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Theology Thursday: The Perversion of Christianity

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Posted by John Percival, 9 Jul 2015

‘It is the contention of evangelicals that they are plain Bible Christians, and that in order to be a biblical Christian it is necessary to be an evangelical Christian.’ So wrote John Stott in 1970. To drift from evangelical convictions is to create a perverted form of Christianity.

Melvin Tinker argues that we have a problem: it is no longer clear who or what is an “evangelical Christian.” Can an evangelical be defined doctrinally?

Tinker answers with a resounding affirmation. It is not enough to have shared institutions and even shared heroes. What is needed is a shared gospel. To many that statement will sound blindingly obvious, and yet it is increasingly rejected by so-called evangelicals in the Church of England.

This is because, argues Tinker, evangelicals have been heavily influenced by liberalism in its rational, experiential and institutional forms. You end up with a modern evangelical ‘Humpty Dumpty’ perched unsteadily between classical evangelicals and postmodern liberals. It is looking increasingly unlikely that Humpty will fall off into the traditional fold.

Tinker has been in hot water recently over comments made in a radio interview. What he gives us here is a robust statement on the biblical foundations of evangelicalism. In many ways what he says here is far more contentious. Will we heed his call to get our house in order?

“It is certainly time that the ill-fated affair that evangelicalism has been having with liberalism should end and for the movement to regain confidence in its defining convictions once more.”

Tinker, Melvin. “The Influence of Liberalism upon Evangelicalism—‘the Curate’s Egg’.Churchman 121/4 (2007): 297–314.

John Percival is Curate at All Souls Eastbourne.

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