Defining Evangelicalism

In a series of posts during the winter, I walked through the various Christian theologies of hell (as well as I understood them), and indicated that I am not fully satisfied by any of them, though (a) I have rejected exclusivism and (b) I am somewhat sympathetic toward universalism.

Now, I am going to talk about a term that does describe where I am on my spiritual journey. That term is “post-evangelical.”

To get things started, we need to define “evangelical” as a theology. (In other words, I’m not going to talk about the sociopolitical nature of evangelicalism – instead, I am going to talk about the theological foundation on which evanglicalism is built).

Here, as I see them, are the basic tenets of evangelicalism:

1. God – God is holy and just. He cannot be in the presence of sin. Indeed, because he is just, he must punish all sin.

2. Sin – all people are sinful. Therefore, there is a great gulf between each individual and God. Unless an individual crosses that gulf, he will face eternal punishment for his sin.

3. Gospel – the gospel is this: by dying on the cross, Jesus bore the punishment that was meant for each of us.

4. Salvation – people are saved from hell by acknowledging that Jesus has borne the punishment for their sins on the cross and accepting him as their personal Savior.

5. Exclusivism – (4) represents the exclusive means of salvation. People cannot be saved in any other way.

6. Ethics – evangelicalism expects that, in order to maintain one’s status as a saved individual, one must commit to certain ethical standards. Normally, these ethics involve avoiding inappropriate sexual activity, avoiding offensive language, avoiding certain vices (sometimes, but not always, smoking or drinking alcohol), regularly praying, regularly studying the bible, and regularly attending church.

7. Scripture – the Christian canon of scripture (Genesis to Revelation) is considered to be authoritative and inerrant.


4 Responses to Defining Evangelicalism

  1. toby says:

    On my post-cofc journey I have encountered many differing views, most of which I agree with (due to our new choice of church and theology). However, one that is quite prevelent that I am not sure about addresses your #6. It is the belief in “once saved, always saved.” I am not disagreeing with you–most Christian’s faith is works-based– but I just wanted to point out my newly discovered alternate to #6.

    btw, Jeremy Camp is coming to town very soon!

  2. Matt says:

    Toby, you’re right. I did gloss over some pretty important issues in #6.

    In spite of my insistence that I wanted to talk about the theology of evangelicalism, however, I felt like #6 was important because the culture of most evangelical churches still places some expectations of this nature on most people. Generally speaking, to be evangelical is to have a certain set of personal ethics, which include those that I’ve listed. Some people may say they are “saved” by doing it, and some may deny that these things “save” them, but either way – these seem to be the main ethics in play.

  3. […] posts:1. Defining evanglicalism2. Why “post-evangelical” is a term of continuity, not a term of […]

  4. […] its heart, evangelicalism (which I defined in more detail here) holds that each person suffers from the same basic problem, which is this: he/she will […]

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