Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Who are the evangelicals?

Long ago I used to think that there are only two kinds of Christianity, these are Evangelical and Catholic (both with capital letters). If a particular group or denomination does not belong to either of these kind, then they are considered as cult. This categorization is rather reasonable because I was converted to an evangelical Christianity in a country where the default religion is Catholicism.

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.
McGrath emphasizes that evangelicalism are willing to accept diversity as long as this does not concern the central tenets of the Christian faith. These are the affirmation of Scripture in Christian living and thinking, however, there is freedom in the manner in which this authority was articulated and conceptualized.

Allister McGrath, A Passion for Truth: The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism, 22-23.

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