Rob of Beggars All blog has an excellent post on Michael Horton's article, "What is an evangelical?". I've had that article linked on this blog for several months, but I am glad of the reminder to re-read it. This topic has been on my mind frequently since becoming a confessional lutheran two years ago. I used to emphasize the word "evangelical" whenever someone would ask me about my faith, ex. "I'm an EVANGELICAL Christian." Then I would quickly add, "We are attending a Lutheran church right now because God has called us to be a witness there. "Other "EVANGELICAL" Christians knew just what I meant, because many believe that one is not a legitimate Christian unless one has "accepted Jesus Christ as personal savior". Or as Horton puts it, "And as for "Grace Alone," most evangelicals today believe that something--free will, a decision, a prayer, a walk down an aisle, a second blessing, something we do for God that will give us the confidence that we are in His favor. Doctrines like election, justification, and regeneration are hardly ever discussed because they paint the picture of a humanity that is helpless and that cannot even cooperate with God in the matter of salvation. If we are to be saved, it is God and God alone who must do it."
Although Horton's article was written nearly fifteen years, his words are still timely. In fact, it would seem to me that the situation has gotten worse. Horton wrote in 1992, "Since "The Year of the Evangelical," corresponding to our nation's Bicentennial in 1976, the term (in North America, at least) has come to identify those who highlight a particular brand of politics, a moralistic and often legalistic approach to life, and a sort of ersatz, "corny" style of evangelism." Horton goes on to help us understand what the term "evangelical" actually means and why it is important to know what it means.
He ends his article with an observation that I have often made since converting to confessional Lutheranism - Why am I so angry and is it OK to be angry? When turning to the confessional Lutheran tradition, I was angry and feeling very lost. I felt betrayed by pastors and churches I had trusted. (For any new readers, I have already written extensively on my experiences. Just dig around in the archives.) I also felt abandoned by my current church; it was leaving Lutheran traditions behind so quickly that I was basically forced to leave or lose my soul. "Many people wonder why "Reformation" folks appear angry. Nobody wants to be around angry people--and I certainly don't want to be known as an "angry" person." says Horton. I remind myself of that every single time I sit down to write something in this blog.
I've often mentioned that the reason I began this online journal was to try to put my story onto paper (the electronic kind) and sort things out. My new church has helped me to learn that, first and foremost, I'm a sinner and I've been a sinner my whole life. That explains a lot of my mistakes...duh! Secondly, although I was blessed with parents who brought me to the saving waters of baptism and brought me to hear God's word preached and taught, my spiritual education was lacking other areas. So, the fact that I was never perfect to start with and that I was lacking in my spiritual education left me quite open for devasting mistakes in actions and judgements. Thankfully, God is still in control and is still quite able to teach and guide sinners like me. So, I've been able to move from being an angry person to being able to blame myself and move on. If anyone in my past who had spiritual authority over me has taught me things that were false, God will deal with them. He won't need my help.
Still, the anger creeps in once in a while. Just recently, I heard a first hand account of a Catholic high-school exchange student from Central America. She lived with an "EVANGELICAL" family for several weeks and she had some amazing things to say. Her host family regularly "witnessed" to her and told her that she would not go to heaven unless she had accepted Jesus Christ as her personal savior. They regularly showed her "Christian" videos and talked with her afterwards about "becoming born-again." She was told that her Catholic Bible was not a real bible and gave her a different one. She was so relieved when I encouraged her with the reminder that she became born-again when she was baptized. She was surprised to hear that I had been an "EVANGELICAL" Christian for twenty years, but had become Lutheran two years ago. We had many good talks about how God is able to work faith in infants through baptism and how she was already saved. We discussed Holy Communion, too. I was also able to discuss Mary's role with her and she did tell me that in her country, worship of Mary was not as big of a thing as it is in Mexico. Through my talks with her about God, baptism and the nature of faith, I had no doubt that God's Holy Spirit was already working in her heart. I plan to encourage her in her faith through email. Is my anger at the ridiculous actions of these self-proclaimed "EVANGELICALS" justified? Have I been angry, yet not sinned? I think so.