Published by Eerdmans on January 11, 2022
Genres: Academic, Non-Fiction
Buy on Amazon
Returning evangelicalism to its core commitments
Evangelicalism in the United States is fracturing along social, political, and ethical fault lines, to the extent that the very meaning of “evangelicalism” is in dispute. Having surrendered its theological character and missional heritage to partisan political activism and cultural conservatism, the movement has lost its unifying identity and undermined its own testimony in an increasingly diverse society.
Mark Young believes a revitalization of the evangelical movement must happen in our seminaries, where the shepherds of the next evangelicalism are being formed. Young argues that if these leaders of tomorrow are instilled with true gospel values, they will go on to form churches and missional organizations that offer a credible and compelling Christlike witness for the sake of the world. The Hope of the Gospel takes readers through the history of evangelicalism and back to the present to make the case for how this can happen through a renewed vision of theological education.
With evangelicalism fracturing and defined more by its politics and culture than its theological underpinnings, Denver Seminary president Mark Young surveys evangelicalism’s past to draw readers into the hope of a revitalized future. As a seminary president, Young specifically targets the role that evangelical seminaries will play in developing the next generation of evangelical theologians and pastors. The Hope of the Gospel presents a renewed vision of theological education as an indispensable part of reclaiming evangelicalism from the culture wars.
This was interesting book because evangelicalism has always had a love-hate relationship with academia. Recall the line from Mark Noll’s seminal text on evangelical academia: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there’s not much of an evangelical mind.” Increasingly, evangelicals have become more distrusting of academia—secular or religious—and moving away from the scholastic institutions they set up just a couple of generations ago.
Young, as a seminary president, see academia as the solution to the problem. Leaders who are theologically informed and biblically trained will be able to lead their congregations out of the culture war morass of the past few decades. That’s an optimistic opinion. At least from my perspective as an evangelical seminary-trained pastor, a majority of evangelical laypeople are entrenched in the political and cultural visions of Christianity. Pastors who preach anything other than the cultural version of evangelicalism soon find themselves at odds with the community they serve. Young envisions a trickle-down effect that starts by educating evangelical pastors. Instead, what I think you’ll find is that there will be an increasing divide between evangelical seminaries that have bought into cultural evangelicalism (Liberty, SBTS, Grace Bible, etc.) and more rigorous academic institutions (Denver, Fuller, Biola, etc.).
The Hope of the Gospel accurately and adequately explains the problem and presents a vision for a revitalized academic approach to a solution. In the end, though, it’s a single prong in what must be a multi-pronged approach. Further, and this is due to the book’s academic nature, Young is relatively silent on how evangelical academic institutions should confront sister institutions that have bought into cultural evangelicalism. Should they have their accreditation revoked? Would a sanction like that even matter given evangelicalism’s distrust of academia?
I’m glad that Young is hopeful. As a battered pastor on the ground, I’m a bit more of a cynic. I appreciate his blueprint forward from an academic perspective. I just think it can only be a small part of the solution.