Monday, May 31, 2004

What Is Paleoevangelical?

In June of 2004 I decided to take the plunge into the blogosphere, generated my first post, then lapsed into nine months of silence save for one political rant that I promptly deleted. During the several weeks prior I had pondered naming my blog "Paleoevangelical," and I was surprised at how few references to the term existed on the web at that time. Although I have no recollection of where I first heard the term, I am quite certain that it was not an original thought. Not until spring of 2005 did I once again see the term published, but I am again at a loss for its source. Perhaps all this background is quite irrelevant to the greater questions of what paleoevangelical means and what a paleoevangelical is, but it seemed prudent to provide some explanation for the historians.

Elsewhere I have made it quite clear that I do not consider myself an historian. So, if the impressions that I am about to describe in the form of statements of fact are less than accurate, I stand open both to correction and forgiveness.

It seems clear to me that Evangelicalism is not what it once was. Likewise, the subset of Evangelicalism that calls itself Fundamentalism has changed substantially since the term was coined in 1920. Paleoevangelical is a term I like to use to describe what I imagine both Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism might have been a long time ago—before both diffused to encompass a distorted morass of aberrant doctrine, pragmatism, personality politics, and materialism (along with remnants of the earlier forms).

I have a theory. It is similar to one plausible view of Baptist history. This view suggests that throughout church history, local assemblies of believers have existed in diverse locations, demonstrating in their body life a commitment to the Baptist distinctives. My theory is that the paleoevangelical idea represents a similar tradition of believers who have maintained pure teaching of the gospel—the evangel—and have been willing to do battle royal to defend it. This tradition has not yet perished, and I am convinced it will not. My hope is that it will grow.

I intend for Paleoevangelical to represent that spirit by the grace of God alone (with some occasional politics, humor, and maybe even sports tossed in). Whether this view of the past is accurate and this hope for the future is realistic is not the immediate point. It's my dream world; please let me enjoy it.