Evangelicalism

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Not to be confused with Evangelism.
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Evangelicalism is a term referring to a movement in Christianity, a type of Christian, and a group of Protestant denominations. Although the boundaries can blur, evangelical is generally considered distinct from “mainline” Protestant denominations. Adding to the confusion is the innovation of the emergent church.

According to the National Association of Evangelicals website, denominations include Reformed, Holiness, Anabaptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic and others.

Contents

Characteristics

The characteristics of evangelicals include:

History

Evangelicalism has roots in 17th century England, Germany and Scandanavia and flourished during the
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Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century. Evangelicals including William Wilberforce were heavily involved in the social justice issues in the 18th century such as the abolition of slavery. In the United States, this divided the church as well as the country. In the early 20th century there were “modernists” who argued for accommodating modern knowledge and “fundamentalists” and some who did not feel part of either side. Some conservatives such as Aimee Semple McPherson continued to be involved in social action. Billy Graham attempted to continue this tradition. Outside the United States, evangelicals are not associated with the religious right.

In the 1950's and 60's, social change began to threaten the existence racially segregated schools in southern U.S. states. Christian Baptists traditionally avoiding involvement in politics. Evangelical schools provided an education while ensuring students were suitably indoctrinated into evangelicals' own interpretation of Christianity. However, court rulings began to undermine funding and tax exemption for schools that were racially discriminatory. In order to protect their interests, as well as do fund raising for evangelism, preachers tried to find social issues to unite the Christian right into a cohesive political force. Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich were among the leaders of the movement.[3] Attempting to rally support behind segregation proved to be counter-productive because many in the Christian right had become more accepting of racial integration. However, evangelical leaders were determined to gain political power to prevent further erosion of their influence. The U.S. Christian right was not particularly concerned with abortion until the late 1970's.[3] Until that time, various evangelical bodies were passing resolutions that affirmed the right to legal abortion.

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After preachers found voters were receptive to an anti-abortion message, Falwell's organization Moral Majority was founded in 1979, a full six years after the landmark Roe v. Wade case. Evangelicals entered into political alliances with politicians, primarily Republicans but also some Democrats. In return for votes, the politicians would publicly and frequently talk about evangelicals' pet social issues, but changes in access to abortion were slow to arrive.[4] Politicians were also glad to have something to distract voters away from economic policy. This emphasis on social issues enabled a wide spectrum of Christians to be united into one political movement, which was otherwise fragmented and had little common ground. Theologians such as Francis Schaeffer wrote that the U.S was suffering a "moral decline" that only evangelicals could address. Over time, the abortion issue was largely replaced by other controversies such as discrimination against homosexuals and climate change.[4]

In the 21st century, evangelical extremists began to gain direct political power and began re-visiting culture war issues, such as access to abortion, so called freedom of conscience and the establishment of the Christian religion in the U.S.

Criticism

Evangelicalism is defined by strict adherence to certain doctrine. There is a failure of evangelicals to exercise critical thought to their own belief systems because they believe their belief systems must not be questioned. [5] This sometimes manifests as a rejection of human reason and adoption of anti-intellectualism. However, not all evangelicals reject self-criticism.[6]

"The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.[7]"

In the United States, evangelicals have largely aligned with a single political party, which some evangelicals consider to be a risk to their movement. [6]

The movement of claims exclusivity by saying "my religion is the one true religion" and all other religious beliefs are false.

Evangelicals are often intolerant of homosexuals.

Other Christian denominations have criticized evangelicals for focusing too much on holding a specific set of beliefs, while leaving little time for putting Christian principles into practice.

"Much of my evangelical Christianity was an assent to propositional truths. Christianity was something you believed.[6]"

There is a tendency toward science and evolution denialism with evangelical groups.[6] Some evangelicals, such as Francis Collins, argue against this position saying that Christian belief and science are entirely compatible and complimentary.

References

  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. 3.0 3.1 [3]
  4. 4.0 4.1 [4]
  5. [5]
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 [6]
  7. [7]

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