To the question of what is an evangelical?
An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian. We stand in the mainstream of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity. So we can recite the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed without crossing our fingers. We believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.
For evangelical people, our authority is the God who has spoken supremely in Jesus Christ. And that is equally true of redemption or salvation. God has acted in and through Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.
Where do evangelicals need to go?
With regard to individuals, I’m noting in different expressions of the evangelical faith an absence of that quest for holiness that marked our forebears….and the quest for what they sometimes called scriptural holiness or practical holiness. Somehow holiness has a rather sanctimonious feel to it. People don’t like to be described as holy. But the holiness of the New Testament is Christlikeness. I wish that the whole evangelical movement could consciously set before us the desire to grow in Christlikeness such as is described in Galatians 5:22-23.
Evaluate the ‘growth’ of the church:
The answer is “growth without depth.” None of us wants to dispute the extraordinary growth of the church. But it has been largely numerical and statistical growth. And there has not been sufficient growth in discipleship that is comparable to the growth in numbers.
When Stott was questioned by Stafford as to why he did not mention the bible, he replied:
I did, actually, but you didn’t notice it. I said Christ and the biblical witness to Christ. But the really distinctive emphasis is on Christ. I want to shift conviction from a book, if you like, to a person. As Jesus himself said, the Scriptures bear witness to me. Their main function is to witness to Christ.
Ok..I’m with him…I think, until I read this:
We believe in the authority of the Bible because Christ has endorsed its authority. He stands between the two testaments. As we look back to the Old Testament, he has endorsed it. As we look forward to the New Testament, we accept it because of the apostolic witness to Christ. He deliberately chose and appointed and prepared the apostles, in order that they might have their unique apostolic witness to him. I like to see Christ in the middle, endorsing the old, preparing for the new. Although the question of the New Testament canon is complicated, in general we are able to say that canonicity is apostolicity.
It is really difficult to find apostolic authority outside of the word itself. So if the word is authoritative because of the apostles then why are the apostles authoritative?
And really Christ is the New Testament. I don’t see him in the middle but rather in it.
The Scriptures bear witness to these things; we must keep the authority where God has. We understand the authority of Christ from the Scriptures (Jn. 5.39) and the same for the apostles (Eph. 2.22). I just raise an eyebrow, perhaps in overreaction, but nevertheless I raise it, when we appeal to something outside of the Scriptures for ultimate authority.
What do we need to reach this increasingly pagan society?
I just squirm when I hear these neat little formulas for reaching unbelievers. Hey, Star Trek has a community with transcendence and significance and last I checked it won’t satisfy divine wrath. In order to reach this increasingly pagan society we need to put the gospel in the ears of our neighbors that God might supply his power to open hearts to believe (Acts 16.14) and receive the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation for the believer (Rom. 1.16).
Disclaimer: I really like John Stott; he has written two of my favorite books Between Two Worlds, The Cross of Christ. It is fun and edifying to view stuff like this as tests for discernment. I hope you find it encouraging.