What does it mean to be an Evangelical? In days gone by Evangelical differentiated Protestants from Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. During the revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and America, Evangelicalism became a movement.
You may recall when Evangelicals were conservatives who identified with the right-wing of the Republican party as well as Religious or Christian Right groups. At one time most Evangelicals were a force in electing candidates with Judeo-Christian values. Much has changed in the Evangelical movement. That change came about when Purpose-driven pragmatism reared its ugly head in the visible Church. Just like the secular pragmatist, the Christian pragmatist “focuses on practical approaches and solutions.” Basically it’s a philosophy of “whatever works.” In other words, “The central idea of pragmatism is that truth is proved by whether or not the idea in question “works,” meaning it produces the expected or desired results.”
We see pragmatism played out in the political arena. While conservatives insist on applying the “values voter” litmus test to candidates, pragmatists insist on supporting candidates who would tenaciously push the conservative agenda through Congress. A candidate’s morals and character is not a concern. Moreover, the pragmatist is all about compromise.
A Witch’s Brew
Several years ago I penned a piece that addressed the downgrade in the visible Church. I used supermarket shopping to paint a word picture that many readers found helpful. I pointed out that there’s a “diabolically inspired supermarket of truth and error in the postmodern Church,” and took them for a stroll through a supermarket to shop for the ingredients in Syncretism Stew….
I added the following reminder:
Tragic, isn’t it?
Loose Definitions Of Evangelical
Syncretism in Evangelicalism started happening when elements of various religious beliefs were integrated into mainline denominations. As syncretism spreads, creeds, confessions and doctrine get tossed aside resulting in a fundamental change of beliefs. When Truth declines, false teaching flourishes. The wily serpent uses syncretism to separate God from His people.
Before I move away from syncretism, I want to stress that Evangelicals have been assimilated into the world because of it. More on how assimilation happens in a moment.
So, has Evangelical lost its meaning as some suggest? Or is it still possible to nail down the term? The answer is yes and yes. But in order to fully understand what it means we must go back in time to when the movement first began. It is my hope that after reading this article with the simply stated facts it contains the reader will come to know what Evangelical originally stood for; likewise, those who identify as “Evangelical Christian” will know if they can truthfully make that claim.
What Evangelicals Believe And Why They Believe It
By definition an Evangelical is a Bible believing Christian. A true Evangelical holds that Scripture is the infallible, inerrant, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Word of God. The written Word is the authority by which he lives his life – his “final court of arbitration,” so to speak.
Without a firm grasp of the essential doctrines of Christianity, how will professing Christians recognize false teaching or stand firm in their faith?
According to Alan W. Gomes:
Certain Christian doctrines constitute the core of the faith. Central doctrines include the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and salvation by grace through faith [alone]. These doctrines so comprise the essence of the Christian faith that to remove any of them is to make the belief system non-Christian.
- Scripture teaches that the beliefs mentioned above are of central importance (e.g., 28:19; John 8:24; 1 Cor. 15; Eph. 2:8-10).
- Because these central doctrines define the character of Christianity, one cannot be saved and deny these.
- Central doctrines should not be confused with peripheral issues, about which Christians may legitimately disagree.
We know these are the essential doctrines of the Faith because they ar in the Bible, God’s Holy Spirit inspired written word to humanity. Any so-called Christian group or movement that reject one or more essential doctrines are considered theological cults. A few examples are Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hebrew Roots, Seventh Day Adventists, Word of Faith, and the New Apostolic Reformation. All are theological cults.
How Does A Person Get Saved?
David wrote in Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Paul tells us in Romans 5:15 that sin and death entered the world through one man, Adam. According to Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...” Ephesians 2:3 says we all gratify “the cravings of our sinful nature.” So clearly, all human beings are born with a sin nature. Because of God’s holy nature He cannot “look on” [tolerate or sanction] sin (Habakkuk 3:13). And because of God’s holy nature, sinners will face His judgment and wrath. God's punishment (judgment) is to send sinners to hell forever. The good news is that God offers a way of escape from eternal punishment. Continuing with Romans 3, verse 24 tells us that we are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
In spite of the fact that God punishes sinners, as I mentioned above there is a way to escape punishment. How? According to Acts 20:21, we must repent of our sins and place our faith in Christ. Because all human beings are dead in our sins, we need to be made alive. How is it possible for a dead person to come to life? The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, raises the spiritually dead person to life and BOOM! the dead person is born again. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Here’s how Justin Edwards sums it up:
An article entitled “The Alignment of New Evangelicals with Apostasy” expands on who an Evangelical is and comments on changes that have been occurring over the past 50 plus years to individuals who are categorized as such:
Many people are unaware that the word Evangelical has been hijacked by "woke" elitist liberals/progressive social justice warriors who make no bones about the fact that they out right reject some of the essential doctrines of the faith mentioned above. Because they’re liberals or, as they prefer, post-Evangelicals, they deem the Bible’s moral decrees old-fashioned, out-of-date, passé. Moreover, they no longer try to present the Gospel of Christ as a truth claim, as they are partial to a more relative understanding of truth. Because post-Evangelicals are steeped in political correctness and pragmatism, they’d never dream of pushing their religious views on someone else, thus they choose not to share the Gospel with the lost. To them it’s no big deal for Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims to remain in their religion for the reason that, to enter heaven, trusting in Christ for salvation isn’t a “must” despite the fact that Jesus clearly stated: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) When Jesus said “No one,” He meant no one.
Many post-Evangelicals are universalists. The universalist believes that God so loved the world that His intent is to save everybody who ever lived; likewise, upon death each and every one of us loveable creatures will join Him in heaven – and that includes the unrepentant sinner who hasn’t trusted in Christ for salvation. Hell? Haha, the joke’s on those nasty fundamentalist Christians who believe in it. Hell doesn’t exist, say many post-Evangelicals.
It should come as no surprise that woke/social justice Evangelicals support left wing political policies and causes. In fact, many of them hold the opposite views of conservative Evangelicals. For example, they support abortion on demand...gun control…the LGBT’s radical agenda which includes same-sex “marriage”…redistribution of wealth…women’s equality...oppose capital punishment...social justice causes…the list goes on.
Confusing isn’t it? The point I’m making is that in this culture when someone says “I’m an Evangelical,” it doesn’t really tell us anything.
In “Evangelicals Are Politically Irrelevant Fay Voshell helps us better understand our confusion while at the same time reflecting on how we got to where we now are:
I’ll wind this up with this quote by Mike Ratliff:
Helpful Research Resources
This article was adapted from Evangelicals Divided, A Movement Fractured (2016)© Marsha West
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.