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The word evangelicalism usually refers to a broad collection of religious beliefs, practices, and traditions which are found among conservative Christianity Protestantism Christians. Evangelicalism is typified by an emphasis on evangelism, a personal experience of conversion, Bible oriented faith and a belief in the relevance of Christian faith to some cultural issues. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, such Protestant Christians, and their churches and social movements, are often called evangelical to distinguish them from Protestants who have a tendency towards more Liberal Christianity.

Note that in continental Europe the word Evangelical is often understood to mean simply Protestantism, or specifically Lutheranism, as a literal translation of the German "evangelisch". In Germany, churches of the Protestantism religious tradition known as Lutheranism in the USA and other parts of the world are referred to specifically as Evangelische (literally "Evangelicals"). This does not correspond to standard use in English. See more under "Usage" below.


The term 'evangelical', in a lexical but less commonly used sense, refers to anything implied in the belief that Jesus is the Messiah. The word comes from the Greek language word for 'Gospel' or 'good news': ευαγγελιον evangelion, from eu- "good" and angelion "message". In that strictest sense, to be evangelical would mean to be merely Christian, that is, founded upon, motivated by, acting in agreement with, spreading the good news message of the New Testament.

In Western cultural usage, the word Evangelical has generally referred to Protestantism, with intended contrast to Roman Catholic Church. At different times, the name has developed nuances according to the controversies of the age, although many Catholics consider themselves "Evangelical" in the sense that they must spread the Gospel message in their daily life, as well as to the world.

  • In continental Europe since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, Lutheranism churches have been called "Evangelical" (German Evangelische) churches, in contradistinction to the Reformed churches of Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and their associates. This usage is not widely standard in the English language.
  • In the 17th century and onward, the Puritanism party in the Church of England, which sought to identify that church with the Reformed movement of the Reformation, were also called the evangelical party. Some evangelicals withdrew from that Communion and became known as "Non-Conformists" and "Dissenters". The more radical of the Non-Conformist evangelicals were known as "Separatists" or "Independents".
  • In the 18th century, the Wesleyan revival within the Church of England influenced the formation of a party of pietistic Anglicans, whose descendant movement is still called the "Evangelical party". In the United States, Jonathan Edwards and the "New Lights" (revival Calvinism) were opposed by "Old Lights" (confessional Calvinists). The Methodist George Whitfield, a Calvinist, continued and expanded this pietistic "New Light" revivalism together with the non-Calvinist, Arminian Methodist movement. This broad movement became known as the First Great Awakening, which is the foundation of what is most commonly called "Evangelicalism" in the United States today.
  • In the 19th century, everywhere that Protestantism had taken root, including the Religion in the United States, evangelicals were the supporters of the Revival and the social activism that arose from it ("Second Great Awakening" in the United States).

The earliest meanings continue to be current, depending on the context. In the name Evangelical Orthodox Church, for example, the word reflects the fact that its founders had all been deeply involved in the contemporary Evangelical movement. Several churches, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have Evangelical in their title, meaning evangelical in the sense of "Protestant," without being connected to the modern evangelical movement. For most of Protestant history the term 'evangelical' for a self-description has been used by both Modernist Christianity and Fundamentalist Christianity. However, in common contemporary parlance, the name has been all but relinquished to the "moderates," rather than liberals or fundamentalists.

In foreign languages, words derived from ευαγγελιον evangelion should not automatically be equated with "evangelical(ism)". In the German language, the word "evangelisch" means Protestant, contrasted to "evangelikal" (borrowed from English). Germany's union of Protestant churches, including mainstream Lutheran and Reformed churches, is the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland or Evangelical Church in Germany.


Template:Protestant The Bible is accepted by evangelicals as reliable and the ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice. The Protestant Reformation doctrines of sola scriptura and sola fide are primary. The historicity of the miracles of Jesus and the Virgin Birth (Christian doctrine), crucifixion, Resurrection of Jesus, and Second Coming are asserted, although there are a variety of understandings of the end times and eschatology.

Commentators and historians describe four characteristics of evangelicals:

  1. Emphasis on the conversion experience, also called being saved, or New Birth or born again after John 3:3. Thus evangelicals often refer to themselves as born-again Christians. This experience is said to be received by "faith alone" and to be given by God as the result of "grace alone".
  2. The Protestant Biblical Canon of the Bible as the primary, or only, source of religious authority, as God's revelation to humanity. Thus, the doctrine of sola scriptura is often affirmed and emphasized. Bible prophecy, especially as interpreted according to dispensationalism, is often emphasized.
  3. Encouragement of evangelism (the act of sharing one's beliefs) -- in organized missionary work or by personal encounters and relationships with others.
  4. A central focus on Christ's redeeming work on the cross as the only means for salvation and the forgiveness of sins.

These characteristics are similar to the Bebbington quadrilateral identified in his study of British evangelicalism.

John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron in Ohio, found in the 2004 American Religious Landscape Report[1] that despite many variations, evangelicals in the United States generally adhere to four core beliefs:

  1. Biblical inerrancy
  2. Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus and not good works. (in particular the belief in atonement [1] for sins at the cross and the resurrection [2] of Christ)
  3. Individuals (above an age of accountability) must personally trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.
  4. All Christians are commissioned to evangelize and should be publicly baptized [3] as a confession of faith.

In regard to "Biblical inerrancy", a notable American summit on Bible inerrancy was held in Chicago in 1978. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was signed by nearly 300 noted American evangelical scholars (see Biblical inerrancy). There is no absolute consensus among evangelicals regarding Biblical inerrancy; however there is a general acceptance of Biblical authority.


Roots of evangelical movement

In its early years, what was to become known as evangelicalism was largely a hybrid of the Reformed emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy, and the pietist emphasis on the heart and a "personal relationship" with God. The movement saw a variety of liturgical styles and ministry approaches, though strong preaching, personal conversion and evangelism were common features.

The contemporary evangelical movement has its origins in the 18th century, when the First Great Awakening was deeply influencing American religious life, while the Methodist movement was beginning to renew parts of British Christianity, although this was at first resisted by the majority of the Anglican established church.

Much of this religious fervor was a reaction to Age of Enlightenment thinking and the deistic writings of many of the western philosophical elites. The chief emphases of the fledgling Methodist movement as well as the Awakening were individual conversion, personal piety and Bible study, public morality (often including temperance and family values) and abolitionism, a broadened role for layman and women in worship, evangelism, and cooperation in evangelism across denominational lines, (that is, interdenominationally).

Key figures included John Wesley, Anglican priest and originator of the Methodist movement; Jonathan Edwards (theologian), American Puritan preacher/theologian; George Whitefield, Anglican priest and chaplain to Selina Hastings, founder of many revivalist chapels and promoter of associated causes; Robert Raikes, who established the first Sunday school to prevent children in the slums entering a life of crime; popular hymn writer Charles Wesley, and American Methodist bishop, Francis Asbury.

19th century

Evangelical Christians were a diverse group, coming from denominations which included Methodists, dissenters, Quakers, Congregationalists and Anglicans (some of whom increasingly embraced evangelical doctrine). Some were at the forefront of movements such as missions, abolitionism of slavery, prison reform, orphanage establishment, hospital building and founding schools.

In 1846, eight hundred Christians from ten countries met in London and set up the Evangelical Alliance. They saw this as a "new thing in church history, a definite organization for the expression of unity amongst Christian individuals belonging to different churches." However, the Alliance floundered on the issue of slavery. Despite this difficulty, it provided a strong impetus for the establishment of national and regional evangelical fellowships.

Evangelicals, along with trade unionists, Chartists, members of co-operatives, the self-help movement and the Church of England were involved in setting up the temperance movements in the U.S., Ireland, Scotland and England.

William Booth, a Methodism Religious minister, founded the Christian Mission in London on July 5 1865. This became The Salvation Army in 1878 as it took on a quasi-military style, with an emphasis on personal holiness, temperance and marching bands of supporters.

20th century

Evangelicals today are as varied as ever. Some work entirely within their own denominations; others pay less heed to denominational differences and may be members of less formal and locally based, independent churches. Many churches have grown to large sizes and are often called megachurches. There is a long-standing evangelical tradition of taking to needy areas for practical assistance (e.g. medical, educational) along with the gospel, though eschewing attempts, at home or abroad, to influence society by means other than the gospel.

Others, particularly in the USA, are engaged in attempts at social improvement through political means. Evangelical activism might be expressed in literacy training, inner-city relief and food banks, adoption agencies, marriage counseling and spousal abuse mediation, day-care centers for children, and counsel and care for unwed mothers, or any number of other help and advocacy works. The popular perception seems to locate all of evangelicalism on the 'right' of political controversies, such as abortion, or the expansion of the legal definitions of "family", "marriage", or "civil union" to include same-sex couples. This supposed uniformity is not actually the case; however there is some correspondence between theological and religious conservatism, and social conservatism.

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) was formed in 1951 by Evangelicals from 21 countries. It has worked to support its members to work together globally.

Within the broad denominations (often called "mainline denominations") evangelical movements are organizing within various structures, which are often referred to as the Confessing Movement. The theological call for the mainline churches to return to their evangelical roots is known as Paleo-Orthodoxy, especially within Methodism, where Thomas Oden is one of its best known spokesmen.

The movement represents a range of Protestant understandings of the Bible, liturgical forms, and church traditions - some of which are very non-traditional, and artistically conceived or innovative. On the average, evangelicals tend to be distrustful of reliance upon historical definitions of belief, if they are not qualified as being subordinate to the Bible; and yet, they may be inclined to refer to these documents of faith in defense of their understanding of the Bible. In controversies with those who favor a more highly structured liturgy, the evangelical party is usually the one in favor of a relatively more simple, casual and participatory form of worship, centered on preaching and sometimes the Lord's Supper (Eucharist), rather than more elaborate ceremony.

Especially toward the end of the 20th century, the secular media tended to describe traditional Christian believers as fundamentalist Christians, including most evangelicals. However, in both movements, these terms fundamentalist and evangelical are not synonymous; the labels represent very distinct differences of approach which both groups are diligent to maintain.


At the turn of the 20th century, in light of modern scholarship gaining the majority view, Modernist Christianity in the Protestant denominations was producing novel understandings and/or interpretations of the role of the Bible for a Christian, and the Bible's teachings. These trends were seen by their opponents as a threat to Christian faith and the welfare of society, as accommodations to the Enlightenment and an abandonment of the principles of the Protestant Reformation.

The Fundamentalist Christianity Movement was a Conservative Christianity Protestant response in the USA to Liberal Christianity trends in their churches. It was a movement to preserve what they saw as being a minimum orthodoxy, a fundamental Christianity, over against the liberals' abandonment of such basic features of a traditional understanding of the faith as the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the authenticity of His miracles, and the belief that His death on the cross takes away sins. This was called Fundamentalism, with the intent of identifying a minimum orthodoxy as found in the official statements of faith of the various Protestant denominations in which this movement arose.

Some Fundamentalists strongly advocated separation from those denominations and institutions in which modernism was dominant. Many of these identified the Fundamentalist cause with certain specific doctrines, approaches to culture, and styles of worship, preaching, or plans of church governance, which were not shared by their fellows - some of which, in fact, had only arisen in the previous century. Others strongly reacted against separatism and exclusiveness. They sought to distinguish their agenda to defend the fundamental orthodoxy familiar to their forebears, from the Fundamentalists who sought to establish a new orthodoxy. Some of the leaders of this broader party called themselves 'neo-evangelicals"

Renewed Evangelicalism: Neo-evangelicalism

Main article: Neo-evangelicalism

The Neo-Evangelical movement was a response among traditionally orthodox Protestantism to Fundamentalist Christianity Separatism#Religious separatism, beginning in the 1920s and 1930s.

Neo-evangelicals held the view that the modernist and liberal parties in the Protestant churches had surrendered their heritage as evangelicals by accommodating the views and values of the world. However they saw the Fundamentalists' separatism and rejection of the Social gospel as an over-reaction. They charged the modernists with having lost their identity as evangelicals, and attacked the Fundamentalists as having lost the Christ-like heart of evangelicalism. They argued that the Gospel needed to be reasserted to distinguish it from the innovations of the liberals and the Fundamentalists; thus they coined the term, 'Neo-' (new or renewed) 'evangelicalism'.

They sought to engage the modern world and the liberals in a positive way, remaining separate from worldliness but not from the world — a middle way, between modernism and the separating variety of Fundamentalism. They sought allies in denominational churches and liturgical traditions, among non-Dispensationalism, and Trinitarian varieties of Pentecostalism. They believed that in doing so, they were simply re-acquainting Protestantism with its own recent tradition. The movement's aim at the outset was to reclaim the evangelical heritage in their respective churches, not to begin something new; and for this reason, following their separation from Fundamentalists, the same movement has been better known as merely, "evangelicalism". By the end of the 20th century, this was the most influential development in American Protestant Christianity.

The term neo-evangelicalism no longer has any reliable meaning except for historical purposes. It is still self-descriptive of the movement to which it used to apply, to distinguish the parties in the developing fundamentalist split prior to the 1950s. The term is now used almost exclusively by conservative critics to distinguish their idea of evangelicalism from this movement. Some liberal writers, speaking critically, might refer to neo-evangelicalism, or neo-fundamentalism, with comparably variable meanings.


The Post-Evangelical is the name of a book by Dave Tomlinson, published in 1995, in which the British author attempts to characterize as a movement various trends of dissatisfaction among evangelicals. The term is used by others with comparable intent, often to distinguish from ex-evangelicals, or anti-evangelicals, those evangelicals in the so-called emerging church movement. Dave Tomlinson argues that "Linguistically, the distinction [between evangelical and post-evangelical] is similar to the one that sociologists make between the modern and postmodernism eras."[2]

Post-evangelicals view the church as fundamentally flawed by human activity, yet still a divine institution.[citation needed] As with Evangelicals, they consider the Bible authoritative [citation needed] , but reject exclusive right and wrong distinctions between interpretive choices, which they argue lead to denominationalism.[citation needed] Post-evangelicals allege that relationship with God and fellow humans cannot be simply equated with a relationship to a particular church [citation needed] . They characterize the activities of gathered worship as empty rituals, if the truth is not lived out at other times [citation needed] .

Evangelical politics in the United States

Main article: Christian right

Evangelicalism in the United States was prominently active in political movements which are now popularly considered to be important social advancements, such as Women's Rights and Suffrage, and Abolitionism. Evangelical influence was also evident in past movements which are now unpopular, such as prohibition and anti-immigration. But Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court of the United States decision rendered in 1973 preventing states from making laws that prohibit abortion, is the most prominent landmark of a new era of conservative evangelical political action, unprecedented in its intensity and coordination.

In the U.S. the Religious Right is especially influential in the Republican Party (United States), which is sometimes perceived to be the political wing of the conservative Evangelical movement. George W. Bush, elected president of the U.S. in 2000, is a self-identified born again Christian who received strong support from evangelical voters. The George W. Bush administration is guided by the President's values which do not necessarily reflect core evangelical beliefs. Often, criticism of controversial conservative political stances frequently falls on the U.S. evangelical movement as a whole.[citation needed]

The mass-appeal of the Christian right in the so-called red states, and its success in rallying resistance to certain social agendas, is sometimes characterized as an attempt to impose theocracy on an otherwise unwilling and secular society, although most evangelicals deny this. There are indications that the belief is widespread among conservative evangelicals in the USA that Christianity should enjoy a privileged place in American public life according its importance in American life and history. [citation needed] Accordingly, those evangelicals often strenuously oppose the expression of other faiths in schools or in the course of civic functions. For example, when Venkatachalapathi Samuldrala became the first Hindu priest to offer an invocation before Congress in 2000, the September 21 edition of the online publication operated by the Family Research Council, Culture Facts, raised objection:

While it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country's heritage. The USA's founders expected that Christianity--and no other religion--would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples' consciences and their right to worship. They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference.

However, the Christian Right is not made completely (or even a majority) of Evangelical Christians. According to an article in the November 11th, 2004 issue of The Economist, entitled "The Triumph of the Religious Right", "The implication of these findings is that Mr Bush's moral majority is not, as is often thought, just a bunch of right-wing evangelical Christians. Rather, it consists of traditionalist and observant church-goers of every kind: Catholic and mainline Protestant, as well as evangelicals, Mormons, Church of God with Signs Following, you name it. Meanwhile, modernist evangelicals (yes, there are a few) tend to be Democratic."

Parachurch organizations

Parachurch organizations are a vehicle by which evangelical Christians work collaboratively, both outside and across their Christian denominations, to engage with the world in mission (Christian), social welfare and evangelism.

Through many decentralized organizations, parachurch organizations function to bridge the gap between the church and culture. These are organizations "alongside" (Grk: para-) church structures, meaning that they usually seek to define their specific task as more or less subordinate to the institution and the general task of the local church, intended to support and enhance the effectiveness of the church.

Roles and organizations

Roles undertaken by parachurch organizations include:

  • Evangelical crusade associations (patterned after the Billy Graham Association)
  • Evangelical and Disciple (Christianity)ship ministries (such as The Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ)
  • Music and print publishers, radio and television stations, film studios and online ministries
  • Study centers and institutes, schools, colleges and university
  • Political and social activist groups
  • social welfare and social services, including, homeless shelters, child care, and domestic violence, disaster relief programs, and food pantries and clothing closets and emergency aid centers
  • Self-help groups
  • Bible study groups
  • house churches



Globally, evangelicalism and Pentecostalism are among the most influential Christian movements. Growth in Africa is rapid, and because it is not dependent on European and North American evangelical sources allowing greater diversity. An example of this can be seen in the List of Christian denominations#African Independent Churches.

World Evangelical Alliance

The World Evangelical Alliance is "a network of churches in 127 nations that have each formed an evangelical alliance and over 100 international organizations joining together to give a worldwide identity, voice and platform to more than 420 million evangelical Christians" [4].

United States

George Barna [5] surveyed Christians in the United States in 2004 and asked nine questions to determine whether the respondent was an evangelical Christian. Seven of the questions asked were:

  1. Are you a born again Christian?
  2. Is your faith very important in your life today?
  3. Do you believe you have a personal responsibility to share your religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians?
  4. Do you believe that Satan exists?
  5. Do you believe that eternal salvation is possible only through faith, not works?
  6. Do you believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth?
  7. Do you believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today?

The survey methodology was not given on this website. The questions asked by the group do not necessarily represent all the characteristics of evangelical Christians. This survey found evangelicals to be a subset of the Born agains.

Although evangelicals are currently seen as being on the Christian Right in the United States, there are those in the center and Christian Left as well. In other countries there is no particular political stance associated with evangelicals. Many evangelicals have little practical interest in politics.


The 2004 survey of Religion and politics in the United States [1] identified the Evangelical percentage of the population at 26.3%; while Roman Catholic Church are 22% and Mainline Protestants make up 16%. This is the fourth survey undertaken by Dr. Green to measure political attitudes and religion in the United States. In the 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States, the figures for these same groups are 28.6% (Evangelical), 24.5% (Catholics), and 13.9% (Mainline Protestant.) The latter figures are based on a 2001 study of the self-described religious identification of the adult population for 1990 and 2001 from the CUNY Graduate Center at the City University of New York. [3]

On a worldwide scale evangelical Churches are (together with Pentecostalism) the Claims to be the fastest growing religion Christian churches. The two are even beginning to overlap, in a movement sometimes called Transformationalism.[citation needed]


  • Bebbington, David, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s {{{author}}}, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin, {{{year}}}, {{{id}}}.
  • Freston, Paul, Evangelicals and Politics in Asia, Africa and Latin America {{{author}}}, Evangelicals and Politics in Asia, Africa and Latin America, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, {{{year}}}, {{{id}}}.


  1. 1.0 1.1 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  2. The Post-Evangelical, Dave Tomlinson, ISBN 0310253853, p 28
  3. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}

See also

  • Bible believer
  • Christian apologetics - a defense of Christianity
  • Christian left
  • Christian right
  • Conservative Christianity
  • Evangelism
  • Jesus Camp - 2006 documentary Evangelical children in the United States
  • Mission (Christian)
  • Orthodoxy
  • Protestantism
  • Summary of Christian eschatological differences


  • Charismatic movement
  • Christian ecumenism
  • Christian fundamentalism
  • Confessing Movement
  • Evangelical left
  • Neo-evangelicalism
  • Paleo-Orthodoxy
  • Pentecostalism
  • Pietism
  • Transformationalism

Contrasting Movements

  • Anglo-Catholicism
  • High Church Lutheranism
  • High Church
  • Neoorthodoxy
  • Ritualism
  • Oxford Movement
  • Broad Church
  • Liberal Christianity

List of evangelicals: historical figures, scholars, authors, educators and leaders


  • Christianity Today
  • The Christian Post
  • Sojourners
  • the Briefing
  • Lark News online newsletter satirizing evangelicalism

Seminaries and theological colleges

Regional groups

  • Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
  • Evangelical Movement of Wales
  • Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (a non-denominational association of Evangelical churches in the United Kingdom)
  • National Association of Evangelicals
  • Anglican Diocese of Sydney (the Diocese of Sydney is an influential evangelical group within the Anglican communion)
  • Evangelical Truth Ireland
  • History of Independent Evangelical Churches in Australia
  • International Fellowship of Evangelical Students

External links


Evangelical apologetics/theology

Research on Evangelicals