Everyone carries with them the seeds of their own destruction. Growing up, my parents warned us that our family DNA conveyed dangers like alcoholism, heart disease, and skin cancer. Regardless of whether these dangers came through genetics, family dynamics, or some combination of the two, I didn’t ask for them. Of course, I also received tremendous gifts from my heritage, too many to count. But today we’re focusing on the dark side. So let’s stay negative.
Movements, like individuals, carry their destruction with them as well: genetic traits embedded in their institutional DNA from the beginning, which, left unwatched or unchecked, will eventually lead them into their own pit of despair.
Evangelicalism is no different. Like all movements, it received at its birth both tremendous strengths and potentially debilitating weaknesses. And its history has been marked by the highs of the former and the depressing lows of the latter.
I was reminded of this during a fascinating presentation by Tim Larsen, one of my new colleagues at Wheaton College. Larsen unpacked the history of evangelicalism and its pathologies in four simple stages, as history that, as he said in the presentation, is brought to you by the letter “D.”