Duane Litfin: The Future of American Evangelicalism

Duane Litfin is now serving in his seventeenth year as Wheaton College’s seventh president. He holds an undergraduate degree in biblical studies and a master’s degree in theology. His two doctorates are from Purdue University (Ph.D., Communication) and Oxford University (D.Phil., New Testament). Dr. Litfin is the author of several books, most recently Conceiving the Christian College (Eerdmans, 2004), and his writings have appeared in numerous journals and periodicals.

Litfin’s topic is the future of American Evangelicalism. He plans to address denominationalism, then evangelicalism, before looking at Southern Baptists.

In the past thirty years we have seen the diaspora of Evangelicalism.  The movement from Fundamentalist to Evangelical during the 1940s and 1950s was not a doctrinal shift, but a less strident version of the same doctrines. But during the past few decades we have seen a sprawl of evangelicalism.  The movement is becoming increasingly diverse.  This movement cannot be policed like the SBC can.  The SBC had to do what it did and was right to do what it did.  But it cannot happen to Evangelicalism.  The diversification of thought within the Evangelical movement is inevitable and will increase.  The term is a fluid term and terms come and go.

For the SBC:

1.  Baptist polity is well-positioned for the decline of denominationalism.  SBC churches can maintain the strengths of a denomination without any of the weaknesses.

2.  This may be an opportunity for the SBC to be less insular.  Evangelicalism needs the voices from the SBC.

3.  Don’t put your dependence on Evangelicalism as a movement.  Don’t distance yourself from Evangelicalism, but don’t put too much weight on it.  Stay faithful to the truth and the SBC may be the means of keeping Evangelicalism relevant well into the future.

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