Four Views on The Spectrum of Evangelicalism
©2011 by Andrew David Naselli, Collin Hansen, Kevin T. Bauder, R. Albert Mohler Jr., John G. Stackhouse Jr., and Roger E. Olson
Published by Zondervan
First thing, looking at the Contributors and Editors, I need to start using either my middle name or at least my middle initial.
Nasselli (introduction) and Hansen (conclusion) are the editors, the other four each contributed a “view” of their particular stance and a “response” to each of the other views. This book is another example of the many point/counter-point type of books. I have always found this style to be helpful, as was this book.
Bauder represents Fundamentalism; Mohler Confessional Evangelicalism; Stackhouse Generic Evangelicalism; Olson Postconservative Evangelicalism.
I don’t know what to call myself. I’m don’t call myself a Baptist, but I am not any other denomination. I don’t call myself a Calvinist, but I am sure not an Arminian. I don’t call myself a fundamentalist, but I am certainly not an Evangelical. After reading this book I still don’t have an answer, but it did solidify my not wanting to be associated with Evangelicalism.
Let’s start with the good. They managed to find a representative of the fundamentalist persuasion who didn’t live up (or down?) to the stereotypes. Kevin Bauder explained and defended his view very well. He embodies a “fundamentalism worth saving”. He also comes from a sphere of fundamentalism I didn’t even know existed until I had grown disenchanted with the fundamentalism I grew up with. Bauder is the past president of and current research professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis. The position he took was that the gospel draws the boundary of Christian fellowship and that Christians must limit their cooperation with other Christian leaders who will not separate from those who deny the gospel. Of course it is this “separation” stance that clearly distinguishes fundamentalism from the other three views.
Al Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY (where my son-in-law is about to graduate from). Mohler has a unique gift of articulating a Christian World View. In my opinion, at his blog he has written some of the finest articles defending the Christian position on contemporary issues. Yet, I don’t think he did his best work here. It is ironic that a “Baptist” would represent the “confessional” position, but he did make it clear why Evangelicalism needs boundaries.
To me, there really are only two views in this book. Bauder and Mohler represent one side of the Evangelical divide and Stackhouse and Olson the other.
Bauder and Mohler were mostly on the same page whereas Stackhouse and Olson were on the opposite page. This leads to the bad. Stackhouse and Olson believe that Evangelicalism defies precise definition. They may not believe that anything goes, they just can’t say what. They won’t allow any boundaries. They both go as far as to say that even that which is essential to the gospel can be denied by someone who is an Evangelical.
There is no consensus on what is an Evangelical. Perhaps there really can’t be. If “evangelicalism” is a movement, then its broad tent is always expanding to include anyone who claims to be one. I don’t claim to be one for that reason.
Reviewed by Greg P. Wilson (or does Gregory Paul sound better? Or G. P. Wilson? Or Gregory P. Wilson? See I really don’t know what to call myself).