My Evangelicalism

The use of the Bible in this image hints at one of the most common associations with evangelicalism

People like labels. In general I do find them more helpful than not. But sometimes a label just has a wide variety of meanings to different people and it ends up being more confusing than it is worth, or even worse, it becomes a dividing line between the condemned and the saved. “Evangelical” is definitely one of those words. In general I much prefer to stick to the less-confusing term Anabaptist (you might not really know what that is but at least you don’t have 20 competing definitions). But people like the term evangelical despite its multiplicity of meanings. So I decided to clear up which connotations of evangelical fit me and which don’t.

Definitions of Evangelicalism That Fit Me

The word evangelical comes from euangelion which means simply good news or Gospel. If you mean that evangelicalism is a group that celebrates the Gospel, I am an evangelical.

If your definition of evangelical means emphasizing personal and relational experience with Jesus, I am an evangelical. For those curious, this could be seen as a distinction between Pietist evangelicalism (experience-oriented) and Puritan evangelicalism (doctrine-oriented).

On a related point, if your definition of evangelical includes the belief that only believers should be baptized, I am an evangelical (although I’m not going to call it sinful or wrong to baptize infants).

If your definition of evangelical means having a high respect for the authority of God exercised through the Bible, I am an evangelical.

If your definition of evangelical includes the belief that Jesus is uniquely God, I am most definitely an evangelical.

If your definition of evangelical includes a passion for showing and talking about Jesus to the world, I am an evangelical.

Definitions of Evangelicalism That Don’t Fit Me

If your definition of evangelical requires the doctrine of penal substitionary atonement, I am not evangelical.

If your definition of evangelical requires thinking of the Gospel in purely individual terms – an escape plan from God’s wrath to Heaven – I am not an evangelical.

If your definition of evangelical requires that all non-evangelicals are going to Hell, I am not an evangelical. In fact, if your definition of evangelical requires exclusivism at all, I am not an evangelical. (I’m an inclusivist although I think Scripture is deliberately fuzzy on the topic)

If your definition of evangelical requires a literal, context-insensitive interpretation of Scripture and/or a belief in inerrancy (no mistakes of any kind, even historical/scientific) then I am not an evangelical.

If your definition of evangelical requires voting for the most conservative political party available, I am not an evangelical. If your definition of evangelical requires supporting war, I am not an evangelical.

If your definition of evangelical requires excluding those who have committed certain behaviours – homosexual behaviour, abortions, premarital sex, etc – from the church and publicly judging them, I am not an evangelical.

If your definition of evangelical requires thinking approaching strangers to tell them they are going to Hell, forcing them to pray the Sinner’s Prayer, telling them they’re saved now and walking away content is a good idea, I am not an evangelical.

If your definition of evangelical is equivalent to Reformed conservative Protestantism, I am not an evangelical.

Book Recommendations

Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology by Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy: Amazon.com Amazon.ca

Reformed and Always Reforming: The Post-Conservative Approach to Evangelical Theology by Roger Olson Amazon.com Amazon.ca

Letters to a Young Evangelical by Tony Campolo Amazon.com Amazon.ca

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

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