Improving Evangelical Ethics: An Analysis Of The Problem And A Proposed Solution -- By: Robert L. Thomas

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 34:1 (Mar 1991)
Article: Improving Evangelical Ethics: An Analysis Of The Problem And A Proposed Solution
Author: Robert L. Thomas

Improving Evangelical Ethics: An Analysis Of The Problem And A Proposed Solution

Robert L. Thomas*

My pilgrimage as an evangelical Christian has spanned more than forty years. Through no contribution of my own, these have been years of remarkable outward vitality and progress in evangelicalism. This general period has witnessed the birth and rapid growth of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Theological Society, and a number of evangelical denominations and fellowships. Since about 1950 Billy Graham has become famous worldwide because of the tens of thousands of people converted in his mass-evangelism crusades. In the 1960s and 1970s the general public became aware of conservative Protestantism more than ever through the medium of television. In 1976 born-again Jimmy Carter was inaugurated President of the United States and a Christianity Today-Gallup poll concluded that increasing numbers of people were claiming evangelical Christianity as their religious preference. Time magazine proclaimed 1976 as the year of the evangelical.1 Since 1965 American evangelical churches have grown at an average rate of eight percent while liberal denominations have declined at an almost five-percent rate. About forty million Americans call themselves evangelical Protestants.2 With the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980 and the growing momentum of the Moral Majority, the 1980s were called the decade of the evangelical. A mid-June 1990 Gallup poll revealed that the percentage of Americans affirming a personal commitment to Jesus Christ rose from sixty percent in 1978 and sixty-six percent in 1988 to seventy-four percent in 1990. Ninety-five percent of these testify to a “born-again” experience.3

I. The Evangelical Problem

Since evangelicals are generally recognized to be the base center for this nation’s morality,4 one could predict an environment of higher ethical standards than ever as we begin the last decade of this century. Instead,

* Robert Thomas, professor of New Testament language and literature at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California, delivered this presidential address at the 42nd annual meeting of ETS on November 15, 1990, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

however, we seem to have reached an all-time low in national behavior. We see legalized abortion claiming one-and-a-half million lives a year, a still-growing pornographic industry that annually brings in eight to ten billion dollars, eighteen million people addicted...

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