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Frank Viola: Beyond Evangelical

A growing number of Christians have grown tired of the Christian Left vs. Christian Right squabbles, feuds, and vitriol. Not just in the political arena, but in the theological arena as well.

Many evangelical teachers and historians are observing that the evangelical coalition is breaking down and the word “evangelical” is virtually meaningless today.

Consequently, countless Christians are yearning for and reimagining a new kind of evangelicalism. One that carries forth the main keynotes of historic evangelicalism (Bible-centered, conversion-centered, cross-centered, and activist-centered), but which goes further.

These believers desire an evangelicalism that transcends both the Left and the Right paradigms while affirming the best of each. They envision a more Christ-centered, orthodox expression of Christianity that emphasizes the resurrection life of Jesus for the here and now as well as a stress on God’s Eternal Purpose.

To put it in parable form, there was once a large ship that was shot by enemy fire. As a result, it began to sink . . . slowly.

The ship was carrying a large group of Christians from all different denominations and movements.

While the ship sank, many of the people on the ship weren’t talking about what to do. They weren’t discussing how to keep the ship afloat or how to save as many lives as possible after it went down.

Nor were they joining forces in responding to the enemy attack.

Instead, they were bickering over how old the ship was, how much the ship weighed, and the quality of the food that was served the night before.

In many respects, that’s the Christian family today.

Recent studies indicate that evangelical Christians are known by the world as people who are narrow-minded, judgmental, self-righteous, legalistic, callous, hard-hearted, politically partisan, and quick to attack their own. Why is this and is there a viable cure?

Historians and semioticians agree. The face of evangelicalism is changing rapidly and the fissures in the movement are becoming more obvious each day. Civil discourse among evangelicals is rare. The norm is to draw battle lines and throw rocks at one another across those lines.

Some authors have argued that evangelicalism has been co-opted by the Republican party. Others have argued that mainline churches have been co-opted by the Democratic party. And the turf war is getting increasingly uglier.

All told, countless Christians are weary of the intramural squabbling and vitriol that comes from both camps (right and left), and they are looking for a higher, deeper, more Christocentric expression of evangelicalism. One that has the fingerprints of Jesus Christ firmly upon it.

If any of these observations resonate with you, then be encouraged. You are not alone. God is raising up such an expression today.

This is an excerpt from Frank Viola’s new eBook “Beyond Evangelical”

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FRANK VIOLA has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply, gain fresh perspectives on old or ignored subjects, and make the Bible come alive. Viola has written many books on these themes, including God's Favorite Place on Earth and From Eternity to Here. His blog, Beyond Evangelical, is rated as one of the most popular in Christian circles today.