However, I learned later that a Catholic can be evangelical and a church claiming to be "evangelical" may not have a minuscule feature of what they claim they should be. It is true that there has been ongoing debate about the true identity of the evangelicals. The reason for this is that evangelicalism has complex historical origins and continues to evolve. Changes of alliances and emphases have been too many too mention. Furthermore, the different personalities that emerge as big influences and not too often become the unofficial spokesmen in every generation added to the complications of establishing who must be considered evangelicals or not.
McGrath says that most evangelicals and well-informed observers of the movement would suggest that evangelicalism is essentially colligatory, in that it finds its identity in relation to a series of central interacting themes and concerns, including the following:
- A focus, both devotional and theological, on the person of Jesus Christ, especially his death on the cross;
- The identification of Scripture as the ultimate authority in matters of spirituality, doctrine and ethics;
- An emphasis upon conversion or a 'new birth' as life-changing religious experience;
- A concern for sharing the faith, especially through evangelism.
Allister McGrath, A Passion for Truth: The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism, 22-23.