What is an evangelical? Our friends at Merriam-Webster list several meanings for the word evangelical. One definition means “relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels.” They also say that it can mean “emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual.” Even a classic dictionary like Webster understands that evangelical is centered around the gospel, the good news. The gospel is the foundation of what it means to be an evangelical.
Now ask a person on the street what first comes to mind when mentioning the word evangelical. I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t match Webster’s definition. You will likely be given a host of other words that give evangelicals a much less favorable definition. Fundamentalists. Right-wing. Conservative. Judgmental. Ridiculous.
If we were to ask ourselves as Christians who falls under the banner of evangelical, we would have a long list. Fundamentalist. Emergent. Emerging. Traditionalist. Baptist. Methodist. Liberal. Conserative. The list could go on for days. Touchstone magazine posted a forum of six evangelicals discussing the definition of evangelical along with assessing the state of evangelicalism. David Wells, author and professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, has questioned whether or not we should continue to retain the term with all of its baggage and stereotypes. Joe Carter commented on the growing trend of people dropping the term evangelical and declared his intentions to be the last evangelical standing if it comes down to it.
So consider this question…
Should we drop or hold onto the term evangelical? Is it worth retaining?
Much more than hearing your answer to this question, I look forward to hearing why you think it is or isn’t worth retaining. I have several things I want to say on this topic but I will save it for the comments section and possibly a future post. Game on.