Lacking a strong doctrinal center, evangelicalism’s coherence as a coalition of institutions and organizations is about to come under a huge strain—a strain that I believe will render the coalition unsustainable in the days ahead (29).
It was the first phrase that made me think of a Tootsie Pop. After all, what’s a Tootsie Pop without the Tootsie center? Trueman raises plenty to think about as he challenges the evangel of evangelism. When we have more confessionally in common with a Roman Catholic or Orthodox than we do with some who are considered evangelicals, the word has lost its meaning. Can someone who denies the Trinity be considered an evangelical? Does it matter what their stance is on soteriology? How about social issues such as homosexuality or complimentarianism? These are all matters that have been pressed lately among so-called evangelicalism.
Trueman sees the term to be more of “a social, cultural, or even marketing term than a theological one—the only time problems arise in this understanding is when the term ‘evangelical’ is used as if it has a doctrinal meaning, when in fact it does not” (19). Of course, he is associated with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, who have a statement fencing in what platform they are speaking from as evangelicals. Whether you’re more of an orange, grape, or chocolate person, they take at least five licks to get to the center, that is, the five solas of the Reformation: “grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, and to the glory of God alone” (18).
For evangelical to continue to be a helpful term, I think that we are going to need to be more clear about our doctrinal center. But as Trueman points out, that is just more exclusive than most want to be. As we try to engage with the culture as a Christian witness, have we lost our witness? Trueman concludes:
The real scandal of the evangelical mind currently is not that it lacks a mind, but that it lacks any agreed-upon evangel. Until we acknowledge that this is the case—until we can agree on what exactly it is that constitutes the evangel—all talk about evangelicalism as a real, coherent movement is likely to be little more than a chimera, or a trick with smoke and mirrors (41).
The world may never know our message. And that isn’t good news.