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What is an exvangelical?

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The term exvangelical refers to those who have moved away from common interpretations of the term evangelical. For many exvangelicals, that move away from evangelicalism corresponds with a move away from traditional morality, orthodox doctrine, and/or conservative social and political stances.

Being an exvangelical does not necessarily involve rejecting Christianity or the basic concepts of evangelicalism. Those who first used the term were responding to perceived trends within American Evangelicalism. Increasingly, however, those taking on the label “exvangelical” are embracing a non-Christian or progressive faith system.

Over time, culture shifts the meaning of words. The shift can be drastic, as seen with words like gay, which used to refer to happiness before it became a byword for homosexuality. The word catholic, which literally means “universal,” is now almost exclusively associated with Roman Catholicism and all its theological concerns. When faithful Christians stopped using the term catholic to refer to their faith, they sought distance from false associations, not from faith itself.

For some, moving away from the term evangelical reflects a similar desire. Whether Christians like it or not, the word evangelical is increasingly associated with attitudes and actions contrary to biblical faith. Whether or not the associations are fair, they’re still used by the culture at large to criticize religion. Also, sadly, it is true that some within the evangelical community demonstrate actions and attitudes that don’t reflect Christ very well. Some self-identified evangelical Christians dogmatically tie non-essential opinions to the validity of faith itself. Seeking to distance oneself from the term evangelical shouldn’t automatically be seen as a dismissal of Christianity.

More recently, there is a trend for exvangelical to describe someone moving beyond distancing to actively opposing evangelicalism. Increasingly, those who claim that label espouse progressive, secular, or anti-biblical attitudes. They take on the label “exvangelical” to signal they are “anti-evangelical” and dismissing fundamental aspects of biblical faith in favor of a more personal “faith” that suits them. In extreme cases, such exvangelicals merely “switch sides” while maintaining the same partisan, unforgiving attitudes they supposedly left behind. This is connected to the trend of “deconstruction”; in practice, it’s mostly a means by which people reject faith under the pretext of seeking truth.

Given the rapidly changing understanding of these terms, caution is advised. It’s important to know precisely what a person means when he uses—or claims—the term exvangelical. Likewise, those who merely decline the label “evangelical” should be extended careful understanding (see Romans 12:18). More important than the label one uses or one’s opinion on peripheral issues is one’s acceptance of the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:2; 9:16).

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This page last updated: June 23, 2021