First Person

Good faith

Professor David Wells’s career studying evangelical Protestantism has inspired a conference at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary this week on the role of evangelicals in the public square.

By Michael Paulson
October 11, 2009

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Is it different being an evangelical in Massachusetts than somewhere in the Bible Belt? It undoubtedly is. Here you make a choice whether you want to be an evangelical believer. You have to be serious about it. In the South, it might be more following convention and habit or a family pattern.

You’re not impressed by the high percentage of Americans who say they’re born again. The more important thing is the loss of Christian substance. In the long run, people who act inconsistently with what they proclaim are far more damaging to the Christian faith than the attacks that atheists launch.

What do you mean? Many of those who claim to be born again don’t live very differently than those who don’t make that claim. Biblical faith really should be producing moral authenticity and integrity -- you should see it in honesty, courage in articulating enduring moral principles, and the sacrificial giving to good causes.

You’re on the board of an organization that builds Christian orphanages in Africa. Why that cause? I’m an African. I was born in Zimbabwe. I’ve had an extraordinarily blessed life, and I thought at least I could give back a little to the land of my birth.

There’s been a lot of talk about whether younger evangelicals are more open to the Democratic Party than their elders. I believe that older alliances between the Republican Party and various segments of the evangelical world are a lot weaker now. And I do think that what you have, especially amongst younger people, is a yearning for what is real and authentic and a deep distaste for what is hypocritical, and they find an awful lot of conventional political life to be phony and fabricated and manipulative.

What evangelical trends will you be watching in the future? I’m encouraged by the younger generation. They know how empty our postmodern culture has become, and they’re not looking for Christian faith that’s an echo of that. They are quite tough-minded, and I find a lot that’s hopeful about this generation.