Wednesday, July 07, 2010


I've just read 'The Post Evangelical' by Dave Tomlinson. I read it on holiday in the space of 24 hours, its a short book.

Its a good book, on the whole. Like many of the people on the Amazon reviews page, and elsewhere online, I read it with a sense of relief - there are other people out there like me. And yet, it still leaves a slightly odd aftertaste and a slightly uncomfortable feeling that I can't quite put my finger on.

So what is a 'post evangelical' you might be wondering?

Well, the book is making a case for a third flavour of modern Christianity. Like the author, I was brought up in an 'Evangelical' church where it was believed that there were only really two types of congregation - 'evangelical' or 'liberal'. If you weren't evangelical, you were liberal by default. Evangelicals are the ones who take the bible literally as the Word of God, while liberals are the ones who critically question (i.e. doubt or disbelieve) almost everything in there...

The book makes the case that there are a number of people (the book is based on a number of interviews, we are told) who don't really fit into evangelical churches, who question beliefs and doubt bible stories, but still hold to the 'evangel' - the gospel. These people are not, and do not want to be liberals, but they're not really evangelicals either - they just don't hold the same certainties about the bible or God as most evangelicals do. There is a lot more uncertainty and mystery in post-evangelicalism than there is in evangelical churches.

So there are many good points, well made in this book. And then you realise that the book was written 15 years ago and surely the post evangelical 'movement' it was describing the start of should have come to something by now...? Where are the post evangelical churches? Have I missed it, or did the movement just never happen?

While the main emphases of the book are good and well presented, it does occasionally stray off the path - it goes too far into its discussion of aspects of 'post modernism' and sociology at times, and sometimes there is no clear reason why the author holds so close to some evangelical beliefs whilst drifting so far from others. For example (and, to me this was the most clanging mis-step in the book) early on the author questions the place of marriage for the Christian - basically asking the question 'is it OK for Christians to live together before / instead of marriage?' - and coming to the out-of-place conclusion that the actual marriage ceremony is not that important to the post evangelical! And this without much justification. And then a few paragraphs further on he asserts that the post evangelical will agree with all of the Apostles Creed. Dunno about most people who the book resonates with, but I get those the other way around.

It was a good book. Not a great one. It'll only take you a couple of hours to read and it does contain some gems. Definitely recommended, despite the flaws.

1 comment:

Jonathan Elliot said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this book when I read it. The title alone made me think "Yes, here is something that speaks to me."
There ARE post-evangelical churches now, although I don't know how common they are. I went to one for a while, and liked it much better than my accustomed evangelical or semi-evangelical Anglican (episcopalian) church. P-E has been subsumed into the 'emerging church' movement from what I can tell.

The key point for me is, i think, following God from within my own culture rather than having a 19th century European culture forced on me.
However, I think one can do that without abandoning conventional evangelicalism. imho. Unfortunately, i find conservative evangelicalism so revoltingly off-putting these days that i can't see myself going back.

Jonathan from Spritzophrenia