1) Fundamentalists/conservative evangelicals assume that the main body of church teaching is correct. When they encounter opposition to that teaching, they tend to marshal their most trusted apologists to defend the teaching.
Distrust: All unbelievers and Christians who disagree with certain (varying) core teachings except for on matters not perceived as influencing worldviews.
Boundaries: Uncertainty is strongly resisted. Very stable; those who unwillingly stumble into doubt tend toward a treacherous disillusionment with faith. May become progressive if enticed to begin critical examination of their tradition.
2) Progressive evangelicals hold to the main body of church teaching somewhat more provisionally. When they encounter opposition to that teaching, they more open-mindedly and critically evaluate the evidence.
Distrust: Fundamentalists; anti-Christian secularists except on non-worldview matters.
Boundaries: Certainty is still largely assumed possible and sought out. Tends to be a transitional stage; an overriding “thrill of the hunt” has been aroused. May become post-evangelicals or liberal Christians when core traditional assumptions are rejected and/or the belief forms that highly formulated theology is artificial and limiting.
3) Post-evangelicals have identified a very few core teachings and hold somewhat loosely to others until they are problematized, which they find happens fairly easily. Characterized by a pronounced agnosticism (in the general sense) and distrust of any systematic theology purporting to be based on Scripture/tradition alone. The assumption is still present that the Bible in the main presents an adequate and accurate picture of spiritual reality, but the burden of proof is not as heavily weighted toward the opposition’s side as it is for progressive evangelicals.
Distrust: Strident conservative evangelicals and strident anti-religious secularists in matters of worldview.
Boundaries: Content with or resigned to uncertainty. A potentially stable position for those who are more content with uncertainty, but many move on to agnosticism or liberal Christianity.
4) Liberal Christians are those whose view of God and spirituality is shaped almost exclusively by the ethics of Jesus/the Christian tradition, clinging to no teaching of the Bible or tradition without subjecting it to thorough critical scrutiny. They have (to varying degrees) adopted the conviction that such critical scrutiny has proved virtually all traditional conceptions of the Bible’s origin, nature, and accuracy to have been inaccurate. Typically regard Scripture as fully human and merely reflective or suggestive of the spiritual realities to which its human authors attest, lacking any coherent theme imposed upon it by God. Needless to say, there are at least as many different varieties of liberal Christian as there are evangelicals.
Distrust: Fundamentalists and the more conservative evangelicals.
Boundaries: Bask in uncertainty. Extremely stable.
Protestantism and especially Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism can be quite a mystery for those who have had the fortune or misfortune (depending on your perspective) of avoiding active involvment in this segment of the Christian religion. In the future, I'd like to attempt to describe my background, and an understanding of Protestantism is necessary in order to grasp different aspects of my experience. . .