The evangelical tradition – the word-centred life
In order to avoid confusion with the commonly-held understanding of the term “evangelical,” this tradition is also sometimes called the “Proclamation” tradition. It is grounded in Jesus’ command that we go out and preach the good news to all. Francis of Assisi said it well: preach the good news everywhere and always; use words if necessary.
This tradition focusses upon the proclamation of the Good News. A traditional model for this is Augustine: he models this through his effective proclamation of the Gospel, his vigorous defense of the faith and his faithfulness to Scripture.
This tradition focusses on three themes: the faithful proclamation of the Gospel; the belief in the centrality of Scripture as a faithful repository of this Gospel, and the confessional witness of the early Christian community as a faithful interpretation of this Gospel. The Good News is encapsulated in the birth, life, message and death of Jesus.
The strengths of this tradition include: the evangelical call to conversion – a turning around; away from the dominant culture and toward a new way of being community. A call to commitment. A stress on a missionary mandate. An emphasis on sound doctrine and a sound theology to support it.
Its perils include: a tendency to fixate on the peripherals at the expense of the essentials; a tendency toward a sectarian mentality: us and them; a legalistic compulsion toward doctrinal purity; a too-limited view of the notion of salvation; a tendency toward bibliolatry: we are not a people of the Book, but the people of Jesus, and the Living God. The Proclamation tradition has had its exaggerations and distortions over the centuries – we think of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Missionary movement more committed to bringing Western values than in opening dialogues with others. Especially in these postmodern times, when we are painfully aware that there is no overarching narrative vying for supremacy, proclamation transforms itself into witnessing through our actions, living out the statement “they shall know us by our love.”
Here are some people who epitomize this tradition:
Ignatius of Antioch ( c 35-107) bio and biblio
Dominic ( c 1170-1221) bio
Billy Graham (1918-) bio and biblio