What is an evangelical?

We have often referred to ourselves as 'born-again' Christians, which is one of the basic elements that can be described as evangelical Christianity is that it is a theological movement, tradition, and system of beliefs, most closely associated with Protestant Christianity, which identifies with the Gospel where most adherents consider belief in the need for personal conversion (or being "born again"), some expression of the gospel through evangelism.

But is this definition enough to explain what evangelical Christianity is? I have often been burdened by the fact that we who profess to be born-again are often deficient in terms of giving a well grounded characterization of our theological standpoint as evangelicals.

I have often struggled with the definition of what an evangelical Christian is basically since I was young in the faith I have often come to a dismay of using the more common connotation 'born again' Christian, which in a way I believe falls short of what a Christian is by definition. Also because it falls short of what theological standpoint a Christian who professes to be a born again is.

I was reading about Anglican Theology on the internet right now, and have come across the evangelical wing of the Church of England and names like George Carey, J.I. Packer and N.T. Wright are mentioned but there is one more familiar name that's mentioned there it is John Stott whom I deeply admire basically for his book Basic Christianity which I was blessed enough to have read a few years back. In a 2006 interview by Tim Stafford of Christianity Today he gave this very insightful explanation about what an evangelical is:

"An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian. We stand in the mainstream of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity. So we can recite the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed without crossing our fingers. We believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

Having said that, there are two particular things we like to emphasize: the concern for authority on the one hand and salvation on the other.

For evangelical people, our authority is the God who has spoken supremely in Jesus Christ. And that is equally true of redemption or salvation. God has acted in and through Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.

I think it's necessary for evangelicals to add that what God has said in Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ, and what God has done in and through Christ, are both, to use the Greek word, hapax—meaning once and for all. There is a finality about God's word in Christ, and there is a finality about God's work in Christ. To imagine that we could add a word to his word, or add a work to his work, is extremely derogatory to the unique glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."

- John R.W. Stott
Evangelism Plus: John Stott reflects on where we've been and where we're going, Christianity Today October 2006

Perhaps this insight from John Stott would be a good starting point in our reflection about what our expression of the Christian faith stands for.

Click here to read the entire interview at Christianity Today

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