- Supreme authority of Scripture for all matters of faith and conduct
- Doctrinal marks - the heart of which is Substitutionary Atonement
- Personal relationship with a personal God
- Evangelism (as opposed to 'mission')
You will spot, in point 2, that Penal Substitution (which Richard names Substitutionary Atonement) is named as the heart of the doctrinal marks of an evangelical.
I wonder what you think of this statement? If you are an evangelical reading this, what is your 'defining doctrinal mark'?
I think if I were choosing for myself I would have to say that belief in a Triune God would have to be at the heart of who I am. I know that this is not necessarily distinctively evangelical, but it still has to be my centre.
And if you think about it this sums up all the other 'marks' of an evangelical that there might possibly be. A God who is defined by personal relationship within Himself, who is community within Himself, can ask for no other relationship with His creation than a personal one. A personal relationship with a personal God does not negate the need for living within a community which consists of persons, just as God's own community does. I suspect that we turn this 'mark' into something which means an 'individual relationship' rather than a 'personal relationship'. It is the personal relationship, ie a relationship between persons, that brings us to be the person that we have the potential of being. I do not and cannot stand alone as an individual, because I image God, who is defined by personal relationship.
Our faith in Scripture as the Word of God is also rooted in a Triune God who chooses to reveal himself in such a way through Word and Spirit as to leave no other linguistic option than to speak of God as Trinity. Those who wrote Scripture speak of a God who is above and beyond, who is down and mucky with His creation, who is at once everywhere within creation. One God, Three Persons - Hallelujah.
Lastly, with regards to Evangelism. I am not convinced of a direct dichotomy between the words 'evangelism' and 'mission', nor, as Richard suggests, a broadening or submerging of evangelism into mission. I think that this is most likely the idea that evangelism should really be 'proclamation' rather than 'social'. Both to me seem to be bringing Good News or Gospel and are therefore evangelism. This Triune God created the cosmos - the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. It is His Creation and He is at work in it. It is not our idea to evangelise the world, to speak the Good News of God's love and reconciliation, it is God's idea. He is missio dei, the missionary God, at work in His own creation. The Triune God who, within Himself, images distinction between Persons, chooses to love the 'other' - His creation. We image the Triune God when we choose to love the 'other' - when we join Him in his mission to His creation.
So, no, Penal Substitution is not the heart of my doctrine, it is not what makes me an evangelical. Please let's not reduce our evangelical nature to a legal transaction alone.
In the Name of Father, Son, Spirit, Amen.