What Is Evangelicalism?

The overwhelming majority of white American evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election. This fact is as controversial as the president himself is, and, to many, it sullies the reputation of evangelicalism.

The important thing to note here is that we are talking about the majority of “white” evangelicals in America. It’s very important to note that there are also African-American evangelicals and Hispanic-American evangelicals who have a very different perspective.

Please also consider that all of the above are “American” evangelicals. There are also Korean evangelicals, African evangelicals, European evangelicals, Chinese evangelicals, and so on.

This shows us that evangelicalism is something independent of America, ethnicity, nationality, and even Donald Trump.

The evangelical movement is closely connected with Protestantism, but not all Protestants are evangelicals. It goes beyond Protestantism. Evangelicalism is present wherever its spirit and essential emphases manifest themselves.

The key emphasis of evangelicalism is an individual relationship with God through faith in Christ. This is the key to every aspect of our lives and religion, according to evangelicals.

This relationship with God is available because God wants to make it available to each individual human being.

God makes this relationship possible by revealing Himself through His Word, the Bible. So, evangelical Christians strongly emphasize Bible reading and meditation upon it. They are people of the Book. As one of the most prominent evangelicals in history stated it:

d. I am a creature of a day. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God. I want to know one thing: the way to heaven. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. He has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me the book of God. Let me be a man of one book.

However, it is important to recognize that the problem of human beings is not only that we need God to make Himself known to us. We also need to be reconciled to Him because we have sinned against God. So, we enter into relationship with God not only as humans but as people who are guilty and messed up and in need of restoration.

The good news is that God offers pardon and forgiveness to anyone who will accept it. As the prophet Isaiah cries out, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”

It is this offer of completely free salvation, renewal, and restoration by God Himself that is at the heart of evangelical preaching. It is what the “altar call” in some evangelical traditions is all about. It is this idea that led Billy Graham to preach to millions that God offers forgiveness as a free gift to be received and accepted by faith.

Consequently, the Christian life, according to evangelicals is always a life of repentance and receiving of forgiveness from God. It is always God freely bestowing on us all His heavenly blessings. It is a life of grace.

Finally, while forgiveness is free for us, it is absolutely crucial to recognize that this forgiveness is not free for God. It cost Him the death of the eternal Son of God, Jesus. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:5). This was the amazing prophecy by Isaiah 700 years before Jesus came into the world.

For evangelicals, our living relationship with God is all in Christ. Thus, they identify with the Apostle Paul who said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Evangelicals, like all human beings, can easily get sidetracked. It’s hard to keep the main thing the main thing (I have written about what I believe this would look like here).

Wouldn’t it be great, though, if evangelicals were known more for this emphasis on the amazing truth that our Creator wants to enter into a relationship with us than for any other thing about us? Such an emphasis can and does transcend political, cultural, national, and ethnic boundaries. It is about sinful human beings (which we all are) entering into a living relationship with their Creator through Jesus Christ.


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