The reaction to Mark Galli’s editorial in Christianity Today reveals how polarized the current political climate is in the United States. Some question his motives and others wonder what has taken so long. There are as many loud evangelical voices of dissent as there are of support for Galli’s call for President Trump’s removal from office. The United States is a divided country on every level of society: religious, cultural, racial, economic, and political. Sadly, there is no greater division than what we are seeing occur among those who identify as “evangelicals.”
We are entering the next four days of the Christmas season as an evangelicalism that has lost its compass.
In recent years, the term “evangelical” has undergone a dramatic shift in meaning. Rooted in the Greek word euaggelion, it originally meant a political declaration that was passed from rulers to citizens. During the New Testament period, it took on a specific meaning of the good news proclaimed to all nations that Christ came so that whoever believed He was God would have the right to become His children and receive eternal life (John 1:12, 3:16; Rom 10:9-10). This good news continues to be declared around the world in a global announcement that God is uniting all things in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:9-10). Evangelicals, then, are those who declare this good news to others as a responsibility to join with God on His mission to ensure that every people group on the planet has the opportunity to hear about what He has done to reconcile us to Himself (2 Cor 5:16-20).
In the early to mid 20th century, a new generation of evangelicals attempted to separate the movement from fundamentalist Christianity. Making the gospel message relevant to the culture through intellectual engagement and positive messaging, this new movement became known as “neo-evangelicalism” emphasizing gospel proclamation and setting the stage for prominent pastors, teachers, and evangelists like Billy Graham and John Stott. It was in this period of time that neo-evangelicalism became the most widely accepted and predominant voice of the conservative Christian movement broadly known as “evangelicalism.”