Putting the Evangel in Evangelicalism

Why do so many people who outright reject the Christian worldview and choose to live like heathens self-identify as evangelical Christians? For this reason, many Christians, especially in the Reformed camp, say that the label “evangelical” has outlived its purpose. The term has become identified with the Christian Right. Tim Challies reminds us that a large number of evangelicals are not on board with “the alignment of major Evangelical leaders with President Trump and also the stretching of the label to people who functionally deny the ‘evangel’ (good news) at the heart of the word.” (Source)

Because “evangelical” has become so politicized, Eric Davis of The Cripplegate is not gung ho on Christians embracing the term. He says “It might be better if we don’t. But if we do, we need to think of it in terms of the biblical evangel.” What does that mean? “According to the biblical evangel,” says Davis, “‘evangelical’ means more than voting conservative, attending weekly religious services, and owning a Bible.  It’s a worldview centered on the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. The message of the cross is at least that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. But for clarification sake, we can say more than that, especially today. There are lots of things I would like to say to those who take a more mainstream evangelical label. But if I had to boil it down to a few points, I would say these things.”

Davis begins his piece:

Pastrix Paula White, Pastor Robert Jeffress and other religious leaders praying for  then presidential GOP candidate Donald Trump.

Recently there has been discussion about the term “evangelical.” What does it mean? Who are evangelicals? How do we know? It’s a good thing because clarity on truth is a good thing.

The word “evangelical” comes from the New Testament Greek word which means “gospel” or “good news.” Thus, “evangelical” means having to do with the Christian gospel. Understanding the Christian gospel, then, is needed to define who and what constitutes an “evangelical.”

If anyone would speak accurately of the Christian evangel, they must do so from the source of the evangel; the Bible. We could reference many passages, but if I were to choose one, it would be 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. To be sure, the passage was not written to 21st century Westerners in order to recalibrate flawed definitions of “evangelical.” However, it was written to pleasure-loving, professing Christians living in a worldly culture, to recalibrate their understanding of the evangel, or the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The writer of 1 Corinthians was the most evangelical evangelical in Christianity; the apostle Paul. He wrote this section of Scripture to teach a correct theological and philosophical understanding of the Christian gospel. In doing so, he zeros in on the centerpiece of the gospel, the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross refers less to the wooden object and more to the meaning and implications of what God did through the cross.

I am not insisting that Christians embrace the term, “evangelical.” It might be better if we don’t. But if we do, we need to think of it in terms of the biblical evangel. According to the biblical evangel, “evangelical” means more than voting conservative, attending weekly religious services, and owning a Bible. It’s a worldview centered on the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. The message of the cross is at least that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. But for clarification sake, we can say more than that, especially today. There are lots of things I would like to say to those who take a more mainstream evangelical label. But if I had to boil it down to a few points, I would say these things. Continue Reading

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