The Term "Evangelical"

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Rick | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Oct 1 2010 4:14 PM

Silly question, I know, but here goes.

I know that the word evangelical basically means to evangelize, but can you please explain some context for me?

In two recent threads (that I can think of) concerning dictionaries, the term evangelical has been used to describe them, for example, "The ISBE is more "evangelical" than AYBD". Maybe my mind is just not comprehending it right but how would you define the word as used in this phrase? I've heard it elsewhere like this but kind of embarrassed to ask.  Embarrassed

Finally, a second question. I am preparing to invest in either the Zondervan Encyclopedia (5 Vol) or the Anchor Yale Dictionary. I like the appearance of the Zondervan books because I like a lot of pictures but don't really know anything else about the product (I love a reference book with good quality pictures) and am interested in AYBD simply because it gets a lot of recommendations from the group here and is reportedly very thorough and gives many points of view. Which would you recommend first?

A little about me:

Member of what is often described as a conservative denomination

No education beyond high school

Lay person who just does general studies for edification, devotions and small group talks

Any advice is surely appreciated.

Peace  Smile

Romans 14:19 (NRSV)
19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

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Nancy A. Almodovar | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 1 2010 4:20 PM

Evangelicalism and Evangelicals as a distinction in Christianity began in the mid 20th Century.  Most came out of the Fundamentalists who separated themselves in the late 1800's from the Liberals who came out of the Enlightenment.  Now, Evangelicals are themselves running into problems as Dr. David Wells has outlined in his many books.

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Jerry M | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 1 2010 4:26 PM

Theopedia has a short article defining Evangelical.

Evangelicalism - Theopedia, an encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity

"For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power"      Wiki Table of Contents

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 1 2010 4:32 PM

Rick Hypes:
I know that the word evangelical basically means to evangelize,

Evangelical doesn't mean 'to evangelise'. It's a common mistake.

Both evangelical and evangelise/evangelism come from the same Greek verb εὐαγγελίζω, (euangelizo) which means 'to bring Good news'. (Click here for a BWS on εὐαγγελίζω).

Unfortunately recently the label has become rather woolly. But a few decades ago the British historian David Bebbington gave what I think was a very helpful definition of 'evangelical' who you can see on Wikipedia:

  • biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible (e.g. all spiritual truth is to be found in its pages)
  • crucicentrism, a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross
  • conversionism, the belief that human beings need to be converted
  • activism, the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort

In common use, including on this forum, the word 'evangelical' tends to be shorthand for 'accepts that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God'.

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 1 2010 4:45 PM

Rick Hypes:
Finally, a second question. I am preparing to invest in either the Zondervan Encyclopedia (5 Vol) or the Anchor Yale Dictionary. I like the appearance of the Zondervan books because I like a lot of pictures but don't really know anything else about the product (I love a reference book with good quality pictures) and am interested in AYBD simply because it gets a lot of recommendations from the group here and is reportedly very thorough and gives many points of view. Which would you recommend first?

I have both dictionaries, and for you, I'd definitely recommend ZEB, even though I think Anchor is excellent in many ways. Here are the reasons why:

  • The ZEB has some pictures!
  • It has more articles than Anchor (8,700 vs 5,800).
  • It's articles are less detailed than Anchor (which is a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you're looking for). I think you'll find it easier to find what you're looking for in ZEB. For the use you've described, I'm not sure you'll have the need at the moment for the level of detail in AYBD.
  • ZEB is more evangelical/conservative. (Most of the time this isn't an issue in AYBD because it's dealing with historical facts, but sometimes it can be. For example, AYBD isn't sure that Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles (Titus and Timothy). On the other hand, ZEB assesses the arguments then comes down in favour of Pauline authorship.)
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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 1 2010 5:08 PM

To clarify Mark's reply about the word "Evangelical" there is need to distinguish between two usages. Some denominations (usually mainline European) have used the word "Evangelical" as a reference to the gospel. My understanding is that they wished to communicate a missionary aspect to their denominational identity by using this term in their name. But the word "Evangelical" is also being used (and is most commonly used in this forum) in the North American context to which the Theopedia article refers as well as in many other countries that share similar convictions or have adopted the concept.

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 1 2010 5:20 PM

Francis:
Some denominations (usually mainline European) have used the word "Evangelical" as a reference to the gospel

Yes, I was referring to it's usage in the English-speaking world. In Germany, for example, evangelisch (often translated 'evangelical') is barely distinguishable from 'protestant'. As a consequence evangelical churches (in the English-speaking sense) often now use the term evangelikal.

Francis:
My understanding is that they wished to communicate a missionary aspect to their denominational identity by using this term in their name.

I think the emphasis was more on the importance of Scripture, though it matters little. Whatever it meant then has been largely lost in the mainline denominations, European or otherwise.

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Rick | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 1 2010 5:57 PM

Thank you all! I learned something today  Big Smile

Mark, I was leaning towards the ZEB in fear that the AYBD might be a bit to technical for my needs. Thank you.

 

Peace  Smile

Romans 14:19 (NRSV)
19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

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fgh | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 10:55 AM

"In Germany, for example, evangelisch (often translated 'evangelical') is barely distinguishable from 'protestant'. As a consequence evangelical churches (in the English-speaking sense) often now use the term evangelikal."

It's similar in Swedish. The Church of Sweden is (or is supposed to be...) evangelisk-luthersk, an American Evangelical church would be evangelikal. But evangelisk is far wider than 'Protestant'. It simply means 'in accordance with the Gospel (Evangeliet)'. Every Christian has to be evangelisk; every Christan definitely doesn't have to be evangelikal. Though if you speak about evangeliska kyrkor, you're likely to be referring to [mainstream] Protestant churches, possibly, but not necessarily, including Evangelical ones.

"The Christian way of life isn't so much an assignment to be performed, as a gift to be received."  Wilfrid Stinissen

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fgh | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 11:05 AM

"In common use, including on this forum, the word 'evangelical' tends to be shorthand for 'accepts that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God'."

That seems to be a bit wide; after all, that's what the Catholic Church teaches as well... In fact, that's what all Christian churches teach that haven't been completely consumed by Liberal theology, Modernism and Secularism.

"The Christian way of life isn't so much an assignment to be performed, as a gift to be received."  Wilfrid Stinissen

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BillS | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 12:09 PM

The topic is tempting, but I'll exercise self-restraint. Zip it!

Instead, I'll offer a gentle reminder of our guidelines--discussion and/or debate of evangelical seems off topic unless we focus on the use of Logos to answer OP's question.

Many blessings to all. Smile

Grace & Peace,
Bill


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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 2:09 PM

fgh:
"In common use, including on this forum, the word 'evangelical' tends to be shorthand for 'accepts that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God'."

fgh is quite right. I only gave half a definition. Sorry. I'll try again.

In common use, including on this forum, the word 'evangelical' tends to be shorthand for 'accepts that the Bible is the inerrant, all-sufficient, Word of God and the church's only authority, and that the only way of salvation is justification by faith alone in Christ's sinless life and atoning death'.

Here's Carl Henry's definition, who says it better than me:

Evangelical Christians are thus marked by their devotion to the sure Word of the Bible; they are committed to the inspired Scriptures as the divine rule of faith and practice. They affirm the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, including the incarnation and virgin birth of Christ, His sinless life, substitutionary atonement, and bodily resurrection as the ground of God’s forgiveness of sinners, justification by faith alone, and the spiritual regeneration of all who trust in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 2:19 PM

BillS:
Instead, I'll offer a gentle reminder of our guidelines--discussion and/or debate of evangelical seems off topic unless we focus on the use of Logos to answer OP's question.

I think the discussion's been fine so far (though it could yet get out of hand!). No-one is trying to defend a particular viewpoint against others, and everyone's tried to be helpful to the original question (which was quite reasonable), and not just push their own view.

BillS:
unless we focus on the use of Logos

That said, BillS is right to remind us that Logos can help us answer the question. I got my quote from Carl Henry by typing lookup evangelical in the command bar, and then using the parallel resources icon (two vertical lines) to show other resources.

The search "an evangelical is" potentially also useful, as is "evangelical means" (with search all forms off).

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Westie | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 2:46 PM

fgh:

That seems to be a bit wide; after all, that's what the Catholic Church teaches as well... In fact, that's what all Christian churches teach that haven't been completely consumed by Liberal theology, Modernism and Secularism.

I would agree except that an Evangelical must not only believe that the bible inerrant, they must also hold to its authority and sufficiency for all life and Godliness.  It is not enough to simply believe that the facts in the bible are correct.  An Evangelical must submit to it, and must hold it as supreme authority.  Nothing is its equal.  This would knock out Liberal theology, modernism, secularism and Catholicism from the definition of Evangelical.

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Friedrich | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 3:51 PM

thumbs up for the evangelikal Zeb.  Yes

I like Apples.  Especially Honeycrisp.

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Rick | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 3:58 PM

Thank you all for your help. I think that I have a better understanding now of how the word "evangelical" is used to describe certain resources. I also have a couple of recommendations for the Zondervan Encyclopedia.

Since I have had both of my questions answered I can make a good and informed choice on my next Logos purchase. Unfortunately, I can easily see this becoming an offensive thread with Christian denominations being singled out (I truly did not foresee this), I humbly suggest that this thread has reached its end.

Thanks and God bless.

Peace  Smile

Romans 14:19 (NRSV)
19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Posts 646
Jeremy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 4:58 PM

Mark Barnes:
In common use, including on this forum, the word 'evangelical' tends to be shorthand for 'accepts that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God'.

I don't know if I agree that this is the common use. That the Bible is authoritative certainly is. That the bible is inerrant is not something that all evangelicals hold. I think your quotation of Henry and Bebington shows this (inerrancy is missing). 

Unfortunately those who are not evangelicals typically think of the term as favoring a particular side of the political spectrum (right-wing). This is something that evangelicals have never said is central. 

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Friedrich | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 5:53 PM

this thread is exposing the slipperiness of the term.  Whole articles--even magazine issues--have been devoted to it.  but for all our hairsplitting, I think a general idea has been formed.  And besides, the OP has officially declared this thread over.   Time

I like Apples.  Especially Honeycrisp.

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Milford Charles Murray | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 6:17 PM

Dan!  *smile*  Peace to youi!

            I think you're absolutely correct.  Also, your post is very timely asserted.  I think also that ....  

This thread has run it's proper length, and it would be well if it were discontinued at this point!  When it's not helpful anymore to anyone, then it's time to cease ......

Philippians 4:  4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand..........

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 2 2010 11:06 PM

Jeremy:
That the bible is inerrant is not something that all evangelicals hold.

Yeah, sorry. The inerrancy/infallibility debate is a non-issue in the circles in which I move at the moment, and we tend to use the two terms interchangeably. Thankfully when I'm not on a world-wide forum I can use terms and everyone understands what I mean without worrying about definitions. Smile

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