"What is an Evangelical?"
In 1517, Martin Luther, originally a Catholic priest, and universally considered the Father, (no pun intended) that birthed the Protestant Reformation, penned his ’95 Thesis’; excoriating the practice of ‘Indulgencies’ and nailing it to the church house door in Wittington, Germany.
Pope Pius X was not amused and demanded that Luther recant his position. Brother Martin was not so inclined and was summarily excommunicated from the Church by the Pius Pope (you gotta love Irony). Can you imagine being able to buy your soul or the soul of one of your relatives out of Hades?
Interesting to note that some Catholics today, continue to subscribe to this method as a way to gain entrance into Heaven… (surprise, surprise). Anyway, Martin Luther and his followers stressed ‘Justification by Faith in Jesus Christ’.
Today, true Evangelical Christians believe as Luther did, and are heavily focused on Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ; teaching that sin requires confession of our sins through the process what we call Salvation; standing on The Holy Scriptures as our highest resource for Truth, and developing a close relationship with God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, and God’s Holy Spirit, to guide and direct their daily lives while assisting each of us in the process of ‘Winning Souls to Christ.’
During the mid-20th century, the term ‘Evangelical’ was applied to a group of Conservative American Christians that emerged out of an intense conflict between ‘Modernist Liberals and Fundamental Conservatives. This caused a serious schism, encouraging the latter to leave their established churches, reject modernistic liberalism, and develop their own houses of worship.
These Evangelicals prospered due to the attraction of dynamic personalities like Dr. Billy Graham, whose oratory skills and charisma, combined with his refusal to deviate from preaching the pure Gospel, placed him at the center of theological controversies, which only furthered to legitimize the Evangelical movement, while Carl F.H. Henry and other prominent theologians brought academics to the movement.
The magazine, Christianity Today, helped to institutionalize the process, along with ministerial schools, i.e., Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, and Wheaton College in suburban Chicago. And in 1942, Evangelical leaders founded the National Association of Evangelicals… Evangelicals were now firmly planted in American society.
In 1951, the World Evangelical Fellowship was formed, (WEF) shortly after the founding of the World Council of Churches, representing over 100 million members. Today, the WEF has added ‘Varsity Christian Fellowship’ and ‘Campus Crusade for Christ’; hosted on hundreds of college campuses across America, offering support and the formation of The Evangelical Theological Society that publishes a monthly journal to examine trends in science, theology, and cultural studies.
So, while Evangelicalism has flourished worldwide, there has been some dissent within the movement. Carl McIntire, an early leader in the movement, contributed greatly through his radio broadcasts; ‘The Twentieth Century Reformation Hour’, and the formation of the ‘American Council of Christian Churches’ (ACCC). In the 1980s, McIntire’s leadership in Fundamentalism paved the way for Jerry Falwell and the creation of Liberty University. There is much more to share regarding what goes on in the minds and hearts of Evangelical Christians, but for now, we will save it for another day and another Blogisode.