The Dark Side of Evangelicalism

Roger E. Olson | 2/12/2019 | Staff
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Here, in this essay, by “evangelicalism” I do not mean any particular evangelical movement but what I have described as the “evangelical ethos”—a broad and inclusive spiritual-theological form of Christianity defined by the so-called “Bebbington quadrilateral”: conversionism, biblicism, crucicentrism, and activism. I have expounded these here much in the past, so I will refrain from doing so again. Anyone interested can simply look up the “Bebbington quadrilateral” and read about evangelical Christianity—not as a particular movement (the ethos is shared by many movements) but as the spiritual-theological ethos that grew especially out of the Pietist movement in Germany and Scandinavia as well as Great Britain and spread throughout the world.

The ethos of which I speak grew always existed in Christianity but came especially to the fore in and with a series of “awakenings” among (mostly) Protestant Christians beginning in the early 18th century. However, once it was recognized as a distinct form of Christian life people recognized its precursors in the radical Reformation (e.g., the Swiss Brethren) and among some Puritans.

Part - Movement - Years - War - Post-fundamentalist

I am unapologetically evangelical—so long as I can explain what I mean by that. I do not regard myself as part of any particular evangelical movement as I once did. For many years I identified myself with the American post-World War 2 post-fundamentalist, “neo-evangelical” movement associated especially with the National Association of Evangelicals and the Billy Graham ministries and related organizations. (For more about this particular evangelical movement read Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism by historian Joel A. Carpenter (Oxford University Press, 1997). However, I think that evangelical movement is dead. Remnants and relics of it exist, but as a relatively cohesive movement it is gone.

In case I need to say this—in my opinion (and that of most scholars of evangelicalism—the evangelical spiritual-theological ethos is not tied...
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