My point is that what we call evangelicalism today is a synthesis of two different traditions, a synthesis that took place in the late 1940s. The key focus of the earlier evangelicals was conversion, pushing individuals to a moment of decision leading to justification by faith and an assurance of salvation. In its Wesleyan form, it had always included social activism as well (think Salvation Army).<idle musing>
Now it was synthesized with the theology of the primarily Calvinist fundamentals. In reaction to the social gospel and the FDR administration, social justice was removed from the concerns of evangelicals. It now became questionable to focus on helping the needy. You will now hear these new evangelicals saying that, with limited resources, the church needs to put all its resources into conversion rather than the less important task of helping people.
Now penal substitution as a theory of atonement became very important. The word inerrancy, a concept that had earlier been invoked against the abolition of slavery, became part of the mix. These neo-evangelicals had money and would grow in power. They would set up publishing houses and magazines. They would take the name "evangelical" and dismiss the earlier stream as "fundamentalists," those stupid holiness, Pentecostal, and dispensational people who hid from the fight against an increasingly secular nation.
And that is one of the biggest reasons I don't consider myself an Evangelical anymore. I am an 18th century Evangelical. I believe in conversion, justification by faith, assurance of salvation, and transformation that results in social activism!
The left doesn't like me because I believe only God can truly transform things; the right thinks I'm a compromising Socialist! What to do?
By the way, do read the whole post; it's quite short.