The term Evangelical may be confusing to some and there may be many who aren't quite sure what it even means. The movement is called Evangelicalism and The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1978) defines the term as follows:
Here are four things that identify Evangelical Christianity and what it means to believe as an Evangelical. For our purposes, we will use the definitive description of evangelicalism as identified and outlined by historian, William Bebbington, a Professor of History and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Known as the 'Bebbington quadrilateral,' these were first published in his book, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s.
The Evangelical believes in the authority of the Holy Bible. Evangelicals believe that all spiritual truth is contained in the scriptures. This principle is also referred to as Biblical Literalism or Biblical Fundamentalism. In this form of Bible interpretation, there is a hermeneutical approach to scripture that relies on history, and word studies (including grammar from the original language) when studying and understanding the Bible. The reader is concerned with the author’s original intent and context when interpreting the meaning of scripture.
Crucicentrism derives from the word crucifix and has to do with a focus of Christ's atonement for sin on the cross. In theology, which is the study of God, the doctrine of atonement describes how mankind is reconciled to God the Father through the work of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. Specifically, atonement speaks to the forgiveness of sin that was made possible only through Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection from the grave.
The principle of conversionism deals with the fact that the evangelical believes in the existence of original sin and the necessity of a conversion to a 'born-again' state through a saving faith or belief in Christ. Jonathan Edwards (historical Christian preacher, theologian and philosopher) wrote that the supreme proof of true conversion is what he referred to as "holy affections." He went on to describe the converted heart as one that desires after God, fellowship with God and personal holiness. Edwards made a vigilant division distinguishing what he called saving vs. common operations performed in the life of a Believer by the Holy Spirit of God. He wrote:
"[common operations]may sober, arrest and convict men, and may even bring them to what at first appears to be repentance and faith, yet these influences fall short of inward saving renewal" (lain H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography [Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987], p. 255).
Activism speaks to the principle that the gospel needs to be active in both Word and Deed. Evangelicals believe that the gospel must be preached or shared through evangelism-- beginning and ending with preaching, but that faith should be active and demonstrated through our Christian love for others and shown through acts of care to those in need and to the Lost.
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Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987
The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1978)