Friday, November 02, 2007

Evangelical. Am I?

I've been feeling frustrated with a friend a few times when Brazilians ask "are we Baptista" He says Will and himself are and the rest of us are Evangelica diferente bla bla bla Portugueseness....

A few days ago Lugamila (our new language teacher) was asking each of us individually this denomentational question. Lisa was asked first and said Nazerine and David chimed in with the Portuguese pronounciation. I was next and said "No, I don't have a denomentation" They were confussed so again David chimes in with the Portuguese, "Evangelica não-denomenação bla bla bla... I say "I'm not Evangelical!" and cut him off. I was rude. I didn't mean to be. Luge asked if I was Catholic and I wanted to say yes but I knew she wouldn't understand my intention so I said No. Rillo (Luge's brother) asked if my church had a name and named off all the denomenations he knew and I said we didn't have one of those. Next time I get that question I'll say I belong to a house church and if they want more details I'll say I ascribe to Emergent Anglican Theology. If that doesn't seem to make sense, I'll say we're a bit of an intelectually liberal church. I don't know what liberal means to Brazilians. Maybe I will substitute the word progressive in place of liberal, but that doesn't seem quite right either.

Do the members of Via Christus consider themselves evangelical? I know Church of Christ would not and thus I would not. Technically if I belong to a denomination it would be to the CoC. But I agree more along the lines of Angly/Catholic/Orthodox theology minus the institution which are all also outside the Evangelical parameters. But if it's the institution I have problems with, maybe I'm not Christian at all. Maybe I am simply a disciple. As much as I study and strive to imitate Christ hopefully nobody not even myself could argue with that label.


David said...

Sorry for that confusion. I wish you would have said something sooner in the few previous situations when that came up. Obviously that day at lunch I realized you didn't like the term.

The two primary reasons I phrased it that way:
1) In Brazil, if you're a Christian, you're either Catholic or evangelical. And here evangelical and Protestant are one and the same, with evangelical the more used term. This is because of Brazil's church history- the evangelical/Protestant church here is still relatively new, and they never had a split between theologically liberal and conservative Protestants like the U.S. did that shaped labels. And Brazilians always want to know which church someone belongs to. As I typically get looked to as the spokesman of the group, for better or for worse, I was trying to put your situation into something they would have a frame of reference for.

2) We are working with Word Made Flesh, which identifies itself as an evangelical organization, insofar as its statement of faith is the evangelical Lausanne Covenant. Also, you had in the past said you sort of identified with Anglicanism, and many Anglicans, particularly in the developing world, fall under the evangelical category. For those reasons, I didn't expect you would reject outright such a description.

What is it about the term you don't like? The current political connotations in the U.S. context?

The best definition of evangelicalism that I have found is by Bebbington, and based on 4 traits:
1)Conversionism - Emphasis on the conversion experience, also called being saved, or new birth or born again after John 3:3. Thus evangelicals often refer to themselves as born-again Christians. This experience is said to be received by "faith alone" and to be given by God as the result of "grace alone".
2) Biblicism - The Protestant canon of the Bible, as God's revelation to humanity, is the primary source of religious authority. Thus, the doctrine of sola scriptura is often emphasized.
3) Activism - Encouragement of evangelism (the act of sharing one's beliefs) -- in organized missionary work or by personal encounters and relationships with others.
4) Crucicentrism - A central focus on Christ's redeeming work on the cross as the only means for salvation and the forgiveness of sins.

In my mind, it's a positive term showing the essential unity of various Protestant denominations that fit such a description. It's also an easy way to describe interdenominational or nondenominational groups like Intervarsity and Campus Crusade.

Let's do keep conversing about this sort of thing. And in the future, I will be sure to let you choose the exact words to describe your affiliation or lack thereof.

In other news, I think your blog is really great. :)

Arthur said...

Make sure at some time you read McLaren's "A Generous Orthodoxy."

By his definitions I know I am evangelical... along with at least six other adverbs.

Love Ya'