If so, this book is for you.
As president of Fuller Seminary and former professor at Calvin College, Richard J. Mouw has spent many decades as an evangelical. All of them, he says, were restless years. This book is his explanation of why he's choosing to stay.
These are trying times for evangelicals. Cultural pressures from the outside and deep disagreements on the inside make evangelicalism an uncomfortable place for many Christians. The most recent national election in the US, to cite just one example, threatened to split families right down the middle.
Mouw takes us behind the scenes in the institutions where he has served to demonstrate that evangelicalism has always been this way. He reminds us of the core tenets that hold such a diverse group together, suggesting that these central values -- belief in the need for conversion, the authority of the Bible, the centrality of the cross, and an emphasis on daily discipleship -- cannot be found in this combination anywhere else.
He talks about Billy Graham, Christianity Today, Ann Voskamp, World Vision, and the National Association for Evangelicals on the one hand, as well as Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, Rob Bell, and the National Council of Churches on the other. We learn about his efforts to promote Mormon-Evangelical and other types of inter-faith dialogue without watering down his own Evangelical commitments. We read of his lonely engagement in the civil rights movement and politics during the 1960s when many Evangelicals' only concern was to "save souls." He wrestles with the individual and communal aspects of salvation and considers the value of both hymns and contemporary worship songs. In the end, he advocates "holding on while staying restless" as an Evangelical.
Speaking as an academic, I did not find the book to be heavy reading, but rather patchwork autobiography in accessible prose. Yet one does not have to know Richard Mouw to appreciate his reflections -- his wisdom shines through on every page and offers hope for Evangelicals who are feeling squirmy in today's politicized climate. He concludes,
"For me, the only way to be a properly functioning evangelical is to keep arguing about what it means to be an evangelical. Restlessness in claiming that label has long been the way I have kept moving. I hope that many of us can stay restless as we hold on while exploring together whether the best way to remain faithful to the legacy is to let go of the label. . . . For the present, I am inclined to go with the second option -- working for evangelical renewal, rather than simply allowing the movement's label to be co-opted by leaders who have departed from the best of the legacy." (174)If you share his restlessness, this book may be just the thing you need to refresh your perspective and refuel your evangelical commitment. Mouw does not suggest that we hold doggedly to the label "evangelical," but he offers good reasons to keep it for the time being.