But it’s also possible that evangelical intellectuals and writers, and their friends in other Christian traditions, have overestimated how much a serious theology has ever mattered to evangelicalism’s sociological success. It could be that the Trump-era crisis of the evangelical mind is a parochial phenomenon, confined to theologians and academics and pundits and a few outlier congregations — and that it is this group, not the cultural Christians who voted enthusiastically for Trump, who represent the real evangelical penumbra, which could float away and leave evangelicalism less intellectual, more partisan, more racially segregated … but as a cultural phenomenon, not all that greatly changed.
Typical NYT columnist! — interested in evangelicalism only in terms of “sociological success,” as a “cultural phenomenon.” SMH.
Slightly more seriously:
- I don’t think it matters, either in the City of God or the City of Man, whether there are a great many people who (when surveyed by Barna or Gallup or Pew) call themselves evangelical, or only a few.
- I do think it matters, for both cities, and in a variety of ways, that they contain people who seriously hold to the convictions traditionally associated with evangelicalism, whether those convictions are summed up in the Bebbington Quadrilateral or the Larsen Pentagon.
- I think it matters a lot more, and again for both cities, whether generally orthodox Christians from all traditions — and including those who have moved from evangelicalism to one of the more ancient traditions — understand what they hold in common and seek to hold still more in common, pursuing the unity in Christ that they are commanded by Him to embody. There were orthodox Christians before there was an evangelical movement; there will be orthodox Christians long after the evangelical movement is but a distant memory.
One more thing, in relation to that move of many young evangelicals to older ways of being Christian: there’s a new book by Kenneth Stewart called In Search of Ancient Roots: The Christian Past and the Evangelical Identity Crisis. Andrew Wilson comments on it here.