The World Evangelical Alliance founded by the evangelical organizations of 21 countries, at the first general assembly in Woudschoten (Zeist) in the Netherlands in 1951 established a confession of faith common.
But this confession of faith is summary, because each Evangelical Christian denomination has theological particularities. There are, however, among the various evangelical movements (Baptists, Holiness movement, Pentecostalism, Evangelical charismatic movement, Neo-charismatic movement and non-denominational Christianity) adhering to the doctrine of the believers’ Church, a set of similar beliefs.
Evangelical Christianity brings together different theological movements, the main ones being fundamentalist, conservative, moderate, liberal.
Authority of the Bible
The Bible is considered to be inspired by God Himself and is the sovereign authority in the Christian faith.
When Paul, therefore, declares that “all writing” is the product of the divine breath, “holds his breath of God” (2 Tim 3:16), he asserts that Scripture is a product of a very specific divine operation . It is therefore important to note that the Greek does not carry the meaning that the terms of the Bible have been “infused” into human writers, but rather that it breathes God. Divine revelation is a kind of perpetual flow of the creative power of God. In other words, it is considered that God “oversaw” the writing of every line of the Bible so that it contains a message in human language sent by God using the human intellect, writing styles and writing talent – this notion is called Biblical inspiration. Often called “the Word of God” or “scripture” (biblical language), it is considered infallible and, in some evangelical circles, without error – this notion is called biblical inerrancy. This is sometimes worth to him to be interpreted in a very literal way, in certain movements, and in particular the most conservative ones in religious matter (ultraconservative and fundamentalist movements). Nevertheless, it turns out that depending on the environment, evangelicals have always tried to reconcile the notions of infallibility and possibly biblical inerrancy with a rigorous form of criticism of the Bible. The Bible is considered to have supreme authority over the faith and direction of the believer’s life, and the evangelicals also consider his infallibility. The believer is dependent on the Holy Spirit to have a good understanding of the texts. The Bible is considered as a life manual that concerns all aspects of life.
Holy Trinity and Christology
Evangelical churches and denominations defend a Trinitarian theology. Thus, notwithstanding that in almost every major stream of Christianity, the one, eternal, and spirit God is eternally present and revealed in three divine Persons, namely, the Father (Almighty God), the Son (or “Only Son” – literal “μονογενης”, “monogenes”, “unique begotten”, Jesus Christ); and the Holy Spirit. The insistent insistence of evangelicals in biblical writings certainly makes them differ from Catholicism in that they “only wish to justify this creed on the basis of biblical passages or concepts” and not on the Tradition or the Councils (knowing that the birth of this dogma is often attached to the Council of Nicaea which took place at the beginning of the 4th century). The evangelicals adhere (at least informally) to the Nicene Creed (381) defining the relational differentiation of God, both one and triune, as well as the principle of unity and identity, in the case of the two natures, in the person of Christ (christology), as well as the positions of the First Council of Nicaea (and not at the council itself) which condemn Arianism. Nevertheless, in order to avoid any unnecessary controversy and especially because by humility they feel that the mystery of the exact relations between the three divine persons can only be beyond any human reason, they will not encourage speculative theology to this subject about what is not immediately deductible from the Bible.
The Virgin Mary is so called because she was a virgin before the birth of Jesus but the evangelicals recognize the other children, brothers and sisters of Jesus and born after him, quoted in the Gospels (Mark 6: 3). She is recognized as “Maria Christotokos” (Mother of Christ) and is considered a model of faith, humility and obedience to God. Some evangelicals refute the name of “Theotokos” (Mother of God) of the Council of Ephesus (431) to avoid any confusion with the Marian devotion found in the Roman Catholic Church, but most evangelical theologians accept this formulation from a theoretical point of view by relying on the principle of communicating idioms and considering that rejecting it would amount to denying the uniqueness of the person of Christ; they generally complete it cautiously with a “according to its human nature”.
The evangelicals reject the idea that Mary is co-redemptor or mediator, as well as the immaculate conception, the dormition and the assumption, considering them as bionically unjustified, as well as any form of Marian piety.
This Trinitarian conception of God has various consequences in the Christian faith evangelical:
For the evangelicals, the person of God, is the creator of heaven and earth.
Moreover, God is presented as a loving Father, and the relation of the human to God must necessarily be that of a child vis-à-vis his father.
Jesus is considered perfectly man and perfectly God (Christology). This component of the Trinity, has a resonance and particular consequences for the evangelicals
- Jesus Christ is considered the “only begotten Son” of God or of the Father (John 3:16), without any biological connotation (belief in his miraculous birth), but in the biblical sense of the term, which according to the evangelical interpretation has a filial symbolic and spiritual status to God, brought closer to Isaac, the son of Abraham (book of Genesis). Indeed, Isaac was also called “only son” of his father, while the Bible aptly states that he had a half-brother, Ishmael. The uniqueness of Isaac as the son of Abraham would therefore be symbolic and spiritual; Rabbinic (Jewish) and evangelical interpretations consider that Isaac was the “only son” because he was the only one to fulfill the promise of God. Beside that, the episode of Isaac’s sacrifice by his father is seen as a support to this understanding, as “pointing to” Jesus, or, to use biblical language, that sacrifice was only “shadow things to come “(Colossians 2: 16-17), namely, Jesus offered as a sacrifice.
- Jesus Christ is considered as “God made man”. It is a firm object of faith that Jesus Christ is only a carnal manifestation of God, and that He has existed from all eternity (John 1: 1-3).Indeed, it is considered the Word (or Word, or Logos) of God made flesh, that is to say, its Expression itself par excellence, reconciled according to the evangelical exegesis of the Wisdom of God described above all by the King Solomon in the Old Testament (especially and especially Book of Proverbs 9: 1) and the Deuterocanonical writings as emanation or radiation of the Wisdom of God – well as regarded as apocryphas by the evangelicals, they use these writings to support the fact that the hypostasis of Jesus as a quasi-personification of an attribute of God was present in Jewish thought and the canonical writings or not). The eternal existence of Jesus is also supported in the Bible, according to the evangelicals, by the “Christophanies” (manifestations of the Messiah in human form before the birth of Jesus – especially see the high priest Melchizedek in the Genesis perhaps implied in the Gospel according to John, chapter 1 v. 10), and the words and facts of Jesus (among many other things, the fact that Jesus is described in the same way as the God of Israel, YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah) revealed himself to Moses – John 8:58 in parallel with Exodus 3:14). Above all, the fact that evangelical exegesis takes for granted that Jesus was condemned for an accusation of blasphemy by the Jews, because he claimed to be God, probably constitutes one of the first objects of attestation of the deity of Jesus.
- Jesus Christ is, considered in his divinity, as a stakeholder in the judgment of the living and the dead which will take place at the end times. Risen, lifted to heaven ( Ascension), still alive and “sitting at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19 and similar passages, Acts 2:33 and similar passages), he is the only one worthy intercessor to God (inspired by theology Pauline) to defend the cause of the converted believers to Christ. As a manifestation of God, evangelical Christianity places a great deal of emphasis on the person of Jesus Christ. Evangelicals thus see “Christianity” not as a religion, but as a relationship, which consists essentially of a “relationship of commitment” with Jesus Christ as the sole path to God. In this, Jesus Christ is the worthy and the only “head of the Church” (a classical break with Catholicism), a Church which is also called “the body of Christ” (Pauline Christianity).
The Holy Spirit (or Spirit of God) God as Spirit is considered to be fully God. It is the eternal manifestation of God in the human dimension. It is the presence of the Spirit that Jesus promised in the Gospel to those who would be converted, attested by the first witnesses of Christ (Acts of the Apostles chapter 2).
All evangelical movements consider that the Holy Spirit is present and working in the personal stories of each believer, as well as in the future of the universal Church. As a stakeholder in the conversion of the individual, it is also considered to be the origin of various gifts, which vary a great deal from the New Testament writings, but it is common in the Charismatic movement emphasize on one gifts delivered by the Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are 9; creative gifts (writing and the arts), pastoral gifts (community guidance and guidance), apostolic gifts (preaching, teaching), prophetic gifts (prophecy in its various forms), prodigious gifts (wonders and miracles).
Evangelical Christianity, particularly in the Pentecostalism, Evangelical charismatic movement, Neo-charismatic movement, places an emphasis on the Spirit and its action in human lives and in the church.
Adoration of God only
The evangelicals refute those designated as holy by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches because assimilating the worship of veneration, that gives these churches to the saints thus designated, and also particularly the worship to Mary, necromancy and idolatry.
They are based on:
- Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 (“Let no one be found among you… who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. “) and the fact that persons considered holy in their lifetime are, as a result of their death, also” spiritually asleep “or” spiritually inaccessible “.
- Ecclesiastes 9: 5, ” For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten. “
The worship and praise of God, through Christian music, is an important part of a worship service.
In addition, for evangelicals use Gospel of Mark 12:27 (“God is not God of the dead, but of the living”) and Gospel of John 11:26 (“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die and whoever lives by believing in me will never die”) in order to adhere to the worship of the saints results an erroneous and abusive extrapolation of the possibility of the resurrection promised by Christ but which will occur in the End Times.
The Salvation Plan
The name “evangelical” comes from the gospel term: from the Greek ευ-άγγελον (eu-ággelon, literally “good message”, by extension “good news”). For the evangelicals, the good news is that every sinful man by nature must endure an eternal punishment in hell, but that by faith in Jesus and not by works, he may have free at Salvation.
In Evangelical Christianity, faith is based solely on the bible and is the only one justification by grace of the believer. Salvation by faith is a personal decision and commitment. The believer is saved by the Imputed righteousness of Christ; all the merits of Christ are imputed to the believer by faith.
Ordo salutis (Latin: “order of salvation”) refers to a series of conceptual steps within the Christian doctrine of salvation. It has been defined as, “a technical term of Protestant dogmatics to designate the consecutive steps in the work of the Holy Spirit in the appropriation of salvation.” Although there is within Christian theology a certain sense in which the phases of salvation are sequential, some elements are understood to occur progressively and others instantaneously. Furthermore, some steps within the “order of salvation” are regarded as objective (or monergistic), performed solely by God, while others are considered subjective (or synergistic), involving humanity. Christians prior to the Protestant Reformation, while not using the exact phrase, sought to order the elements of salvation. The term “Ordo salutis” was first used by Lutheran theologians in the mid-1720s.
The new birth, this personal encounter with Jesus Christ that unfolds at the conversion of the believer, is considered a true passage from spiritual death to spiritual life. This concept is based on John 3: 3 “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”, “and John 10:10. Then we speak of “born again Christians” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15). It is indeed one of the most accurate ways of designating Christians of evangelical obedience from the angle of personal conversion. The meeting of the believer with Jesus and the decision to give him his life marks an important change of life.
Evangelicals reject baptismal regeneration as taught by the Catholic Church. Some evangelicals practice infant baptism as initiation into the community of faith and the New Testament counterpart to circumcision. The Free Methodist Church, for example, views it as a celebration of prevenient grace and incorporation into a covenant with God. Most evangelicals, however, practice adult or believer’s baptism by immersion.
For some churches, as Baptists, the New Birth is synonymous with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
For other churches, as Pentecostal, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate event that is necessarily accompanied by glossolalia and allows an experimentation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.In the Evangelical Charismatic Charismatic and the Neo-Charismatic Movement, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is also a second experience. However, speaking in tongues (glossolalia) is not the only proof of this spiritual event. The believer may have received the other 8 gifts of the Holy Spirit set forth in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
For Churches in the Methodist tradition, inclusive of the Holiness Movement, the New Birth is the first work of grace while the second work of grace, Baptism of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with entire sanctification, in which a Christian is “cleansed in that moment from all inward sin and empowered for service”.
The sanctification of the believer is the process by which a person frees himself from sin and becomes pure and holy after the new birth. There are two evangelical positions on sanctification, progressive sanctification and whole sanctification.
Progressive sanctification is the work of sanctification of the believer through grace and the decisions of the believer after the new birth. This is the position of some evangelical denominations, such as the Baptists churches and the Assemblies of God.
In Wesleyan-Arminian theology entire sanctification, also known as Christian perfection, is the second work of grace, which the United Methodist Confession of Faith defines as follows:
Entire sanctification is a state of perfect love, righteousness and true holiness which every regenerate believer may obtain by being delivered from the power of sin, by loving God with all the heart, soul, mind and strength, and by loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. Through faith in Jesus Christ this gracious gift may be received in this life both gradually and instantaneously, and should be sought earnestly by every child of God.
Entire sanctification is taught by the Methodist Churches inclusive of the holiness movement. The Core Values of the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches, for example, teaches that:
We believe that God calls every believer to holiness that rises out of His character. We understand it to begin in the new birth, include a second work of grace that empowers, purifies and fills each person with the Holy Spirit, and continue in a lifelong pursuit. ―Core Values, Bible Methodist Connection of Churches Wesleyan-Armnian theology, as upheld by the Methodist Churches, views entire sanctification as being baptized with the Holy Spirit. When a believer is entirely sanctified, Wesleyan-Arminian theology teaches that they are made free from original sin and able to devote him or herself entirely to God.
Certain Pentecostal denominations, such as the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Church of God (Cleveland), Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel teach the experience of entire sanctification as a second work of grace, though they differ from the Methodist Churches in that they teach a third work of grace–glossolalia–can follow this.
Charity, this concern for helping the needy, is one of three primary Christian virtues and a concept clearly established from the Old Testament. It is expressed first in terms of financial generosity but also in terms of time spent. It is also considered very important by most evangelical churches. Some churches spend large sums of money each year on humanitarian aid (food support, medical aid, education, etc.).
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”(Micah 6:8 )
“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” (Epistle to the Galatians 2:10)
This value is at the origin of the modern Christian humanitarian aid. For the Evangelical churches, the humanitarian is a call from God to participate in the relief of suffering. Thus, many churches invest time and money in the service of the poor, in their country and internationally. Many evangelical organizations have invested the land of [Christian humanitarian] world help. Among the most important are International Justice Mission, Prison Fellowship International, Samaritan’s Purse, Mercy Ships, World Vision International. The majority of Christian NGOs help everyone, regardless of religion.
Main article: Evangelism
Most evangelicals believe that the conversion of hearts is the work of God alone, through his Holy Spirit (John 16: 8), but also know that sharing the faith with non-believers is an action of recognition for what God did for them (Matthew 10:32). Spreading the Good New of the Kingdom of God, is a command given by Jesus before his ascension found in Gospel of Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28: 19-20. This mission is especially taken into account in the churches, with local and international missionaries programs. Evangelism occupies an important place in Evangelical Christianity. It takes shape in the distribution of leaflets and bible s, the formation of disciples, the support to the churches and the Christian humanitarian aid. Various evangelical missionaries organizations have specialized in evangelization throughout history.
End of time
It is a belief in Christianity in general and in other monotheistic religions that at the end of time there will be a last judgment by God. Jesus Christ will come back personally, corporally, and visibly.
Covenant Theology versus the seven Dispensations
Some evangelicals, such as Methodists, teach covenant theology, while others are dispensationalists.
Dispensationalists divide history into seven major periods (dispensations). These 7 periods are:
- Innocence: Adam and Eve before their fall
- Consciousness: Man becomes a sinner and has to answer to God
- The human government: From the flood, God gives a political organization to humanity
- The reign of the patriarchs (or the promise): Abraham, God promises the blessing to him who believes in him
- The Law: God makes an alliance with Israel for His good and the blessing of the nations
- The Church: God completely forgives those who believe in Jesus
- The millennium: Jesus will come back and reign for 1000 years of peace on earth
Thus, most of them believe in the second coming of Christ, or, for some, to its imminence that would then proceed to Rapture of the Church. According to them, and at first, the Church will be removed (1 Thessalonians 4.16-18) and thus preserved judgments that will affect the world (Book of Revelation 3:10 ) for 7 years, then will be united to the Messiah ( Rev 19: 7-8 ) before he comes to establish the millennium: ( Rev 20: 1-6 ) peace on Earth. After which will come the Last Judgment (Rev 20: 11-15), the end times and the entry into a new world (Rev 21: 1).
- The Zionist Evangelicals: They are dispensationalists and Zionists because they believe they are at the end of the sixth dispensation. Indeed, for them, the creation of the modern state of Israel (1948) corresponds to the biblical and prophetic restoration of Israel, to the restoration of the chosen people, prologue the seventh dispensation and the return of Christ.
To help the full establishment of Israel and to support it is therefore to follow the plan and the will of God.
- Non-Zionist Evangelicals: Though thinking to be in the sixth dispensation, they doubt or even perceive at all modern Israel as being the kingdom of Israel to be restored by the divine will. For them, the modern state is a resultant of men and not of God; in this sense, they join the position Haredi or ultra-Orthodox Jews. To support this non-divine, non-prophetic Israel could then go against the divine will; their attitude thus oscillates between neutrality and hostility towards the state of Israel.
- Non-dispensationalist Evangelicals: For them dispensationalism is a doctrine developed especially by Cyrus Scofield, human, not even mentioned in the Bible and therefore without any divine inspiration or foundation. However, this does not prevent them from estimating the second coming of Christ more or less close in time. Their attitude toward the state of Israel is therefore variable but generally neutral.
A particularly controversial doctrine in the Evangelical Churches is that of the prosperity theology, which spread in the 1970s and 1980s in the United States, mainly through televangelism. This doctrine is centered on the teaching of Christian faith as a means to enrich oneself financially and materially, through a “positive confession” and a contribution to Christian ministries. Promises of divine healing and prosperity are guaranteed in exchange for certain amounts of donations. Fidelity in the tithe would allow one to avoid the curses of God, the attacks of the devil and poverty. The offerings and the tithe occupies a lot of time in the worship services. Often associated with the tithe mandatory, this doctrine is sometimes compared to a religious business. It is criticized by pastors and church unions, such as the National Council of Evangelicals of France, in France.
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We believe that the Holy Spirit bears witness to both the new birth, as the first work of grace, and also to heart cleansing and Spirit fullness, as the second work of grace, all of which are retained by daily obedience and faith. We believe that evidence of the Spirit’s fullness is not the possession of spiritual gifts but rather a life of inward and outward righteousness.
- Justo L. González, Essential Theological Terms, Westminster John Knox Press, USA, 2005, p. 155
- Roger E. Olson, The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology, Westminster John Knox Press, USA, 2004, p. 319
- Roger E. Olson, The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology, Westminster John Knox Press, USA, 2004, p. 319
- Keith Kettenring, The Sanctification Connection: An Exploration of Human Participation in Spiritual Growth, University Press of America, USA, 2008, p. 29
- Cecil M. Robeck, Jr, Amos Yong, The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism, Cambridge University Press, UK, 2014, p. 76
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