Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Are You An Evangelical? Are You Sure?

Dear Friends,

We call ourselves an Evangelical Church, but what does that mean? What is an Evangelical? And the term “Evangelical” comes loaded with so much political baggage these days! Do I even want to be known as an Evangelical? And why do we need this tribalistic view about our Christian faith anyway? If we believe in Jesus, aren’t we all then united as brothers and sisters in the Lord?

What if we just called ourselves “Christian?” Doesn’t that describe what we believe? Consider this: despite their wildly different beliefs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormon Church, Unity School of Christianity, the Aryan Nations and the KKK all call themselves “Christian.” The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (Unification Church) teaches that Jesus failed by dying on the cross and Rev. Sun Myung Moon became the savior and mediator between God and man. Another “Christian” movement, “Eastern Lightning,” with over one million members, believes that Jesus Christ has been reincarnated as a middle-aged Chinese woman called “Lightning Deng” who now lives in New York. This new reincarnated “Jesus Christ”  uses live snakes painted with Bible verses for her prophetic predictions. There is a long list of wacky or dangerous cults who sincerely believe in Jesus Christ and call themselves “Christian.” There are also those who self-identify as Christian because their family baptized them as an infant but they have no active faith. All the above are baptized believers in Jesus Christ. But are they Christians as described in the Bible? This is why we may want to describe ourselves as Evangelicals. 

When we use the term “Evangelical” we are very specifically describing one who believes in historic, classic, apostolic and reformational Christianity. The term separates us from those movements which have altered the traditional, historic Christian doctrine including those in Protestant Christianity who have veered off to the doctrinal right (fundamentalism) or to the left (liberal theology).

Evangelicalism is a transdenominational sub-culture that arose in the 1940's to correct a Protestant movement towards Christian liberalism and fundamentalism in our country. Both fundamental and liberal theology have equally strayed from biblical theology. Fundamentalism represents the extreme right as it adds secondary doctrines (no dancing, card playing, movies, strict rules for women’s dress etc) to the essentials of the faith.

Liberal theology invites and permits our “modern thought” to override scripture and tradition when they conflict. According to liberal theologian Delwin Brown, “There must be commitment to the careful judgments of the present age, even if they differ radically from the dictates of Scripture and tradition.” The Evangelical sits solidly in the middle between these fundamental and liberal theologies.

Evangelical theology and life are conservative in that it seeks to preserve the classic Christian doctrines of the first Apostles, the Church Fathers and the Reformers. You could say that Evangelicalism is a reformation of the Protestant reformation. It is a return to what Luther and Calvin had intended the church to become. Evangelicalism is a set of biblical beliefs and doctrine that many denominations and non-denominational churches have in common.  NHFC is solidly Evangelical in our beliefs. 

After the last presidential election, the term “Evangelical” has been weaponized by the media and used in a defamatory manner against all sincere bible-believing Christians. An L.A Times editorial even described all Evangelical Christians as white and racist! (Nope. Fact is that one in three American Evangelicals is a person of color.) We have become the enemy of the political left and need to restore the true meaning of Evangelical among those who have no understanding of what we believe. 

What are the Christian beliefs that all Evangelicals have in common? From a textbook for Christian theologians called EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY: Evangelicalism has a super-natural worldview that believes in: 

1) The reality of the Trinity. 

2) The deity of Jesus Christ. 

3) The virgin birth. 

4) His sinless life and in His miracles. 

5) The bodily resurrection of Jesus. 

6) The infallibility and authority of the Bible for all matters of faith and religious practice. 

7) The fallenness of all humanity. 

8) Salvation provided by Jesus through His suffering, death and resurrection. 

9) The necessity of personal repentance and acceptance of Jesus. 

10) The importance of a devotional life and growth in holiness and discipleship. 

11) The urgency of evangelism and social transformation. 

12) The return of Jesus Christ to judge the world and establish the final, full rule and reign of God. 

If you can say “YES and AMEN” to these twelve timeless, apostolic, classic and historic Biblical teachings, no matter what church you attend, you are Evangelical.

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