I had planned on writing this for today in any event, but someone made a related comment to me yesterday that kind of hit me in an odd way. We were talking about filters and how they affect how someone perceives events. The comment was about if someone had a “Protestant wishy-washy” view of things.
Now, this was a friend of mine, so I’ll be kind. However, it is not an uncommon view among the COGs, and I’d like to look at some of the differences between “evangelicals” and the COGs. Of course, I will be generalizing here, so please don’t be offended if your particular congregation or church does not conform to what I am writing here.
What are the differences between evangelicalism and the COGs? I am not talking about theology here. We already have a handle on that, I hope. However, what is the effect of that theology? Is it good? Is it bad? How does it affect our attitudes?
In part 1, I want to explore why the COGs are not evangelical. I then want to take an unbiased look at some of the things that evangelicals get right.
Why the COG is not “Evangelical”
When there was the tragic shooting and death in a congregation of LCG, some news reports said that LCG was an evangelical organization. However, that is not true in the strictest sense. Let us look at a definition first.
- A belief in the need for personal conversion (or being "born again")
- Some expression of the gospel in "effort"
- A high regard for biblical authority
- An emphasis on the death and resurrection of Jesus.
~ Evangelicalism. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelicalism.
The first thing you note is that Evangelicalism is one of the three legs of Protestantism. The COGs were never part of the Church of Rome, and, therefore, never protested against or broke away from them in the first place. This alone distinguishes the COG from Evangelicalism.
You might also note the “born again” designation. Most in the COG, even in UCG, do not truly believe you have completed the “born again” process until you become a spirit being. You are literally “born” as a spirit and become a permanent member of the Family of God. Some in UCG might quibble about details, but in effect that is what most still teach.
Another feature of Evangelicalism that distinguishes them and all other Protestants from the COG is the teaching on the trinity. Most Evangelicals would not consider the COG as Evangelical because we do not believe in some hypostasis called God, but rather we believe that God the Father and Jesus the Son are united in love and unity as a family.
Therefore, you can only really conclude that the COGs are NOT Evangelical.
What They Get Right
However, there are some good points about their attitudes and actions.
1. They have zeal. Yes, there are those who will look down their noses at them and say, “They have zeal without knowledge.” Consider this, though: The one who disobeys through ignorance is better off than the one who disobeys even though they know (Lk 12:48). Much is required of those who have knowledge, including zealousness (Gal 4:18; 2Co 9:2; Rev 3:19). It is better to have zeal without knowledge than knowledge without zeal. If nothing else, those who are truly zealous and not just faking it will sooner or later have knowledge revealed to them, and they will be rewarded according to their zealousness in adapting to new knowledge.
2. They evangelize. True, it is driven by a misunderstanding that this is the only day of salvation, yet this makes them fervent in their desire to see others saved. I want to point out that although it stems from the notion of an ever burning hell, they truly do not want to see people suffer that fate. For many of them, it really is a true outgoing concern for others.
3. They do good works. One of the fruits of the above is that they have missions that are sent to the inner cities and other parts of the world in order to feed the poor, set up hospitals and preach their version of the gospel to others. Compare that to Mt 11:5; Lk 4:18-19.
In the end, there is one shocking thing about it all. Even with America and Britain in moral decline, some of these groups are actually growing and thriving worldwide. I understand that Satan will snatch away much of the seed of the sower in this age, but that does not reduce our commission to “make disciples”.