One of the most thought-provoking articles about evangelicals today was written last year, and it may have escaped your notice. It escaped mine until a friend pointed it out to me. You may not agree with every jot or tittle of the article, but I think it raises vital questions that evangelicals throughout the English-speaking Western world need to talk about.
The article is called The Three Worlds Of Evangelicalism, written by Aaron M. Renn and published in the United States in February last year by First Things magazine. I toyed with the idea of seeking permission to republish it in full here in Evangelical Times, but the article is rather long and (understandably) American-focused.
So I thought it would be better for me to attempt to summarise it here, and try and broaden it out to apply to the UK scene. You can read the full article yourself online if you wish. In fact, I would encourage you to do so. Plus, the follow-up video essays on YouTube are worth watching too.
In his article, Renn says that from the mid 20th century into the early 21st century there have been three phases in how the culture has viewed Christianity. The first phase was largely positive – which is to say that church-going and proclaiming Christian values were regarded as respectable things. Yes, church attendance and church membership may have been in decline, but nevertheless Christianity was seen as a virtuous thing.
‘Cultural engagement’ evangelicals typically are to be found in the elite cities, mixing with creative media professionals, and they like to maintain their social status in the culture by distinguishing themselves from the ‘culture warriors’.