Are you evangelical?

Poll America and most will say that they are “Christian,” says Gary Langer for ABC news in this beliefnet poll.

Eighty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Most of the rest, 13 percent, have no religion. That leaves just 4 percent as adherents of all non-Christian religions combined — Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and a smattering of individual mentions.

Among those identifying themselves as “Protestants:”

The largest group within the ranks of American Protestants is unaffiliated: Nineteen percent of Americans say they’re Protestants, but don’t cite a specific denomination. They account for more than a third of all Protestants.

The term “Evangelical” had a definite meaning in history, but is now applied to various schools of faith: we hear about Evangelical Muslims, Evangelical Buddhists, and Evangelical Hindus. Are Roman Catholics “Evangelical?”

In Evangelical: A Brief Definition, John points out that “the contemporary use of the word ‘Evangelical’ often refers to an amorphous mass of people with different convictions, confessions and beliefs about the Gospel. Sometimes this even includes persons who do not believe in the authority of the Bible and, like liberal theology of old, believe in a theology based on consensus, modern psychology or worldly politics. ”

Now back to the poll of America:

Thirty-seven percent of all Christians describe themselves as born-again or evangelical; that includes nearly half of all Protestants (47 percent), as well as a small share (14 percent) of Catholics.

Baptists again dominate: Sixty-two percent of Baptists say they’re evangelical Christians, compared to 46 percent of all other Protestant denominations combined, and 37 percent of nondenominational Protestants.

Consider the meaning of “Christian,” “church,” and “biblical.” Like so many other terms, the contemporary definition of “evangelical” looks quite ambiguous — possibly these terms have entirely lost their meaning. Quite the contrary, the historical definition of “evangelical” is inexhaustible in meaning. It is this:

Historically, Evangelicals confessed a belief in the truth of the five solas: Sola gratia, Sola fide, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria. In short, they confessed that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Person and work of Christ alone as revealed in the Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.

When we look at the historical meaning of the term, indeed evangelicals are strangers in a strange land.

Advertisements