More on Rob Bell's latest goof

Phil Johnson has weighed in on Rob Bell's notorious Boston Globe interview with characteristic straighforwardness.

One thing is clear: Bell himself is no true evangelical in any historic sense of the term. The Boston Globe's headline ("Bell aims to restore true meaning of 'evangelical'") is exactly backward. Bell has no agenda to "restore the true meaning" of the term evangelical, much less encourage a revival of true evangelical belief. In fact, Bell has made a career of attacking historic evangelical convictions—laying siege to the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the wrath of God against sin, the authority and perspicuity of Scripture, the necessity of the virgin birth, the coherence of the biblical testimony about the Resurrection, the exclusivity of Christ, and whatever other historic Christian doctrines Bell finds politically incorrect.

In fact, if you have the stomach to read the complete version of The Boston Globe
interview, don't miss Bell's arrogant skepticism about the sovereignty and omniscience of God: "For a lot of people, dominant questions center around, 'Why is this happening? Why me? Why now?' Unfortunately, the religious voice often enters into the discussion at an inappropriate time—'God just planned this.' Really? Your God planned this, not mine."

If any popular figure "in the evangelical movement" (or on its copious fringe) deserves the label "heretic," it is Rob Bell. The guardians of evangelical politeness don't like that kind of candor, but when a secular newspaper like The Boston Globe is publishing pieces implying that the best, most promising alternative to right-wing civil religion is a mish-mash of Open Theism and performance art—and that whatever "evangelicalism" is, it must be one or the other of those two abominations, it's time for people with historic evangelical convictions to speak up clearly and make the biblical message heard again.

Read the entire post HERE.

One expects Phil Johnson to speak with clarity on this issues as he has many times before. It gets a bit surprising when Scott McKnight expresses concern for the direction, not only of Rob Bell but of the emergent church in general. This is surprising because Scott McKnight has been famously in support of the emergent church movement. He has often defended the movement and its leaders against charges of heterodoxy. Nevetheless Dr. McKnight now seems to be understanding what many of us have been saying for serveral years now.

But what he said about "evangelical" is not enough, and it fits in with a trend, a rather flippant one, of folks thinking they can determine what an evangelical is or not. Before I get to the trend, a good definition.

To define "evangelical" we need to pay attention to those who have made it their life study to come to terms with this movement, and two scholars have done just that: Mark Noll in the USA and David Bebbington (The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon And Moody (History of Evangelicalism) ) in the UK. They agree on this: an evangelical is a Christian Protestant for whom the central ideas are the leading authority of Scripture, the necessity of personal conversion, the centrality of the death of Christ on the cross as a substitutionary atonement, and the importance of a life of active following Jesus, seen in such things as Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, and deeds of compassion and justice. That is the standard definition of evangelical. This definition summarizes those who care about getting this term accurate. It is not a definition designed to exclude some of whom they are worried. It's big tent definition, but it bears no ill-will toward others.

Now my observation today: I'm seeing a baffling desire by many who almost never talk about any of the above four ideas (as central to what they believe) but for some reason want to be called "evangelical." They make a point to say they are evangelical. To be committed to justice or compassion as the central pursuit in life does not make one an evangelical, though evangelicals should be committed to justice and to compassion -- and shame on those who aren't. But what makes an evangelical is a commitment to the above four ideas (Bible, conversion, cross, discipleship).

My question: Why do these folks want to be connected to the evangelicals?
It would have been helpful, I think, if Dr. McKnight would have come out and said who are the "many who almost never talk about any of the four ideas." They are the very ones he has defended. They are the very ones who have used him for theological cover. They are the emergents.