What is an Evangelical?

Is Evangelical a political term, A theological term?  A socialogical term?  A cultural term? What exactly does it mean?  The word obviously means different things to different people.  The word means different things to different Evangelicals.

In this Nuclearity podcast Hugh Duncan talks with some of the biggest Evangelical names to ask them what it means.

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About Tim

Evangelical Christian living in Southern California. I live with my wife and whatever foster children happen to be in our home at this moment. I love photography, baseball, movies and I'm fascinated by Mormonism.

10 thoughts on “What is an Evangelical?

  1. In 1996, a group of Evangelical leaders got together and signed a document called “The Cambridge Declaration.” The group of 14 Evangelical leaders called themselves, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. One of my former pastors, a man whom I’ve mentioned on this blog, a man I still very much respect and admire, and whom I feel is a truly good Christian man, was one of the signers of this document. Just do a search on “The Cambridge Declaration” or “1996 Cambridge Declaration” and you can find it. (Or, go to the website of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals) This statement talks alot about what has happened to the term “Evangelical” and what these leaders think Evangelical means and what should be done to restore proper meaning to the word. I still agree with much of it, especially the part where it says that the Bible should be preached from the pulpit, not the current fashion or the pastor’s personal opinion. Dr. Norris always preached from the Bible, and some of my happiest memories of being an Evangelical were of listening to his sermons during the first year or so after I became a born again Christian. He always talked about different aspects of the Christian walk, and he never talked down to anybody. He would talk about his own life and how he struggled with things too, along with everybody else. There is a verse in the New Testament, I believe, that says that “faith cometh by hearing the word of God.” I would have to agree with that. When you are lucky enough to hear the Bible preached by someone who loves God, and who is determined to preach only the Bible–well, in my opinion, that is really a wonderful experience.

  2. Under no circumstances is the term meaningless. It might have shifted meanings, or its meaning might have broadened. It might not mean what you used to think it meant, or what you would like it to mean, but it’s not meaningless. “Vlorbghjyu” is meaningless. “Gnfarkuuuuuuuuuuuu” is meaningless.

    “Evangelical” is definitely a word that conveys meaning from speaker to listener. Perhaps its meaning has grown malleable. Perhaps it has accumulated a whole host of overlapping but subtly different meanings. Perhaps its meaning is (or some of its meanings are) vague and fuzzy.

    None of this is the same thing as meaningless.

  3. And ironically, “Gnfarkuuuuuuuuuuuuu” and “Vlorbghjyu” aren;t even meaningless anymore if you’re reading this, ebcause I have used them to convey an idea of meaninglessness. And if I use them again, you’ll remember what I’m referring to.

  4. I wouldn’t call the word completely meaningless, but I’d consider it something like the words “liberal” and “conservative”: They give a general idea of where someone might be on a continuum, but nothing precise, and the understanding can vary with speaker and listener.

    That said, I’d probably define an evangelical as a Protestant who accepts the traditional formulation of the Trinity, who emphasizes having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and who believes that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus was born of a virgin and was literally resurrected, that there is a literal heaven and hell, and that Jesus will bodily return to Earth.

    That’s certainly not the only definition possible, and it isn’t even the one I’d use in all circumstances. But it lists what I would see as the major theological boundaries of the category.

  5. I think that’s one reasonable meaning for “Evangelical.” Certainly not the only shade or sense of meaning, but definitely a useful–and used–one.

  6. Kullervo, I am very happy that you are not fully steeped in postmodernism.

    For certainly, biblical words should and do have distinct meaning.

  7. It has nothing to do with post-modernism. It has everything to do with linguistics. You can want language to behave a certain way all you want, but it just doesn’t. Sorry.

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