Denny Burk comments on Rachel Held Evans’ Today Show Appearance

Rachel Held Evans appeared yesterday on NBC’s Today Show for an interview for her upcoming book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Denny Burk has a few responses to comments she made during that interview with Natalie Morales that are very much worth reading [here]. While he makes many excellent points regarding her view of Scripture, I would like to highlight one part regarding her repeated designation as “evangelical”:

“Both Natalie Morales and the author identify Evans as an evangelical. I have already written about this elsewhere at length, but I will reiterate here. Evans definition of evangelical misses the mark on a number of points. Evans denies the inerrancy of scripture and says that “as a woman I have been nursing a secret grudge against the apostle Paul for about eight years.” As a young adult, she says that she stopped believing in the “Bible’s exclusive authority, inerrancy, perspicuity, and internal consistency.” She came to the conclusion that “the Bible wasn’t what I’d once believed it to be.” Evans has also pressed the case for inclusivism—the view that says people need not have conscious faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved—and she rejects exclusivism. In a recent post, she defines the gospel without reference to the death and resurrection of Jesus and adopts the reductionism of counterimperial interpreters who say that the “good news” is “Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.” She supports gay marriage, and she has served communion to practicing homosexuals. We could go on, but that is enough to make it clear that her definition of “evangelical” is strained at best. At worse, it’s not anything close to approaching evangelical. She is not a representative of evangelical faith, despite the assumptions of the reporters at the Today Show.”

Historically, to be evangelical would be to affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, that the atoning work of Christ on the cross was central to the message of salvation, that persons must be converted by repenting of sin and turning to Christ by faith, and that this faith resulted in a change of life in gratitude for that salvation. It is clear Evans does not hold to many if any of these tenets. Her views would be more in line with mainline Protestant liberalism, or even progressive Christianity.

I will be reviewing her book in the coming weeks after it is released.


2 thoughts on “Denny Burk comments on Rachel Held Evans’ Today Show Appearance

  1. Why are people so threatened by Rachel’s self identification as an evangelical? This is the very attitude and exclusivity that turns people away from Church. I think Rachel is expressing publicly what so many of us feel privately – that our faith is more complicated than many would like to believe and that our God is big enough to rejoice in our diversity.

    1. Hello Laura,
      Thanks for writing. The point isn’t about being threatened, it is about someone giving themselves a descriptor that isn’t true for them. She openly admits (as you say, “expressing publicly”) that she doesn’t hold things that evangelicals have historically held yet still welcomes being referred to as “evangelical”. If you “privately” don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word and inerrant, if you seriously doubt that what the New Testament writers call a sin is a sin, if you don’t think it essential for people to believe in Christ and his work on the cross in order to be saved from that sin, you could call yourself something (“progressive Christian” or “mainline Liberal”) but you shouldn’t really call yourself an evangelical.
      As for what you call “exclusivity”, there is always some measure of exclusivity involved in being a Christian for it requires to say that some things are true while some aren’t. For instance, someone may claim to like and follow Jesus but deny that he is God and that he is merely a prophet, etc. Should we continue to let them hold a belief that is fundamentally against the teaching of Christ and Scripture out of fear that it would turn them away? Hardly. The New Testament regularly speaks of being loving and at the same time warns of false teachers who believe and propagate untruths about God, Christ, Scripture, etc. It is not unloving to point out that in order to be a Christian there are some views you must believe and some you must not.
      And as for what “turns people away from the Church”: I generally hear the primary complaint against Christians is that they are hypocrites, saying one thing but believing or acting in another. I agree! To say you are an evangelical while not believing what evangelicals believe is hypocritical.

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