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Branches and Subbranches, Part 4

Evangelism

In this present series, I’ve been describing the 4 major sub-branches of Protestant Christianity. You’ve probably heard the labels, but may not know their history or distinguishing features.

The 4 sub-branches are: Mainline, Fundamental, Evangelical and Charismatic. In this article, I’ll describe what it means to be Evangelical.

History

Following World War II, many Protestants were dissatisfied with the option of either a Mainline (liberal) or Fundamentalist (separatist) church. There was a yearning for a 3rd option.

The person who expressed this yearning most powerfully was Carl FH Henry. In 1946, Henry wrote a book entitled “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism.” He made two major points:

1.      Fundamentalism is too withdrawn from society. In order to be “salt and light,” the church needs to be more engaged.

2.      Within fundamentalism, there is too little concern for social issues like racism and poverty. He argued that the relief of suffering is part of our mission as well.

The book was hugely influential, and in 1948, Henry issued a call for a “New Evangelicalism” – one that would be engaged with the culture (contra the fundamentalists), but without compromising a commitment to the core doctrines of the faith (contra the liberals).

Henry’s call birthed a number of parachurch organizations, including Young Life, Campus Crusade for Christ and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.

What the movement needed, however, was a face – i.e., a person to epitomize and represent the New Evangelicalism. Enter Billy Graham, who became the face of Evangelicalism and remained so from the mid-1950’s until his death in 2018.

To this day, Evangelicalism remains vibrant and its annual growth rate exceeds that of every other branch of Christianity, except the Charismatic branch (our topic next week).

Distinguishing Features

Evangelicalism has 4 distinguishing features:

1.      Biblicism – a high regard for the Bible as the ultimate authority.

2.      Crucicentrism – a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the redemption of humanity.

3.      Conversionism – a belief in the necessity of a conversion experience and being born again of the Spirit.

4.      Activism – a belief in the necessity of expressing and demonstrating the gospel through missionary and social reform efforts (i.e., engagement with the world)

Application

First Baptist Harlan very much falls into the Evangelical category. We’re “fundamentalist” on doctrine (that is, unyielding to the winds of culture), but we strive to be engaged with the culture for the purpose of proclaiming Christ.

Pastor Dan

 

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