Brian Stiller

Podcastor

Author

Global Ambassador @ WEA

Brian Stiller

Podcastor

Author

Global Ambassador @ WEA

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Canadian and American Evangelicals: Viva La Difference!

October 10, 1994 Articles

Many assume that evangelicals in Canada are a carbon copy of those in the United States. While there are striking similarities there are profound differences. These differences are not over essentials such as the authority of Scripture or the Divinity of Christ but rather in the way we respond to our surrounding culture.
The simple reason is that Canada is different. Take, for example, the fact that though Canada is geographically larger, Canada’s population is only one tenth that of the U.S.A. Politically, we continue in the British Parliamentary system, in which elected representatives must vote along party lines. This is in sharp contrast to the U.S system, which allows for free vote. Canada is officially bilingual. In Canada, ethnic groups are encouraged to retain their uniqueness as part of the “mosaic”, while in the U.S. the strong identity of being “American” reinforces the “melting pot” notion. Militarily, we consider our
role to be that of peace making. In real terms, we aren’t big enough to hurt any one. And our nationalism is often described negatively, in terms of who we aren’t (“I’m not an American”). These differences shape the way many evangelical Protestants view their role in Canadian life.
That is not to say that Canadian evangelicals are at odds with their American counterparts. Rather, Canadian evangelicals respond in ways which are reflective of their surrounding culture and interpret their calling in ways which are consistent with their national character.
One such issue is how we as evangelicals can be faithful to the Scriptural call to be “in the yet not of the world.” Evangelicals who were shaped by reacting to the liberal/fundamentalist controversy are today trying to make sense of what it means for someone with a Bible(c)believing faith to live in and influence a secular and hostile world.
For much of this century the more fundamentalist wing of the evangelical community involvement in managing society for two reasons. Leadership in such areas as government, business and education, could be left, our side thought, to those from mainline churches since they shared our affirmation that biblical morality was good for Canada. There was no basic conflict between the sides since both adhered to a Judeo-Christian foundation to life.
This left our side free to pursue our calling, armed with the attitude: “It’s really the individual who needs to be saved. Since Christ’s coming is just around the corner, our only interest is to get people ready for eternity.” Salvation became a preoccupation with individualistic “souls” instead of all of God’s creation.
Today we are faced with this dilemma: Christ has not returned, and the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation is crumbling. Our children are being raised in a world that is hostile to the Gospel and even to the value of human life. So what are we to do?

My pilgrimage is similar to others, especially those with Anabaptist, Holiness or Charismatic roots. We are faced now with the task of having to construct a biblical framework in order to communicate God’s Word in this culture, which opts for radical secularism, hedonism, individualism, and materialism. But how do we engage in biblical evangelism and loving service without being trapped by the errors and inadequacies of the Social Gospel?
We realize that, while we continue to call people to personal faith in Jesus Christ, narrowing that call to some form of individualism means not only shortchanging the Gospel but also making it difficult for Christians to engage redemptively in the service of God’s coming kingdom of righteousness.
The Reformed community has enabled those of us working with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (a sister organization of the National Association of Evangelicals in the U.S.A.), to understand more deeply the distinct role of churches and the comprehensive responsibility of Christians in a “post-Christian” era. And for this I am most grateful. The Canadian Council of Christian Reformed Churches joined EFC in 1979.
As an association we endeavour to help our members to understand, and respond in a biblical way, to the many vital issues our country faces. For example, EFC’s The Declaration on Human Life was written to set a confessional standard on the issue of abortion. This past year EFC analyzed and developed responses to national moral/ethical concerns, working in tandem with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Mennonite Central Committee, Citizens for Public Justice and other groups. EFC’s Social Action Commission along with its task forces on Evangelism and the Family seek to inform, educate and present Christian alternatives to the profound problems of this age.
The danger is that we become reactionary instead of being redemptive by working in community, promoting authentic cooperation as an expression of our unity in Him. There are encouraging signs that Canadian evangelicals are working together, refusing to be trapped by narrow sectarianism, giving expression to our Lord as the Way, Truth and Life even in the face of idolatry and evil.

Brian C Stiller
Circa 1994
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