Theological Question of the Day: What makes someone “evangelical”?


From Roger E. Olson:

Thus, this speaker is arguing that ALL evangelicals (well, there may be a few exceptions) recognize AT LEAST ONE BOUNDARY around evangelicalism: the necessity of a born again experience.  Anything that threatens that is anathema.

This blog is dedicated PARTLY, at least, to exploring the reality of evangelicalism and evangelical faith.  This is an interesting proposal from an astute scholar of evangelicalism who has taught in two evangelical institutions for twenty-some years.  My own thought is that while evangelicals do want to preserve and promote the born again experience (however exactly conceived–whether instantaneous or a process) many, especially when pushed, admit that such an experience may not be necessary for reconciliation with God (salvation as forgiveness).  I know many evangelicals who, when pushed on the matter, admit that Old Testament “saints” were and are saved without anything resembling evangelicals’ born again experience.  Then, when asked to reflect on that, many are willing to admit that God may have ways of saving the lost we know little or nothing about and that may include imputing righteousness to them without an explicit born again experience such as we have and promote.

This raises many questions.  Are only evangelicals saved?  Is salvation limited to those with a born again experience?  If so, how are the Old Testament people of God saved?  What about the Jew or God fearer with Abrahamic faith who died one month or one year after Jesus’ death and resurrection without ever hearing of him?  Are all the unevangelized automatically hell bound?  Can an unevangelized person have a born again experience?  Must he or she?  These are crucial questions for evangelicals to consider.  They’re not new questions, but I doubt there are many, if any, new questions.

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