Defining Evangelicals

Some Christians are having a tough time with the label because of the political connotations.

Robin Smith · Dec. 18, 2017

Last week, The Washington Post published an article titled, “After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals finding their own label too toxic to use.” It featured four students attending Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, who voiced their struggle with the current view of their faith. The piece puts forward the notion that those of the evangelical branch of the Christian faith have, essentially, sullied themselves by engaging in politics and embarrassed themselves by embracing some indecent politicians — specifically, Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

The narrative presented by the WaPo would easily shame a Christian for not meeting their own moral standards — just as the “good” Dr./leftist radical Saul Alinsky would do in marginalizing his opponents. The frame of thought is that Christians act as hypocrites for casting votes for imperfect candidates whose behavior is not saintly.

On the palm tree-lined campus, four young students assembled with a reporter perched to observe their discussions of the label “evangelical.” One of the Fuller students declared, “It’s still a painful identity for me, coming from this election. … When I say that I’m an evangelical now, I always qualify it.” Clearly, the stain of supporting a candidate whose policy agenda is the most pro-Christian in recent decades has escaped this young man.

Joining in the discussion was a second student whose comments were based less in the shame of being pro-Trump agenda but saw politics as a source of division in the efforts to minister in his Christian faith. “You have to understand the people you’re speaking to and what’s going to allow them to keep open ears,” the 29-year-old stated. “When it comes down to it, labels can be a dangerous thing.”

A third female student proclaimed her willingness to hang onto the term evangelical with good cause: “It’s biblical. We didn’t make it up.”

This begs to clarify terminology. Evangelical is derived from the Greek word, euangelion, which means, “good news, gospel.” These seminary students were engaged in discussion about the four-part definition of the evangelical Christian faith, articulated by historian David Bebbington and summed up by the Post: “obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority, belief in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as the source of salvation, the necessity of a personal ‘born-again’ conversion experience, and work to spread the Gospel.”

So do Evangelical Christians harm their testimony by being politically active?

Well, let’s answer that by looking at what Jesus Christ Himself taught in the four Gospels, written by the Four Evangelists — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — who captured Jesus’ earthly ministry including the call of evangelism.

In just one chapter of Luke, Jesus is speaking in parables and admonishes the faithful to continually pray for provision and, on this occasion, showing that God works through the ungodly. A godly widow who seeks legal protection from an adversary and an unrighteous judge are featured in Luke 18:1-8. The story conveys the determination and desperation of this widow to enjoy legal remedy through a governmental and legal process in her repeated appearances before this judge. The judge, exasperated, even admits the activism of the widow drove him to rule in her favor.

Did the teaching provide that Christians are limited in their lives to have provision made only through the church? No. Regarding issues of the law, the widow was directed to seek God’s provision through the secular court — even through an unrighteous judge.

Let’s just get down to the real purpose of the Left in its attempts to conjure up guilt in the minds of Evangelical Christians for voting Trump or Moore: The current media and culture want to utterly dispense with the power of those in the populace called Evangelicals.

Evangelicals are despised by the Left because these Christians live a life of faith not confined to a Sunday morning sermon or a recitation of a doctrine-approved statement of faith that’s contained to one’s person. Simpler, Evangelicals believe what they believe and thus impact their world.

While the four theological students might debate the term, they miss the point. If your aim is to be pious or religiously devout, then by all means, don’t engage in the culture war or cast a ballot for one of two imperfect candidates. But if you are “in this world but not of it” and want to obey Christ’s admonition to be the salt of the earth — a disinfectant, a preservative and a seasoning in Bible times — you must be shaken or dispersed among that which must be impacted. Are Christians called to be salt blocks that are motionless and benefit a few or salt shaken over our entire culture?

Back to the notion that only the perfect are candidates used and approved of God. First, if folks were perfect, exactly why would we need a Savior?

Meanwhile, what does Christ say about the pious who glory in their rituals and rites who show disdain toward the imperfect? Keep reading in Luke 18:9-14. Right after Jesus speaks of a godly widow who found protection provided by her government, he compared a very self-righteous Pharisee and a tax collector. In essence, the humility of the latter was exalted by Jesus while the former was condemned for his religiosity.

Bottom line, there are two groups who want Evangelicals to believe the hogwash about not engaging in civic life: The Left, who want unfettered control of our entire culture and all of its institutions without facing conflict, and those so fixated on teachings that are just not found in the Christian faith that would protect one’s reputation and reject solutions provided from a vessel or person that is not of their choosing.

The term evangelical is toxic to a rotting culture. However, it will be worthless if the good news does not impact every aspect of our lives, including politics. So says Jesus (Matthew 5:13).

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