An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Sunday, 30 October 2005

Evangelical and Reformed

In the comments to my last post Greory Baus and Paul Otto (here) disputed the positioning of evangelical and Reformed in the relational diagram.

For me evangelicalism implies a high regard of and commitment to scripture this I would see as being compatible with the Reformed view. Evangelical literally means ‘of the gospel’.

David Bebbington in his Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (Unwin Hyman, 1989) describes four ‘qualities’ that are ‘the special marks’ of evangelicalism:

conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and what may be termed crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ at the cross. (p. 3)

It seems to me that there is much overlap between this and the Reformed tradition. According to Bebbington, Thomas More in 1531 refers to advocates of the Reformation as ‘Evangelicalles’ (p. 1)

Unlike Gregory I don’t think evangelicalism has any commitment to any particular form of worship, view of sacrament or church order. There are Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregationalists, Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox, Calvinsist … evangelicals.

One misconception that often occurs particularly in the media, paticulalrly in the UK, is that evangelical and evangelism (preaching the gospel with the aim of conversion) are confused and used synonymously.


Paul said...

Is it possible to be a non-evangelical Christian?

Baus said...

I am an example of a non-evangelical Christian.

Part of what I take to be essential to evangelicalism (I think Stott and Packer & Noll and Marsden include this)... one of the essentials I reject, is the de-emphasis on denominationalism (or, as it is sometimes slightly differently conceived: 'primacy of the local congregation').

This often means, for instance, that ecumenical unity is sought in lowest-common-denominators (e.g. inerrancy of Scripture), rather than, for instance, in doctrinal particularity (i.e., a given interpretation of some Scriptural teaching).

I recognize that once-upon-a-time, Evangelical meant either Lutheran or Calvinist (since Baptists, Congregationalists, and Anglicans *were* Calvinist, and Methodists didn't yet exist). So, when I want to use the term in its historic sense, I always say "confessing Evangelical." But my above point is that an essential of plain old Evangelicalism is "non-confessionality." Congregational (or parachurch) general "statements of faith" have replaced the doctrinally detailed historical confessions.

With regard to worship, the anti-denominationalism / non-confessionalism comes into play here. Evangelicals are anti-regulative principle. So, while Anglicans, Lutherans, and the "non-(historical)liturgical" churches *can* be evangelicals in that sense... OLD SCHOOL reformed believers cannot. For us, the Regulative Principle of Worship is an essential.

Baus said...


I should have said "plain NEW evangelicalism" not 'plain old'.

If you see what I mean.

Paul Robinson said...

BTW, that was me!

I think the word "evangelical" means something very different where I come from. But I'm not sure what!

Paul Otto said...

I think there is a difference between being Reformed and Evangelical. See the essay by Keith Sewell in Pro Rege: Calvin and the Stars, Kuyper and the Fossils (or something like that). He has a couple paragraphs dedicated to a discussion of the differences b/n Reformed and Evangelical. He is currently working on a larger projected elaborating on the same.