What is an Evangelical anyway?

What is an Evangelical anyway? June 17, 2022

Image: Crossway

Is being an Evangelical anything more than voting Republican? Or being pro-life? Or listening to terrible music and watching bad movies? In his new book Gospel People: A Call for Evangelical Integrity Michael Reeves argues that these things are all distractions (or, worse, idolatrous pursuits) from the true heart of Evangelicalism. What is that heart?

“Any definition of the evangel and so of evangelicalism must follow apostolic teaching with its essential qualities of being Trinitarian, Scripture-based, Christ-centered, and Spirit-renewed. It must therefore be God-centered as the ‘gospel of God’ (Rom. 1:1), concerning the Father, the Son, and the Spirit and the work of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit…. In that light, I suggest that true evangelicalism.. at its heart lie three essential heads of doctrine, out of which flow all its concerns:

  1. The Father’s revelation in the Bible

  2. The Son’s redemption in the gospel

  3. The Spirit’s regeneration of our hearts” (19)

The rest of the book works through each of these points, outlining the Trinity, penal substitution on the cross, and the regeneration that the Spirit works on us in our conversion. This theology ought to define our lives and shape our moral actions and push us to live lives of holiness and goodness.

Repeatedly, Reeves reminds us that these are the points which define Evangelicals and to which we ought to hold. The passing political issues of any given moment should not become a litmus test for whether or not one is Evangelical. Even worse, we sometimes make adherence to specific political positions more important than a life of holiness–even to the point of using fidelity to the former to forgive failings in the latter. How many times have we seen Christians (well, “Christians”) excuse adultery in pastors or other Christian leaders simply because they support the right political cause, or because they’re good at fundraising, or because they’re in the right family in the church? We must reject these cultural standards and approaches and return to the truth of the Gospel as our foundation, and its Biblical outworking in our lives.

Reeves is certainly right, and this little book is an excellent place to begin thinking about how to return to our Biblical foundations. As a bonus, in the appendix Reeves gives a brief reflection on previous attempts to define Evangelicalism and to explore Evangelical history. This alone is worth the price of admission, but the rest of the book is excellent too.

Highly recommended.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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