In a Guardian article “Exvangelicals,” Josiah Hesse, in no small part due to the Trump phenomenon, refers to “a wave of Christians fleeing the term ‘evangelical.” He describes the very real phenomenon of people who formerly identified themselves as evangelical, but are now moving away from the term because of what they perceive as its negative associations. When we came upon this article, we thought it would be good to commission some people to discuss this. This is important for us as a church and particularly for Laidlaw College, which now produces Stimulus, and has always been open about its evangelical ethos.
Our first contribution to the topic is from our retiring OT lecturer Tim Meadowcroft. Tim is well-positioned to consider this after twenty-four years at Laidlaw and having spent a good period of time in the US the year of Trump’s election to power. He discusses the 81 percent of “white evangelicals” who voted for Trump. He discusses neo-evangelicalism that arose from fundamentalism and whether it has failed. For him, the jury is still out on the question and while he does not endorse exvangelicalism, he is challenged by the question.
A second offering is from Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, in the form of an interview in which he asserts that it is important to retain the theological term. He recognises the problem the term has. However, he notes its origins in “the gospel” or “good news” (euangelion) and sees it as a valuable descriptor for the person who “wraps their life around the gospel,” “has a high view of Scripture, who sees the centrality of the cross, and is active in trying to share their faith and encourage others to come into a knowledge of God and what he’s done through Jesus Christ.”
With a similar positive thrust, historian and Presbyterian minister Stuart Lange explores the historical origins of the term, focusing particularly on its popularity and use since the Reformation. He demonstrates that the term has always had a degree of controversy, yet, it stands the test of time despite challenges. He reminds us of the Bebbington quadrilateral: “‘conversionism,’ ‘biblicentrism,’ ‘crucicentrism,’ and ‘activism.’” He notes too that NZ evangelicalism has never identified with American “fundamentalism.” While he recognises the issues the term has, he responds to five critiques concluding: “As a Christian in Aotearoa, I think it good for us to keep identifying ourselves closely with the euangelion, the Gospel of Christ – in faith, word, and action.”
This edition has more than discussions on evangelicalism. Laidlaw graduate and PhD candidate, Chris Northcott, argues cogently that Christians should read Lucy Hutchinson’s Order and Disorder published in 1679. Lucy Hutchinson was a passionate Puritan from the period of the English Civil War. Drawing on her work, Northcott masterfully demonstrates how Order and Disorder “guides us to experience Scripture meditatively;” “demonstrates how we can read Scripture theologically; and it suggests how we might preach Scripture fruitfully.”
This edition has a veritable feast of other material. In the St Imulus offering, Woz tells us that he and Daph are moving to Christchurch to plant a new church. Thus ends the wonderful saga which began way back in 2012. We are immensely grateful for those who contributed to its often-hilarious storyline. We are intrigued to see what will come next.
Having returned from Myanmar (Burma), John de Yong reflects on the similarities and differences in teaching theology in Yangon and Auckland. Lecturer in education, Philippa Isom, discusses the power of technology to build community.
There are two excellent film reviews including “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word” (Norman P. Franke) and Mary Magdalene (Ian Waddington) – great Christmas holiday viewing. For holiday reading, Derek Tovey has gathered a great range of book reviews. As a good prompt for Christmas devotions, in “The Voice,” Geoff New mingles together insights from Isa 1:2–3; 63:15–16; and Christmas, drawing us to our knees in prayer. For further Christmas contemplation, we have a poem from John Fox entitled Advent Wreath based on Ps 88.
Finally, the Stimulus team of myself (Mark Keown), Sarah Penwarden, Fiona Sherwin, and the all the whanau of Laidlaw College, wish you a very happy Christmas and a blessed new year. While many of us will be swept up in the craziness of the season, we do hope that you will take time to read through this edition this Yuletide season. May the Lord bless you and keep you. Kia hari Kirihimete me te Tau Hou Hou.
Mark Keown is the co-editor of Stimulus and New Testament Lecturer at Laidlaw College.
 Josiah Hesse, “‘Exvangelicals’: why more religious people are rejecting the evangelical label,” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/03/evangelical-christians-religion-politics-trump.