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Mark Hutchinson and John Wolffe’s A Short History of Global Evangelicalism, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Here’s Thomas Chambers raising objections to the name “Evangelical Alliance” in 1846:
‘It is truly possible, nay frequent thing,’ Chalmers wrote, ‘for men to think alike and to feel alike yet when brought to verbal explanations not to explain alike.'” (2)
From evangelicalism’s origins—‘evangelical,’ ‘evangelicalism’ has been problematic: it’s been used in differing ways by differing people, used as a positive and also as an insult both by people outside the movement and also within. ‘Evangelicalism’ will always encompass a range of beliefs and attitudes.
“Intelligent analysis of evangelicalism needs to start from the recognition that it is a fluid and diverse phenomenon, with boundaries that cannot be rigidly defined. It is this fluidity that has given it much of its power, even as it contributes to its confusion…” (18)
Various ways ‘evangelical’ and ‘evangelicalism’ have been used:
|Reformation-era word to mean “gospel” or “gospel-like,” “Protestant” or “not-Catholic”|
|Since 1960s, this word has been used by Germans to describe movements like “Anglo-American evangelicalism”|
in Britain 1700s
|One of earliest attempts to systematically explain the developing Evangelical movement:|
October 1762, Oxford, England, Thomas Haweis’ Evangelical Principles and Practice
as used in Britain 1820-1850
|Early usage tended to be put downs||1820, writer in Christian Remembrance as cited in another article in the Edinburgh Review in 1831 by OED
context: emergence of “-isms” nationalism, first usage 1879 (OED), liberalism, 1819, socialism, 1833, imperialism, 1858
as used in Britain after 1850
|Usage grows more nuanced
British felt the need to offer theological definition because they were theological variations within the Church of England
|August 1846, founding of Evangelical Alliance
1867 JC Ryle, Evangelical Religion: What it is, and what is not
in US in 1800s
|Same as Protestant orthodoxy
Americans do not feel little need to offer theological definition to evangelicalism; but it is more about denominations
|1844 Robert Baird’s Religion in the United States of America: An Account of the Origin of the State and Present Condition of the Evangelical Churches in the United States, with Notices of the Unevangelical Denominations
1876 WFP Noble, 1776-1876: A Century of Gospel Work
in US and Britain late 1800s, early 1900
|Moves towards a broader understanding of Evangelicalism||1889, Englishman RW Dale, The Old Evangelicalism and the New
1912 Brit RC Gillie, Evangelicalism: Has it a Future?
“Pentecostalism” and “Fundamentalism”
Hutchinson and Wolffe see both as variants of evangelicalism.
Theology does not define evangelicalism but “preconditions” it.
Hutchinson and Wolffe make the case that theological precision has never defined evangelicalism. This explains how Holiness, Calvinists and Pentecostals given their large differences could work in cooperation with one another. Evangelicalism is above all a popular movement, and precision tends to be lacking in popular movements. They warn:
“[D]efinitions can become polemical tools oriented towards seeking stable places in a rapidly changing world, rather than genuine aids to understanding.” (13)
Instead, Hutchinson and Wolffe rely on 3 descriptors of evangelicalism, from 3 other historians:
|American George Marsden in Evangelicalism and Modern America, 1984
Evangelicalism is 3 things:
Does not emphasize human sinfulness (but perhaps implicit) in #2
In #3, these infrastructures may be less formalized and institutionalized than the US
|Brit David Bebbington in Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: a History form the 1730s to the 1980s, 1989. |
This definition has gained widespread use for understanding evangelicalism around the world.
4 qualities of Evangelical Christian religion:
(1) conversionism: lives need to change
(2) activism: Christianity needs to be acted out, lived out
(3) biblicism: the high importance of the Bible
(4) crucicentricm: the centrality of Jesus' death and resurrection on the Cross
Does talk explicitly about human sinfulness (but perhaps implicit in conversionism)
Does not talk about importance of revivalism (though part of activism)
Assumes a lot, like the sovereignty and omnipotence of God, the uniqueness of Christ
Does not make evangelicals very distinctive as many non-Evangelicals share these qualities.
Can lead to an “overly homogeneous impression of evangelicalism, obscuring those committed to sharper theological definition, as well as significant distinctive local emphases and features of belief and practice.” (17)
Gets around theological controversies on and can accommodate a variety of evangelical views on how we are saved, how we engage with the world etc.
|Australian Stuart Piggin in Evangelical Christianity in Australia: Spirit, Word and World, 1996
“Evangelicalism is concerned to foster an intimate, even intense, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Spirit: “The creation and development of this relationship is understood as the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who converts and regenerates believers and gives them the desire for personal holiness.”
Word: “Consistent with the Reformation, evangelicalism holds salvation by faith alone (sola fide) as its central doctrine and the Bible understood as the Word of God, as its sole authority (sola scriptura).
World: “The evangelical faith is crystalized in the Gospel which the early generations of evangelicals understood not only as the divinely given instrument for the rebirth of the individual soul, but as for the renovation of society and culture.” (17)
Continuities with the Reformation’s emphasis on the authority of the Bible and justification by faith
Highlights Evangelicalism’s experiential and activist dimensions that are at the heart of its distinctive form of Protestantism
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