What Is an Evangelical Christian?

Article ID: DC170-1 | By: Kenneth R. Samples

The following is an excerpt from article DC170-1, “What Think Ye of Rome?”from the Christian Research Journal by Kenneth Samples. The entire PDF can be downloaded by following the link at the bottom of the excerpt.

we need to give some definition to what is meant by the often vague and ambiguous term “evangelical.” The term is derived from the Greek noun euangelion, which has been translated “good news,” “glad tidings,” or “gospel.” Therefore, at the most fundamental level, being an evangelical Christian means being a believer in and proclaimer of the gospel (the good news that sinful humanity can find redemption in the doing and dying of Christ [1 Cor. 15:1-4]). If this were all there was to being an evangelical, however, virtually every Christian group would claim this title. Obviously, the term carries a deeper historical and theological meaning. Lutheran theologian and apologist John Warwick Montgomery has summarized well the historical roots and doctrinal foundations that stand behind evangelical Christianity:

To my way of thinking, “evangelicals” are bound together not by virtue of being members of the same Protestant confessional stream, but by their firm adherence to certain common theological tenets and emphases. These latter would summarize as follows: (1) Conviction that the Bible alone is God’s objectively inerrant revelation to man; (2) Subscription to the Ecumenical creeds as expressing the Trinitarian heart of biblical religion; (3) Belief that the Reformation confessions adequately convey the soteriological essence of the scriptural message, namely, salvation by grace alone through faith in the atoning death and resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ; (4) Stress upon personal, dynamic, living commitment to Christ and resultant prophetic witness for Him to the unbelieving world; and (5) A strong eschatological perspective. Whether a member of a large “inclusivist” church or of a small “separated” body, whether Anglican or Pentecostal, an evangelical regards himself in home territory where the above theological atmosphere exists1

This concise summary cogently sets forth the belief system that stands behind authentic evangelical Christianity. And it is this broad base that evangelicals affirm to be the very bedrock of Christianity itself.