Evangelicalism, evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide, trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, solely through faith in Jesus’s atonement. Evangelicals believe in the centrality of the conversion or “born again” experience in receiving salvation, in the authority of the Bible as God’s revelation to humanity, and in spreading the Christian message. The movement has long had a presence in the Anglosphere before spreading further afield in the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries.
Its origins are usually traced to 1738, with various theological streams contributing to its foundation, including Pietism, Puritanism, Presbyterianism and the Moravian Church (in particular its bishop Nicolaus Zinzendorf and his community at Herrnhut). Preeminently, John Wesley and other early Methodists were at the root of sparking this new movement during the First Great Awakening. Today, evangelicals are found across many Protestant branches, as well as in various denominations not subsumed to a specific branch. Among leaders and major figures of the evangelical Protestant movement were John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Harold Ockenga, John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The movement gained great momentum during the 18th and 19th centuries with the Great Awakenings in Great Britain and the United States.
In 2016, there were an estimated 619 million evangelicals in the world, meaning that one in four Christians would be classified as evangelical. The United States has the largest concentration of evangelicals in the world. American evangelicals are a quarter of the nation’s population and its single largest religious group. Evangelical movements can be found in nearly every Protestant denomination and tradition, particularly within Reformed, Baptist, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, Churches of Christ, Plymouth Brethren, charismatic Protestant, and nondenominational Protestant churches. See also: Protestantism
The word evangelical has its etymological roots in the Greek word for “gospel” or “good news”: εὐαγγέλιον euangelion, from eu “good”, angel– the stem of, among other words, angelos “messenger, angel”, and the neuter suffix –ion. By the English Middle Ages, the term had expanded semantically to include not only the message, but also the New Testament which contained the message, as well as more specifically the Gospels, which portray the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The first published use of evangelical in English was in 1531, when William Tyndale wrote “He exhorteth them to proceed constantly in the evangelical truth.” One year later, Thomas More wrote the earliest recorded use in reference to a theological distinction when he spoke of “Tyndale [and] his evangelical brother Barns”.
During the Reformation, Protestant theologians embraced the term as referring to “gospel truth”. Martin Luther referred to the evangelische Kirche (“evangelical church”) to distinguish Protestants from Catholics in the Catholic Church. Into the 21st century, evangelical has continued in use as a synonym for (mainline) Protestant in continental Europe, and elsewhere. This usage is reflected in the names of Protestant denominations, such as the Evangelical Church in Germany (a union of Lutheran and Reformed churches) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
In the English-speaking world, evangelical was commonly applied to describe the series of revival movements that occurred in Britain and North America during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Christian historian David W. Bebbington writes that, “Although ‘evangelical’, with a lower-case initial, is occasionally used to mean ‘of the gospel’, the term ‘Evangelical’, with a capital letter, is applied to any aspect of the movement beginning in the 1730s.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, evangelicalism was first used in 1831. In 1812, the term “evangelicalism” appeared in “The History of Lynn” by William Richards. In the summer of 1811 the term “evangelicalists” was used in “The Sin and Danger of Schism” by Rev. Dr. Andrew Burnaby, Archdeacon of Leicester.
The term may also be used outside any religious context to characterize a generic missionary, reforming, or redeeming impulse or purpose. For example, The Times Literary Supplement refers to “the rise and fall of evangelical fervor within the Socialist movement”.
Beliefs and characteristics
One influential definition of evangelicalism has been proposed by historian David Bebbington. Bebbington notes four distinctive aspects of evangelical faith:
conversionism, biblicism, crucicentrism, and activism, noting, “Together they form a quadrilateral of priorities that is the basis of Evangelicalism.”
Conversionism, or belief in the necessity of being “born again”, has been a constant theme of evangelicalism since its beginnings. To evangelicals, the central message of the gospel is justification by faith in Christ and repentance, or turning away, from sin. Conversion differentiates the Christian from the non-Christian, and the change in life it leads to is marked by both a rejection of sin and a corresponding personal holiness of life. A conversion experience can be emotional, including grief and sorrow for sin followed by great relief at receiving forgiveness. The stress on conversion differentiates evangelicalism from other forms of Protestantism by the associated belief that an assurance of salvation will accompany conversion. Among evangelicals, individuals have testified to both sudden and gradual conversions.
Biblicism is reverence for the Bible and high regard for biblical authority. All evangelicals believe in biblical inspiration, though they disagree over how this inspiration should be defined. Many evangelicals believe in biblical inerrancy, while other evangelicals believe in biblical infallibility.
Crucicentrism is the centrality that evangelicals give to the Atonement, the saving death and the resurrection of Jesus, that offers forgiveness of sins and new life. This is understood most commonly in terms of a substitutionary atonement, in which Christ died as a substitute for sinful humanity by taking on himself the guilt and punishment for sin.
Activism describes the tendency toward active expression and sharing of the gospel in diverse ways that include preaching and social action. This aspect of evangelicalism continues to be seen today in the proliferation of evangelical voluntary religious groups and parachurch organizations.
Many evangelical traditions adhere to the doctrine of the believers’ Church, which teaches that one becomes a member of the Church by the new birth and profession of faith. This originated in the Radical Reformation with Anabaptists but is held by denominations that practice believer’s baptism. Evangelicals in the Anglican and Reformed traditions practice infant baptism as one’s initiation into the visible church, while also stressing the necessity of personal conversion later in life for salvation.
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 common confession of faith adhered to by its member denominations.
For a majority of evangelical Christians, biblical literalism ensures that the miracles described in the Bible are still relevant and may be present in the life of the believer. Healings, academic or professional successes, the birth of a child after several attempts, the end of an addiction, etc., would be tangible examples of God’s intervention with the faith and prayer, by the Holy Spirit. In the 1980s, the neo-charismatic movement re-emphasized miracles and faith healing. In certain churches, a special place is thus reserved for faith healings with laying on of hands during worship services or for evangelization campaigns. Faith healing or divine healing is considered to be an inheritance of Jesus acquired by his death and resurrection.
Places of worship are usually called “church building” or “temples”. In some megachurches, the building is called “campus”. For evangelicals, the building is not sacred. Some services take place in auditoriums or multipurpose rooms with few religious symbols. Because of their understanding of the second of the Ten Commandments, evangelicals do not have religious material representations such as statues, icons, or paintings in their places of worship. The latin cross is one of the only spiritual symbols that can usually be found on a building or in the auditorium of an evangelical church. There is usually a baptistery on the stage of the auditorium (also called sanctuary) or in a separate room, for the baptisms by immersion.
In matters of sexuality, several evangelical churches promote the virginity pledge among young Evangelical Christians, who are invited to commit themselves during a public ceremony at sexual abstinence until Christian marriage. This pledge is often symbolized by a purity ring.
In evangelical churches, young adults and unmarried couples are encouraged to marry early in order to live a sexuality according to the will of God.
A 2009 American study of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reported that 80% of young unmarried evangelicals had had relationships and that 42% were in a relationship with sex, when surveyed.
The majority of evangelical Christian churches are against voluntary termination of pregnancy and support adoption agencies and social support agencies for young mothers.
Masturbation is seen as being prohibited by some evangelical pastors because of the sexual thoughts that may accompany it. In United States and Nigeria, other evangelical pastors believe that masturbation can be beneficial for the body and that it is a gift from God to avoid fornication, especially for singles.
Some evangelical churches speak only of sexual abstinence and do not speak of sexuality in marriage. Other evangelical churches in United States and Switzerland speak of satisfying sexuality as a gift from God and a component of a Christian marriage harmonious, in messages during worship services or conferences. Many evangelical books and websites are specialized on the subject.
The perceptions of homosexuality in the Evangelical Churches are varied. They range from liberal to conservative, through moderate. According to author Jeffrey S. Siker, the conservative fundamentalist position is very hostile to homosexuals and is involved in anti-gay causes and hostile statements. There are some international evangelical denominations that are gay-friendly. Some churches have a moderate position.Although they do not approve homosexual practices, they show sympathy and respect for homosexuals.
Views on science
In terms of science and the origin of the earth and human life, some evangelicals support creationism. For example, Answers in Genesis, founded in Australia in 1986, is an evangelical organization which defends this thesis. In 2007, she founded the Creation Museum in Petersburg, in Kentucky and in 2016 the Ark Encounter in Williamstown. Since the end of the 20th century, literalist creationism has been abandoned by some evangelicals in favor of intelligent design. For example, the think tank Discovery Institute, established in 1991 in Seattle, defends this thesis.
Further information: List of Christian denominations
In the early 20th century, evangelical influence declined within mainline Protestantism and Christian fundamentalism developed as a distinct religious movement. Between 1950 and 2000 a mainstream evangelical consensus developed that sought to be more inclusive and more culturally relevant than fundamentalism while maintaining conservative Protestant teaching. According to Brian Stanley, professor of world Christianity, this new postwar consensus is termed neo-evangelicalism, the new evangelicalism, or simply evangelicalism in the United States, while in Great Britain and in other English-speaking countries, it is commonly termed conservative evangelicalism. Over the years, less-conservative evangelicals have challenged this mainstream consensus to varying degrees. Such movements have been classified by a variety of labels, such as progressive, open, post-conservative, and post-evangelical.
Some commentators have complained that Evangelicalism as a movement is too broad and its definition too vague to be of any practical value. Theologian Donald Dayton has called for a “moratorium” on use of the term. Historian D. G. Hart has also argued that “evangelicalism needs to be relinquished as a religious identity because it does not exist”.
Fundamentalism regards biblical inerrancy, the virgin birth of Jesus, penal substitutionary atonement, the literal resurrection of Christ, and the Second Coming of Christ as fundamental Christian doctrines. Fundamentalism arose among evangelicals in the 1920s to combat modernist or liberal theology in mainline Protestant churches. Failing to reform the mainline churches, fundamentalists separated from them and established their own churches, refusing to participate in ecumenical organizations such as the National Council of Churches (founded in 1950). They also made separatism (rigid separation from non-fundamentalist churches and their culture) a true test of faith. According to historian George Marsden, most fundamentalists are Baptists and dispensationalist.
In the words of Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, confessional evangelicalism refers to “that movement of Christian believers who seek a constant convictional continuity with the theological formulas of the Protestant Reformation”. While approving of the evangelical distinctions proposed by Bebbington, confessional evangelicals believe that authentic evangelicalism requires more concrete definition in order to protect the movement from theological liberalism and from heresy. According to confessional evangelicals, subscription to the ecumenical creeds and to the Reformation-era confessions of faith (such as the confessions of the Reformed churches) provides such protection. Confessional evangelicals are represented by conservative Presbyterian churches (emphasizing the Westminster Confession), certain Baptist churches that emphasize historic Baptist confessions such as the Second London Confession, evangelical Anglicans who emphasize the Thirty-Nine Articles (such as in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, Australia), and some confessional Lutherans with pietistic convictions.
The emphasis on historic Protestant orthodoxy among confessional evangelicals stands in direct contrast to an anti-creedal outlook that has exerted its own influence on evangelicalism, particularly among churches strongly affected by revivalism and by pietism. Revivalist evangelicals are represented by some quarters of Methodism, the Wesleyan Holiness churches, the Pentecostal/charismatic churches, some Anabaptist churches, and some Baptists and Presbyterians. Revivalist evangelicals tend to place greater emphasis on religious experience than their confessional counterparts.
Evangelicals dissatisfied with the movement’s conservative mainstream have been variously described as progressive evangelicals, post-conservative evangelicals, Open Evangelicals and post-evangelicals. Progressive evangelicals, also known as the evangelical left, share theological or social views with other progressive Christians while also identifying with evangelicalism. Progressive evangelicals commonly advocate for women’s equality, pacifism and social justice.
As described by Baptist theologian Roger E. Olson, post-conservative evangelicalism is a theological school of thought that adheres to the four marks of evangelicalism, while being less rigid and more inclusive of other Christians. According to Olson, post-conservatives believe that doctrinal truth is secondary to spiritual experience shaped by Scripture. Post-conservative evangelicals seek greater dialogue with other Christian traditions and support the development of a multicultural evangelical theology that incorporates the voices of women, racial minorities, and Christians in the developing world. Some post-conservative evangelicals also support open theism and the possibility of near universal salvation.
The term “Open Evangelical” refers to a particular Christian school of thought or churchmanship, primarily in Great Britain (especially in the Church of England). Open evangelicals describe their position as combining a traditional evangelical emphasis on the nature of scriptural authority, the teaching of the ecumenical creeds and other traditional doctrinal teachings, with an approach towards culture and other theological points-of-view which tends to be more inclusive than that taken by other evangelicals. Some open evangelicals aim to take a middle position between conservative and charismatic evangelicals, while others would combine conservative theological emphases with more liberal social positions.
British author Dave Tomlinson coined the phrase post-evangelical to describe a movement comprising various trends of dissatisfaction among evangelicals. Others use the term with comparable intent, often to distinguish evangelicals in the so-called emerging church movement from post-evangelicals and anti-evangelicals. Tomlinson argues that “linguistically, the distinction [between evangelical and post-evangelical] resembles the one that sociologists make between the modern and postmodern eras”.
Evangelicalism did not take recognizable form until the 18th century, first in Britain and its North American colonies. Nevertheless, there were earlier developments within the larger Protestant world that preceded and influenced the later evangelical revivals. According to religion scholar, social activist, and politician Randall Balmer, Evangelicalism resulted “from the confluence of Pietism, Presbyterianism, and the vestiges of Puritanism. Evangelicalism picked up the peculiar characteristics from each strain – warmhearted spirituality from the Pietists (for instance), doctrinal precisionism from the Presbyterians, and individualistic introspection from the Puritans”. Historian Mark Noll adds to this list High Church Anglicanism, which contributed to Evangelicalism a legacy of “rigorous spirituality and innovative organization”.
During the 17th century, Pietism emerged in Europe as a movement for the revival of piety and devotion within the Lutheran church. As a protest against “cold orthodoxy” or an overly formal and rational Christianity, Pietists advocated for an experiential religion that stressed high moral standards for both clergy and lay people. The movement included both Christians who remained in the liturgical, state churches as well as separatist groups who rejected the use of baptismal fonts, altars, pulpits, and confessionals. As Pietism spread, the movement’s ideals and aspirations influenced and were absorbed into early Evangelicalism.
The Presbyterian heritage not only gave Evangelicalism a commitment to Protestant orthodoxy but also contributed a revival tradition that stretched back to the 1620s in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Central to this tradition was the communion season, which normally occurred in the summer months. For Presbyterians, celebrations of Holy Communion were infrequent but popular events preceded by several Sundays of preparatory preaching and accompanied with preaching, singing, and prayers.
Puritanism combined Calvinism with teaching that conversion was a prerequisite for church membership and a stress on the study of Scripture by lay people. It took root in New England, where the Congregational church was an established religion. The Half-Way Covenant of 1662 allowed parents who had not testified to a conversion experience to have their children baptized, while reserving Holy Communion for converted church members alone. By the 18th century, Puritanism was in decline and many ministers were alarmed at the loss of religious piety. This concern over declining religious commitment led many people to support evangelical revival.
High Church Anglicanism also exerted influence on early Evangelicalism. High Churchmen were distinguished by their desire to adhere to primitive Christianity. This desire included imitating the faith and ascetic practices of early Christians as well as regularly partaking of Holy Communion. High Churchmen were also enthusiastic organizers of voluntary religious societies. Two of the most prominent were the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, which distributed Bibles and other literature and built schools, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, which was created to facilitate missionary work in British colonies. Samuel and Susanna Wesley, the parents of John and Charles Wesley, were both devoted advocates of High Churchmanship.
In the 1730s, Evangelicalism emerged as a distinct phenomenon out of religious revivals that began in Britain and New England. While religious revivals had occurred within Protestant churches in the past, the evangelical revivals that marked the 18th century were more intense and radical. Evangelical revivalism imbued ordinary men and women with a confidence and enthusiasm for sharing the gospel and converting others outside of the control of established churches, a key discontinuity with the Protestantism of the previous era.
It was developments in the doctrine of assurance that differentiated Evangelicalism from what went before. Bebbington says, “The dynamism of the Evangelical movement was possible only because its adherents were assured in their faith.” He goes on:
Whereas the Puritans had held that assurance is rare, late and the fruit of struggle in the experience of believers, the Evangelicals believed it to be general, normally given at conversion and the result of simple acceptance of the gift of God. The consequence of the altered form of the doctrine was a metamorphosis in the nature of popular Protestantism. There was a change in patterns of piety, affecting devotional and practical life in all its departments. The shift, in fact, was responsible for creating in Evangelicalism a new movement and not merely a variation on themes heard since the Reformation.
The first local revival occurred in Northampton, Massachusetts, under the leadership of Congregationalist minister Jonathan Edwards. In the fall of 1734, Edwards preached a sermon series on “Justification By Faith Alone”, and the community’s response was extraordinary. Signs of religious commitment among the laity increased, especially among the town’s young people. The revival ultimately spread to 25 communities in western Massachusetts and central Connecticut until it began to wane by the spring of 1735. Edwards was heavily influenced by Pietism, so much so that one historian has stressed his “American Pietism”. One practice clearly copied from European Pietists was the use of small groups divided by age and gender, which met in private homes to conserve and promote the fruits of revival.
At the same time, students at Yale University (at that time Yale College) in New Haven, Connecticut, were also experiencing revival. Among them was Aaron Burr, Sr., who would become a prominent Presbyterian minister and future president of Princeton University. In New Jersey, Gilbert Tennent, another Presbyterian minister, was preaching the evangelical message and urging the Presbyterian Church to stress the necessity of converted ministers.
The spring of 1735 also marked important events in England and Wales. Howell Harris, a Welsh schoolteacher, had a conversion experience on May 25 during a communion service. He described receiving assurance of God’s grace after a period of fasting, self-examination, and despair over his sins. Sometime later, Daniel Rowland, the Anglican curate of Llangeitho, Wales, experienced conversion as well. Both men began preaching the evangelical message to large audiences, becoming leaders of the Welsh Methodist revival. At about the same time that Harris experienced conversion in Wales, George Whitefield was converted at Oxford University after his own prolonged spiritual crisis. Whitefield later remarked, “About this time God was pleased to enlighten my soul, and bring me into the knowledge of His free grace, and the necessity of being justified in His sight by faith only“.
[Spangenberg] said, “My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions. Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?” I was surprised, and knew not what to answer. He observed it, and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” I paused, and said, “I know he is the Savior of the world.” “True,” he replied, “but do you know he has saved you?” I answered, “I hope he has died to save me.” He only added, “Do you know yourself?” I said, “I do.” But I fear they were vain words.
Wesley finally received the assurance he had been searching for at a meeting of a religious society in London. While listening to a reading from Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Wesley felt spiritually transformed:
About a quarter before nine, while [the speaker] was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
Pietism continued to influence Wesley, who had translated 33 Pietist hymns from German to English. Numerous German Pietist hymns became part of the English Evangelical repertoire. By 1737, Whitefield had become a national celebrity in England where his preaching drew large crowds, especially in London where the Fetter Lane Society had become a center of evangelical activity. Whitfield joined forces with Edwards to “fan the flame of revival” in the Thirteen Colonies in 1739–40. Soon the First Great Awakening stirred Protestants throughout America.
Evangelical preachers emphasized personal salvation and piety more than ritual and tradition. Pamphlets and printed sermons crisscrossed the Atlantic, encouraging the revivalists. The Awakening resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of deep personal revelation of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ. Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made Christianity intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality. It reached people who were already church members. It changed their rituals, their piety and their self-awareness. To the evangelical imperatives of Reformation Protestantism, 18th century American Christians added emphases on divine outpourings of the Holy Spirit and conversions that implanted within new believers an intense love for God. Revivals encapsulated those hallmarks and forwarded the newly created Evangelicalism into the early republic.
By the 1790s, the Evangelical party in the Church of England remained a small minority but were not without influence. John Newton and Joseph Milner were influential evangelical clerics. Evangelical clergy networked together through societies such as the Eclectic Society in London and the Elland Society in Yorkshire. The Old Dissenter denominations (the Baptists, Congregationalists and Quakers) were falling under evangelical influence, with the Baptists most affected and Quakers the least. Evangelical ministers dissatisfied with both Anglicanism and Methodism often chose to work within these churches. In the 1790s, all of these evangelical groups, including the Anglicans, were Calvinist in orientation.
Methodism (the “New Dissent”) was the most visible expression of evangelicalism by the end of the 18th century. The Wesleyan Methodists boasted around 70,000 members throughout the British Isles, in addition to the Calvinistic Methodists in Wales and the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, which was organized under George Whitefield’s influence. The Wesleyan Methodists, however, were still nominally affiliated with the Church of England and would not completely separate until 1795, four years after Wesley’s death. The Wesleyan Methodist Church’s Arminianism distinguished it from the other evangelical groups.
At the same time, evangelicals were an important faction within the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Influential ministers included John Erskine, Henry Wellwood Moncrieff and Stevenson Macgill. The church’s General Assembly, however, was controlled by the Moderate Party, and evangelicals were involved in the First and Second Secessions from the national church during the 18th century.
The start of the 19th century saw an increase in missionary work and many of the major missionary societies were founded around this time (see Timeline of Christian missions). Both the Evangelical and high church movements sponsored missionaries.
The Second Great Awakening (which actually began in 1790) was primarily an American revivalist movement and resulted in substantial growth of the Methodist and Baptist churches. Charles Grandison Finney was an important preacher of this period.
“Christian conscience” was used by the British Evangelical movement to promote social activism. Evangelicals believed activism in government and the social sphere was an essential method in reaching the goal of eliminating sin in a world drenched in wickedness. The Evangelicals in the Clapham Sect included figures such as William Wilberforce who successfully campaigned for the abolition of slavery.
In the late 19th century, the revivalist Holiness movement, based on the doctrine of “entire sanctification,” took a more extreme form in rural America and Canada, where it ultimately broke away from institutional Methodism. In urban Britain the Holiness message was less exclusive and censorious.
John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren was a 19th-century Irish Anglican minister who devised modern dispensationalism, an innovative Protestant theological interpretation of the Bible that was incorporated in the development of modern Evangelicalism. Cyrus Scofield further promoted the influence of dispensationalism through the explanatory notes to his Scofield Reference Bible. According to scholar Mark S. Sweetnam, who takes a cultural studies perspective, dispensationalism can be defined in terms of its Evangelicalism, its insistence on the literal interpretation of Scripture, its recognition of stages in God’s dealings with humanity, its expectation of the imminent return of Christ to rapture His saints, and its focus on both apocalypticism and premillennialism.
Notable figures of the latter half of the 19th century include Charles Spurgeon in London and Dwight L. Moody in Chicago. Their powerful preaching reached very large audiences.
An advanced theological perspective came from the Princeton theologians from the 1850s to the 1920s, such as Charles Hodge, Archibald Alexander and B.B. Warfield.
After 1910 the Fundamentalist movement dominated Evangelicalism in the early part of the 20th century; the Fundamentalists rejected liberal theology and emphasized the inerrancy of the Scriptures.
Following the 1904–1905 Welsh revival, the Azusa Street Revival in 1906 began the spread of Pentecostalism in North America.
After the Scopes trial in 1925, Christian Century wrote of “Vanishing Fundamentalism.” In 1929 Princeton University, once the bastion of conservative theology, added several modernists to its faculty, resulting in the departure of J. Gresham Machen and a split in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
Evangelicalism began to reassert itself in the second half of the 1930s. One factor was the advent of the radio as a means of mass communication. When [Charles E. Fuller] began his “Old Fashioned Revival Hour” on October 3, 1937, he sought to avoid the contentious issues that had caused fundamentalists to be characterized as narrow.
One hundred forty-seven representatives from thirty-four denominations met from April 7 through 9, 1942, in St. Louis, Missouri, for a “National Conference for United Action among Evangelicals.” The next year six hundred representatives in Chicago established the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) with Harold Ockenga as its first president. The NAE was partly a reaction to the founding of the American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC) under the leadership of the fundamentalist Carl McIntire. The ACCC in turn had been founded to counter the influence of the Federal Council of Churches (later merged into the National Council of Churches), which fundamentalists saw as increasingly embracing modernism in its ecumenism. Those who established the NAE had come to view the name fundamentalist as “an embarrassment instead of a badge of honor.”
With the founding of the NAE, American Protestantism was divided into three large groups—the fundamentalists, the modernists, and the new evangelicals, who sought to position themselves between the other two. In 1947 Harold Ockenga coined the term neo-evangelicalism to identify a movement distinct from fundamentalism. The neo-evangelicals had three broad characteristics that distinguished them from the conservative fundamentalism of the ACCC:
- They encouraged engagement in social concerns;
- They promoted high standards of academic scholarship; and
- They rejected the ecclesiastical separatism promoted by McIntire, often pursuing collaboration with others through parachurch organizations
Each of these characteristics took concrete shape by the mid-1950s. In 1947 Carl F. H. Henry’s book The Uneasy Conscience of Fundamentalism called on evangelicals to engage in addressing social concerns:
[I]t remains true that the evangelical, in the very proportion that the culture in which he lives is not actually Christian, must unite with non-evangelicals for social betterment if it is to be achieved at all, simply because the evangelical forces do not predominate. To say that evangelicalism should not voice its convictions in a non-evangelical environment is simply to rob evangelicalism of its missionary vision.
In the same year Fuller Theological Seminary was established with Ockenga as its president and Henry as the head of its theology department.
The New York crusade did not cause the division between the old Fundamentalists and the New Evangelicals; that had been signaled by the nearly simultaneous founding of the NAE and McIntire’s American Council of Christian Churches 15 years earlier. But it did provide an event around which the two groups were forced to define themselves.
A fourth development—the founding of Christianity Today (CT) with Henry as its first editor—was strategic in giving neo-evangelicals a platform to promote their views and in positioning them between the fundamentalists and modernists. In a letter to Harold Lindsell, Graham said that CT would:
plant the evangelical flag in the middle of the road, taking a conservative theological position but a definite liberal approach to social problems. It would combine the best in liberalism and the best in fundamentalism without compromising theologically.
The post-war period also saw growth of the ecumenical movement and the founding of the World Council of Churches, which the Evangelical community generally regarded with suspicion.
In the United Kingdom, John Stott (1921–2011) and Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) emerged as key leaders in Evangelical Christianity.
The charismatic movemen] began in the 1960s and resulted in the introduction of Pentecostal theology and practice into many mainline denominations. New charismatic groups such as the Association of Vineyard Churches and Newfrontiers trace their roots to this period (see also British New Church Movement).
The closing years of the 20th century saw controversial postmodern influences entering some parts of Evangelicalism, particularly with the emerging church movement. Also controversial is the relationship between spiritualism and contemporary military metaphors and practices animating many branches of Christianity but especially relevant in the sphere of Evangelicalism. Spiritual warfare is the latest iteration in a long-standing partnership between religious organization and militarization, two spheres that are rarely considered together, although aggressive forms of prayer have long been used to further the aims of expanding Evangelical influence. Major moments of increased political militarization have occurred concurrently with the growth of prominence of militaristic imagery in evangelical communities. For example, in 1951, Bill Bright found an institutional means to harness military values to evangelical outreach when he founded Campus Crusade for Christ, which continues today to instruct young people, or “warriors” in codes of moral discipline articulated in militaristic imagery, using terms such as to “enlist, rally, advance and blitz” to describe conversion tactics. This paradigmatic language, paired with an increasing reliance on sociological and academic research to bolster militarized sensibility, serves to illustrate the violent ethos that effectively underscores militarized forms of evangelical prayer.
In 2015, the World Evangelical Alliance is “a network of churches in 129 nations that have each formed an Evangelical alliance and over 100 international organizations joining together to give a world-wide identity, voice, and platform to more than 600 million Evangelical Christians”. The Alliance was formed in 1951 by Evangelicals from 21 countries. It has worked to support its members to work together globally.
According to Sébastien Fath of CNRS, in 2016, there are 619 million Evangelicals in the world, one in four Christians. In 2017, about 630 million, an increase of 11 million, including Pentecostals.
Operation World estimates the number of Evangelicals at 545.9 million, which makes for 7.9 percent of the world’s population. From 1960 to 2000, the global growth of the number of reported Evangelicals grew three times the world’s population rate, and twice that of Islam. According to Operation World, the Evangelical population’s current annual growth rate is 2.6 percent, still more than twice the world’s population growth rate.
In the 21st century, there are Evangelical churches active in Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, and Nigeria. They have grown especially since independence came in the 1960s, the strongest movements are based on Pentecostal-charismatic beliefs. There is a wide range of theology and organizations, including some sponsored by European missionaries and others that have emerged from African culture such as the Apostolic and Zionist Churches which enlist 40% of black South Africans, and their Aladura counterparts in western Africa.
In Nigeria the Evangelical Church Winning All (formerly “Evangelical Church of West Africa”) is the largest church organization with five thousand congregations and over three million members. It sponsors two seminaries and eight Bible colleges, and 1600 missionaries who serve in Nigeria and other countries with the Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS). There have been serious confrontations since 1999 between Muslims and Evangelical Christians standing in opposition to the expansion of Sharia law in northern Nigeria. The confrontation has radicalized and politicized the Christians. Violence has been escalating.
In Kenya, mainstream Evangelical denominations have taken the lead in promoting political activism and backers, with the smaller Evangelical sects of less importance. Daniel arap Moi was president 1978 to 2002 and claimed to be an Evangelical; he proved intolerant of dissent or pluralism or decentralization of power.
The Berlin Missionary Society (BMS) was one of four German Protestant mission societies active in South Africa before 1914. It emerged from the German tradition of Pietism after 1815 and sent its first missionaries to South Africa in 1834. There were few positive reports in the early years, but it was especially active 1859–1914. It was especially strong in the Boer republics. The World War cut off contact with Germany, but the missions continued at a reduced pace. After 1945 the missionaries had to deal with decolonisation across Africa and especially with the apartheid government. At all times the BMS emphasized spiritual inwardness, and values such as morality, hard work and self-discipline. It proved unable to speak and act decisively against injustice and racial discrimination and was disbanded in 1972.
Since 1974, young professionals have been the active proselytizers of Evangelicalism in the cities of Malawi.
In Mozambique, Evangelical Protestant Christianity emerged around 1900 from black migrants whose converted previously in South Africa. They were assisted by European missionaries, but, as industrial workers, they paid for their own churches and proselytizing. They prepared southern Mozambique for the spread of Evangelical Protestantism. During its time as a colonial power in Mozambique, the Catholic Portuguese government tried to counter the spread of Evangelical Protestantism.
East African Revival
The East African Revival was a renewal movement within Evangelical churches in East Africa during the late 1920s and 1930s that began at a Church Missionary Society mission station in the Belgian territory of Ruanda-Urundi in 1929, and spread to: Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya during the 1930s and 1940s contributing to the significant growth of the church in East Africa through the 1970s and had a visible influence on Western missionaries who were observer-participants of the movement.
In modern Latin America, the term “Evangelical” is often simply a synonym for “Protestant”.
Protestantism in Brazil largely originated with German immigrants and British and American missionaries in the 19th century, following up on efforts that began in the 1820s.
In the late nineteenth century, while the vast majority of Brazilians were nominal Catholics, the nation was underserved by priests, and for large numbers their religion was only nominal. The Catholic Church in Brazil was de-established in 1890, and responded by increasing the number of dioceses and the efficiency of its clergy. Many Protestants came from a large German immigrant community, but they were seldom engaged in proselytism and grew mostly by natural increase.
Methodists were active along with Presbyterians and Baptists. The Scottish missionary Dr. Robert Reid Kalley, with support from the Free Church of Scotland, moved to Brazil in 1855, founding the first Evangelical church among the Portuguese-speaking population there in 1856. It was organized according to the Congregational policy as the Igreja Evangélica Fluminense; it became the mother church of Congregationalism in Brazil. The Seventh-day Adventists arrived in 1894, and the YMCA was organized in 1896. The missionaries promoted schools colleges and seminaries, including a liberal arts college in São Paulo, later known as Mackenzie, and an agricultural school in Lavras. The Presbyterian schools in particular later became the nucleus of the governmental system. In 1887 Protestants in Rio de Janeiro formed a hospital. The missionaries largely reached a working-class audience, as the Brazilian upper-class was wedded either to Catholicism or to secularism. By 1914, Protestant churches founded by American missionaries had 47,000 communicants, served by 282 missionaries. In general, these missionaries were more successful than they had been in Mexico, Argentina or elsewhere in Latin America.
There were 700,000 Protestants by 1930, and increasingly they were in charge of their own affairs. In 1930, the Methodist Church of Brazil became independent of the missionary societies and elected its own bishop. Protestants were largely from a working-class, but their religious networks help speed their upward social mobility.
Protestants accounted for fewer than 5% of the population until the 1960s, but grew exponentially by proselytizing and by 2000 made up over 15% of Brazilians affiliated with a church. Pentecostals and charismatic groups account for the vast majority of this expansion.
Pentecostal missionaries arrived early in the 20th century. Pentecostal conversions surged during the 1950s and 1960s, when native Brazilians began founding autonomous churches. The most influential included Brasil Para o Cristo (Brazil for Christ), founded in 1955 by Manoel de Mello. With an emphasis on personal salvation, on God’s healing power, and on strict moral codes these groups have developed broad appeal, particularly among the booming urban migrant communities. In Brazil, since the mid-1990’s, groups committed to uniting black identity, antiracism, and Evangelical theology have rapidly proliferated. Pentecostalism arrived in Brazil with Swedish and American missionaries in 1911. it grew rapidly, but endured numerous schisms and splits. In some areas the Evangelical Assemblies of God churches have taken a leadership role in politics since the 1960s. They claimed major credit for the election of Fernando Collor de Mello as president of Brazil in 1990.
According to the 2000 Census, 15.4% of the Brazilian population was Protestant. A recent research conducted by the Datafolha institute shows that 25% of Brazilians are Protestants, of which 19% are followers of Pentecostal denominations. The 2010 Census found out that 22.2% were Protestant at that date. Protestant denominations saw a rapid growth in their number of followers since the last decades of the 20th century. They are politically and socially conservative, and emphasize that God’s favor translates into business success. The rich and the poor remained traditional Catholics, while most Evangelical Protestants were in the new lower-middle class–known as the “C class” (in a A–E classification system).
Chesnut argues that Pentecostalism has become “one of the principal organizations of the poor,” for these churches provide the sort of social network that teach members the skills they need to thrive in a rapidly developing meritocratic society.
One large Evangelical church that originated from Brasil is the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD), a neo‐Pentecostal denomination begun in 1977. It now has a presence in many countries, and claims millions of members worldwide.
Protestants remained a small portion of the population until the late-twentieth century, when various Protestant groups experienced a demographic boom that coincided with the increasing violence of the Guatemalan Civil War. Two former Guatemalan heads of state, General Efraín Ríos Montt and Jorge Serrano Elías have been practicing Evangelical Protestants, as is Guatemala’s current President, Jimmy Morales. General Montt, an Evangelical from the Pentecostal tradition, came to power through a coup. He escalated the war against leftist guerilla insurgents as a holy war against atheistic “forces of evil”.
Protestant missionary activity in Asia was most successful in Korea. American Presbyterians and Methodists arrived in the 1880s and were well received. Between 1910 and 1945, when Korea was a Japanese colony, Christianity became in part an expression of nationalism in opposition to Japan’s efforts to promote the Japanese language and the Shinto religion. In 1914, out of 16 million people, there were 86,000 Protestants and 79,000 Catholics; by 1934, the numbers were 168,000 and 147,000. Presbyterian missionaries were especially successful. Since the Korean War (1950–53), many Korean Christians have migrated to the U.S., while those who remained behind have risen sharply in social and economic status. Most Korean Protestant churches in the 21st century emphasize their Evangelical heritage. Korean Protestantism is characterized by theological conservatism coupled with an emotional revivalistic style. Most churches sponsor revival meetings once or twice a year. Missionary work is a high priority, with 13,000 men and women serving in missions across the world, putting Korea in second place just behind the US.
Sukman argues that since 1945, Protestantism has been widely seen by Koreans as the religion of the middle class, youth, intellectuals, urbanites, and modernists. It has been a powerful force supporting South Korea’s pursuit of modernity and emulation of the United States, and opposition to the old Japanese colonialism and to the authoritarianism of North Korea.
South Korea has been referred as an “evangelical superpower” for being the home to some of the largest and most dynamic Christian churches in the world; South Korea is also second to the U.S. in the number of missionaries sent abroad.
According to 2015 South Korean census, 9.7 million or 19.7% of the population described themselves as Protestants, many of whom belong to Presbyterian churches shaped by Evangelicalism.
In 2019, it was reported that Evangelicalism in France is growing and a new Evangelical church is built every 10 days and now counts 700,000 followers across France.
John Wesley (1703–1791) was an Anglican cleric and theologian who, with his brother Charles Wesley (1707–1788) and fellow cleric George Whitefield (1714 – 1770), founded Methodism. After 1791 the movement became independent of the Anglican Church as the “Methodist Connection”. It became a force in its own right, especially among the working class.
The Clapham Sect was a group of Church of England evangelicals and social reformers based in Clapham, London; they were active 1780s–1840s). John Newton (1725–1807) was the founder. They are described by the historian Stephen Tomkins as “a network of friends and families in England, with William Wilberforce as its centre of gravity, who were powerfully bound together by their shared moral and spiritual values, by their religious mission and social activism, by their love for each other, and by marriage”.
Evangelicalism was a major force in the Anglican Church from about 1800 to the 1860s. By 1848 when an evangelical John Bird Sumner became Archbishop of Canterbury, between a quarter and a third of all Anglican clergy were linked to the movement, which by then had diversified greatly in its goals and they were no longer considered an organized faction.
In the 21st century there are an estimated 2 million Evangelicals in the UK. According to research performed by the Evangelical Alliance in 2013, 87% of UK evangelicals attend Sunday morning church services every week and 63% attend weekly or fortnightly small groups. An earlier survey conducted in 2012 found that 92% of evangelicals agree it is a Christian’s duty to help those in poverty and 45% attend a church which has a fund or scheme that helps people in immediate need, and 42% go to a church that supports or runs a foodbank. 63% believe in tithing, and so give around 10% of their income to their church, Christian organisations and various charities 83% of UK evangelicals believe that the Bible has supreme authority in guiding their beliefs, views and behaviour and 52% read or listen to the Bible daily. The Evangelical Alliance, formed in 1846, was the first ecumenical evangelical body in the world and works to unite evangelicals, helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society.
By the late 19th to early 20th century, most American Protestants were Evangelicals. A bitter divide had arisen between the more liberal-modernist mainline denominations and the fundamentalist denominations, the latter typically consisting of Evangelicals. Key issues included the truth of the Bible—literal or figurative, and teaching of evolution in the schools.
During and after World War II, Evangelicals became increasingly organized. There was a great expansion of Evangelical activity within the United States, “a revival of revivalism.” Youth for Christ was formed; it later became the base for Billy Graham’s revivals. The National Association of Evangelicals formed in 1942 as a counterpoise to the mainline Federal Council of Churches. In 1942–43, the Old-Fashioned Revival Hour had a record-setting national radio audience. With this organization, though, fundamentalist groups separated from Evangelicals.
According to a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study, Evangelicals can be broadly divided into three camps: traditionalist, centrist, and modernist. A 2004 Pew survey identified that while 70.4% of Americans call themselves “Christian,” Evangelicals only make up 26.3 percent of the population, while Catholics make up 22 percent and mainline Protestants make up 16 percent.
Evangelicals have been socially active throughout US history, a tradition dating back to the abolitionist movement of the Antebellum period and the prohibition movement. As a group, evangelicals are most often associated with the Christian right. However, a large number of black self-labeled Evangelicals, and a small proportion of liberal white self-labeled Evangelicals, gravitate towards the Christian left.
Recurrent themes within American Evangelical discourse include abortion, the creation–evolution controversy, secularism, and the notion of the United States as a Christian nation.
Today, evangelicals are conservative leaning, primarily Republican voting, individuals who faithfully attend church service. Evangelicals’ religious faith and biblical interpretations are often used as a tool to justify their political views. Evangelicals’ political views more so than their religious beliefs often guide their positions on social issues such as: abortion, immigration, gay marriage, gender roles, affirmative action, race, criminal justice, the death penalty, and the privatization of public education.
Evangelical humanitarian aid
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.
In some evangelical churches, pricing of prayer against promises of healing has been found. Some pastors and evangelists have been charged with claiming false healings. Some churches in United States or Nigeria forbid the faithful from vaccination or medical treatment. In 2019, in Mbandjock in Cameroon, three deaths have been linked to this position in a revival church. This position is not representative of all evangelical churches, as the document indicates “The Miraculous Healing” published in 2015 by the National Council of Evangelicals of France, which mentions that medicine is one of the gifts of God made to humans. Churches and certain evangelical humanitarian organizations are also involved in medical health programs.
The fact that evangelicals do evangelism and speak about their faith in public is often criticized by the media and associated with proselytism. According to the evangelicals, freedom of religion and freedom of expression allow them to talk about their faith like anything else. Christian films made by American evangelical production companies are also regularly associated with proselytism. According to Sarah-Jane Murray, screenwriting teacher at the US Film and Christian Television Commission United, Christian films are works of art, not proselytism. For Hubert de Kerangat, communications manager at Saje distribution, distributor of these American Christian films in France, if Christian films are “proselytes”, all films are “proselytes”, since each film transmits a message, whether the viewer is free to approve or not.
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