A Passionate Faith- What Makes an Evangelical?
176 pages, £8.99
Star Rating: 3 stars
Richard Turnbull has written a very helpful account of the spiritual and devotional life which characterizes authentic Evangelicalism. His subtitle, What Makes an Evangelical? demonstrates his recognition that there is more to being a true Evangelical than mere adherence to correct doctrine, though he is clear that genuine Evangelical spirituality must be an expression of a doctrinal commitment which is focused around the Word and the cross. This means that personal Bible reading and the preaching of the word are at the heart of Evangelical devotional life.
Turnbull insists that ‘spirituality without the Bible is barely Christian and certainly not Evangelical.’ He is therefore rightly concerned that much of what goes by the name of ‘preaching’ today is either emotional manipulation or lifeless explanation, neither of which is true preaching such as our Evangelical predecessors would have recognised, preaching that appeals to the mind, stirs the emotions, changes hearts, and transforms lives.
The book begins by looking at the various historical strands that have shaped contemporary Evangelicalism. Turnbull identifies three major influences, which he labels puritan, pietist and pentecostal. He then considers the primacy for Evangelicalism of conversion, and the vital importance of holy living. He explains how Evangelicalism sees the whole of life as the outworking of obedience to the call of God.
Turnbull also traces the way in which hymn singing has helped to teach Evangelical doctrine, as well as to give voice to the believer’s love for Christ. Interestingly, he regards the current preference in Evangelical circles for worship bands not as a recent innovation, but as a return to a practice deeply associated with the historic origins of the movement. On the other hand, he is concerned that Evangelicals today seem to have lost the commitment to deep and sustained prayer which marked earlier generations.
It was heart-warming to read what Turnbull says about revival. He defines the three key characteristics of revival as the sovereignty of God, the preaching of the new birth, and the conviction of sin. He notes that Evangelicalism as a distinct movement was born out of revival, and that revival remains central to true Evangelicalism.