A quick chat with Allen Yeh (associate professor of intercultural studies), contributor to Still Evangelical?: Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning (IVP Books, 2018).
Q: What would you say to a believer who no longer wants to be identifed as an evangelical because of the word’s baggage?
A: Don’t let the abuse of the word obscure its original meaning. Euangelion is the Greek word for the gospel. The “evangel” is about the Good News. Secondly, until there is a better word to take its place, we cannot dispense with it functionally. It is halfway between “Christian” (which is too broad) and a denominational label like “Baptist” or “Presbyterian” (which are too narrow). “Evangelical” provides a middle-level identifer where you know that the person believes in: the Bible as the supreme authority; the necessity of mission, which includes being born again spiritually; and the centrality of the cross.
Q: How does a more global perspective help American evangelicals understand evangelicalism?
A: If we believe in mission, then we must believe that people of all races, nations and cultures are children of God and ought to worship Jesus. It is ironic, then, that there is often such ethnocentrism among American evangelicals. Every culture in the world sees different characteristics of God (which is not relativism), and only together can we understand him more fully. This is why we have four Gospels: we need multiple people and cultures to testify about Jesus.
Q: As you read the other pieces in Still Evangelical?, which perspective impacted you the most?
A: I like Soong-Chan Rah’s chapter, “Evangelical Futures,” which tries to find hope in the future. We have a tendency to feel like everything is always getting worse, but perhaps a multiethnic/multicultural future of American evangelicalism is where we are headed, and I think that looks and sounds a lot like heaven!