After writing my post about the identity markers of evangelicalism., I recollected one put up by Roger Olson in which Michael Clawson sets out to demonstrate that a neo-fundamentalism is on the rise in evangelicalism. I referred Roger to my post and suggested that what I had spoken to might be an instance of the phenomenon Clawson describes.
Roger replied: “Interesting. But, of course, we apparently disagree about whether “evangelicalism” has boundaries. If it doesn’t have them, they can’t be narrowed, right? But, of course, people can state what they think is compatible or not compatible with the evangelical “center” and that’s functionally the same as positing boundaries. It’s just that when it comes to actually applying them there’s nothing to apply them to and nobody who has the authority to enforce them.”
That, in turn, reminded me of Daryl Climenhaga’s thoughtful comment on my post. What I said to Roger is pertinent to Daryl’s comments too, so I decided to post them here, in order to make a new conversation rather than “burying” it in the comment stream of the earlier one. Here is what I said to Roger (and now to Daryl):
“Roger, I sympathize with your desire to focus on the center rather than the boundary in defining evangelicalism. I am happy, however, that you also acknowledge the connection between these. If one identifies the center of evangelicalism, it seems to me that discernment in regard to individuals, theologies and organizations will ultimately show the boundaries. There will come a point at which one is too far from the center to be adjudged evangelical. Where that happens, a boundary line is discernible.
It is interesting to watch a similar exercise in regard to judgments of who worships the same God we do and whose God is “other.” Miroslav Volf’s recent book [which I know Daryl is just about read and I haven’t read yet!] has put that issue on the table. When people disagree about what must be at the center to justify the conclusion that this is the “same” God, their disagreements end up drawing boundaries more or less broadly.”
Do you agree that centred and bounded set analyses are really strongly related to one another?