Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Evangelical Grammar

+Basil of Caesarea
Ordinary Time

And now for a little grammar lesson. Mind you, my tongue is just a bit in my cheek, but just the same...

Evangelism is an activity. "Evangelistic" is a word that describes a behavior. Evangelical is descriptive of theology, and not behavior: is the kind of thing that you either is, or you isn't. If you aren't on board with those four things, you isn't, and if you are, you is.

Bob is an evangelical.

Correct: Bob is very committed to evangelism.
Also Correct: Bob is very committed to evangelistic practices.
Permissible: Bob is very evangelistic. (the rest of the sentence, "… in his practices" would be implied, though it's very sloppy of you.)

Bob is very evangelical.

The same rules apply if one is speaking of a particular church or denomination.

Correct: First Baptist Church is very evangelistic. (That's good.)
Incorrect: First Baptist Church is very evangelical. (It sounds like you don't know what that word means.)

In addition! Please continue to read and contribute on the conversations below, and note that Michael Lee at Addison Road has offered some notions as to what a broadly evangelical stance on the Scriptures might look like, written with his usual wit: "Why I am (still) an Evangelical."


Tom Mohan said...

You get that slang with Catholics too - - "Bob is very Catholic" would typically be used to distinguish him from the rest of us who are able to keep our Catholicism at an appropriate level.

I have heard and used the term evangelical to describe some Catholics, myself included. The is a long history of valuing religious experiences in the Catholic tradition especially in the lives of mystics. The Catholic who self identifes herself or himself as evangelical would be one who puts a high value on the religious experience of personal conversion. Often this will refer most particularly with a series of choices to intentionally follow Christ as an adult (including young adult and mature teens). This is not "finally becoming a Christian" as in "Tom was raised Catholic and at age 20 finally became a Christian."

If a profound religious experience of personal conversion takes place in an exploitive environment there is a risk that there will be a strong push to get the person to make profound changes in religious affiliation for reasons other than the good of the person. This is where church growth and evangelism get confused. I have been taught about loving people into the kingdom when the real message was buttering people up to join our church. In fainess we always wanted people to encounter Christ, but the lack of pure motive always bothered me. Can I lead my friend to a deeper understanding of the Eucharist and allow that to happen in the context of his Lutheran tradition?

The real challenge is to restrain oneself when the person is most vulnerable to your guidance. Often a strong encounter with God initiated in part by our participation gives us a certain "cred" that if wrongly spent can throw others off course.

Rick said...

Well done... very well done.

Kyle said...

Funny. And very well said. Thank you for that.

Rob said...

I bought "The Evangelical Paralell New Testament" today. I'm wondering how a New Testament can be Evangelical. Is it because it includes the versions that most evangelicals use (that'd be an interesting poll)? More probably, it's just a catchy title.

Kyle said...

Maybe they didn't want you to worry you'd bought an editiion that didn't have any good news in it?