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Evangelicals V. Mainline Protestants By Mark Noll & Richard Cizik

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Mark Noll
Why are mainline Protestant churches going along at a sort of steady pace and even declining, and evangelical churches are definitely seeing an increase?

The churches that are known as evangelical today are descended from the mainline Protestant churches of the 19th century. When a distinction is made between evangelical and mainline churches, it's not a hard and fast distinction. There are many, many evangelical mainline Protestants.

But the mainline churches are traditional. They are less entrepreneurial, less flexible in relationship to cultural [issues], and have, for reasons of belief and practice and organization, not fared nearly as well in the postwar world as have more self-consciously, self-identified evangelical churches.

 

Richard Cizik
… When you speak of mainline Protestants and what their beliefs are about the Bible, is it basically the difference between believing that the Bible is an interesting set of stories, versus a set of laws, a set of truth? …

That may be a layman's definition. But I think there's one way to understand the evangelical view of the Bible. It is viewed as the objective authoritative word of God, as opposed to the mainline Protestant view called neo-orthodoxy which holds, you see, that the Bible becomes the word of God in a kind of existential encounter with it.

So that's the distinction. It doesn't just become the word of God when you have an experience with God or an experience with the Word. It is objectively, authoritatively the word of God. That's what distinguishes evangelicals from, say, mainline Protestants. …


Let's talk about the old churches versus the new.

People have wondered, why are conservative churches growing? The answer is, they offer moral certitudes in a world without any certainties, it seems. They offer moral absolutes to people who are looking for moral guidance, and a way to live in a crazy, mixed up world. Then they combine it with contemporary music and worship. It's appealing, and they're growing. There's a mega-church formed every two weeks in America. Meanwhile, mainline Protestantism, sometimes called the sidelines, is dying.

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