[from 2009 but may be helpful in the current debates]
What is an Evangelical?
For a thoughtful answer””a masterful example of clear thinking and concise expression””I’d recommend listening to this lecture by John Stott. (It’s 47 minutes long; I’m not sure what year it was delivered. If you know the provenance, please let us know in the coments below.)
A few years ago, when Stott was 85, he gave an interview to CT where he was asked to define the essence of evangelicalism. It’s a good summary of his classic lecture:
An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian. We stand in the mainstream of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity. So we can recite the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed without crossing our fingers. We believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.
Having said that, there are two particular things we like to emphasize: the concern for authority on the one hand and salvation on the other.
For evangelical people, our authority is the God who has spoken supremely in Jesus Christ. And that is equally true of redemption or salvation. God has acted in and through Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.
. . . [W]hat God has said in Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ, and what God has done in and through Christ, are both, to use the Greek word, hapax””meaning once and for all. There is a finality about God’s word in Christ, and there is a finality about God’s work in Christ. To imagine that we could add a word to his word, or add a work to his work, is extremely derogatory to the unique glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the lecture Stott operates with four main headings:
1.The claim of evangelicalism
2.The distinctives of evangelicalism
3.The concern of evangelicalism
4.The essence of evangelicalism
What follows is a brief summary of what Stott said in his important talk: