Frank Viola: evangelicalism and beyond

Frank ViolaPopular Christian author Frank Viola (his latest book is Revise Us Again) has today relaunched his blog under the new name Beyond Evangelicalism, and has started to explain the name with his post Beyond Evangelical: Part I.

Much of this post is an exploration of what evangelicalism is all about. I find it a much more satisfactory description of this movement than the flawed one (even as corrected) which I discussed in my post Does Adrian Warnock take the Bible literally? Viola explains how being Bible-centred is only one of the four main distinguishing marks of evangelicalism, and there is no mention of a requirement to interpret the Bible literally.

Viola starts by clarifying that he is an evangelical. To him, going beyond evangelicalism doesn’t mean rejecting evangelicalism. Rather, it means moving, not to the right as Adrian might want, nor to the left by following Rob Bell, but “forward”. Viola puts flesh on these bones by proposing four new characteristics of beyond-evangelicalism, not replacing but in addition to the four already recognised distinctives of evangelicalism.

One at least of these should appeal to Adrian: Viola adds to cross-centred also resurrection life-centred. I hope he would also agree with adding Christ-centred to Bible-centred. To the rather too individualistic activist-centred Viola is surely right to add as a counter-balance body life-centred. Perhaps most controversial is his addition to conversion-centred of eternal purpose-centred, but I think Viola is right to take the focus away from the currently hot issue of saving sinners from hell and putting it on the following:

God has an eternal purpose, or grand mission, that provoked Him to create. That purpose goes beyond the saving of lost souls and making the world a better place. God’s purpose transcends evangelism and social action (both of which are focused on meeting human needs). The eternal purpose is primarily by Him, through Him, and to Him. Meeting human needs is a byproduct, not the prime product.

(Note that the pairings of old and new characteristics are mine, not Viola’s.)

Viola mentions how Scot McKnight among others has described

the present crisis that evangelicalism faces and the pressing need to reshape it.

Viola’s proposals may provide just the kind of new directions needed for a reshaped evangelicalism to move beyond this crisis and take the world by storm.

2 thoughts on “Frank Viola: evangelicalism and beyond

  1. Kevin, that’s not how I read it. I see Viola’s focus as more on discipleship in small groups and “body life”. But we need to see the follow-up posts.

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