The leading Free Methodist author, Rev. Dr. Howard Snyder, provides an insightful historical and theological study of why the Evangelical church has lost its way. Though most Free Methodists identify as Wesleyan rather than Evangelical due to the reasons noted in this study, it is important to understand what has and is happening within a large branch of American Christianity.Evangelicalism’s Fatal Flaw Howard A. Snyder
Evangelicalism in the U.S. suffers from a fatal flaw.
What in the world is “evangelicalism”? The term is contested and variously defined. In the United States however it has come to mean doctrinally conservative Protestants, especially white Protestants, who are also very conservative politically. That perception has taken hold in the media and is backed by evangelicals’ voting record in the past several Presidential elections, going back to Ronald Reagan.
What is evangelicalism really though, theologically speaking? British Baptist historian David Bebbington formulated a definition in the 1980s that is now widely accepted. According to Bebbington, evangelicals are defined by four marks: biblicism (a high view of biblical authority); crucicentrism (central focus on Christ’s atonement); conversionism (conversion by faith in Jesus Christ is essential); and activism (the Christian duty to evangelize).
I have never liked this definition. It doesn’t really click with my own experience growing up in the Free Methodist Church. I always felt something was missing, especially for those of us in the Wesleyan and holiness tradition.
I used to think Bebbington’s definition wasn’t quite right.