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The word evangelicalism often refers to a historically recent (approximately 150 years), yet broad, collection of religious beliefs, practices, and traditions which can be found among some Protestant Christians and some Evangelical Catholics. Evangelicalism is typified by an emphasis on evangelism, and by what adherents call a "personal experience" of conversion (attributed by some as a "born again" experience).

Current media usage of the term (especially in the United States of America) is often synonymous with conservative Protestant Christians. This is only partly accurate, as the movement embraces a wide range of expressions of faith around the four core characteristics.


The Bible is accepted by evangelicals as reliable and the ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice. The doctrines of sola scriptura and sola fide are often primary. The historicity of the miracles of Jesus and the virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and Second Coming are asserted, although there are a variety of understandings of the end times and eschatology.

The characteristics of Evangelicalism as defined by David Bebbington, in his study of British evangelicalism, are known as the Bebbington Quadrilateral, [1], the four characteristics of evangelicals are :

  1. Conversionism - Emphasis on the conversion experience, also called being saved, or new birth or born again after John 3:3. Thus evangelicals often refer to themselves as born-again Christians. This experience is said to be received by "faith alone" and to be given by God as the result of "grace alone".
  2. Biblicism - The Protestant canon of the Bible, as God's revelation to humanity, is the primary source of religious authority. Thus, the doctrine of sola scriptura is often emphasized. Bible prophecy, especially as interpreted according to dispensationalism, is often emphasized as well.
  3. Activism - Encouragement of evangelism (the act of sharing one's beliefs) -- in organized missionary work or by personal encounters and relationships with others.
  4. Crucicentrism - A central focus on Christ's redeeming work on the cross as the only means for salvation and the forgiveness of sins.

John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron in Ohio, found in the 2004 American Religious Landscape Report[2] that despite many variations, evangelicals in the United States generally adhere to four core beliefs:

  1. Biblical inerrancy
  2. Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus and not good works (in particular the belief in atonement for sins at the cross and the resurrection of Christ) Scriptural references: John 14:6, Hebrews 9
  3. Individuals (above an age of accountability) must personally trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.
  4. All Christians are commissioned to evangelize and should be publicly baptized as a symbolic confession of faith. Scriptural reference: Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8

An American summit on Bible inerrancy was held in Chicago, Illinois, in 1978 and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was signed by more than 200 evangelical scholars. Although some theologically conservative evangelicals hold to inerrancy, there is no absolute consensus among all evangelicals regarding biblical inerrancy; rather there is a general acceptance of biblical authority.


The term 'evangelical', in a lexical but less commonly used sense, refers to anything implied in the belief that Jesus is the Messiah. The word comes from the Greek word for 'Gospel' or 'good news': ευαγγελιον evangelion, from eu- "good" and angelion "message". In that strictest sense, to be evangelical would mean to be merely Christian, that is, founded upon, motivated by, acting in agreement with, spreading the "good news" message of the New Testament.

In Western cultural usage, the word Evangelical has generally referred to Protestantism, with its intended contrast to Roman Catholicism. At different times, the name has developed nuances according to the controversies of the age, although many Catholics consider themselves "Evangelical" in the sense that they must spread the Gospel message in their daily lives, as well as to the world.

In continental Europe since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, Lutheran churches have been called "Evangelical" (German Evangelische) churches, in contradistinction to the Reformed churches of Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and their associates. This usage is not widely standard in the English language.

From the 17th century onward, the Puritan party in the Church of England, which sought to identify that church with the Reformed movement of the Reformation, was also called the evangelical party. Some evangelicals withdrew from that Communion and became known as "Non-Conformists" and "Dissenters". The more radical of the Non-Conformist evangelicals were known as "Separatists" or "Independents". Today, Evangelicals in the Anglican Communion generally fall into three broad groups: conservative, open, charismatic.

In the 18th century, the Wesleyan revival within the Church of England influenced the formation of a party of pietistic Anglicans, whose descendant movement is still called the "Evangelical party". In the United States, Jonathan Edwards and the "New Lights" (revival Calvinists) were opposed by "Old Lights" (confessional Calvinists). George Whitfield, a Methodist, continued and expanded this pietistic "New Light" revivalism together with the non-Calvinist, Arminian Methodist movement. This broad movement became known as the First Great Awakening, which is the foundation of what is most commonly called "Evangelicalism" in the United States today.

In the 19th century, everywhere that Protestantism had taken root, including the United States, evangelicals were the supporters of the Revival and the social activism that arose from it ("Second Great Awakening" in the United States).

In the late 20th century and early 21st century, such conservative Protestant Christians, and their churches and social movements, are often called evangelical to distinguish them from Protestants who have a tendency towards more Liberal Christianity.

The earliest meanings continue to be current, depending on the context. In the name Evangelical Orthodox Church, for example, the word reflects the fact that its founders had all been deeply involved in the contemporary Evangelical movement. Several churches, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have Evangelical in their title, meaning evangelical in the sense of "Protestant," without being connected to the modern evangelical movement. For most of Protestant history the term 'evangelical' for a self-description has been used by both modernists and fundamentalists. However, in common contemporary parlance, the name has been all but relinquished to the "moderates," rather than liberals or fundamentalists.

In foreign languages, words derived from ευαγγελιον evangelion should not automatically be equated with "evangelical(ism)". In the German language, the word "evangelisch" means Protestant, contrasted to "evangelikal" (borrowed from English). Germany's union of Protestant churches, including mainstream Lutheran and Reformed churches, is the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland or Evangelical Church in Germany.

Note that in continental Europe the word Evangelical is often understood to mean simply Protestant, or specifically Lutheran, as a literal translation of the German "evangelisch". In Germany, churches of the Protestant religious tradition known as Lutheran in the USA and other parts of the world are referred to specifically as Evangelische (literally "Evangelicals"). This does not correspond to standard use in English. See more under "Usage" below.


Roots of the evangelical movement

In its early years, what was to become known as evangelicalism was largely a hybrid of the Reformed emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy, and the pietist emphasis on the heart and a "personal relationship" with God. The movement saw a variety of liturgical styles and ministry approaches, though strong preaching, personal conversion and evangelism were common features.

The contemporary evangelical movement has its origins in the 18th century, when the First Great Awakening was deeply influencing American religious life. In the same time period the Methodist movement was beginning to renew parts of British Christianity, although this was at first resisted by the majority of the Anglican established church.

Much of this religious fervor was a reaction to Enlightenment thinking and the deistic writings of many of the western philosophical elites. The chief emphases of the fledgling Methodist movement as well as the Awakening were individual conversion, personal piety and Bible study, public morality (often including temperance and family values) and abolitionism, a broadened role for lay people and women in worship, evangelism, and cooperation in evangelism across denominational lines, (that is, interdenominationally).

Key figures included John Wesley, Anglican priest and originator of the Methodist movement; Jonathan Edwards, American Puritan preacher/theologian; George Whitefield, Anglican priest and chaplain to Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, founder of many revivalist chapels and promoter of associated causes; Robert Raikes, who established the first Sunday school to prevent children in the slums entering a life of crime; popular hymn writer Charles Wesley, and American Methodist bishop, Francis Asbury.

19th century

Evangelical Christians were a diverse group, coming from denominations which included Methodists, Quakers, Congregationalists, other dissenters and Anglicans (some of whom increasingly embraced evangelical doctrine). Some were at the forefront of movements such as missions, abolition of slavery, prison reform, orphanage establishment, hospital building and founding educational institutions. One of the effects of the movement was to reduce hostility between sects and encourage collaboration in these philanthropic efforts.

In 1846, eight hundred Christians from ten countries met in London and set up the Evangelical Alliance. They saw this as a "new thing in church history, a definite organization for the expression of unity amongst Christian individuals belonging to different churches." However, the Alliance floundered on the issue of slavery. Despite this difficulty, it provided a strong impetus for the establishment of national and regional evangelical fellowships.

Evangelicals, along with trade unionists, Chartists, members of co-operatives, the self-help movement and the Church of England were involved in setting up the temperance movements in the U.S., Ireland, Scotland and England.

William Booth, a Methodist minister, founded the Christian Mission in London on July 5, 1865. This became The Salvation Army in 1878 as it took on a quasi-military style, with an emphasis on personal holiness, temperance and marching bands of supporters.

20th century

Chinese evangelic church in Madrid, Spain, a traditionally Catholic nation.

Evangelicals today are as varied as ever. Some work entirely within their own denominations; others pay less heed to denominational differences and may be members of less formal and locally-based, independent churches. Some churches have grown to large sizes, often called megachurches. There is a long-standing evangelical tradition of practical assistance (e.g. medical, educational) along with the gospel as ministry, though some will eschew attempts to influence society by means other than the gospel.

Others, particularly in the USA, engage in attempts at social improvement through political means. Evangelical activism might be expressed in literacy training, inner-city relief and food banks, adoption agencies, marriage counseling and spousal abuse mediation, day-care centers for children, and counsel and care for unwed mothers, or any number of other help and advocacy works. The popular perception seems to locate all of evangelicalism on the 'right' of political controversies like abortion and same-sex marriage or civil unions. This supposed uniformity is not actually the case though there is some correspondence between theological/religious conservatism and social conservatism.

Within the broad denominations (often called "mainline denominations") evangelical movements are organizing within various structures, which are often referred to as the Confessing Movement. The theological call for the mainline churches to return to their evangelical roots is known as Paleo-Orthodoxy, especially within Methodism, where Thomas Oden is one of its best known spokesmen.

The movement represents a range of Protestant understandings of the Bible, liturgical forms, and church traditions - some of which are very non-traditional, and artistically conceived or innovative. On the average, evangelicals tend to be distrustful of reliance upon historical definitions of belief, if they are not qualified as being subordinate to the Bible; and yet, they may be inclined to refer to these documents of faith in defense of their understanding of the Bible. In controversies with those who favor a more highly structured liturgy, the evangelical party is usually the one in favor of a relatively more simple, casual and participatory form of worship, centered on preaching and sometimes the Lord's Supper (Eucharist), rather than more elaborate ceremony.

Especially toward the end of the 20th century, the secular media tended to describe traditional Christian believers as fundamentalists, including most evangelicals. However, in both movements, these terms fundamentalist and evangelical are not synonymous; the labels represent very distinct differences of approach which both groups are diligent to maintain.


For more information, see: Christian Fundamentalism.

At the turn of the 20th century, modern biblical scholarship gained status in many Protestant denominations. This produced understandings and/or interpretations of the role of the Bible for Christians which was seen by opponents as a threat to Christian faith and the welfare of society. The Fundamentalist Movement was a conservative Protestant response in the USA to liberal trends in their churches. It was a counter movement to preserve what they saw as being a minimum orthodoxy, a fundamental Christianity, over against the liberals' abandonment of basic features of traditional understanding of faith. These included inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the authenticity of his miracles, and the belief that his death on the cross takes away sins. This response, called Fundamentalism, was intended to identify a minimum orthodoxy as found in the official statements of faith of the various Protestant denominations in which this movement arose.

Renewed Evangelicalism: Neo-evangelicalism

For more information, see: Neo-evangelicalism.

The Neo-Evangelical movement was a response among traditionally orthodox Protestants to fundamentalist Christianity's tendency to foster separatism, beginning in the 1920s and 1930s. Neo-evangelicals held the view that the modernist and liberal parties in the Protestant churches had surrendered their heritage as evangelicals by accommodating the views and values of the world. However they saw the Fundamentalists' separatism and rejection of the Social gospel as an over-reaction. They charged modernists with having lost their identity as evangelicals, and attacked the Fundamentalists as having lost the Christ-like heart of evangelicalism. They argued that the Gospel needed to be reasserted to distinguish it from the innovations of the liberals and the Fundamentalists; thus they coined the term, 'Neo-' (new or renewed) 'evangelicalism'.


The Post-Evangelical is the name of a book by Dave Tomlinson [1], published in 1995, in which the British author attempts to characterize as a movement various trends of dissatisfaction among evangelicals. The term is used by others with comparable intent, often to distinguish from ex-evangelicals, or anti-evangelicals, those evangelicals in the so-called emerging church movement. Dave Tomlinson argues that "Linguistically, the distinction [between evangelical and post-evangelical] is similar to the one that sociologists make between the modern and postmodern eras."[3]

Parachurch organizations

For more information, see: Parachurch organizations.

Parachurch organizations are a vehicle by which many evangelical Christians work collaboratively, both outside and across their denominations, to engage with the world in mission, social welfare and evangelism. These non-denominational organizations function to bridge the gap between the church and society. These are organizations "alongside" (Grk: para-) church structures, meaning that they usually seek to define their specific task as more or less subordinate to the institution and the general task of the local church, intended to support and enhance the effectiveness of the church.

Contemporary demographics

Template:Globalize/USA On a worldwide scale evangelical Churches are (together with Pentecostals) the most rapidly growing Christian churches. The two are even beginning to overlap, in a movement sometimes called Transformationalism. Growth in Africa is rapid, and because it is not dependent on European and North American evangelical sources allowing greater diversity. An example of this can be seen in the African Independent Churches. The World Evangelical Alliance is "a network of churches in 127 nations that have each formed an evangelical alliance and over 100 international organizations joining together to give a worldwide identity, voice and platform to more than 420 million evangelical Christians" [4]. The Alliance (WEA) was formed in 1951 by Evangelicals from 21 countries. It has worked to support its members to work together globally.




Template:RefimproveEvangelicalism is not widely followed in Ireland where the population are predominantly Roman Catholic. Catholic mass attendance has been falling consistently in recent years, as is the attendance throughout the world. Although, in comparison to the rest of the world, Ireland remains one of the most religious dedicated countries within the Christian churches.

United Kingdom



Faith Mission is a Protestant evangelical Christian organization founded in Scotland in 1886 by John George Govan.


United States

The 2004 survey of Religion and politics in the United States [2] identified the Evangelical percentage of the population at 26.3%; while Catholics are 22% and Mainline Protestants make up 16%. This is the fourth survey undertaken by Dr. Green to measure political attitudes and religion in the United States. In the 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States, the figures for these same groups are 28.6% (Evangelical), 24.5% (Catholics), and 13.9% (Mainline Protestant.) The latter figures are based on a 2001 study of the self-described religious identification of the adult population for 1990 and 2001 from the Graduate School and University Center at the City University of New York. [5]

Barna Research Group [2] surveyed Christians in the United States in 2004 and asked nine questions to determine whether the respondent was an evangelical Christian. Seven of the questions asked were:

  1. Are you a born again Christian?
  2. Is your faith very important in your life today?
  3. Do you believe you have a personal responsibility to share your religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians?
  4. Do you believe that Satan exists?
  5. Do you believe that eternal salvation is possible only through faith, not works?
  6. Do you believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth?
  7. Do you believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today?

The survey methodology was not given on this website. The questions asked by the group do not necessarily represent all the characteristics of evangelical Christians. This survey found evangelicals to be a subset of the Born agains.

According to numerous surveys, younger Evangelicals oppose abortion in even greater numbers than their elders do, leading many to believe the tide is turning against abortion in America. The National Association of Evangelicals is a U.S. agency which coordinates cooperative ministry for its member denominations.

Evangelical politics in the United States


For more information, see: Christian right and Evangelical left.

Evangelical Christians in the United States were prominently active in political movements which are now popularly considered to be important social advancements, such as Women's Rights and Suffrage, and Abolitionism. Evangelical influence was also evident in past movements which are now unpopular, such as prohibition and anti-immigration . But Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision rendered in 1973 preventing states from making laws that prohibit abortion, is the most prominent landmark of a new era of conservative evangelical political action, unprecedented in its intensity and coordination.

In the U.S. the Religious Right is especially influential in the Republican Party. George W. Bush, elected president of the U.S. in 2000, is a self-identified born-again Christian who received strong support from evangelical voters. The Bush Administration is guided by the President's values which do not necessarily reflect core evangelical beliefs. Often, criticism of controversial conservative political stances frequently falls on the U.S. evangelical movement as a whole.

The mass-appeal of the Christian right in the so-called red states, and its success in rallying resistance to certain social agendas, is sometimes characterized as an attempt to impose theocracy on an otherwise unwilling and secular society, although most evangelicals deny this. There are indications that the belief is widespread among conservative evangelicals in the USA that Christianity should enjoy a privileged place in American public life according its importance in American life and history. Accordingly, those evangelicals often strenuously oppose the expression of other faiths in schools or in the course of civic functions. For example, when Venkatachalapathi Samuldrala became the first Hindu priest to offer an invocation before Congress in 2000, the September 21 edition of the online publication operated by the Family Research Council, Culture Facts, raised objection:

While it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country's heritage. The USA's founders expected that Christianity--and no other religion--would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples' consciences and their right to worship. They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference.

However, the Christian Right is not made completely (or even a majority) of Evangelical Christians. According to an article in the November 11, 2004 issue of The Economist, entitled "The Triumph of the Religious Right", "The implication of these findings is that Mr Bush's moral majority is not, as is often thought, composed of a bunch of right-wing evangelical Christians. Rather, it consists of traditionalist and observant church-goers of every kind: Catholic and mainline Protestant, as well as evangelicals, Mormons, and Sign Followers. Meanwhile, modernist evangelicals tend to be Democratic." Although evangelicals are currently seen as being on the Christian Right in the United States, there are those in the center and Christian Left as well. In other countries there is no particular political stance associated with evangelicals. Many evangelicals have little practical interest in politics.

According to recent reports in the New York Times, many evangelicals have tired of Republican politics and seek to expand their movement's social agenda to include poverty, combating AIDS in the Third World, and protecting the environment.[6] Christian Right activist Terry Fox, who stepped down from his pastorate when his congregation told him to stop dwelling on right-wing issues in his sermons, told the Times:

“I don’t mind telling you that I paid a price for the political stands I took,” Fox said. “The pendulum in the Christian world has swung back to the moderate point of view. The real battle now is among evangelicals.”


  1. Bebbington, David William (1989). Evangelicalism in modern Britain : a history from the 1730s to the 1980s. London: Unwin Hyman. ISBN 0049410180. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 American Religious Landscape and Political Attitudes: A Baseline for 2004. American Landscape Reports. Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics (2004). Retrieved on 2007-04-04.
  3. The Post-Evangelical, Dave Tomlinson, ISBN 0310253853, p 28
  4. History. World Evangelical Alliance (2006). Retrieved on 2007-05-24.
  5. Kosmin, Barry A.; Egon Mayer, Ariela Keysar (2001). American Religious Identification Survey. City University of New York.; Graduate School and University Center. Retrieved on 2007-04-04.
  6. The Evangelical Crackup, cited from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/28/magazine/28Evangelicals-t.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

See also

Related topics

Contrasting movements


Historical figures, scholars, authors, educators, and leaders

For more information, see: List of evangelical Christians.

Seminaries and theological colleges

For more information, see: List of evangelical seminaries and theological colleges.

External links


Early church history


Evangelical apologetics/theology

Research on Evangelicals