Richard Mouw and the evangelical label

Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary

One of the reasons for the failure of the evangelical left to thrive is that many are uncomfortable with the evangelical label. Associating the label with right-wing, militant rhetoric, many progressive evangelical now call themselves other things entirely, even though they might agree with Richard Mouw’s description of evangelical identity below:

The important question that we do need to ask about labels, of course, is whether they continue to communicate what they were originally intended to identify. In that regard, questions about the “evangelical” label are good ones to ask today. And while I take those questions seriously, I am firmly committed to sticking with that label as a means of self-identification. . . . For me evangelical identity points to such things as a firm belief in the supreme authority of the Bible and the unique atoning work of Jesus Christ, as well as to the obligation to work actively in inviting people to enter into a personal relationship with the Savior. And furthermore, it means continuing to plead with others who own the label not to pile onto those important convictions a lot of additional baggage that does not do honor to a label that I continue to love.

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One Comment on “Richard Mouw and the evangelical label”

  1. […] David Swartz claims that one reason the “Evangelical Left” has failed as a popular movement (unlike the Evangelical Rightwing which dominates an entire U.S. political party) is discomfort with the term “evangelical” itself.  Is this surprising? When I was a teen in the 1970s, it was fairly easy to call myself “evangelical” and to identify with the Evangelical Left as it was then: Jim Wallis, Joyce Hollyday & the Sojourners Community; Tony Campolo; Ron Sider & Evangelicals for Social Action; Koinonia Partners in Americus, GA, founded in 1942 by Clarence & Florence Jordan & Martin & Mable England as an interracial Christian community–in the midst of segregation and racism; Jubilee Partners and The Other Side magazine (1965-2005); Virginia Ramey Mollenkott; Nancey Hardesty; Letha Dawson Scanzoni–Biblical feminism and the Evangelical Woman’s Conference (now the Evangelical and Ecumenical Woman’s Conference); the radical Black evangelism of Tom Skinner, John Perkins (and Voice of Calvary Ministries), and William E. Pannell–these and other people and organizations were the Left wing of American Evangelicalism, but clearly recognized as evangelical by their more moderate and even conservative sisters and brothers. (Scanzoni and Mollenkott, Rev. Troy Perry, & a few brave souls at The Other Side even dared–and it was VERY daring at the time–to call into questian the consensus blanket condemnation of “homosexuality.” At the time, I did not dare follow their conclusions, but I did think the conversation should be open and free from fear of knee-jerk cries of “HERESY!”) […]


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