Roger Olson recently posted a very interesting essay entitled Stretching the Evangelical Tent Right and Not Left where he notes that many influential leaders within evangelicalism are pushing to include fundamentalists while simultaneously excluding those they consider “too liberal.” It made us wonder if or for how long Greg and other progressive Evangelical theologians like him will be considered “Evangelical.”
We’ve noticed some signs that fundamentalism might be gaining some traction in many Christian universities. The recent termination of Thomas Jay Oord, a tenured professor at Northwest Nazarene University, is a good example of this. (He was allowed to stay on with a temporary contract while he makes his transition away from the University.) Oord has been open about his rejection of young earth creationism and acceptance of evolution and is also an open theist. Although the University claimed that the termination was driven by financial concerns, there are a number of indications that cause many to suspect this is not the case. And this certainly isn’t an isolated incident. There’s an escalating fear at some Christian universities that leaning in a liberal direction or even daring to honestly examine particular questions might spell the end of a career.
We wanted to share a portion of Roger’s essay and encourage you to read it in its entirety. We’d love to hear your thoughts over on our Facebook page. Do you think Greg still fits within the Evangelical “tent”? Does it matter? What do you think is at stake?
Here’s a snippet of Roger’s observations:
My own tendency has long been to embrace as fellow evangelicals fundamentalists insofar as they want to play nice with other evangelicals and not specialize in pointing an accusing finger at other evangelicals for having a “compromised gospel.” But that was part of the DNA of American fundamentalism and, to a certain extent, still is. But major movers and shakers of American evangelicalism now want to broaden the evangelical “tent” to include true fundamentalists who don’t want to play nice with other evangelicals while at the same time narrowing the evangelical “tent” to exclude postconservative/progressive evangelicals who believe in generous orthodoxy. In other words, the center of the evangelical movement is shifting and has been since about 1980. And the evangelical “tent” is gradually being broadened to include fundamentalists and narrowed on the other “end” to exclude progressive evangelicals.
If there is ever to be another “Pilgrims on the Sawdust Trail” conference (or something like it—a kind of “summit” of evangelical scholars) what I would like to see is a broader spectrum of evangelicals represented on the roster of keynote speakers. If the conference includes separatistic-literalist fundamentalists it should by all means also include progressive/postconservative evangelicals (at least one) and a Pentecostal. I won’t hold my breath, though.
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