History and Traditions
An Evangelical Christian is a Protestant who is Gospel-centered. During the Reformation of the 16th century, "Evangelical" was a favorite term, especially as used by Lutherans. Evangelical Christians are often zealous when it comes to evangelism and evangelical Christianity has seen rapid growth in the world (see: Growth of evangelical Christianity).
The term commonly also suggests a desire to evangelize, i.e. spread the message of the Gospel and make converts to Christianity.
The term "Evangelicalism" also refers to one of four major movements within Protestant Christianity; the other three are mainline, fundamentalism, and Pentecostal. As the other three movements are more easily defined by denominations that clearly fit into one of them (e.g. the United Methodist Church within mainline, Independent Baptists within fundamentalism, and the Assemblies of God within Pentecostal), in recent decades the term has become a "catch-all" category used to designate Protestant denominations not in one of those three. Even then there is virtually no agreement as to which denominations should be considered evangelical; the only denomination that is generally agreed to definitely be such is the Southern Baptist Convention. However, non-denominational congregations (excluding those in the Independent Baptist realm) are predominantly evangelical or Pentecostal.
There is no exact definition of who is an Evangelical. Pollsters often ask, "Are you a born-again Christian?" to define the group. Sociologists look at membership in specific denominations and often include adherents of Holiness Movement, Pentecostal and Nazarene churches. Some scholars focus on the Bible beliefs, together with a personal commitment to Christ.
The largest Lutheran body in the USA is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It should be noted though that this church and The Episcopal Church, which is in communion with it, have had their Evangelical credentials questioned as a result of their recent acceptance of homosexuality. Some Evangelical Protestant critics, believing homosexual acts to be contrary to Scripture, place these churches on the edge of fringe Christianity along with Jehovah's Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints (Mormons), and Seventh Day Adventists.
The Christian researcher and author George Barna defines "Evangelicals" as a subset of those who meet the basic criteria defining born again Christians, but who also meet seven other doctrinal conditions. A distinction is then enabled to be manifest in other areas of faith beliefs.
- 1 Colonial America
- 2 19th century
- 3 20th century
- 4 Growth of evangelical Protestantism
- 5 Beliefs and Practices
- 6 Atheist fear of conservative Christians
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 Further reading
- 10 References
The First Great Awakening was a spontaneous outburst of religious enthusiasm in the American colonies, with a decisive long-term impact on setting the stage for Evangelicalism in Congregational, Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations, among others. It did not add new members so much as to change the religious consciousness of church members to a greater awareness of sin and redemption, and a downplaying of ritual, liturgy and theology. The Great Awakening heavily emphasized the individual's experience of salvation and the Holy Spirit's work in revivals. By giving many evangelicals radical notions of the spiritual equality of all people, the revivals helped form the democratic style came to characterize the American people.
The Second Great Awakening from 1800 to the 1830s created a dramatic growth in "evangelical" or "pietistic" denominations. They included the Methodists, Congregationalists, most Presbyterians, Christians (Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ) and Scandinavian Lutherans. They were opposed theologically by the liturgical or "high" churches, including Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and German Lutherans. The evangelicals were strong supporters of moral reforms in society, using government action to promote woman's rights, the abolition of slavery, and the prohibition of liquor.
Politically, the evangelicals in the North were the core of the Republican party in the Third Party System, as well as the small Prohibition party.
Evangelicals were active in missions (as were the non-evangelical Christians). Missionaries, in addition to spreading the word of God, have helped bring much needed medical and educational services to poor parts of the world, as part of their missionary activities.
The Third Great Awakening from 1850 to about 1900 saw the evangelical denominations organize themselves more thoroughly. They also began to experience splits between "modernists" (which would later be titled Evangelicals) and "fundamentalists" over some theological differences, but primarily organizational ones (specifically working with groups that were not fundamentalist).
The 20th Century (specifically after World War II) would see the formal split between the groups now called Evangelical and Fundamentalist. Although the groups still maintain common positions on nearly every core belief within Christianity, organizational differences (primarily involving denominational membership and working with churches that did not hold to similar views) are the area of primary disagreement (though fundamentalists are quick to label Evangelicals as "liberals").
The 1960's would see the rise of the Charismatic movement, which would also impact Evangelicals as some churches would leave (or be removed from) their denominations over adoption of charismatic practices (Evangelicals, however, consider Pentecostals and charismatics as fellow Christians and will work with them on issues such as the pro-life cause).
By the end of the 20th century, there were nearly 100 million Americans who identified themselves as "Evangelical Christians," according to a Gallup Poll in 1995.
Growth of evangelical Protestantism
See: Secular Europe
In the United States
While nominal Christians and mainline denominations, which tend to be theologically liberal and compromised, have been in strong decline, evangelical Christianity has actually increased and become three times larger than mainline denominations based on church attendance.
Beliefs and Practices
The beliefs and practices held by evangelicals generally are common to those held by Pentecostal/charismatic and fundamentalist Christians (except as noted below), but generally are in sharp contrast to those held by mainline Christians. Such beliefs and practices include:
- a view of the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God, and the final authority on all spiritual matters
- a generally literal interpretation of the Bible: this extends to the belief that events recorded in the Bible are historically accurate; therefore, Evangelicals generally reject any view of evolution which excludes God from the process (though some accept theistic evolution)
- "low church" style of church services but with some level of organization (whereas Pentecostal services are often free flowing)
- active participation in a local church, including high levels of charity (both financial and directly assisting others, including some activities which would be considered "social gospel", except that a Gospel presentation is offered, or provided if a recipient is interested); tithing is considered Biblical and strongly encouraged
- support of homeschooling and Christian schools (though not to the level of fundamentalism)
- active participation in politics, usually holding to conservative political views; in the 21st century White Evangelicals have voted around 75%–80% for Republican presidential candidates
- a willingness to work with other Christian groups, both inside and outside of Evangelicalism and even outside Protestantism, on major social issues such as the pro-life cause (fundamentalist groups generally do not work with groups not in its camp)
Atheist fear of conservative Christians
See also: Atheist fear of conservative Christians
According to a Baylor University study, when it comes to various individuals who hold various religions/worldviews, atheists/nonreligious have the greatest fear when it comes to a fear that conservative, Protestant Christians will limit their freedom or cause them physical harm. Atheists/nonreligious fear Muslims the second most when it comes to a fear they will limit their freedom or cause them physical harm. See also: Atheism vs. Christianity and Atheism vs. Islam
Prominent atheists being afraid/reluctant to debate conservative Christians
- Anti-Saloon League, led the dry forces to enact Prohibition
- Assemblies of God
- Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
- British evangelical Christianity
- William Jennings Bryan, politician who fought Darwinism
- Christian Reformed Church, Dutch Calvinists
- Common Sense Realism, part of Princeton Theology
- Culture War
- Revelation, Book of (historical exegesis)
- Billy Graham, post 1945
- Heritage Reformed Congregations
- Charles Hodge, leader of Princeton theology
- Holiness Movement
- Infant baptism
- John Gresham Machen, Fundamentalist theologian early 20c
- Princeton Theology
- Protestant Reformed Church
- Reformed Churches
- William Bell Riley, organizer of 20c Fundamentalism
- Second Great Awakening, 188-1820s
- Southern Baptist Convention
- Billy Sunday, early 20c
- Theory of Fundamentalist Antisemitism
- Third Great Awakening, 1850-1900
- United Methodist Church, highly evangelical in 19th century
- Westminster Presbyterian Church in the United States
- Evangelical Covenant Church
- Evangelical Apostolic Church of North America (Syro-Chaldean)
- Low church
- Essay: Water baptism cannot save, the Church cannot save, Born again by faith alone
- What is an Evangelical?
- Robert E. Brown, "Varieties of American Evangelicalism Course Syllabus" (Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture 2004), highly detailed bibliography and outline
- Evangelical Protestants Are The Biggest Winners When People Change Faiths
- Real Life and Death: the interplay of Bible, Israel, America
- Balmer, Randall. Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism (2nd ed. 2004), 655pp Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism online edition, by a leading historian
- Balmer, Randall. Blessed Assurance Cl: A History Of Evangelicalism In America (2000), 144pp excerpt and text search, topical essays but not a systematic history
- Carpenter, Joel A. Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (1999), major scholarly history of post-1925 era excerpt and text search
- Hankins, Barry. American evangelicals: a contemporary history of a mainstream religious movement (2008) 205 pages excerpt and text search
- Kidd, Thomas S. The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (2007) excerpt and text search
- Krapohl, Robert H., and Charles H. Lippy. The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide (1999). 338 pgs. online edition
- Larsen, Timothy and Daniel J. Treier, eds. The Cambridge companion to evangelical theology (2007) 303 pages; excerpt and text search
- Marsden, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925 (2nd ed. 2006). standard scholarly history by leading Evangelical scholar excerpt and text search
- Marsden, George M. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism
- Noll, Mark. A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (1992) by leading Evangelical scholar excerpt and text search
- Rawlyk, George, ed. Aspects of the Canadian Evangelical Experience. (1997). 542 pp.
- online books
- Burch, Maxine. The Evangelical Historians: The Historiography of George Marsden, Nathan Hatch, and Mark Noll. (1996). 130 pp.
- Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (2007) excerpt and text search; William G. McLaughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Pietistic Tradition (1967)
- See Krapohl and Lippy (1999)
- Revealing Statistics: America in Decline; Differences among Denominations
- Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (2007)
- See Richard Jensen, The Winning of the Midwest, 1888-1896 (1971)
- Stetzer, Ed (May 16, 2015). No, American Christianity is not dead. CNN. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
- William Lane Craig Puts the Fear of God in Atheists, video clip of the William Lane Craig vs. Sam Harris debate
- The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig, University of Notre Dame YouTube channel
- Evangelicals fear Muslims; atheists fear Christians: New poll show how Americans mistrust one another, Washington Post
- Evangelicals fear Muslims; atheists fear Christians: New poll show how Americans mistrust one another, Washington Post
- 2013 FBI hate crime statistics
- Atheism: The Next Civil Rights movement, Vlad Chituc, The Daily Beast, 4-6-2015