What is an Evangelical?

USA Today had an interesting article on the “evangelical Christians” yesterday. Cathy Grossman considered whether the E-word can be saved. What was interesting is that this is not so much an article discussing the political impact of evangelicals, but one exploring the question of what evangelicals need to believe to be considered and evangelical Christian. You can’t expect in-depth coverage in this mcpaper, but even in this brief piece we can see that its not just us theologically fundamental, conservative types that have seen a change in Christian beliefs. The whole concept of “evangelical” has been watered down. Grossman writes: “The term has become so diluted and covers such a wide spectrum of believers that it no longer clearly identifies specific leaders, programs or ideas.” In other words, it seems that the word, once meaningful and expressive of core beliefs, is now meaningless so “Christians” who use it to describe themselves and what they believe may be describing someone who is not even saved.

The article points to the research of George Barna who found that 38% of the US population consider themselves evangelical Christians yet when Barna defined evangelical more specifically using nine characteristics (see here scroll to “research details“) that number shrinks to 9%. And Barna’s 9 points don’t include belief in the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, or even that Jesus rose from the dead.

According to Barna: 

The most striking differences relate to the beliefs of each group. Compared to the 9-point evangelicals, those who say they are evangelicals are: 60% less likely to believe that Satan is real
53% less likely to believe that salvation is based on grace, not works

  • 46% less likely to say they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others
  • 42% less likely to list their faith in God as the top priority in their life
  • 38% less likely to believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth
  • 27% less likely to contend that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings
  • 23% less likely to say that their life has been greatly transformed by their faith
  • We’ll duh! Most “evangelicals” are not Christians beyond label only. Maybe we need to go back to the fundamentals (as politically incorrect as that label has become). USA Today had the five fundamentals in a sidebar to this article … and they got them right. I have to wonder how many “9-point evangelicals” would agree with the fundamentals. I’m guessing there might be fewer followers of Jesus out there than we think. 


    2 responses to “What is an Evangelical?

    • Coops was here

      Exploring Atonement

      So, over the next [I don’t know how long] I have decided to do a series on Exploring the Atonement.
      Being the seasoned theologian and all (sarcastic), I thought it would be a fantastic topic to get to know better – especially since I’ve hea…

    • Patrick


      Luke 9:57-62

      [57] As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

      [58] Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

      [59] He said to another man, “Follow me.”

      But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

      [60] Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

      [61] Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

      [62] Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
      Jesus Christ comes before everything. Nothing in my past life gave me any lasting peace or satisfaction. I was always looking, searching; all my vain attempts to be noticed, appreciated, loved, or respected, ended in ashes. I’ve had it all – marriage, kids, house, car, & job security – & lost it all through, sin. My purpose in life is to proclaim the kingdom of God, without looking back on my past life. I am a sinner who deserves to go to hell but Jesus has delivered me from my inequities, through his death on the cross. His love lasts forever. I was lost but was found by Jesus. I love Jesus, so much. Oh! Merciful Jesus! Praise the Lord!!

      Peace Be With You

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