I greatly appreciated Augustus Nicodemus Gomes Lopes' article "The Growing Crisis Behind Brazil's Evangelical Success Story" from the Gospel Coalition. A Reformed theologian, Lopes expresses the sentiment of many Brazilian Christian leaders who are concerned with the disappearance of essential evangelical doctrine amid the explosive growth of evangelicalism in the country. While Brazilian evangelicals have tended to be more inclusive of expressions of Christianity (including historic Protestant churches and Pentecostals) than their North American counterparts, the word evangelical is quickly losing its meaning in the Brazilian context. Lopes' short article serves as a rich, sober, and prophetic assessment.
One explanation he offered for this decline particularly grabbed my attention. He noted that "historical denominations [were] gradually [abandoning] the great creeds and confessions of the past that shaped the historical faith of the Church. By disdaining centuries of tradition and theological interpretation, evangelicals found themselves vulnerable to any new interpretation." Indeed, a key element in faithful global theology--one that offers accountability and self-correction--is listening to the voices of the historic church expressed in its creeds and confessions. Sound theology must surely be local, global, but also historic. While some elements of the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed addressed heretical thought that were unique to the early church context (i.e. docetism in the Apostles Creed; Arianism in the Nicene), the creeds nevertheless provide a framework for reflecting on Scripture and equipping the believer with essential Gospel understanding. After all, the creeds were developed for catechumens (those preparing for baptism) and basically responded to the question, what must a believer in Christ believe?
Lopes' article serves as a refreshing admonition to love the Gospel truth and to guard the good deposit of faith--a timely word for Brazilian evangelicals and all global Christians.