So, what does “evangelical” mean?
Right now, I have no freaking idea. [Laughs.] I couldn’t begin to tell you.
What is it supposed to mean?
So, the most classic definition is one that was coined by Scottish historian David Bebbington (you can Google the term “Bebbington quadrilateral”), and it consists of these four things: evangelicals are people who believe in a conversion experience; they believe in the authority of scripture; they have a theology centered on the cross, and Jesus’s atoning work on the cross; and, as Bebbington puts it, they engage in a theologically informed activism, they get out there and preach the gospel and try to win people over. Some have suggested revisions to that, but that’s the general thing.
And what we’re looking at now is that many of the people who call themselves “evangelical” in polls are people who actually could not in any meaningful way affirm any of those four things. But that’s not encouraging to me, because what that suggests is that there are all these people who have some kind of tribal association with the word “evangelical.” And that means that evangelical churches have allowed themselves to degenerate into a kind of tribalism, rather than theologically informed, compassionate activism.
"[T]hat’s what I try to do — to promote life wherever it is endangered, wherever it is marginalized, wherever it is demeaned. That’s the kind of Christian I want to be." – @ayjay at @LAReviewofBooks today. https://t.co/CGfL8BQ7So
— Gracy Olmstead (@gracyolmstead) October 3, 2018