The Term "Evangelical"

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 3 2010 1:36 AM

Mark Barnes:

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.

These definitions are both much more theologically precise (narrower) than what I perceive as the common usage. I second Bill S.'s caution.


Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 3 2010 2:09 AM

There are a wide variety of people calling themselves evangelicals. Some (I suspect the minority) of them would opt for the narrower definition and would not consider the others evangelicals. Probably some within both ends of the spectrum would think their own meaning of the term has the historical precedent and the people at the other end of the spectrum hijacked the term. It is definitely a fuzzy term, and needs to be used with care.

Some good books that deal with the historical significance and changing meaning of the term are:

  • George Marsden, Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism
  • Alister McGrath, Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity
  • Gary Dorrien, The Remaking of Evangelical Theology

There's also a series that looks good published by IVP called A History of Evangelicalism. I'd love to see this in Logos format!

  • The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys Mark Noll
  • The Expansion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Wilberforce, More, Chalmers and Finney by John Wolffe
  • The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon And Moody by David Bebbington

Those are the only ones published thus far. Two further books in the series are planned:

  • The Disruption of Evangelicalism: The Age of Mott, Machen and McPherson by Geoff Treloar
  • The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Graham and Stott by Brian Stanley
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Wilson Hines | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 3 2010 11:15 AM

My NC history textbook has the author referring to evangelicalism to explain the late 1790's and early 1800's revivalist movement that rushed through the south.  He says what came of it was "evangelicalism."  

Wilson Hines

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Dan Sheppard | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 3 2010 3:31 PM


So far be it from me, to avoid throwing my two cents in, or is it three now....


1evan•gel•i•cal \ˌē-ˌvan-ˈje-li-kəl, ˌe-vən-\ also evan•gel•ic \-ik\ adjective


1      : of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels


3      : emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual

4      a capitalized : of or relating to the Evangelical Church in Germany

b often capitalized : of, adhering to, or marked by fundamentalism : FUNDAMENTALIST

c often capitalized : LOW CHURCH

5      : marked by militant or crusading zeal : EVANGELISTIC 〈the evangelical ardor of the movement’s leaders —Amos Vogel〉 — Evan•gel•i•cal•ism \-li-kə-ˌli-zəm\ noun — evan•gel•i•cal•ly \-li-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

This resource comes as part of your library, if you own Scholar's package which I do.  You might check to see if you already own it.



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