5.6.08

Reflection: What is the Heart of Evangelicalism?


The second Reflection Paper I have written for my Intro. to Theology class follows. It is my reflection based on my reading of the text book, Essentials of Evangelical Theology by Donald G. Bloesch.

How does Evangelical differ from Catholic or Liberal? What is the heart of Evangelicalism?”

To consider the last question first, I believe Bloesch calls the “very heart and soul of evangelical theology” the redemptive and reconciling foundations of the Gospel in relation to God. He says that the divine authority of Scripture has a great importance, but that it is not the central essential of the faith. He also says that Biblical inerrancy is not an essential. I would disagree with his assessment, as there is no reason to embrace the redeeming work of Christ or the necessity or availability of reconciliation with God through Christ unless we accept the Biblical account from Genesis to Revelation as inerrant. For their to be room to question any part of the Bible as a whole would undermine its supremacy over any other text ever written.

To compare Evangelical to Catholic is to compare a system that values the Word of God over the institution of the Church. Evangelical belief places idolatry outside of acceptance, Catholic understandings embrace symbols and icons. Bloesch feels that Evangelicals value the cross over the incarnation, but I disagree. Evangelicals tend to value both. Evangelicals do tend to value the resurrection over the crucifixion, however, and that may be taken in some way to validate Bloesch's statement. He feels Catholicism and Evangelicalism are complimenting “ themes in the Christian symphony,” but I believe he misses the incompatibility of doctrines such as purgatory, papal infallibility and baptismal regeneration among others.

To compare Liberal with Evangelical, is to compare a faith without substance against all of the above. In that I mean “Liberal Christianity” tends to neuter their version of the Gospel by undermining any reason to accept it. If Christ did not really die, or if His death was purely the end of Him, there is no reason to be a Christian. Why embrace the religion of a failure? However, if the absolutes are erased and the lines are made “fuzzy,” converse to what Shakespeare stated in Romeo and Juliet, “What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet...”- what we call Christianity is no such thing if it defies doctrinal standards and a basis in truth.

While Evangelical is the label by which Biblical Christianity is typically referred, it has lost some meaning. To further dilute it, some, apparently those like Bloesch, would stand it beside Catholicism like twin towers. However, I would agree with Barth, that embracing Catholicism would be far more acceptable than to embrace Liberalism if those were the only two choices.

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