestant Bible.  

Evangelicalism is wedded to the Protestant Bible. The evolving versions (initiated by Wycliffe, Tyndale and ultimately, Luther's Bible) remain the foundation for faith and practice for all evangelicals. Subsequent revisions have delivered the current selection of Bibles to well-stocked shelves. However, there are problems with this. Not, as we might expect only from non-believers and us unbelievers but from amongst those who believe. The accuracy of Biblical compilation and its interpretation remain the elusive Pimpernels within the mercurial company of modern-day evangelicals. These issues receive attention later in this book.  

The growth, influence, and internal developments of evangelicalism on the North American continent differed markedly from that in the British Isles; those journeys are subjects for another book. However, in the United Kingdom, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, evangelicalism shuddered, almost to a halt. Materialism, free thought-inspired individualism, and Darwinian theories began to jostle for positions of prominence in the corridors of dogma. People faced the challenge to think outside their conditioned and controlling clergy-catechism-dominated boxes. The higher criticism of German philosophers, secularly educated intellectuals; Freudian posits; Marxist-Leninist socialism; Nietzschean nihilism, and the fresh appeals of naturalism (the emerging science) had almost succeeded in undermining rampant superstition, sentiment and the previously unchallenged confidence in the infallibility of their Bible and soundness of the supernatural. World Wars I and II had left deep scars and the weary God of Battles whose impotent reactions to the invoked blessings by the combatant protagonists were being shelved as an irrelevancy - after all, whose side had he been on? The demolition of unsafe buildings was inevitable - the bombs of the Luftwaffe and the rockets of Werner von Braun had gouged huge craters out of historically layered land. Homes, and other buildings were irreparably damaged. Mirrored in the aftermath

of war swooned the dogma of a crumbling Church with its torn wallpaper of irrelevant dogma - including evangelicalism.

 

The fresh minefields of extra-Biblical issues had stunned the dogma-crippled Church. In the United Kingdom, for example, bombed-out church buildings reflected the shattered belief structures of much 20th century Christianity. The theological rumblings subsequent to WWI exploded into post World War II. There was, thereafter, a dramatic turnabout in the family of the Church and amongst evangelicals. The evangelical renaissance of the active foreign missionary took on fresh impetus, blossomed, and soon revitalized the tired Church. Diversionary tactics won the day, as the era of introspection found compensatory fulfillment in changing the lives and destinies of those heathen "out there" - after all, they were ignorant of the many enlightened challenges that were causing the Church to stumble. The relatively uninitiated overseas pagan market became an attractive and inviting alternative. In fact, the beleaguered Church had rediscovered its commitment to evangelise. Sadly and by default, however, it subsequently discriminated against its home base and neglected the pitted highways and byways that were in dire need on its own doorstep. Bible Institutes and colleges blossomed forth to became the Protestant versions of Vatican-like citadels for starry-eyed young evangelicals preparing to reach out to the many lost in heathen darkness. Were there any heathens living cheek by jowl alongside the colleges and Institutes?

 

The era of patronising service also took hold. Interestingly, the cunning subterfuge engaged often meant that soul-saving missionaries would register their given credentials as doctors, nurses, and teachers to get foreign visa authorisation to work in countries where the practice and presence of Christianity was not encouraged. Once there, of course, and with clever chameleon-like ability, they would then diplomatically also evangelise their dependent target group and soon the home-based bodies of supporters would be regaled with stories about Bible studies with newly won converts. The climate of religious cloak and dagger intrigue would result also in financial support. The pioneering Bible smuggling enterprise, undertaken by Brother Andrew79 in defiance of the Chinese government, drew the rapt attention and involvement of the evangelical world. Despite the dogma that all rulers and laws are God-sent (regardless of whom or what they might be)80, Brother Andrew reported on his border violations in the clandestine world of smuggling Bibles into communist China. Note, please, the subtlety of the end justifies the means approach, as we will focus on this later in the book.  

Wolves in sheep's clothing or sheep in ... ? We are beginning to encounter the amazing chameleon-like behaviour common to evangelical belief and practice? Let us keep our eye on the chameleon ... she and her entourage, the hissing snake, spider and web will be travelling with us!   

Armstrong writes, "By 1930, there were at least fifty fundamentalist Bible Colleges in the United States ... during the depression years, another twenty-six were founded and the fundamentalist Wheaton College, in Illinois, was the fastest growing liberal arts college in the United States ... fundamentalists also formed their own publishing and broadcasting empires ... when television arrived during the 1950s, the young Billy Graham, Rex Humbard, and Oral Roberts began their ministries as 'televangelists'81" .

For a working definition of the variously used term "fundamentalist" please refer to this footnote82. It is important to attempt to clarify the term. Otherwise used in a variety of contexts ... in this book it applies only to yet another group within the segmented company of believers within evangelicalism.  

 

College and university students were evangelised and movements such as the Inter Varsity Fellowship (established in the 19th century) and Scripture Union (founded in the 19th century) expanded and grew.

 

The mid-20th century introduced the youthful Billy Graham to the world. Many British evangelicals found his "loud and decorative ties somewhat offputting83". Conservative evangelicalism regrouped and united. Foremost in the renaissance were the National Evangelical Anglican Congress and the German based Conference of Confessing Fellowships. The USA-led National Association of Evangelicals (1942), the Fuller Theological Seminary (1947), and Christianity Today (1956) were significant expressions of what the Congregational minister, Harold J Ockenga, (6 June 1905 - 8 February 1985) entitled the "new evangelicalism". Dear me ... how many colours can a chameleon have?

 

It was at this point that the on-going tussles between dogma versus practice began to shake evangelicalism's structure. However, that is the subject of another book. Emerging from the rancour and sad divisiveness generated by the praying, sincere Bible believing Christian fundamentalists and ardent conservative protagonists84 was the acceptance of the social dimensions of their Gospel. The use of human intellect, the value of culture and Revd Billy Graham's well-motivated Berlin centred World Congress on Evangelism (1966) and the renowned Lausanne International Congress on World Evangelization (1974) opened the arteries for progressive evangelicalism. Those events, the World Evangelical Fellowship, and the new regional organisations formed by evangelicals in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, did much to foster closer relations and cooperative efforts in evangelism, relief work, and fresh theological development. These movements, plus the sending of new missionaries from Third World countries, transformed evangelicalism into a recognised and spanking new global phenomenon.  

Evangelicalism began to flourish and with its growth came the need to address some of its hitherto worrying anomalies. One such was the interpretation of the Protestant Bible. Let us now enter, briefly, the cathedral of creative theology where sacred depositaries were opened, tomes dusted down and scholarly works digested. The pews on opposite sides of the aisles comprise Reformed, Calvinistic, Wesleyan, Arminian, Pentecostal, Orthodox, and Darby's creative Dispensationalist theology. There are other groupings too, but for the purposes of this visit, they remain closeted in the vestry and choir stalls.

END NOTES: CHAPTER 1

 

34 Duke of Wellington - attributed to him. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Arthur_Wellesley,_1st_Duke_of_Wellington.

35 The Bible. 1 Corinthians 1.13.

36 http://dispensationaltruth.wordpress.com/about-us/.

37 Armstrong, Karen. The Battle For God; Harper Perennial pages 64 - 67, 71 - 78.

38 Shrirer, William J, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Simon and Schuster (1960).

39 Hitler, A. Mein Kampf. Complete and Unabridged Fully Annotated Editorial Sponsors

John Chamberlain Sidney B. Fay John Gunther Carlton J. H. Hayes Graham Hutton

Alvin Johnson William L. Langer Walter Millis Raoul de Roussy de Sales George N.

Shuster . Reynal & Hitchcock 1939 New York. Page 287.

40 Ibid.

41 Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Buch.

42 Ibid.

43 Walker J. Martin. Luther's Dirty Little Book: On The Jews and their Lies. http://

www.nobeliefs.com/luther.htm.

44 Hebrew meaning is "Lord". See Catholic Encyclopedia at http://www.newadvent.org/

cathen/01146a.htm.

45 Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom (347 - 407) Eight Homilies Against The

Jews http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html.

46 The Bible. John 3.16.

47 The Bible. Genesis 9.

48 Hitchens C. God is not Great, Chapter 16. Atlantic Books. ISBN 978 - 1-84354 - 586 - 6.

49 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelicalism.

50 The number of Crusades are between 8 (Catholic Encyclopaedia from 1095 - 1270 http:/

/www.newadvent.org/cathen/04543c.htm) but could be 11. See also http://

www.historymole.com/cgi-bin/main/results.pl?theme=10008117.

51 (meaning "Conqueror" in the Spanish language) is the term used to refer to the soldiers,

explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas and Asia Pacific under

Spanish colonial rule between the 15th and 17th centuries, starting with the 1492

settlement established in the modern-day Bahamas by Christopher Columbus. http://

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conquistador.

52 Emerging Infectious Diseases Volume 2 Number 4 http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/

vol2no4/martin.htm.

53 John Mark Studies - Evangelical Christianity - http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/49.htm.

54 The Bible. John 3.

55 Evangelicalism http://mb-soft.com/believe/text/evangeli.htm.

56 Christian Fundamentalism Exposed http://www.sullivan-county.com/news/index.htm.

57 The Bible. John 3.

58 George W Bush http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/g/georgewbush.htm.

59 The Bible. 2 Corinthians 3.2.

60 Harris P. The Observer, 2 November 2003, introducing "The Faith of George W Bush"

by Stephen Mansfield".

61 Independent On Line edition 4 March 2006, http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/

article349125.ece.

62 Oral Roberts http://www.ondoctrine.com/10robero.htm.

63 The Bible. Philippians 4.19.

64 The Nation 4 May 2005 http://www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat?bid=1&pid=44.

65 See http://www.avaaz.org/en/close_guantanamo and Ricken Patel - Avaaz.org

avaaz@avaaz.org.

66 Tennesean.com http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/R/

ROBERTSON_PREDICTION?SITE=TNNAT&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT.

67 Ibid.

68 Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion Bantam Press 2006, ISBN 9780593055498.

69 CC Clark Julius MPS. Joseph Smith http://www.lds-mormon.com/jsmith.shtml.

70 World Evangelical Alliance http://www.worldevangelicalalliance.com/.

71 Christian Today http://www.christiantoday.com/news/church/

evangelical.alliance.uk.release.new.basis.of.faith/405.htm.

72 The original had virgin Mary but I have replaced the lower case v by adding the upper

case V.

73 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 16.

74 The Bible. Matthew 28.

75 RV Pierard (Elwell Evangelical Dictionary).

76 The Bible. Acts 17.30.

77 Micah Challenge http://micahchallenge.org/Christians_Poverty_and_Justice/97.asp.

78 The Bible. John 3.

79 Andrew B and Jansen A. Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN-10: 0 340 86272 6.

80 The Bible. Romans 13.

81 Ibid.

82 http://www.victorious.org/churchbook/chur21.htm.

83 Anecdotal - from personal experience and debates around his worldly dress.

84 See Chapter 1 - neo evangelicals.

 Paul Benedict        Copyright 2007   All rights reserved

Posted upon  Ex-Minister.org   July 13, 2009

 

 

 

 

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