Almost everyone who’s ever discussed religion and politics with me knows that one of my pet peeves is the common misperception that evangelicals are some sort of political monolith. It is a false and unfortunate stereotype. In fact there is a great deal of political diversity among evangelicals, and in truth evangelicalism is apolitical, notwithstanding the best efforts of some famous televangelists to convince their flocks to the contrary.
In a non-political context I recently came across what may be a semantic solution to part of the problem.
Peter Enns is an Old Testament scholar and was until recently on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary. Dr. Enns is no longer affiliated with Westminster because of an amazing book called Inspriration and Incarnation, which he published in 2005. It is a beautifully written book that takes on some of the disquieting issues of Old Testament evangelical scholarship, such as the similarities between the OT and other ancient Near Eastern literature, theological diversity within the OT, apparent misuse of the OT by New Testament writers, and the like. I intend to separately blog about the book someday, so I won’t go into much detail here. If any of what I’ve written piques your interest–do yourself a favor and get the book.
Because Dr. Enns posed these questions, and suggested answers and ways of thinking that aren’t lock-step with traditional conservative evangelical thinking, he was forced out at Westminster. To be fair, it wasn’t so much the Seminary that forced him out, as it was the Presbyterian churches who feed students to the Seminary, and who hire its graduates. If I have mischaracterized the events of Dr. Enns’ departure in any way, I apologize. But that is what I understand the circumstances to have been.
By the way, lest any of y’all assume that all seminaries are afraid of books like Inspiration and Incarnation, it is actually a required text in my Old Testament class at Asbury.
But back to the subject at hand. In some interviews following the controversy, Dr. Enns referred to his opponents as “evangelicals.” When some evangelicals objected to that, Dr. Enns acknowledged that it was unfair to to lump all evangelicals in with his critics. It was then that he made an interesting suggestion: “Perhaps it would be better to describe the more progressive articulations of evangelicalism as “evangelical” (which I would prefer) and invent a new term for the mixture of evangelicalism and fundamentalism with which I am contending, e.g., “fundagelicals.””
Dr. Enns was joking. But I’m not.
Rather than paint all evangelicals with the fundamentalist brush, I suggest those who combine fundamentalism and evangelicalism be called “fundagelicals.” The rest of us can continue as evangelicals. Problem solved.
And by the way, I love and respect my brothers and sisters who find comfort in fundamentalism. It’s a big tent, with room for all.