Evangelicalism, Paradigms, And The Emerging Church -- By: Larry D. Pettegrew

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 17:2 (Fall 2006)
Article: Evangelicalism, Paradigms, And The Emerging Church
Author: Larry D. Pettegrew

Evangelicalism, Paradigms, And The Emerging Church

Larry D. Pettegrew

Professor of Theology

With the advent of “new evangelicalism” in the 1950s began a new movement among evangelicals that bases itself on human experience, minimizes the importance of doctrine, and neglects outward church relations and perhaps makes evangelicalism difficult to distinguish from the rest of Christianity. Since the Reformation, evangelicalism has undergone a number of paradigm shifts, including classic evangelicalism, pietistic evangelicalism, fundamentalist evangelicalism, and more recently, new evangelicalism and fundamemtalism. Within evangelicalism, the emerging church has arisen as an attempt to serve the postmodern culture. Postmodernism is a new cultural paradigm that holds to no absolutes or certainties and that promotes pluralism and divergence. The emerging church gears itself particularly to the younger generation. Diversity within the emerging church makes it difficult to analyze as a movement. One can only analyze its individual spokesmen. One of its voices recommends returning the church to medieval practices. Other voices depart from traditions in eschatological thinking, the role of Scripture, and soteriology. Post-evangelicalism is a sort of British cousin to the emerging church and has some of the same deviations. The emerging church has surprisingly complimentary words to say about theological liberalism.

* * * * *

How a movement begins often determines to a great extent what that movement will become in its maturity. In the early years of a new movement known as “new evangelicalism,” the staff of Christian Life magazine published an article based on interviews with faculty members from Wheaton College, Asbury College, Denver Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, and Baylor University. It was

entitled, “Is Evangelical Theology Changing?”1 These were the days when the leaders of the new evangelicalism were trying hard to differentiate their movement from the fundamentalist movement. The article listed eight ways that evangelical theology was changing:

  1. “A friendly attitude toward science.”
  2. “A willingness to re-examine beliefs concerning the work of the Holy Spirit.”
  3. “A more tolerant attitude toward varying views on eschatology.”
  4. “A shift away from so-called extreme dispensationalism.”
  5. “An increased emphasis on scholarship.”
  6. “A more definite recognition of social responsibility.”
  7. “A re-opening of the subject of biblical inspiration.”
  8. “A growing willingness of evangelical theologians to con...
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