Frank Viola may have broken some kind of record by starting his series Beyond Evangelical with part I on 5th May last year and continuing it only today, more than eight months later, with Beyond Evangelical: Part II. But it was well worth the long wait to read more of what Frank has to say on this important subject.
Frank’s basic point in Part II is that there are “four major streams within evangelicalism”, especially among “Christians in their 20s, 30s, and 40s”. These are:
- “Systematizers” – largely Calvinists, including the “young, restless and Reformed”;
- “Activists” – more politically left leaning evangelicals, some in the “Emerging Church”;
- “Emoters” – charismatics;
- “Beyond Evangelicals” – the group for which Frank is a spokesman.
Frank sees his “Beyond Evangelicals” as a “fourth stream [which] flies under the radar of establishment Christianity because it is not part of it.” But this stream, he claims, is large and growing, as people come out of the other streams and join it. Their defining characteristic:
“Beyond Evangelicals” are in pursuit of a Person above and beyond ideas (stream 1), activities (stream 2), or feelings (stream 3).
This could, I suppose, look a bit like a “motherhood and apple pie” definition, something which every Christian group would claim. But I think Frank has identified a real fourth stream here. As for how significant it is, perhaps only time will tell.
Where do I stand in all this? Well, I am not in my 20s, 30s or 40s, and not North American which is presumably Frank’s focus here. So it is not surprising that I don’t fit clearly into any one of the streams. As a young Christian I was a Systematizer, but have definitely left that behind. In some ways I am closest to the Emoter stream, but not entirely at home there. I also have a lot of sympathy with the Activist stream, and politically I fit in best there.
So should I identify myself now as a Beyond Evangelical? I would fit well with most of Frank’s description of this stream, but not with “tend to be apolitical, believing that the local ekklesia (body of Christ) is the new polis.” Also I don’t want to reject the charismatic movement, while being aware of its imperfections.
One thing I am sure of, that I want to read more of Frank’s series, which will I hope continue rather more quickly.