November 25, 2021 Editor

What is “Evangelical” Theology?

November 4, 2019

by Scot McKnight

WN: In my book review of Kristin Kobes du Mez’ outstanding Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, I write:

In essence therefore, being “conservative evangelical” “is as much about culture as it is about theology.” (p. 9) And therein lies its execrable shadow cast over American culture. Ironically, while spending two years in the early 1970s in Germany doing “evangelism,” a theological student once rightly challenged me: “Can any good thing come out of [American white evangelicalism]?” I had been citing Francis Schaeffer.1 I was deeply offended at the time. I long since have been disabused of taking offence. On the contrary! This book meticulously explains why; also developed in my coming-of-age fictional novel, Chrysalis Crucible, mentioned above. (I have no way of thanking that theologue nearly 50 years later! Too bad. Just in case though: Huge thanks! You got me thinking . . .)

Now the kind of evangelical theological pursuit in the book highlighted below is substantive and exciting! One can never tire of the euangelion–Greek for “Good News.”

So Dr. McKnight is right in saying:

Perhaps best, it turns “evangelical” away from some of its petty theological debates and pushes it back to the origins of Christian theologizing in the Creed.

Yes! I bought it, and I am looking forward to the read!


OK, I’m tired of the term “evangelical” but let’s get over it and just (for the moment) drop the discussion and ask What would an evangelical theology look like? Many would say “biblical” and that, like forgiveness said C.S. Lewis of forgiveness, is a lovely idea until someone has to choose which “biblical” body of literature would take as the set of categories.

Try as one might one has to choose when it comes to “biblical.”

To be fully biblical one has to sort through each author of the Bible — Old and New Testaments — and let each say things as they say them. Long ago GB Caird did a nice job in his New Testament Theology, asking each author of the New Testament to come to a conference table and answer questions about salvation, etc. This is how to do it, but it would take three volumes and, in most cases, there are both lots of loose ends and not enough synthesis.

So, what to do?

Enter Daniel J. Treier’s wonderful new Introducing Evangelical Theology. (Thank God Dan avoids an argument about the meaning of “evangelical.”) What is this approach? The credal approach. What does it look like? The Three Articles of our Creed. Here theology is not forced into one biblical author that mutes the voice of other biblical authors, but instead it is shaped by the fundamental categories of the great tradition that forms the Apostles’ Creed and the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. Yes, Bible. And Yes, the church’s formation of its basic ideas. There’s no claim here to be the biblical theology.

Perhaps best, it turns “evangelical” away from some of its petty theological debates and pushes it back to the origins of Christian theologizing in the Creed.

So, here is how Treier organizes his theology:

  1. Knowing the Triune God: creed, ten commandments, Lord’s prayer
  2. The Father, the Almighty Lord: triune name of God, providence, goodness of creation, human beings.
  3. The Son, the Mediating Logos: identity, reconciliation, sin and salvation, the gospel
  4. The Holy Spirit, the Life Giver: God’s empowering presence, scripture, church, all things new.

Please click on: What is Evangelical Theology?

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  1. Please see my book review of a biography by Barry Hankins here: Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America.[]


Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.