About eighteen months ago I wrote a passionate blog post called I Don’t Want to be an Evangelical Anymore. My post was inspired by a quote I came across from Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee. Angry with Evangelical leaders who were once again defending President Trump, Mr. Steele said,
“I have a very simple admonition at this point. Just shut the hell up and don’t ever preach to me about anything ever again. I don’t want to hear it.”
Yikes! As I processed this quote, I came to an important conclusion. I don’t think I want to call myself an Evangelical anymore. It didn’t take long to discover that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Greg Stier, the founder of Dare2Share Ministries posted this quote on his Facebook account.
“What could be a new word for “Evangelical” that still means theologically orthodox and actively evangelistic but doesn’t come with the political and cultural baggage? #justwondering”
I couldn’t agree more. In my blog post I expressed my intense frustration and posed a few suggestions for change, but I didn’t really have any ideas for a new name or identity.
Since writing that blog, I’ve continued to struggle with the baggage, both religious and political, that is associated with the word evangelical. I’ve longed for a title that would describe my classical theology without causing people to automatically make assumptions about who I am as a person.
During some recent research for my new podcast coming out in late summer, I discovered even more people who felt similar to me, and they had a name for their set of beliefs. Guys, I now have a new phrase to describe myself and I love it. I actually used this phrase in a conversation with an unbeliever the other day as we talked about religion, and science, and God. And it felt fantastic! There wasn’t the push-back or shut-down that I have experienced before when I shared my faith. I was able to define myself and what I believe in a way that my new friend was interested in, in a way that encouraged them to ask more questions.
Are you going crazy with curiosity yet? Okay, I’ll tell you.
I am a Historical Christian.
What does that mean? It’s really pretty simple. I hold tightly to the core creeds of Christianity that have been passed down for the last two thousand years. My more peripheral opinions or preferences stay in the periphery. Let me share an example:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
*that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places
This is the well-known Apostles Creed. Although most likely the apostles themselves didn’t write it, it is a brief overview of their most important teachings and can be traced back to the forth century.
Creeds are something that many evangelicals have lost sight of over the years. However, they have been important to the historic church since the first century. Biblical scholars believe that the earliest creed is actually quoted by the apostle Paul in First Corinthians chapter fifteen. The way it is recorded suggests a quotation rather than an original thought. Here are verses three through seven.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”
Historical Christianity, also known as Orthodox or Traditional Christianity, has been a beautiful discovery for me. It has put words to the thoughts and feelings of my heart while at the same time giving me a community and a sense of belonging.
For a while now I have felt a little lost. I saw through a lot of the religious facades in many evangelical settings, but I couldn’t give up my orthodox beliefs. I didn’t belong in the Progressive Christian circles, but neither did I belong in more Conservative Evangelical ones. I was just floating around in the middle somewhere. I know that many of you have felt that way too. Well guess what? We are not alone, and we have a home.
As Historical Christians we can fully embrace Biblical authority, a crazy big and powerful God who created the world, the literal Fall of humanity into sin, and the Savior, Jesus, who came as a person both to show us God and restore our relationship with Him. At the same time, those Christian beliefs tell people nothing about our political leanings. They give no insight into our stance on issues of social justice. And that is so refreshing!
Too often Christianity has been divisive rather than unifying. We focus on the differences in our peripheral beliefs rather than the common core beliefs that unite us.
I love that I have Historical Christian brothers and sister who cross denominational lines. Not just within other evangelical denominations, but within the mainstream denominations such as Anglican, Lutheran, and Episcopalian. I’m excited about my family in Christ who has different worship preferences or traditions. I look forward to learning from them. We can be different and still believe in the same beautiful core truths of Christianity. There is a unity that is powerful. It provides connection back through history as well as with the world wide church today. 🙂
I’m really curious about your thoughts! Please feel free to share. I’ve gotten a lot of my information from Alisa Childers, both on her website and podcast. If you want more, I’d encourage you to check her out.
One final thought: The interesting thing about Historical Christianity is that while it unites me with my family in Christ across denominational lines, it also stands firmly against the Progressive Christian ideas that are creeping into the church as a whole. But that’s an entirely different topic that I will tackle next time!