Who is and is not an evangelical? With whom should evangelicals cooperate in gospel efforts, and with whom not? Which theological expressions are truly evangelical, and which are beyond the pale?
These questions are central to the ongoing crisis of evangelical identity. In 1989, Carl F. H. Henry spoke to the urgency of answering these questions:
“The term ‘evangelical’ has taken on conflicting nuances in the twentieth century. Wittingly or unwittingly, evangelical constituencies, no less than their critics, have contributed to this confusion and misunderstanding. Nothing could be more timely, therefore, than to define what is primary and what is secondary in personifying an evangelical Christian.”
Just a year after Henry offered those words, Robert Brow called for a complete transformation of evangelical theology — and did so within the pages of Christianity Today, the flagship periodical once edited by both Carl Henry and Kenneth Kantzer. Brow’s manifesto was a clarion call to abandon the Augustinian-Reformation model in favor of a new Arminian and postmodern model. Brow declared that the intellectual context of postmodernity made such an exchange necessary. He argued that doctrines such as the omnipotence, omniscience, and sovereignty of God would have to be radically reinterpreted in light of current thinking. He explicitly rejected doctrines such as the substitutionary atonement, a penal understanding of the cross, forensic justification, and imputed righteousness. With remarkable boldness, he called for the rejection of the traditional doctrine of hell, and he denied both a dual destiny after judgment and the exclusivity of the Gospel. As he made these demands, he informed his readers of the inevitability of an evangelical “megashift” because, “a whole generation of young people has breathed this air.”….
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