Our Role: Moral Gatekeepers or Bearers of Glad Tidings?

This is from John Dickerson’s, The Decline of Evangelical America. Thanks to Wesley Hill for the link.

How can evangelicalism right itself? I don’t believe it can — at least, not back to the politically muscular force it was as recently as 2004, when white evangelicals gave President George W. Bush his narrow re-election. Evangelicals can, however, use the economic, social and spiritual crises facing America to refashion themselves into a more sensitive, spiritual and humble movement.

We evangelicals must accept that our beliefs are now in conflict with the mainstream culture. We cannot change ancient doctrines to adapt to the currents of the day. But we can, and must, adapt the way we hold our beliefs — with grace and humility instead of superior hostility. The core evangelical belief is that love and forgiveness are freely available to all who trust in Jesus Christ. This is the “good news” from which the evangelical name originates (“euangelion” is a Greek word meaning “glad tidings” or “good news”). Instead of offering hope, many evangelicals have claimed the role of moral gatekeeper, judge and jury. If we continue in that posture, we will continue to invite opposition and obscure the “good news” we are called to proclaim…

…This does not mean we whitewash unpopular doctrines like the belief that we are all sinners but that we re-emphasize the free forgiveness available to all who believe in Jesus Christ.”


  1. Relevent quote:

    “Dickerson presents the classic dichotomy of those who bemoan the unpopularity of Christian views: we can either keep “angling for human power” or start winning souls. Well, I have little interest in power. My evangelical friends share my lack of interest in this pursuit. What we do care about, though, is human flourishing. On this point Dickerson shows well-established naïveté. The mainstream media wants us to read the evangelical promotion of life, marriage, and truth as repressive, unkind, and counter to the spirit of Jesus. If I may be so bold, it is a shame when fellow evangelicals pick up this tune, and especially so when they sing it in the pages of the New York Times.”

  2. Thanks, Loren. I did not read the NYT article (from Dickerson), simply found the portion quoted unassailable in any serious way. I agree that human flourishing is a wonderful/essential/overlooked/neglected aim, and do believe that pursuit of political power (and simultaneous neglect of the arts/imagination) is both bad strategy and unhealthy. But I know there is some measure of do this, yes, and don’t neglect the other. But I LOVE the portion quoted.

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