“The New Look of Evangelicalism?”

“Do you think Jesus is THE way or merely A way?” Franklin Graham posed this question to presidential hopeful Barack Obama some time back. The answer, some say may be reflective of the new face of Evangelicalism. Barack Obama answered saying, “Jesus is the only way for me, I’m not in a position to judge other people.” Is this a new look for Evangelicalism? A recent poll by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicates so. Daniel Pryfogle, owner of Signal Hill a consulting group that works with churches and whose father and grandfather were Baptist Preachers, agrees saying “I can affirm the particularities of my belief in Jesus and in the Gospels and affirm the idea that there are other paths. That will be hard for others to hold together. But I think we can do it and say, ‘This is evangelical’.” This is alarming and yet hardly surprising.

The Raleigh News and Observer ran an article citing this survey entitled “Evangelicals increasingly tolerant of other paths.” The writer Yonat Shimron says that the answer from Presidential hopeful Barack Obama may be the growing attitude among Evangelicals. The surveyed polled 35,000 Americans with 57% of the Evangelicals stating that they believe that many paths lead to eternal life. The article goes on to state, that one of the authors of the survey found the results “consistent with the overall finding that Americans are not narrow-minded about religion” and that this new evangelicalism “doesn’t want to appear intolerant.” The writer even states, “these evangelicals haven’t abandoned the core tenets of their faith. They still believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus and in the literal truth of the Bible.” Is this true? Is a core tenet not being abandoned here? Apparently, some are calling the data into question because they believe that some of the responding evangelicals may have interpreted “many paths” to mean “many denominations”.

Even so, this is a story to look at and to be alarmed over. This most certainly is not the Evangelicalism that I would subscribe to and this finding definitely gives up one of the core tenets of our faith. The exclusivity of Christ for salvation is a non-negotiable, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by Me”, is not a “yeah that works for me but other ways are possible” kind of quote. The article quotes Dr. Danny Akin who says, “Anyone who claims to be an evangelical and who says it’s possible to go to heaven other than through faith in Jesus Christ is not an evangelical”. So then, is this a new look for Evangelicalism? I hope not, if so we as Baptists need to distance ourselves from any movement or group that calls into question the exclusivity of Christ. We have to be ready in a culture that continually says, “no truth is absolute therefore no religion can have exclusive claims” to give an answer. The answer may not make us more sophisticated or popular, but it is the only answer for a dying world. “There is one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”