6 Things I Hate About Evangelicalism

By: Lizzie Reezay

I am a Protestant, but I don’t identify as Evangelical. I grew up in Church of Christ (part of the Restoration Movement of the early 1800s) and our movement although historically linked to Protestantism, made an attempt to step away from it. We’ve been mildly successful and I’ve developed an admiration for the Orthodox Church and Catholicism in the process. While I love Protestantism’s passion in being within scripture and empowering everyone to read and understand theology, these are some things that I think we might have gotten wrong.

 

  1. The Appearance of Truth As Protestants, we love to amp up theology, argue how our church is going by the Bible and following God’s truth. We grow up thinking we hold the correct doctrines, knowing exactly which Bible verses back up our church’s beliefs, while being part of a movement composed of 30,000 other denominations each claiming they hold “the truth.” Every Church is trying to “go by the Bible” yet there are 30,000 different “truths” and versions of “going by the Bible.” It is embarrassing to me when non-Christians comment on this—when they process what it all means, confused how our God could’ve given us a Bible so extremely convoluted that no one can really know what it’s saying.  

 

  1. Claiming We Don’t Interpret the Bible Protestantism was founded on sola scriptura (only going by the Bible) and my experience in America has been that a lot of Evangelicals want to read the Bible plainly, interpret it literally. In doing this, we claim that we are not going by any traditions or interpretations but just “going by the Bible.” But a literal reading is an interpretation decision! And it’s a relatively new one. Empiricism— the means of interpreting things plainly based upon an individual first person perspective— is a brand new Enlightenment concept stemming from the 1800s.[1] For most of Christendom and most of humanity, interpretation of any text was not viewed like this.

 

  1. Rejecting Tradition Like I said with #2, there is no church that does not have a tradition. It is a myth to say you don’t go by tradition— that your church doesn’t use tradition. Tradition is just a fancy word for the history of church development that has created certain theology from interpreting and emphasizing certain passages of Scripture. Protestantism v. Catholicism and Orthodox isn’t about choosing to accept tradition or not, but which traditions to accept. As people who claim to love Scripture and want to only go by the Bible, it shocks me how passionately a lot of Evangelicals reject any context or “tradition” from the same time period as a passage of Scripture was written, which would explain exactly how the Christians at that time would’ve understood it. That seems like sola scriptura goals! There are dozens of writings from the first few centuries of Christianity from the “Church Fathers” who were leaders in the Church who personally knew, were mentored by the original Apostles! Their writings clarify the original meanings of Scripture and this type of tradition isn’t something we should automatically reject.

 

  1. Individualism I’ve made several videos critiquing interpretations of Jeremiah 29:11 “God has a plan for your life” and they have been misunderstood, garnered a lot of negativity. I understand why. It feels amazing to think God is individually planning out your future, deciding who you’ll date and marry, what college you’ll go to, your career, etc. but I think this is minimizing the power of God! God’s plan for our lives is the salvation of the world: reuniting us with Him like it was in the beginning in the Garden. God’s plan for our lives is to heal us and transform us on a spiritual level. My issue with the common Evangelical interpretation of Jeremiah 29:11 is it removes the historical context of the Babylonian Captivity, but moreso it removes the collective audience of God’s people as a whole (the original audience of the passage). This happens with a lot of Bible verses we read, because in English there is not a difference between 2nd person singular and plural. We often read Bible verses that use “you” and assume God is speaking to us as an individual, when Christianity was created to be a community. Individualism is an Enlightenment concept, not grounded in Christianity. All pre-modern societies and still a majority of countries in the world are collectivist instead of individualistic.   We need to be careful to not get our culture confused with our Christianity.

 

  1. Lack of Emphasis on the Old Testament This is something I felt while at college. Pepperdine is traditionally Church of Christ, but has a heavy Evangelical influence. Our sermons and bible studies were focused mainly on the Epistles. My experience at other Evangelical Churches is the same: constant Ephesians, Philippians, 1 John on repeat with the occasional Psalm.   One of my Catholic friends commented on this my junior year— how we don’t even focus on the Gospels that much. I was a Religion major at Pepperdine and only took a couple Old Testament classes, while over a dozen courses on the New Testament and the modern Church. All of this infiltrated my personal faith, in that throughout college I barely read the Old Testament. It is spiritually unhealthy and was detrimental to my faith last summer when I was struggling through my depression and processing all the evil going on in the world. The Old Testament Prophets, along with books like Job and a majority of the Psalms deal with suffering and are crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship with God. Catholic, Orthodox, and more traditional Protestant Churches (like Episcopalian and Anglican) avoid this by having liturgies, which go through all parts of the Bible equally. Catholicism and Orthodox especially stay in line with Judaism on a lot of aspects of their service and theology, part of this includes equally emphasizing the Old Testament.

 

  1. Not Taking Communion. Communion, or the taking of the Eucharist (in Greek, eucharisteo means “I thank you”) was a central part of the Early Church. In Churches historically traced all the way back to the First Century (i.e. Orthodox, Catholic, Nestorian, Coptic) it remains the central focus of their service. Evangelical Churches are instead focused around the sermon, and have watered down communion to a mere symbolic meaning. It is becoming a trend within newer forms of Protestant Churches (especially non-denominational mega church types) to rarely take communion, only a few times a year and sometimes even making it optional. Passages like John 6, 1 Corinthians 11, and Luke 22 along with writings from the Early Church Fathers make it clear that communion was taken every week and had somewhat of a mystical meaning in the Early Church. Because of this, the Early Christians were thought by the surrounding pagan world to be participating in cannibalism.[2] I think it’s important to not be legalistic and to somewhat adapt our churches to identify with our cultures, but the Eucharist seems to be a crucial part of Jesus’ teaching, something that the Early Church latched onto and prioritized as a core part of their worship. In Luke 22:9 Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me” and earlier on in his ministry, in John 6:50-51 Jesus says, “I am the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Communion is a powerful, life-giving, richly symbolic tradition within Christianity and as Evangelicals, we should be wary about lessening its meaning.

 

I believe Jesus is fully present in every Christian tradition, but I am also not a relativist. I think it is important to be honest with ourselves in where our Churches came from historically and how much we’re bringing in our personal preferences regarding our interpretations. The only way to find truth is to read a diversity of different historical viewpoints, to ask questions to people who you disagree with and to be willing to be proven wrong. Change is painful, but it might turn out more beautiful in the end.

 

[1] "After Virtue" By: Alasdair MacIntyre https://www.amazon.com/After-Virtue-Study-Moral-Theory/dp/0268035040

[2] “The World of the New Testament” By: Joel B. Green https://www.amazon.com/World-New-Testament-Cultural-Historical/dp/0801039622

6 Comments

  1. Aaron Velazquez Jr.
    May 16, 2017

    Good writing, Lizzie. 😊

    Reply
  2. Still Tryin'
    June 2, 2017

    I was a physics major at Columbia University with a great interest in religion. I also was diagnosed w bipolar disorder in my early 20’s (21 I think); It led to my withdrawal from college on a medical leave. I never returned, despite doing well. (For example, the head of physics department waived requirements based on my performance, etc). I can relate to what you said about the depression and the manic phase being sort of an addiction ( oy vey!). My battle w those issues has changed over a course of a long life. I encourage you to keep up what you are doing. Maybe, you will do better than I did with the talents God gave you (pun intended. You know, the parable of the talents,etc). I have done some good for people. I will try to do more before I go. But I know I could have done more. If you have the time, maybe you could pray for me. I hope I am not adding to a l list of such requests which is so numerous to be beyond your ability to comply. You are doing good work with your posts. I have learned from them despite already having had a life-long interest in religion. You would have done very well at Columbia too.

    Reply
  3. William Cifuentes
    June 16, 2017

    Lizzie, you’re seeking the Truth with a good heart and in good faith. There are some things that you don’t have a handle on yet and this is quite understandable. You are a very courageous young woman because you’re critical of the almost dogmatic, protestant belief that the catholic church is not Christian. You said something that I wish more protestants would do. That is going back to read the history of the Church and in it they would find a longing for original Catholicism. One thing that has always puzzled me is the total dismissal of the Virgin Mary in Protestantism. She was the closest human to our Lord, she carried Him for 9 months in her womb. She was chosen by the Almighty as the best person to bring the Son of God into the world. Gabriel the angel announces the choice of Mary and it is in the Gospel which every Christian reads. We all celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus; we read the Gospel story of the Nativity and yet Mary doesn’t count at all for Protestants. The veneration of Mary the mother of Jesus is a huge difference. I recommend reading Scott Hahn’s “Rome sweet home”. He is a former Presbyterian minister who became Catholic and he says the same thing you said about reading the history of the Church to find the Truth. I really recommend his books. He and his wife are presently active in the Church. God bless you

    Reply
    1. E. H
      June 20, 2017

      William Cifuentes,

      Nothing in the Bible says that Mary was the best person to bring the Son of God into the world. Just because she was chosen to complete the task doesn’t mean she was the “best person” to complete the task. Just because God gives someone a gift doesn’t mean they are the best person to receive that gift. In the Bible, sometimes we have Gos choosing people precisely because they are weak, and not the “best” choice.

      Lizzie, there are not 30,000 Protestant denominations. And for many of the denominations that do exist, they explicitly reject historical Protestantism yet are still included in the 30,000 inn order to make the number bigger. There are even some Catholic apologists, on record, who find the “30,000 denomination statement” to be untruthful and stay away from repeating it. If you ever do a blog or video, please look into correcting that error.

      Reply
  4. Will A
    June 19, 2017

    A great sense of wonder.
    Awesome video’s

    Reply
  5. Bassem Bakleh
    June 23, 2017

    Lizzie, god bless you, I am so blessed by watching your videos. I was really happy to find your site and videos, because after wondering between churches for the last 30 years, I came across to somebody like you who is having almost the same views I have about christianity and its denominations

    Reply

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