What are the boundaries of “Evangelicalism”? Who says who’s in and who’s out? Roger Olson believes that Evangelicalism cannot and does not have boundaries because to suggest that it does would make it an organization with established leaders and the whole shabang. But Evangelicalism is not an organization, it is a movement, and by definition movements are not defined by boundaries but by characteristic traits.
The four core characteristics which define the Evangelical movement are 1) Biblicism (belief in the authority of scripture), 2) Conversionism (belief in a born again experience), 3) Crucicentrism (“cross centered piety”) and 4) Activism (active witnessing and evangelism). Olson adds a fifth: Great Tradition of the Church.
But how these core beliefs are defined from group to group and person to person is a rather subjective matter. So the image Olson perposes is not that there is a barrier around a group called “Evangelicals” so that if someone does not land within that barrier theologically, they can be ousted. Rather the image is more like a core with people holding on to those core beliefs to differing degrees and yet still remain within the Evangelical movement.
What are your thoughts on this? Do those core beliefs equal “boundaries”? Is Olson playing with semantics? Is he right?