The Rev. Alistair Begg Controversy and the Problem With American Evangelicalism

The latest evangelical freak-out is because celebrity pastor, Rev. Alistair Begg, gave pastoral advice to a podcast listener, saying it was okay to attend a transgender wedding on love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin grounds. As online evangelicalism goes into paroxysms of rage over Begg’s remarks, one of the very few sensible voices has been my friend Jake Meador at Mere Orthodoxy. In a post titled, “American Evangelicalism as a Controversy Generator Machine,” Meador points out that this incident tells us more about the problems of evangelicalism than it does about waning commitment to the doctrine of marriage.

Since evangelical discourse takes place in the digital ecosystem, outside the checks and balances of church polity and a specific parish community, the only way to deal with those deemed theologically remiss is through performative outrage. Meador ends with this nugget of insight:

“Church” is the place where you and I learn to ‘speak Christian’ together (through the ministry of Word and Sacrament and practice of Christian discipline, I would want to specify). But “evangelicalism” is chiefly a sociological movement built around consumption patterns, political identity, and attending conferences, all of which has no essential or necessary relationship to a local church, denomination, church courts, or ecclesial authority.

If all that is true, then how exactly do evangelicals learn to ‘speak Christian’?

Is it possible that the reason our media controversies are so indistinguishable from those of the world because our movement has chosen to broadly operate independent of the community that might help us to be different from the world?

Scroll To Top