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Clearing the Fog Around Evangelical Christianity

There has been, not what I would call a trend, but a vocal segment, of individuals who have decided that being connected with what is known as “Evangelical Christianity” (EC) is something they want nothing to do with.

I have read articles and posts by those who have made up their minds to distance themselves from anything connected to being EC and some of their reasons behind that decision. These folks are, it would seem, fellow believers in Jesus. With many different voices talking about Christianity in general, it led to myself asking questions regarding how we should respond to some of what has been said about the EC tag.

One question to consider is this: Is it possible to be a Christian and discard the title “Evangelical?” The problem is, some believers have bought into the cultural attacks on EC and inste

ad of allowing the term to speak for itself, it has been repackaged in various forms and these are often a misrepresentation of what the actual meaning behind the words mean.

All this has done is cause animosity. Instead of finding out facts, people, including those in churches, have bought into the cultural viewpoint of Christianity. Sadly, this does no one any good.

It is important, then, before going further, to define what we mean by “Evangelical Christian.” We need to get rid of the fog surrounding the term and define what the phrase means. Many people think of “fighting fundamentalists”, “narrow-minded”, or “self-righteous” hypocrites who do not act much like Jesus.

To some, to be an EC is to be out on the cultural borderland, out of touch with the world around them. It is important to gather the facts before attempting to say what someone or something is or represents.

So, what is an EC? Let’s allow the “National Association of Evangelicals” (NAE), a wide-ranging group of Christian ministries and denominations, to help us. Who better to ask than those who focus on spreading the news about Jesus with others?

On the NAE website we read, “Evangelicals take the Bible seriously and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” Thus, the evangelical faith focuses on the “good news” of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ.”

On the same website, historian David Bebbington provides a helpful summary of evangelical distinctives, identifying four primary characteristics of evangelicalism. Note closely the following four marks.

  • Conversionism. This is the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life-long process of following Jesus.

  • Activism. This is descriptive of the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts.

  • Biblicism. This means that evangelicals have a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority.

  • Crucicentrism. A stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity.

In addition, the NAE/Lifeway Research method of determining whether one can be categorized as an evangelical requires respondents strongly agreeing with the following four statements,

  • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.

  • It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.

  • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.

  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

It is important to spend time defining what we mean regarding EC. As we look at the previous statements, the fact is, you cannot be a Christian without being an evangelical. It is time to get the correct definition out before the world around us, for the misinformation highway is causing more confusion than clarity.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that there were those who, for various reasons, want nothing to do with the term EC. They have made this determination on information that was not accurate, or, as in some cases, they bought into the cultural bias towards Christianity. But this leads to an important question that only we can answer as individuals on a practical and personal note.

It is this – should I allow myself to be so persuaded by others and their thinking that it would make me dump my connection to the real meaning of being an EC? Is it accurate, as some have, to connect the word “evangelical” to those within the Christian church who have supported President Trump, that this word defines what some have called “the white Christian right?”

This misnomer and mischaracterization of those who follow Jesus who happen to be more conservative in their social views, etc., than some is not the basis by which someone is an evangelical but that does not stop people from labeling us as such.

A person’s viewpoints on life, as we shall see, specifically for those who are followers of Jesus, should be based on a proper understanding of Scripture. So, yes, most believers will lean, if they allow Scriptures to form their thinking, to an ethics-based system that values life (from the womb to the tomb), financial responsibility, family from a Biblical perspective, etc.

It is true that what we believe will impact how we live. In fact, the view of Jesus as not only Savior but also Lord dictates our actions and attitudes. Evangelical followers of Christ see Him as Lord of their lives. This also leads to developing a worldview that is based in Scripture which guides our life as we encounter the world around us. See the word “activism” above.

Those who have jettisoned the idea of being an EC accuse other believers of intolerance because they hold to different moral views than they might or what culture holds to. They accuse believers of being racist, a dangerous road to go down. Unless they know the heart of every human they encounter who is a follower of Jesus, to make accusations such as this is wrong and narrow-minded, and they in turn are doing exactly what they claim an EC does.

Often Jesus is referred to as the One we should model ourselves after by those who want nothing to do with the concept of being a part of evangelical Christianity. The idea by some is that Jesus would condemn the EC movement for whatever reasons those who have walked away from it see as the faults of those who continue to be a part of it.

Yes, Jesus is the One we are to imitate. He laid out for us some of the expectations of those who are truly His followers in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). He challenged false teaching (just look at some of His interactions with the religious leaders), and He reminded us that as His children, we are to live by what He asks of us.

But to then assume that Jesus would tell every EC that they have failed because somebody claims we have, when Christ knows the hearts of every person far better than any of us, is to show a lack of spiritual depth on the part of those making such claims.

What grieves my heart more than anything is the finger-pointing that happens when someone says they no longer want to be known as an EC. They have allowed others to dictate their connection with fellow followers of Christ. Not everyone who is an Evangelical Christian is a negative, non-caring individual.

Most, in fact, that I know are guided by Scripture and want more than anything to live a Christ-honoring life. To allow some who may have fumbled the ball (haven’t we all?) to dictate my relationship with God and other believers shows a lack of spiritual maturity on my part.

My goal is to bring glory and honor to Christ. I am to show the love of Christ to others, to speak and stand for truth, even if some do not like it, but to do so in a way that lets people see Jesus living through me. Most believers want this as well.

If you or someone you know has allowed others to determine their connection to Christianity as a whole, their needs to be a re-evaluation of what being a Christ follower means. I refuse to allow others to determine my walk with God and I do not have a problem being known as an Evangelical Christian, properly understood.


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