The Evangelical Experience: Theological Diversity

Continuing The Evangelical Experience series, this quotation is from Chapter 7, which details theological diversity within Evangelicalism.  Major debates addressed include Inerrancy, Interpretation of Genesis, Baptism, Hell, Destiny of the Unevangelized, Atonement, Free Will and Salvation, Women in Ministry, Homosexuality, and Eschatology.  The following is the end of the chapter, where I discuss the effect that the existence of theological diversity can have on the believer. 

"One effect of the theological diversity within Evangelicalism is the impression that, even if you don’t have a detailed theology figured out for yourself, one of the choices in each debate must be correct. Because the scholars who argue these positions are more highly theologically trained than the lay member, the lay member can trust that one of the experts has it right. For instance, in the Genesis debate, the lay member has the luxury of saying, 'Maybe the day-age theory is correct, or maybe the literary framework theory is correct.' They don’t have to iron out an official position and be pinned down if flaws can be seen in that position. You can always fluctuate between the various sides of these debates, and at the end of the day leave it up to the experts.

Another related effect of the theological diversity in Evangelicalism is the solidifying of core beliefs. Because the typical Evangelical is more concerned with intra-Christian debates (Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Genesis, Eschatology, etc.), the hidden assumption that the Bible is divinely inspired is unseen. It is simply 'given.' And the more people you encounter who take this belief as a given the more it is solidified in your own belief system. When a Christian is debating other Christians, they are not debating those of other faiths, who will attack core beliefs. Thus the threat of examining the believer’s most tightly held beliefs is avoided when discussing matters of theological disagreement in the Church.

Finally, as in all of Protestantism, the diversity of theological belief will continue to lead to the splintering of congregations and denominations into separate entities. The history of Protestantism is the history of debate over theological nuance and the founding of new churches based on those debates. The longer history continues, the more divisions there will be within Protestant churches. There will never be an official council that speaks for all of Protestantism or an official theology in these debated areas."

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