The baseline definition of an “evangelical” comes from Historian David Bebbington’s famous “quadrilateral” of evangelical traits: biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism. Each point, when carried along by the richest of biblical understanding, provides a reliable framework for understanding Christianity. But what happens when those things become poor and nominal?
American Christianity needs to begin thinking in terms of survival and retention, not as a primary agenda, but as an agenda nonetheless. Is a nominal foundation of biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism going to be thick enough to survive the current cultural assault? More specifically, does conversionism provide an entry point into a thick enough Christianity to actually retain converts?
Statistically, the answer is no. By any measure, as evangelicalism has reduced itself to a culture of conversionism, the retention rate of those such converted has precipitously dropped. That means the starting point for thickening evangelicalism is to give due consideration to the starting point for the Christian life. The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call provides a book length treatment of evangelicalism’s doctrine of conversion and the methodology that shaped it. If the churches view of conversion dictates whether or not the church is thick or thin, then thoughtful historical and theological reflection is needed.
The book is available on Amazon as an e-book or in paperback.
D.W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992).
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