In one sense, abandoning the term “evangelical” is a mere semantic move over which none need (or even should) fret. Does it matter whether I continue to claim the name? Not a bit. Is it a term worth retaining? I think so, but certainly not as a placeholder for real theological reflection or deep ecclesial commitment. Instead, it should serve as useful shorthand for the results of that reflection and the location and embodiment of that commitment. What concerns me, though, is its uncritical abandonment, what amounts too frequently to a sophisticated disguise for a rather sophomoric rebellion.
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Taking his cue from Carl Henry’s 1947 The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, Evangelical scholar J. Daryl Charles sets out in The Unformed Conscience of Evangelicalism to inject a moral corrective into the life of Evangelicalism. The author’s passion makes clear that he regards the current situation no less desperate than the lack of social concern Evangelicals faced in the 1940s. Where Henry worried about fundamentalism being reduced to a “tolerated cult status,” Charles warns that Evangelicals are in danger of devolving into a “large sect” that is irrelevant to the purposes of God and the needs of culture. A number of factors have contributed to the decline of Evangelical ethics.