TSNL Forerunner Conference Day 1

The Complexity of Evangelical Christianity


The Complexity of Evangelical Christianity

Evangelical Christianity is a complex, discursive community. It thrives on conflict, tension and difference. It is not an anti-modernist, irrational, or anti-republican group. It has always been diverse.

In the late 1970s, American evangelicals started reflecting on mission experiences in the global south. This led to the development of “anthropological” methods used in the “Church Growth” movement. These methods encouraged missionaries to learn about the deep cultural knowledge of “unreached people’s groups” that would allow them to more effectively “sow the Word” and reap a harvest.

This movement was shaped by the work of C. Peter Wagner. Wagner argued that mainstream American evangelicals had been misled by scientific naturalism, which prevented them from seeing the spiritual realm. He wanted a more effective evangelical strategy.

Wagner and his co-travellers developed an approach from the Church Growth movement. They argued that a radical “cosmological” shift was needed to effectively engage salvation.

In this way, the concept of warfare prayer was developed. Prayer binds satanic forces, freeing spaces for gospel penetration. This type of prayer has become a part of piety for a half a billion people.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, spiritual warfare arguments began to develop. The main argument was that Christianity dominates the semantic space, which is dominated by religion. Evangelicals believed that the only way to defeat Satan and his demons was to pray. They argued that praying would determine the outcome of the end-times cosmological battle between God and Satan. This doctrine elevated believers to almost God-like stature. It was accused of being theologically heterodox, and of absolving individual responsibility for sin.

This argument was particularly influential in charismatic spirituality. It is also relevant to warfare prayer. The question of anointing, for example, can be conscripted into a new understanding of “apostolic election” and “authority” in the church.

American evangelicalism has always been a complex, diverse community. Its subjectivity can be seen as a response to consensus, or as an opposition to freedom of conscience and speech.

It can also be construed as a resistance to reasoned debate, and as a threat to democratic political culture. It is important to understand how subjectivity in American evangelicalism relates to warfare prayer. It can be difficult to trace the development of globalized charismatic Christianity. However, it has reached the mainstream of Christian practice and is reinvigorating a militant Christian subjectivity.

As “The Response” reveals, this subjectivity can be an issue in the context of modern democratic politics. It is especially relevant to warfare prayer. Evangelicals can also be described as “apologists of reason” and as “apostles of reason”. It is important to remember that evangelicals have always been diverse and that subjectivity is not an anti-modernist, illogical or anti-republican group. It is important to remember that Christianity is the source of the concept of religion. It is also important to remember that spiritual warfare is a central part of redemptive praxis. Evangelicals should be concerned with the question of how to engage this spiritual reality.

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