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One Does Not Simply Leave Evangelicalism

We agree: It’s a broken word describing broken people in a broken movement. It’s still Good News.

Look, we get it. We’re frustrated, too. Have been for decades, but yes, it’s worse now. When pundits talk about “evangelicals,” they don’t mean what we mean. When pollsters count “evangelicals,” they usually don’t count how we count. And when a supposed “evangelical leader” says something unbiblical, we, too, are tempted to tweet our disavowals.

Defining evangelicalism as a political movement is not new. When polls, politicians, and journalists see everything through a political lens, it’s not surprising that their main question about any group is “how will they vote?” Remember, the term took off in popular parlance in the mid-’70s because it was identified with Jimmy Carter’s successful presidential candidacy.

Still, there’s no denying that a groundswell of evangelical leaders are so frustrated with the politicization of the word and with so many nominal Christians described as “evangelical” that they’re giving up their efforts to reclaim the term.

“Let the political evangelicals have the term,” Northern Seminary New Testament scholar Scot McKnight blogged. “Let the rest of us call ourselves Christians.”

Baylor’s Thomas Kidd gave the same advice: “Historians (including me) will keep on using the term ‘evangelical’ and examining what it has meant in the past. But in public references to ourselves, it is probably time to put ‘evangelical’ on the shelf. … [J]ust identify with your denomination. (For me, that means Baptist.) Or you can tell people you are a follower of Jesus Christ, or a gospel Christian.”

Back in October 2016, Alan Jacobs urged, ...

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A Look at Notable 2017 Publications

TEDS President offers his annual list of best books

As we move closer to the conclusion of the 2017 calendar year, it seems like a good time to look back at some of this year’s important publications. It is impossible to keep up with the ever expanding number of books that are published each year and I make no claims to have surveyed all the possibilities for inclusion on this list. I am thankful for the opportunity once again this year to share these reflections with you.

Looking for the Right Gift

If you are looking for an inviting book to give as a Christmas present, please allow me to suggest God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Proverbs by Tim and Kathy Keller (Viking). Similarly, I am delighted to draw your attention to an extraordinarily helpful guide on John’s Gospel, John 1-12 For You, by Josh Moody (Good Book Company). I would also heartily recommend Unimaginable: What Our World Would Be Like without Christianity by Jeremiah J. Johnstone (Bethany House). The subtitle provides the introduction to this insightful volume. Another highly readable volume is the work by Trevin Wax, This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel (B&H), which I gladly recommend.

Collin Hansen is to be commended for putting together a most engaging edited volume called Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor (Gospel Coalition). Another splendid book to add to this list is the insightful work by Alan Jacobs, How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (Currency). Trillia Newbell’s children’s book, God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story of God’s Delightfully Different Family (Good Book Company), will make a nice gift for young families. She has also written a terrific book with the ...

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Bolivia Makes Evangelism a Crime

Evangelicals ‘deeply worried’ about socialist government’s changes to penal code.

This coming Sunday, evangelical churches in Bolivia will observe a day of prayer and fasting in the wake of their socialist government introducing potentially severe restrictions on religious freedom.

Article 88 of the mountainous South American nation’s new penal code, authorized December 15, states that “whoever recruits, transports, deprives of freedom, or hosts people with the aim of recruiting them to take part in armed conflicts or religious or worship organizations will be penalized 5 to 12 years of imprisonment,” according to a translation by Evangelical Focus, a media initiative of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance.

Changes to the code also permit abortion during the first eight weeks of pregnancy and expand punishment of “recklessness, negligence, malpractice” in all careers—worrying professionals from doctors to journalists.

The changes were approved several weeks after Bolivia’s Constitutional Court lifted term limits, allowing President Evo Morales to run for office indefinitely.

“It is deplorable that Bolivia becomes the first Latin American country to persecute the rights of freedom of conscience and of religion, which are protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the declaration of San José de Costa Rica, and our Constitution,” the National Association of Evangelicals in Bolivia (ANDEB) stated when the changes were introduced.

The code “is imprecise, ambiguous, badly written, contradictory, and its punitive power can constitute state abuse,” ANDEB later stated after the changes were approved. Bolivia’s population is 77 percent Catholic and 16 percent Protestant, though Morales, the Andean nation’s first indigenous ...

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How ‘Oh Happy Day’ Gave Gospel a New Beat

A tribute to the legendary composer, singer, and pianist Edwin Hawkins.

The first time I heard Edwin Hawkins and the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day” was in June 1969 in base housing at Itazuke Air Base outside Fukuoka, Japan. Every day, I’d race home from school and turn on Armed Forces Radio to tune into the 30-minute block of rock-and-roll.

At first listen, I was mesmerized by Hawkins’s sound. Oh, wow. I loved it. I was hooked.

Growing up in the Air Force (my father a career officer), I was surrounded by gospel music. Unlike the other services, the Air Force was integrated upon its founding after World War II. Our friends and neighbors were African Americans, playing Mahalia Jackson (of course), the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Pilgrim Travelers, and the rest. Their music became the soundtrack of my life.

But the Sensational Nightingales never sounded like this. “Oh Happy Day” had that throbbing, stuttering, 4/4 beat, the syncopated “He taught me how” section, the low, throaty voice of Dorothy Combs Morrison (which set me up for Mavis Staples, who I wouldn’t hear for another year or two once we’d returned stateside). It didn’t sound like the Top 40 radio I’d been used to.

Oh, I’d been hearing soul music on Top 40 for some time—Aretha, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave … all of whom had deep gospel roots. But this was gospel gospel. On the radio. I fell hopelessly in love with it and trotted down to the Base Exchange (BX) every day until the 45 finally arrived. I still have it, too.

Hawkins never had another Top 40 hit, but he had a long and successful career in gospel music, helping revitalize the gospel choir sound, making choirs cool for kids again.

When he passed on Monday of ...

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