Evangelicalism

A term in common use only in the twentieth century, used to describe the international movement which is committed to the historic Protestant understanding of the Evangel. Its adherents should be distinguished from those of three other broad groupings within professing Christianity: nonevangelical Protestantism; Catholicism; and the so-called sects and cults. Evangelicalism has become the defender of the historically orthodox Protestant theologies (and their subsequent variations) and the underlying biblical exegesis; as a result, some have labeled the movement “Conservative Evangelicalism.”

Because of its emphasis on personal commitment (rather than comprehension of all of a given population) and acceptance of the Bible as the basis for its authority (rather than institutional bishops in supposed apostolic succession), Evangelicalism has remained clearly distinct from Catholicism, both Roman and Orthodox, despite their common Trinitarian supernaturalism in the face of naturalistic trends in Protestantism. Evangelicalism's acceptance of historic Trinitarianism, however, distinguished it from various non-Protestant sectarian movements-Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.

Since it is usually missionary-minded, Evangelicalism is found almost everywhere in the world. Its manifestation is primarily to be found within the histories of the various Protestant denominational families, chiefly Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed (Presbyterian and Congregational), Mennonite (Anabaptist), Baptist, Quaker, Moravian, Dunker Brethren, Wesleyan (including parallel movements among non-English-speaking people), Plymouth Brethren, Campbellite, Adventist, Pentecostal, Bible Churches, and some of the Third World denominations rising indigenously or resulting from transdenominational missions. The diversity is best accounted for by the differences in time, place, and context of independently originating evangelical awakenings which become institutionally self-perpetuating. Amid all the organizational confusion, evangelicals recognize each other by the common message of eternal salvation which they proclaim. They work also in many nondenominational enterprises-faith missions, Christian education, Evangelical Alliance, world congresses on evangelism, etc.

See A.S. Wood, “Evangelicalism: a Historical Perspective,” Theological Students' Fellowship Bulletin, 60 (Summer 1971), pp. 11-20.