You thought I wouldn’t finish this, but you were wrong. Here is part deux of my reflection on the now dated (2/7/05) article in Time Magazine on the 25 most influential evangelicals. I’ll let you hunt for the part one of this in the archives, but I believe that it was in February. I’ve tried not to be too critical; my comments will have to do more with I agree with their choice to be on this list or not. OK, here we go…
Tim and Beverly Lahaye. Time called them “The Christian Power Couple,” which does make me want to gag, but I don’t really know if that is true or not. Unfortunately, Left Behind is an irreversable phenomenon that only gains more adherents. Efforts by others to subvert this beast have been of little effect. Lahaye’s defficient understanding of biblical eschatology is evident in every page of the series, and his misleading influence has cripled many people’s understanding of what the Bible really says. I hate to say it but it’s true. Interestingly enough, Time does not really point to Left Behind so much as it points to his influence on Jerry Falwell and the organization of the Moral Majority. They also highlight Beverly’s founding of the Concerned Women for America and mention its influence. They have also authored books both separate and together that have sold many copies. All this being said, I would agree with their choice, but I don’t think I would call them the power couple.
Charles Colson. It’s cool to see one of the trustees of my seminary on this list. He hasn’t made the best of decisions in the past as an evangelical, like signing the first edition of ECT, Evangelicals and Catholics Together (it is understandable since his wife is catholic), but he is certainly behind the scenes as well as in the forefront for evangelicals. He has written many books, including his autobiography, and he found Prison Fellowship, which is unparalleled in its ministry to inmates. I agree with this choice.
J.I. Packer. Time called him the “Theological Traffic Cop,” which I’m sure many would disagree since he signed ECT too. Packer’s influenc has certainly waned in the past few years, since he is nearly 80, but he continues to teach at Regent College in Vancouver and maintain connection to England and the US. This may be a token choice because of Packer’s overall influence in the past 30 years. His book “Knowing God” is still used at many colleges and seminaries as an introduction theology. “Keep in Step with the Spirit” is linked on the side of my blog because I think it is a classic every christian should read. As Alistar McGrath continues to edit and publish Packer’s collections of essays, Packer will only gain more readers.
Mark Noll. I don’t know if I agree with this choice, but then again, I’m not exactly sure about everything he is involved in. He’s been at Wheaton for a number of years, and his work, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,” is superb. His ever famous opening sentence is, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” That is classic and it could not be more true. His recent works on American church history have won him acclaim outside of evangelicalism, but again, I don’t know much else he is involved in. If I would picked someone in his area to be on the list, I probably would have chosen George Marsden. Marsden has been saying the same things in more volume and for more years.
Ralph Winter. I have been receiving Missions Frontier magazine for the past 6 years and you can tell whoever is behind it is doing some amazing things. He has been monumental in strategizing how to spread the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world, as in strengthening and mobilizing mission organizations around the globe. Therefore, his incluence is larger outside the US and we cannot even begin to imagine the impact his influence has had. Anyone who has been to Urbana or Lousanne could tell you. In either case, this was an obvious choice.
Bill Hybels. Although he received more attention at first as the founding pastor of Willow Creek Community church, being featured on Datline NBC with a whole 15 minutes devoted the movement this church started back in the early to mid-90s, he has been largely overshadowed by Rick Warren in recent years. But make no mistake about it, he is still one of the most influential pastors in America through the Willow Creek Association. His church’s push toward seeker sensativity has changed the paradigms, in many ways, as to how we approach Sunday mornings. The Willow Creek team of John Ortberg, Lee Stobel, and Hybels have pumped out many bestselling books like “The Case for Christ,” “Becoming a Contagious Christian,” and “Couragious Leadership”. Also, Hybels was one of few pastoral confidants for Bill Clinton after he “came clean” about Monica Lewsinsky. This is another obvious choice.
Brian McLaren. I have recently been reading some of McLaren’s stuff off his website that takes the name from one of his books (www.anewkindofchristian.com) and am intriqued by his appeal. He’s trying to offer a very stripped down understanding of postmodernism and the church that has attracted many from ages 20-40. Other notable titles of his are “A Generous Orthodoxy,” and “Finding Faith”. I can resonate with much of what he is saying, but am trying to filter my way through what he saying. I honestly don’t know the fullness of his impact, but I can think of others I would put on this list before McLaren. More on him later.
Jay Sekulow. I suppose we could call him the Rush Limbaugh of christian talk radio, but I can not stand either. My mom used to listen to Sekulow and whenever I was in the car with her or heard him in house, I almost always started barking back at the radio. He came across to me very arrogant and not able to sustain a conversation without jumping down people’s throats. His voice is very annoying. Nonetheless, his influence seems to be more in the courtroom, where he has wielded much with the law center he helped form. He is also a member of the ACLU, and no doubt has helped counsel Bush on certain policy. Overall, probably a good choice for the list.
John Stott. Much like Packer, Stott’s influence has generally been in the past, but he still continues to preach and write. Ian Murray’s work, “Evangelicalism Divided” explores Stott’s relationship to David Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the apparent “split” of evangelicalism that Stott and Lloyd-Jones helped create. However, that was more so the case in the UK, so it is hard to gage how it has effected American evangelicalism, although the two are inextribly linked. Stott was slated to speak at my seminary two years ago, but he cancelled due to health reasons. Stott’s book and bible studies are still widely popular, and his book, “Basic Christianity” has sold millions. I don’t think I would have picked him to be on the list, but like Packer, he is probably a token pick for years past.
People I hadn’t heard of till this article: Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, Diane Knippers, Rick Santorum, Luis Cortes, Douglas Coe, David Barton, Richard Land, Steven Strang, Ted Haggard, Stuart Epperson. I am an evangelical seminary student that works at one of the most popular christian book places, but you do the math: either these people are very much behind the scene in their influence and I am ignorant, or Time just didn’t talk to many evangelicals about these unheardofs.
Snubs from the List. Any christian who walks into a christian book store or listens to christian radio can tell you who influences them. Some names come to mind that I think were snubbed and should have been there, if not close:
Al Mohler. He is at the helm at probably the best seminary in the country (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and helping to improve the largest denomination in the states. He hasn’t published much, so he hasn’t got the credit he deserves. His blog and radio show, though, again swarms of followers daily.
Joel Osteen. One of the best selling authors now, and his TV program that he inherited from his dad is watched by millions.
Benny Hinn. As much as I hate to admit it, Benny Hinn continues to lauch juggernot crusades and sells millions of books.
John MacArthur. You don’t put your name on a study bible and not influence dramatically. As a former member of his flock and having listened to hundreds of sermons by the guy, it is easy to put him on this list.
George Bush. Well, if you consider him an evangelical he belongs on the list.
D.A. Carson. He has influenced many at both the popular and scholarly level, but his effect upon evangelical biblical studies cannot be ignored.
N.T. Wright. By far, the most influential Brit on evangelical theology.
Joshua Harris. Almost everybody has a copy of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” even if they hate him.