Still an Evangelical in the Episcopal Church

An Evangelical by any other name would smell as…


However you complete the sentence above, the point is the same—it’s not the name, but the nature that matters. People have been arguing for years that the word ‘evangelical’ is a hindrance to the evangelical cause, and Tony Campolo is one of the most recent, according to Ian Paul at Christian Today. Paul’s comment:

I wonder how much difference it makes to non-Christians for us to say to them “Oh, I’m not a horrible Christian like those miserable evangelicals! No, I am a nice kind of Christian – you can trust me!” I am not sure that those outside the Christian faith find it quite so easy to draw these neat lines – and I am pretty sure that God doesn’t.

Campolo believes Evangelicals would be better Christians if they restricted their attribution of divine authority to the ‘red letters’ in the Bible—to the words of Jesus, which are printed in red in some editions. Paul points out the fatal consequences of doing that, here, and ends by saying

To be evangelical means to see the Bible, rightly interpreted, as the supreme authority in matters of life and faith. If my fellow evangelicals are giving the family a bad name by their misreading, then I need to stay in the family and have the conversation. And, guess what? There are some red letters about that: “If a brother or sister sins, go and point out the fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over” (Matthew 18:15).

To all of which I say ‘Amen.’ The only thing I would change would be to delete the words ‘rightly interpreted’. No one chooses a wrong interpretation, even when they are interpreting wrongly, and since God’s word achieves God’s purposes, those of us who believe our interpretation is right and another’s wrong can trust that God will be at work even in someone who is misunderstanding His word. It’s only when we believe that the Bible, or even a part of it like the part only ever printed in black, is the word of man rather than the word of God that we are no longer interpreting, but editing, and therefore subjecting God’s word to our own judgement.