COMMENTS ON A FEW CURRENT EVENTS,
AND FINALLY OUR COMMENTARY ON
THE MEANING OF "EVANGELICAL"
Next week's issue will be dated January 21, one day
after the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama.
Beginning on that day the new president will probably
begin doing things, making decisions, taking action on
some of the many problems he will be facing. Then,
and only then, will we be able to criticize or commend.
Regardless of what the atheists think, it remains our
conviction that as Christians it is appropriate for us to
pray that God will give him wisdom in the decisions
he must make.
There remains some wonder as to what name the
new president will use. Some have pointed out that
he seems proud of his Muslim middle name, Hussein.
One is reminded that President Bush was often
referred to simply as "W." President Clinton was
always called "Bill." President Carter was always just
"Jimmy," never James. So who knows? But we shall
doubtless soon find out.
As a result of last week's article on atheism, some
readers have reminded us of the Washington state
Governor's support of the atheist sign next to the
nativity scene in the capitol. Others have pointed out
that the atheists are running signs on public transport
buses in London ("There's probably no God. Now
stop worrying and enjoy your life."); and also in
Washington, DC ("Why believe in a god. Just be
good for goodness' sake.") In Australia the signs
on buses were banned ("Atheism: Sleep in on
Sunday mornings." ) Kudos to Australia!
We cannot ignore the Gaza conflict. Any war,
with the collateral deaths of innocent civilians, is not
something any Christian can favor. However, by any
standard, the present attacks on the Hamas terrorists
in Gaza has to be considered a "just war" on the part
of Israel. Some of the fallout indicates that the attacks
on Israel by Hamas which brought about Israel's
retaliation are part of a broader Muslim vs Western
World viewpoint. Already in Malaysia a boycott of
American products is in force. The former Prime
Minister, in calling for a boycott of all American goods,
said last week: “If you stop accepting US currency,
the US can’t trade and can’t make any money, it
will become very poor and it will have to stop the
production of more and more weapons in order
to kill people. We should not be buying all these
weapons from the US. We can buy from the
Russians. People must act… we urge everybody
who loves peace and is against war to support our
Psalm 122-6 remains true, "Pray for the peace of
And this little news item slipped by, almost unnoticed:
rockets from Gaza at southern Israel, the terrorist
organization voted quietly to implement Islamic
law in the Gaza Strip, including crucifixion of
As for our comments on "Evangelical," and
"Evangelicalism" -- this may very possibly become
an ongoing discussion over a period of two or more
weeks. But here are our initial and introductory
comments on this subject.
First let us accept the fact that standard definitions do
little to help clarify the issue. For example, the new
American Heritage dictionary offers (among others)
this definition: "A member of an evangelical church."
Not particularly enlightening. An Oxford dictionary
offering is considerably more meaningful: "... of a
branch of Protestantism emphasizing biblical
authority." The Merriam Webster Collegiate
Encyclopedia offers this: "...stresses conversion
experiences; the Bible as the only rule for faith ."
And our citing more sources would only produce
more of the same, or similar.
For every day, practical use, the Barna Research
Group of Ventura, CA, a pre-eminent Christian
research organization, offers these breakouts from
the broad term "Christian:" First, "Born again" is
taken to mean those who have made a personal
commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in
their life today, and who believe they will go to
Heaven upon death because they have accepted
Jesus Christ as their Savior. Second, "Evangelical"
is taken to mean those who are "Born again" and
who have certain other convictions, including the
belief that their faith is very important in their daily
lives and that they have a personal responsibility to
share their faith belief in Christ with non-Christians.
We are not going to rely on published definitions,
nor are we going to dwell on the fact that although
the term "Evangelical" is not found in the Bible, it
does come from the New Testament Greek word
euangelion which means "good news" or "gospel,"
and essentially the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"The disciples were called Christians first in
Antioch." (Acts 11:26) And aside from the term
"disciple," which is used some 300 times in the New
Testament, that one use is the only time the followers
of Jesus were referred to as "Christians" -- and they
were never referred to as "Evangelicals." Throughout
the New Testament the followers of Jesus were called
"disciples." In His Great Commission at the close of
His earthly ministry, Jesus instructed His followers to
go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and make
disciples of all men. (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15; NIV)
So we are not discussing a Bible-based concept or a
biblical term, but rather one which men have created
for the purpose of defining some Christians based on
their doctrinal or theological beliefs.
Equally there is little point in tracing the history
of the Evangelical movement, because at certain times
in the history of any movement the men involved at
that moment in its history have shaped the function
and purpose of the movement at that point in time.
For example, a major development in the history of
the Evangelical movement was the creation of the
Evangelical Alliance (EA) in London in 1846. It is
still functioning as just that - an alliance of individuals
and churches of Evangelical convictions. In 1954 the
EA sponsored the Billy Graham crusade in London
which opened the door to the international spread
of evangelism in the 20th century. Then in 1867 the
American EA was established, but in 1908 it became
the Federal Council of Churches, and in 1950 the
National Council of Churches - hardly a conservative
or evangelical organization by any standard.
The motivating factor in the development of the
Evangelical movement in America was the sharp
division among the Christian church in the early years
of the 20th century - the division between Modernists
In those first decades of the 20th century, the broad
theological spectrum ran from right to left with these
groupings essentially following the traditional bell
shaped curve: Fundamentalist, Conservative, Liberal
and Modernist. The further to the left an individual's
theological viewpoints were positioned, the more
the authority of the Scriptures was weakened.
Theologically conservative Christian ministers and
others in positions of leadership who believed strongly
in the authority of the Bible, took their stand under the
banner of the basic fundamentals of the Christian faith.
Thus they were labeled "Fundamentalists." In time that
term became a target for ridicule, criticism and even
At the start, these five were the essential fundamentals:
1. The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and
the inerrancy of Scripture;
2. The virgin birth of Christ
3. The belief that Christ's death was atonement for sin;
4. The bodily resurrection of Christ;
5. The historical reality of Christ's miracles.
Somewhere in the early 1940s, the Fundamentalist
groups were infiltrated by some much stricter leaders,
and the concept of "separation" became a dominant
theme. In those years a litany became popular to the
effect that the "5 Cardinal Sins of Fundamentalism"
were Smoking, Drinking, Dancing, Card-playing and
Then in 1942 a new association of like minded
Christian believers was formed: the National
Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Now a new
term was established, and "Evangelical" began to
take the place of the older "Fundamentalist." And
as that term began to fade away, so did its diametrical
opposite, "Modernist." But "Conservative" and
"Liberal" were still valid designations. and somewhere
in that major space on the bell shaped curve, the new
designation of "Evangelical" found its place.
This is more of a task than we had anticipated,
and so we ask that you demonstrate enough patience
to return to this discussion next week, for the next
and possibly the final chapter in the discussion of
Evangelicalism. But maybe not the last. T his subject
is too important to gloss over too lightly.
At the approaching change in our government,
this is a most appropriate time to recall the views of
our Founding Fathers: "Without morals a republic
cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore
who are decrying the Christian religion, whose
morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining
the solid foundation of morals, the best security
for the duration of free governments." - Charles
Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence,
written November 4, 1800
Some Random Afterthoughts . . .