I describe myself as a “post-evangelical,” and I have been writing recently about what that means.
I want to move a point now which, by coincidence, intersects with something Richard Beck has been blogging about recently. I’ll get to the relationship between Richard’s point and my own at the end of this post.
At its heart, evangelicalism (which I defined in more detail here) holds that each person suffers from the same basic problem, which is this: he/she will be unable to enjoy a blissful eternity with God because he/she has sinned against God. Thus, the primary problem of each individual human is one of sin management: How can/will/does God remove my sin, which is a barrier to eternal bliss after death?
I didn’t invent the term “sin management”, but I like it a lot. It infers that sin is something that needs to be dealt with, in a way that is similar to a sewage system or a garbage truck. We have to get rid of it. And, for the typical evangelical, the only problem that is addressed in scripture is the question of how one gets rid of the consequences of sin. I have a lot of garbage. Who will haul it off for me? And what do I need to do to make sure it is hauled off?
In most evangelical systems, sin is dealt with (so to speak) when one “accepts Christ.” My friend Richard Beck visualizes this as a race, where everyone who comes to a magic intellectual conviction before death wins, and everyone else loses. Here is a diagram that he uses to illustrate such systems:
Richard has his own set of problems with this model. In short, he thinks its unfair because some people will be given a better opportunity to know Jesus and will be better equipped to make the “right choice,” and others will never have a chance to “win” at all because they will never have the knowledge/capacity of will to accept Christ. Thus, he claims, we need a better way of conceptualizing how and why people are saved. At least, thats how I’m reading his post (and I might have some of the details wrong). You can read about his views for yourself here.
In many ways, post-evangelicalism is about beyond an approach to the gospel that is exclusively about sin management/the Cartesian race. I think there is something more going on in scripture, and hope to talk about that “something more” in the next post.
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