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The Term "evangelical"


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I am kinda baffled at why SO many people..even those in Liberal camps find the term "Evangelical" SO appealing. What is it about this word that captures So much appeal for such a majority? The very word Christian is good enough for me and the added term "Evangelical" holds no particular bonus or pluss for me.

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For me, its because the term implies an overt and passionate intentionality and commitment to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ through-out the world. My understanding of this Good News is more "progressive" than the notions held by our conservative friends, but I'm just as committed about sharing my understandings of the liberating Good News of Jesus as they are.


I guess "Christian" connotes a more passive faith and evangelical implies a more overt, proactive one.

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The following are portions of a document that I created a while back that help compare typical conservative and progressive positions about what's meant by "Jesus is Savior" and "Salvation." If you find yourself agreeing with what you see about Progressive Christianity, and you also feel motivated to spread the word about this perspective, then you may well be a Progressive Evangelical Christian:

: )



A Conservative view: Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity. As God the Son, Jesus has existed always and wasn’t created. He is fully God and fully Man (the two natures joined in union – not mixed). As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus is coequal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. In becoming a human, Jesus was begotten through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus is the only way to God, salvation, and eternal life. Jesus died on a cross according to God’s plan, as a perfect sacrifice and payment for our sins. He rose from the dead on the third day, and is now spiritually and physically immortal. For the next 40 days, He was seen by more than 500 witnesses. His wounds were visible and he ate meals. He physically ascended to Heaven. Jesus will come again visibly and physically at the end of the world to judge the world and establish God’s kingdom. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah promised to Israel in the Old Testament.


A Progressive view: Jesus taught, modeled and invited us to live abundantly in relation to God instead of being in bondage to the ways of the world/empire. Christians are called to follow and imitate these abundantly life-giving ways of Christ (to claim Jesus as Lord of their lives instead of other worldly forces & powers), and invite others to do the same. Good Works accompany faith. If one’s faith is real & authentic, then one can’t help but respond by engaging in service to persons and a world in need. Jesus modeled, lived-out, and manifested a truly liberating way of life – the way of humble self-giving and nonviolent direct action - the "Way of the cross". By living such a life, Jesus proved that it is in fact possible for other humans to live this way as well. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah promised to Israel in the Old Testament.



A Conservative View: Is by God’s grace, not by an individual’s or community’s good works. Salvation must be received as a gift by faith. People must believe in their heart that Jesus died for their sins and physically rose again, which is the assurance of forgiveness and resurrection of our own bodies. This is God’s loving plan to forgive and be reconciled with sinful people.


A Progressive view: Is by God’s grace and can be received by us with or without our awareness. People who are aware of this make the decision to accept the free gift of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and all that He meant in their lives. Even before Jesus was executed, He provided atonement (at-one-ment – reconnection with God and social reacceptance) to hurting souls via His gracious interaction in their lives. People are saved from the ways of the world and for the ways of God’s Kingdom when they accept and live-out this truth. Salvation is both personal and societal, and it is experienced here and now and also later in Heaven.

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All this said, I still tend to prefer to refer to myself as "a follower of the radical Way of Jesus the Christ", but I refuse to allow the Christian "Right" to monopolize the terms "Christian" or "Evangelical."

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BeachOfEden, I'm not enamored with the word "Evangelical." Some days I don't even want the Christian label either since that comes with so much baggage. But I've noticed that I connect with the Evangelical's sense of mission. The whole mission concept is being revamped by emergent evangelicals, so it is different than what many are used to.


Quote from Christianity Today article:


With his circle diagrams, McLaren is popularizing the work of the late British missionary Lesslie Newbigin, who returned from a lifetime in India to spend his last years reflecting on the need for a new theology of mission. "According to Newbigin, the greatest heresy in monotheism is a misunderstanding of the doctrine of election," McLaren says. "Election is not about who gets to go to heaven; election is about who God chooses to be part of his crisis-response team to bring healing to the world."


Here's another article

where McLaren talks about what being missional means.

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"BeachOfEden, I'm not enamored with the word "Evangelical." Some days I don't even want the Christian label either since that comes with so much baggage. But I've noticed that I connect with the Evangelical's sense of mission. The whole mission concept is being revamped by emergent evangelicals, so it is different than what many are used to. "


I agree with the statement that I AM impressed with Evangelicals commitement to "Become all things to all sorts of people so that we may gain some." What I mean by this is..for example last summer I was taking my usual afternoon walk on our city's beach boardwalk when I saw a Christian Surfer's stand set up. They were giving away free Bibles. It was hosted by an Evangelical Free church in Simi Valley. I respected the fact that they were not affraid to be out there and to tell you the truth the thing that annoys me is the sad FACT that you NEVER see a liberal or Progressive church do a thing like this..that is reach out to the PUBLIC in so a contemporary way and this fact is very expesperating to me. The FACT that I NEVER see a Presbyterian or United Methodist church that was Progressive in nature EVER doing a Christian Surfer's outreach like this at the beach,ect.


And THIS IS THE REASON WHY...the majority of the under 40 crowd FLOCKS to the Evangelical/Fundamental churches instead. Because THEY (NOT US..The progressives) ARE THEE ONES who ARE trying to "BECOME ALL THINGS TO ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE.-"


Some might question, however, yes, but WHAT IS behind the Evangelical's churches zeal in "Becoming ALL THINGS to ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE.-"??? Love? agape? Or..is it FEAR? Fear of Hell? Fear of End Times coming to get everyone who does NOT concure with them? This IS a VERY GOOD question. And is the FACT that we Progressives don;t have or teach fear threats THEE REASON WHY WE do NOT have ANY ZEAL to "Become all things to all sorts of people so that we may gain some?" If this IS WHY The Evangelicals DO work and thus DO become all things to all sorts of people...and if this IS THE REASON WHY Progressives do NOT have any zeal and thus do NOT "Become all things to all sorts of people..so that we may gain some...-" Then this is a SAD fact both BOTH the popluar Evangelical churches and the Progressives.


No, I still don;t relate to the appeal of the title or term "Evangelical" and wanting to add it to my vocabulary. But I DO understand the Evangelical churches appeal and zeal in "Becoming all things to all sorts of people so that we may gain some.-" I like their passion to be contemporary and thus do public reach outs like Christian Surfers..and I WISH progressive churches like Presbyterian and United Methodists WOULD do things like this. Do I question the Evangelicals source of ZEAL? Yes. Do question that fear tacticts may inspire such zeal? Yes. But my question is: Can such passion and zeal for reaching out to the public with the Gospel in such a contemporary way be done by Christians...especially Progressive ones withOUT morbid fear as the source of fire behind such passion/efforts? I HOPE the answer is YES!

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Unfortunately, I think that's a lot of where the zeal comes from-- fear of hell. If you think about it, if you think that everyone else is going to hell and hell is hot, hot, hot (as I saw somewhere) well it is the most kindest thing they are doing. It is a wonderful thing to be saving people from what they believe to be the true end to the rest of us.


And it isn't much wonder why moderates to progressives don't have the same sort of drive. We don't have anything pushing us on. I very much admire progressives like Wallis who can come up with very good reasons to "evangelize" without fire and brimestone.

So I think the answer is yes.


The other point, is that I think progressives esp. are more likely to see other ways to truth. We wouldn't be going to Africa or Asia to spread the Word in the same ways anymore as we see it has been destructive to cultures and local religions which we see as valid in their time and place. (Of course, my sister is a "missionary" to that strange continent-- Europe, as she sees it as esp. Godless.) And we all have been "witnessed to" and found it profoundly unpleasant and uncomfortable. We generally don't want to do the same kind of things.

That doesn't mean there may not be new ways to do things.




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BeachOfEden and everyone,


Hey, I'm sort of a pluralist evangelical emergent/progressive liberal.

Boy, am I confused, huh.


I don't understand it really, just that I resonate with that idea of:

"being part of God's crisis-response team to bring healing to the world."


Oh yeah, my soul sings and dances to that tune.


I don't feel a need to convert anybody to anything, though.

I do want to share what I know, yes.

It's also about being--personal transformation and then giving that to the world.

We can be a healing force simply by who we are.

"Be the change we want to see in the world" type thing.

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strange continent-- Europe, as she sees it as esp. Godless.)


Des, interesting you should talk about this. I saw a link this morning on USATODAY.com to a Christian Science Monitor article about this very idea. When I went back, I couldn't find it on usatoday, but did find it on christian science monitor. The title is "Troubled Spirit--Europe's struggle with Religion--What Place for God in Europe." Haven't finished reading it yet, but it looks interesting.

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WindDancer - I agree .... The more I work on my relationship with God, the more positive influence I seem to have on those around me. I also have no need to convert anyone, but a strong desire to help people understand what they are seeking when they are interested. It really doesn't matter to me if we agree or not... strange (for me!), but more and more true.


I've given up trying to name my philosophy... :rolleyes:

Edited by Cynthia
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Darby, I thought it was interesting that *you* mentioned the Christian Science Monitor. (Just in case you haven't read any of my rants on the subject, I used to be one. :-))


BTW, the European low church attendance and beliefs, I've read various theories. One I think that our nonestablishment clause (no state religion) actually helped religion by making the "market place" open vs the stiffling of ideas thru a state church.




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Why is the "evangelical" label appealing to many?


I have come to conclude that Psychology has little to offer in understanding why people do what they do (in large part because psychologists tend to be part of the System, and therefore are merely apologists for it, unawares usually). And that if we wish to understand human behavior, we need to take a sociological approach. Much of Sociology is also apologetic in nature (which is to say that sociologists, also, tend to be prostitutes), but some sociologists have developed the valuable idea that much observable behavior is of a compensatory nature.


The idea here is that we humans, as humans, have certain innate needs/drives, these were satisfied prior to the Agricultural Revolution (because ways of life and humans as biological entities had co-developed up to that point), but that the Agricultural Revolution marked a crucial point in human histor--because thenceforth human biology continued as it had been, but ways of life became ever less "natural." This growing discrepancy, one can argue, is at the root of humankind's problems since them, although not necessarily the direct cause.


The more direct cause is the rise of a mentality of competitive individualism in conjunction with the rise of modern economies (capitalistic or otherwise). Such societies, by their very nature, create large numbers of 'losers," so that many (if not most) members of such societies are motivated to engage in compensatory behavior. (There is an excellent discussion of this by a McKinley, but I can't remember his first name, nor the title of his book.) This can manifest itself in a great variety of ways so that, e.g., one person may compensate by turning to alcohol, another by becoming an "evangelical Christian." This leaves open, of course, the question of why it is that one person becomes an alcoholic whereas his neighbor becomes an evangelical.


I should note that rather than using the term "compensatory behavior" I prefer "substitutionary behavior," for behavior that is allegedly compensatory rarely, if ever, truly compensates for the need/drive deprivation that has motivated it.


Psychologists might offer a different explanation for the evangelical phenomenon, but because such people tend to be simply part of the Existing Order I have little regard for their views. The same goes for most Sociologists, for that matter (and certainly for most Economists!).


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