The Baptist historian David Bebbington of the University of Stirling in Scotland tags Evangelicalism, a popular denomination of Christianity in America with very strong roots in Protestantism and the so-called Great Awakenings, with four central identifying marks.
- Conversionism — No one is a Christian by default
- Crucicentrism — The cross of Christ is God’s central salvific act
- Biblicism — The Bible in its historical-grammatical sense is God’s authoritative self-revelation
- Activism — God has a mission for humanity.
Based on these four marks, I actually consider myself an evangelical. Why?
I agree with conversionism in principle; however, I would not formulate it as belief in inherited guilt. If conversionism requires such a formulation, then I would not agree with it. Personally, I think Crucicentrism and Biblicism could be combined into a single factor, namely, belief in God’s self-revelation. In my opinion, the cross is a truer revelation of the character of God than the Bible. Why? The Bible is just words on a page, but the crucifixion is God on a cross. If only I could convey to you, reader, the sheer magnitude of the last four words of the previous sentence. Thankfully, there were people in the world like St. Matthew, the Apostle Paul, and there are still people in the world like Jurgen Moltmann, David Bentley Hart, N. T. Wright, and Marilyn McCord Adams, who really capture this beautifully. I believe in activism–because a Christianity that does not believe that our decisions in this life matter is, in my view, heterodox.
So there you have it. I am an Evangelical. However, I think that:
- Donald Trump would be an awful president.
- Gay marriage should be legal.
- There are worse problems in America than abortion.
- Women can operate in clerical roles.
- Victims of spousal abuse should leave their spouses. Paul says something to the effect that a sinner in the church should be “…handed over to Satan for the destruction of [the] flesh so that [the] spirit may be saved…” It astounds me that abusive husbands are given a free pass by many in the American Evangelical church.
- Classic Rock is some of the best music around.
- The universe is very old and God utilized evolution in creation.
Etc., etc., etc. So am I an Evangelical? According to Bebbington, yes. According to American “Evangelicalism,” probably not.