Monday, October 8, 2012

Definitions establish limits

Timothy Dalrymple asks "When Do You Stop Calling Someone an Evangelical?" arguing that terms become meaningless if boundaries are not set:
  • .... There’s nothing inherently oppressive or intolerant or authoritarian in seeking to identify who is an evangelical and who is not. The Jews, for instance, have clear terms of definition. If they did not, they would not have survived as a people for so many centuries. Similarly, any group that wishes to maintain some semblance of coherence over time will need, so to speak, to patrol its borders. ....
  • Finally, saying that Person P is not an evangelical is not at all the same as saying that P is not Christian or does not have a saving relationship with God in Christ. If I were to say that P is not an evangelical, that’s not intended as an insult or exclusion. It’s not to say that P is wrong or unrighteous, an enemy or unwelcome. It’s merely an observation of what evangelicalism means and an observation of whether or not P comports with that definition. A community that does not define what it holds essential will not survive as a community for long.
When Do You Stop Calling Someone an Evangelical?