Thursday, March 27, 2014

Andrew Walker on World Vision and evangelical identity

If you were unfortunate enough to read Tony Jones and Rachel Held Evans today, you might mistakenly think the evangelical world is full of "spiritual bullies" and rigid ideologues who simply will not tolerate dissent, especially in the form of a para-church organization softening its standards on marriage. Jones and Evans are among the more strident voices of nominal evangelicalism's whiny, overgrown adolescent fringe. They would do well to heed the admonitions about spiritual maturity from Paul and Peter, among others. Matt Kennedy offers the "Rachel Held Evans Rule" as a criterion for determining the good or evil of particular actions.

Conversely, Andrew Walker, writing today for First Things, sums up with remarkable clarity what the recent World Vision episode demonstrates about "evangelical identity."
In American evangelicalism, you can’t believe in anything you want and call yourself an evangelical. That what Mainline Protestantism is for. That’s the route that “professional dissidents” like Rachel Held Evans want evangelicalism to become, but that only leads to eternal pottage.

World Vision reversed course, ostensibly, from an outpouring of criticism from conservative Christians all over the United States. To the lot of us, there seemed to be something inconsistent about a Christian organization making marriage an adiaphora—something up for negation, or compromise. And that’s why I remain skeptical at trend lines that suggest that younger evangelicals will embrace same-sex marriage. It defies precedent. In each age, intellectual surrender and compromise has stood before the church, yet she keeps on going. The faith persists. As G. K. Chesterton said that bears repeating: “Time and again, the Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs. But each time, it was the dog that died.”

In a day where American views of sexuality are fracturing, the World Vision episode reveals that the gravitational center of evangelicalism remains decidedly biblical. The challenge before us today is to keep it that way.

Modes of baptism may be negotiable, but even then, we all insist that it is water that must be present. The same couldn’t be said about the bitter pill World Vision was asking evangelicalism to swallow. Evangelicals know that the structure and design of human embodiment has a biblical telos to it, that marriage is something, but World Vision was saying something different.

We weren’t having it. But there were no Papal Bulls. There were no Councils. There were no Synods. There was only evangelicalism with Bibles open, recognizing that a line had been crossed.

Good for World Vision in correcting course. This episode will subside, and wounds will heal. Their integrity remains intact. Their steps to reverse a horrifically wrong stance are commendable. And good for evangelicalism to have the identity it does to know what its identity is and isn’t.