I consider myself to be a post-evangelical. This series of posts is intended to flesh out that concept.
At the end of the last post, I said that, in contrast to traditional evangelicals, post-evangelicals view Christianity as something more than a system of sin management. I now want to discuss what I mean by something more.
At its heart, the evangelical theology that I described in the first post is very individualistic. It can lead one to pose some very self-centered questions, such as: How can God save me? What should I do (or believe) in order to get into Heavean? What is my relationship with Jesus like? How can I claim God’s blessings?
But the meaning of “salvation” in scripture is much richer, much more mysterious, and much more fluid than the traditional evangelical notion of salvation, which equates God’s foregiveness (and the consequent promise of admission into eternal bliss) with being “saved.” In addition, scripture’s picture of God’s “salvation” is often much more cosmic/global. In other words, scripture is about how creation is lost and about how God is redeeming all of creation, rather than a particular system by which a particular individual may or may not be “saved.”
The approach to scripture that focuses on the Cartesian race, then, is not really adequate to describe how God is moving in the story of scripture. In fact, I would say that, often, scripture isn’t particularly concerned about the where’s, how’s, and when’s of one particular person’s salvation – much less so than a typical evanglical would lead you to believe. Instead, scripture invites those who embrace Christ to join him in his efforts to redeem all of creation.
For the post-evangelical, then, Christianity is about joining with God in something that he is doing in the world for both believers and non-believers, rather than merely claiming a “forgiven” status based on a particular intellectual conviction. The Christian church exists not for the benefit of its individual members, but as a healing force in the world.
[Although this issue is slightly beside the point, the post-evanglical is also looking for a way to move from an either/or view of salvation which says either you are or are not saved. In its place is a present and progressive view of salvation. God is saving creation. He is redeeming his people. He is making everything new. Salvation, then, must be viewed as a journey toward God rather than as a reflection of one’s immediate standing with God.]
It has been said that cultures are defined by the issues they fight over. If that is the case, then maybe we can distinguish between the traditional evangelical and the post-evangelical by looking at the issues that are important to them. Here are a few examples:
The evangelical might ask: How can one be saved?
The post-evangelical might ask: How can I join God in his saving work?
The evangelical might ask: How can I convince someone else to believe in Jesus?
The post-evangelical might ask: How can I become the presense of Jesus in someone else’s life?
The evangelical might ask: Have I made Jesus my personal Lord and Savior?
The post-evangelical might ask: What does it mean that God made Jesus Lord over everything? And how does that change the way I live out my life?
The evangelical might invest considerable energy in properly defining and labeling sin.
The post-evangelical might invest energy in finding ways to help ameliorate the consequences of sin (for example, by ministering to those who suffer as victims of injustice and abuse).
The evangelical might ask: Who will get into Heaven?
The post-evangelical might ask: How is Heaven present in the here and now? And how can I join in the things that it is doing?
The evangelical might ask: Will I go to Heaven after I die?
The post-evangelical might ask: How can I help to make this into the kind of world where we can all live in it for eternity?
This is not to say that the evangelicals’ questions are entirely irrelavent (though many post-evangelicals may answer them in ways that make traditional evangelicals uncomfortable). However, it is to say that post-evangelicals tend to be asking about (and fighting over) a different set of questions.
I think of myself as a post-evangelical because I am more interested in the second set of questions than the first.
1. Defining evanglicalism
2. Why “post-evangelical” is a term of continuity, not a term of protest
3. How and why it is important to post-evangelicals to reunify with larger and older Chrsitian traditions
4. Defining “sin management”