Will the Real Evangelical please Stand Up?

Over at Parchment and Pen, Michael Patton begins a series titled Will The Real Evangelical Please Stand Up?

“To this day the question “What is an Evangelical?” still gives me pause. Not so much because I don’t know how to define it, but because I don’t know who I am defining it to. You see, claiming to be an Evangelical can go a long way in molding someone’s thoughts about you, for good or ill. While most definitions of ”Evangelical” that people assume have a bit of truth to them, they all have one characteristic over another as their primary point of reference. Some assume that “Evangelical” is a simple way to say “Christian fanatic.” There is some truth to that. Others believe that it means “far right-winged Republican” (the old “Republican-party-at-prayer” definition). In some cases, this is true too. I know some who would equate Evangelicalism with Bible worship. I understand where they get this.  Others believe it is merely a synonym for “fundamentalist.” In this, Evangelicals are judgmental. Again, a bit of truth has to be conceded. Still, on the other side of the conservative Christian fence, many think of Evangelicals as compromisers and ecumenicists who are one step away from full-blown liberalism. I think we do compromise in some areas (and this may be a good thing). So, check again. Many think that Evangelicals are simply out to convert them to their faith—to “evangelize” them. Rightly understood, this is fair. Finally, to many inside the Evangelical fold,  Evangelicalism has become nothing more than the skin of cooperate America over the bones of infant breeding Christian leadership (at best).”  (read entire post…, bold added)

Frankly speaking, a label like “Evangelical” has become quite confusing and almost meaningless.

Anyone may stand up!

How about dropping all labels?  Okay, I’m being a bit facetious.

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13 Responses to Will the Real Evangelical please Stand Up?

  1. I consider an Evangelical anyone willing to self identify as one even after knowing the good and bad connotations that come with being considered an Evangelical.

  2. T.C. R says:

    You know, that’s an interesting way to put things. I guess the same may be said about the tag “Christian.”

  3. Stuart says:

    I agree with you TCR, in that the word Evangelical has now become meaningless as a general term or label. It seems to mean different things, to different folks, at different times…

    I notice the term post-evangelical banded around with ever increasing frequency, however, yet again, it seems to mean different things to different folks.

  4. T.C. R says:


    You know, Evangelical might still have some currency, depending on the context of discussion.

  5. Stuart says:

    @TCR, agreed, however, whereas once we could say we are evangelical and all would know what the author meant, we now have to spend time qualifying the term, both positively and negatively, to such an extend it may now be more prudent to have new terms altogther…

    I suppose what I’m saying is that from my experience the currency has been significantly devalued, even given context..

    The term Evangelical might be fine as an umbrella term, but now we need many sub-terms beneath it…

  6. T.C. R says:

    Yeah, tell me about those sub-terms. They are endless…

  7. Marc Cortez says:

    Although I agree that the term “evangelical” has problems, I’m not willing to surrender it. Some words are just too valuable (historically, theologically, etc.) to give up on, and I’m inclined to think that this is one of those.

  8. T.C. R says:


    I see you point. However, you’ll have to carry the baggage that comes with it. 😀

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  10. ScottL says:

    I’m not sure what to think. There is a part of me that thinks there might be a better term to communicate today what we are as followers of Christ. But the term does become helpful for some people, especially in a Romanized Belgium.

  11. Marc Cortez says:

    The broader context is part of the reason that I want to hold onto the term. “Evangelical” has a long history of describing Christians committed to the Gospel, and it’s still used by many Christians in other parts of the world to good effect. I’d hate to lose all of that just because it’s become problematic recently in certain parts of the English-speaking world.

  12. T.C. R says:

    Scott L and Marc,

    Yeah, you guys are correct. Part of the problem is how we tend to filter everything through American Evangelicalism.

  13. Pingback: Week in Review: 07.23.10 | Near Emmaus

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