‘Evangelical is not enough’ is a phrase you hear a lot these days. Ever since a well-known Evangelical, Thomas Howard, published a book with that title in 1984, every time someone wants to point to a mistake some Evangelical is making, the phrase ‘Evangelical is not enough’ is sure to be used. Thomas  converted to Roman Catholicism not long after publishing the book, but the dissatisfaction he left behind is still all over the place, especially among the younger generation of Evangelicals.

I’d be the first to admit that Evangelicals have been messing things up in the Episcopal Church—other denominations no doubt have their own critics—for quite a while, but I want to insist that it is not because ‘evangelical is not enough’.

The word ‘evangelical’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘gospel’, and ‘evangelical is not enough’ is just another way of saying ‘that which pertains to the gospel is not enough’. ‘Evangelical’ is enough, if Christianity is enough. The gospel is that human beings are sinners and cannot be admitted into God’s presence until they have been cleansed from their sin, and in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross God has taken those sins on Himself. Nothing more than this is needed. Until 50 years ago, Evangelicals stood for this, and for nothing else. Evangelical was enough, by definition: evangelicalism summed up what Scripture said was all that humanity needed to be right with God.

The trouble with modern evangelicalism is not that it is not enough, but that it has become too much. Everything that has been added during the last fifty years—emotional experiences misread as manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit, a romantic fascination with mystery and symbolism instead of the common sense application of God’s word written, the appropriation of all that is worst about modern life in the hope of being relevant—must go. Evangelicalism must become less and less, shedding all that it has covered itself with until it is nothing more than the gospel of Jesus Christ.