Frank Hinkelmann and Thomas Schirrmacher regarding a new Text by the Central Office for World View Issues (Evangelische Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen – EZW) of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD)

That the Evangelical Church can report profoundly, fairly, and in an informed and discriminating manner, while not keeping silent on what is rather worrisome and critical, has been demonstrated in the booklet “Movements in Evangelicalism: Articles on the Vibrancy of conservative Protestantism” (German original “Evangelikale Bewegungen: Beiträge zur Resonanz des konservativen Protestantismus,” EZW-Texte 206, Berlin, 2010). The booklet was written by the head of the Evangelical Central Office for World View Issues within the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). As Evangelicals we can at this point say congratulations and many thanks to Dr. Hempelmann. Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals alike should read this study and use it as a basis for more intensive discussions.

I (Thomas Schirrmacher) openly admit that in my very recently released book Fundamentalism I recommended another notion of fundamentalism than the one Hempelmann uses. Hempelmann uses an intra-Christian notion and, for that reason, he holds the question of how Scripture is understood to be central for the definition of fundamentalism. I, on the other hand, assume a ‘militant claim to truth’ to be fundamentalism and hold the question of Scripture to be secondary (even in the case of the Catholic church, it is not a matter of the Scriptures being the final authority but rather the papal teaching post; in Hinduism and other religions there is violent fundamentalism without reference back to any scriptures).

But since Dr. Hempelmann makes it clear that someone with a very conservative view of Scripture can be tolerant and friendly towards democracy, and that someone who does not hold such a stance can still be unteachable, I can nevertheless relate to almost everything which he writes.

“There is justification for urging the use of differentiated terms” (29), writes Dr. Hempelmann, for instance so as not to equate Evangelicalism with fundamentalism. Also in the case of a fundamentalist understanding of Scripture, he still urges some more differentiation, that is, to see whether one moves openly and appreciatively in a larger community of Christians” or whether the Christianity of Christians who think differently is simply written off (29).

Hempelmann also openly views fundamentalism as an inquiry made to the Church and churches, and it shows “deficits in community building strength, ethical obligation, and religious orientation” (35).

Surely in the enormously broad spectrum of Evangelicals, charismatics, and Pentecostals, there will also be those who neither desire discussions with other Evangelicals nor with the Evangelical Church. But whoever among Evangelicals holds to Jesus’ command for unity between Christians, and whoever is convinced that we can only attest corporately to the Christian message amidst our nation, will look at these questions self-critically and not reject the outstretched hand, which in light of media pressure is not to be taken for granted. On the contrary, it takes courage.

Drs. Frank Hinkelmann, Chair, Austrian Evangelical Alliance

Prof. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, Chair, Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance



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