Renowned Baptist Theologian, Educator Speaks AtCBU About Evangelicals
Riverside, Calif. (Oct. 7, 2015) – Acclaimed author, educator and theologian, Dr. David Dockery, talked about evangelicals—who they are, their history and his hopes for them—during a visit to California Baptist University on Oct. 6. Dockery, president of Trinity International University, spoke to CBU students, faculty, and area pastors as part of the School of Christian Ministries Lecture Series.
Dockery is the author or editor of more than 35 books and has served on the board of directors for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Christianity Today International and Prison Fellowship.
In a nod to the current U.S. presidential election campaign, Dockery said despite all the attention given to evangelicals in the political arena, "Evangelicalism is not a political identity but a confessional identity."
"Evangelicals are men and women who love the Lord Jesus Christ, who love the Bible and love the gospel message," he said. "A hallmark of the movement is a willingness to cooperate together in evangelism, missions and educational efforts. Evangelicalism is a cross-denominational movement."
Dockery said Lutherans first used the term evangelical in the 16th century to describe the churches that believed in salvation by grace through faith alone and held the Bible to be their supreme authority. At that time, people came to equate evangelicals with Protestants, often using the terms interchangeably, he said.
Over the centuries, evangelicalism evolved. In the 17th century, the movement recognized the need for heartfelt, life-transforming faith, and stressed conversion and grace, Dockery explained. After the Civil War, evangelicals wrestled with changes taking place all around them, including Darwinian naturalism, a post-slavery society and urbanization.
Dockery said by the end of the 19th century, evangelicals saw churches losing their connection with the truth of the gospel message. As the 20th century began, movements were launched to revive, renew and correct the mainline Protestant churches. In the 1960s, some mainline denominations shifted their focus away from the gospel and toward social issues such as the Vietnam War and civil rights, he said.
Dockery added that in the 21st century, changes are seen in technology, the economy, globalization and government. Evangelicalism is not exempt, he said, because changes in the church never take place in a vacuum.
"We must realize that our struggles are not with or against fellow Christ-followers but against the expansion of unbelief in our secularized culture," Dockery declared. "What is at stake is the unity and mission of the Christian movement as well as the bedrock issues of the Christian faith."
Dockery called for evangelicals to have a new spirit of mutual respect and humility to serve together with those whom they have differences of conviction and opinion.
"Let us together trust God to bring … renewal to our theology of evangelism, missions, worship, education and service," he said. "Let us recommit to relate to one another in love, humility, as agents of grace and reconciliation in a broken and fragmented world."