Evangelicalism in the United States

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The Call rally in 2008, Washington, D.C.. United States Capitol in the background.

In the United States, evangelicalism is an umbrella group of Protestant Christians who believe in the necessity of being born again, emphasize the importance of evangelism, and affirm traditional Protestant teachings on the authority and the historicity of the Bible.[1] Nearly a quarter of the US population, evangelicals are diverse and drawn from a variety of denominational backgrounds, including Baptist, Mennonite, Methodist, Holiness, Pentecostal, Reformed and nondenominational churches.[2][3]

Evangelicalism has played an important role in shaping American religion and culture. The First Great Awakening of the 18th century marked the rise of evangelical religion in colonial America. As the revival spread throughout the Thirteen Colonies, evangelicalism united Americans around a common faith.[1] The Second Great Awakening of the 19th century led to what historian Martin Marty called the "Evangelical Empire", a period in which evangelicals dominated US cultural institutions, including schools and universities. Some evangelicals were strong advocates of reform, largely in the northern United States. They were involved in the temperance movement and supported the abolition of slavery in addition to working towards education and criminal justice reform. Many evangelical denominations split over slavery, with evangelicals in the southern United States establishing new branches that did not formally or openly call for abolition of slavery. [4] (For example, the Southern Baptist Convention was founded over the issue of slaveholders serving as foreign missionaries.)

By the end of the 19th century, the old evangelical consensus that had united American Protestantism no longer existed. Protestant churches became divided over new intellectual and theological ideas, such as Darwinian evolution and historical criticism of the Bible. Those who embraced these liberal ideas became known as modernists, while those who rejected them became known as fundamentalists. Fundamentalists defended the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and adopted a dispensationalist theological system for interpreting the Bible.[5] As a result of the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy of the 1920s and 1930s, fundamentalists lost control of the Mainline Protestant churches and separated themselves from non-fundamentalist churches and cultural institutions.[6]

After World War II, a new generation of conservative Protestants rejected the separatist stance of fundamentalism and began calling themselves evangelicals. Popular evangelist Billy Graham was at the forefront of reviving use of the term. During this time period, a number of evangelical institutions were established, including the National Association of Evangelicals, Christianity Today magazine and a number of educational institutions, such as Fuller Theological Seminary.[7] As a reaction to the 1960s counterculture, many evangelicals became politically active and involved in the Christian right, which became an important voting bloc of the Republican Party. Observers such as Frances FitzGerald have noted that since 2005 the influence of the Christian right among evangelicals has been in decline.[8] Though less visible, some evangelicals identify as Progressive evangelicals.


Evangelicals are Protestants who adhere to the Protestant Reformation doctrines of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and believe that right doctrine comes from Scripture alone. Evangelicalism as a movement was shaped by the revivals of the First Great Awakening during the 18th-century, and it is this revival heritage that differentiates evangelicals from other Protestants.[9]

According to religion scholar Randall Balmer, evangelicalism resulted "from the confluence of Pietism, Presbyterianism, and the vestiges of Puritanism. Evangelicalism picked up the peculiar characteristics from each strain – warmhearted spirituality from the Pietists (for instance), doctrinal precisionism from the Presbyterians, and individualistic introspection from the Puritans".[10] What distinguished this new blend of early American evangelicalism from the forms of Protestantism that preceded it was, according to historian Thomas S. Kidd, "increased emphases on seasons of revival, or outpourings of the Holy Spirit, and on converted sinners experiencing God's love personally" [emphasis in original].[11]

17th century[edit]


Early American evangelicalism was shaped by the Puritans of New England (also known as Congregationalists), a 16th and 17th-century Calvinist movement originating in England.[12] Like later evangelicals, the Puritans believed in the necessity of a conversion experience. Before a convert was admitted to full church membership, he or she had to provide evidence of his or her conversion in the form of a conversion narrative and agree to abide by the church covenant. After agreeing to the covenant, new converts were admitted to full membership with the right of receiving the Lord's Supper and having their children baptized.[13]

Puritans believed conversion occurred in stages. The first stage was humiliation or sorrow for having sinned against God. The second stage was justification or adoption characterized by a sense of having been forgiven and accepted by God through Christ's mercy. The third stage was sanctification, the ability to live a holy life out of gladness toward God.[14]

As the children of the first generation of Puritans grew to adulthood, church leaders became concerned that many of them remained unconverted and therefore unable to have their children baptized. In 1662, the Half-Way Covenant was introduced, which allowed parents who were "baptized and moral, but not converted, to have their own children baptized." This created a situation in which Puritan churches were filled with halfway members waiting for conversion.[15]

Puritan ministers saw other signs of religious decline in New England and began to encourage a general revival of religion through covenant renewals in the 1670s and 1680s. These ceremonies, often followed by weeks of preaching on salvation, "presented an opportunity for all to consider whether they were truly right before God and also for halfway members to seek conversion and full admission into church membership."[16] According to historian Perry Miller, the First Great Awakening was "nothing more than an inevitable culmination" of the covenant renewals.[17]

The renewals, however, differed from the evangelical revivals in that covenant renewals were planned in advance. The earliest evangelicals came to believe that revivals were outpourings of the Holy Spirit that usually occurred unexpectedly.[12] Using this definition of revival, historian Thomas Kidd identified Puritan minister Samuel Torrey as the first evangelical spokesman in New England. Torrey became pastor of Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1666, and throughout his ministry preached on the necessity of revival among ministers and congregations, calling for "Heart-reformation, or making of a new heart."[18]

Another important early figure was Solomon Stoddard of Northampton, Massachusetts. A contemporary of Torrey, Stoddard presided over five revivals or "harvests", as he referred to them, between 1679 and 1718. As a Calvinist, Stoddard believed that the Holy Spirit drew sinners to salvation, but he also believed that powerful preaching could be the means by which this occurred. With this in mind, Stoddard's preaching consisted of both warnings of damnation and hope of salvation through Christ. Stoddard's 1714 treatise on conversion, A Guide to Christ, helped shape evangelical spirituality and remained influential into the 19th century.[19]

Pietism and Scots-Irish Presbyterianism[edit]

Besides New England Puritanism, early evangelicalism was also influenced by pietism, a movement within the Lutheran and Reformed churches in Europe that emphasized a "religion of the heart": the ideal that faith was not simply acceptance of propositional truth but was an emotional "commitment of one's whole being to God" in which one's life became dedicated to self-sacrificial ministry.[20]

Pietism originated from the work of German Lutheran theologian Philipp Spener, who felt there was a lack of sincere piety or devotion within the Lutheran church of his day. Spener sought to reform the church through the renewal of individual hearts by organizing small group meetings that would encourage spiritual development. A renewed Protestant church would be able to accomplish the conversion of the Jews and bring an end to the Roman Catholic Church, both of which were believed to be necessary before the Second Coming of Christ occurred.[21]

In the 1720s and 1730s, this movement flourished in the religiously tolerant Middle Colonies as pietist clergy emigrated from Continental Europe, many of them influenced by August Hermann Francke, Willem Teellinck and Gisbertus Voetius.[22] Evangelicalism in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the southern backcountry was also shaped by Presbyterianism. Scots-Irish immigrants brought with them traditions such as the communion season that would contribute to revivalism in America.[23] More so than other evangelicals, the Scots-Irish revivalists saw conversion as a process, potentially taking months or years.[24]

18th century[edit]

In the 1730s, evangelicalism emerged as a distinct phenomenon out of religious revivals that began in Britain and New England. It developed during the Age of Enlightenment in response to challenges to traditional Protestantism. In particular, deism—which denied that God took an active role in human history and rejected the reality of biblical miracles—had become influential within the Church of England both in Britain and across the Atlantic in the Thirteen Colonies.[25]

While religious revivals had occurred within Protestant churches in the past, the evangelical revivals that marked the 18th century were more intense and radical.[26] Evangelical revivalism imbued ordinary men and women with a confidence and enthusiasm for sharing the gospel and converting others outside of the control of established churches, a key discontinuity with the Protestantism of the previous era.[27]

It was developments in the doctrine of assurance that differentiated evangelicalism from what went before. Historian David W. Bebbington says, "The dynamism of the Evangelical movement was possible only because its adherents were assured in their faith."[28] He goes on:

Whereas the Puritans had held that assurance is rare, late and the fruit of struggle in the experience of believers, the Evangelicals believed it to be general, normally given at conversion and the result of simple acceptance of the gift of God. The consequence of the altered form of the doctrine was a metamorphosis in the nature of popular Protestantism. There was a change in patterns of piety, affecting devotional and practical life in all its departments. The shift, in fact, was responsible for creating in Evangelicalism a new movement and not merely a variation on themes heard since the Reformation.[29]

Jonathan Edwards was one of the most influential early evangelical theologians.[30]

The most influential episode in the Great Awakening was the Northampton revival of 1734–1735 under the leadership of Congregational minister Jonathan Edwards, grandson and successor to Solomon Stoddard.[30] In the fall of 1734, Edwards preached a sermon series on justification by faith alone. Signs of religious commitment among the laity increased, especially among the town's young people. The revival ultimately spread to 25 communities in western Massachusetts and central Connecticut until it began to wane by the spring of 1735.[31]

At a time when Enlightenment rationalism and Arminian theology was popular among some Congregational clergy, Edwards held to traditional Calvinist doctrine. He understood conversion to be the experience of moving from spiritual deadness to joy in the knowledge of one's election (that one had been chosen by God for salvation). While a Christian might have several conversion moments as part of this process, Edwards believed there was a single point in time when God regenerated an individual, even if the exact moment could not be pinpointed.[32]

The Northampton revival featured instances of what critics called enthusiasm but what supporters believed were signs of the Holy Spirit. Services became more emotional and some people had visions and mystical experiences. Edwards cautiously defended these experiences as long as they led individuals to a greater belief in God's glory rather than in self-glorification. Similar experiences would appear in most of the major revivals of the 18th century.[33]

By 1737, George Whitefield had become a national celebrity in England where his preaching drew large crowds, especially in London where the Fetter Lane Society had become a center of evangelical activity.[34] Whitfield joined forces with Edwards to "fan the flame of revival" in the Thirteen Colonies in 1739–40. Soon the First Great Awakening stirred Protestants throughout America.[35]

Conflict soon arose, however, over the issues of itinerant preaching and education requirements for ministers. Evangelicals supported itinerancy and less stringent educational requirements, while their opponents felt that itinerancy was disruptive and preferred ministerial candidates trained at Harvard, Yale or a European university). The growing rift between pro-revival "New Light" and anti-revival "Old Light" factions would divide America's Protestant churches. In the Presbyterian Church, the dispute was known as the Old Side–New Side Controversy.[36]

Evangelical preachers emphasized personal salvation and piety more than ritual and tradition. Pamphlets and printed sermons crisscrossed the Atlantic, encouraging the revivalists.[37] The Awakening resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of deep personal revelation of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ. Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made Christianity intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality. It reached people who were already church members. It changed their rituals, their piety and their self-awareness. To the evangelical imperatives of Reformation Protestantism, 18th century American Christians added emphases on divine outpourings of the Holy Spirit and conversions that implanted within new believers an intense love for God. Revivals encapsulated those hallmarks and forwarded the newly created Evangelicalism into the early republic.[38]

19th century[edit]

The start of the 19th century saw an increase in missionary work and many of the major missionary societies were founded around this time (see Timeline of Christian missions). Both the evangelical and high church movements sponsored missionaries.

The Second Great Awakening (which actually began in 1790) was primarily an American revivalist movement and resulted in substantial growth of the Methodist and Baptist churches. Charles Grandison Finney was an important preacher of this period.

William Wilberforce, British evangelical abolitionist

In the late 19th century, the revivalist Holiness movement, based on the doctrine of "entire sanctification," took a more extreme form in rural America and Canada, where it ultimately broke away from institutional Methodism. In urban Britain the Holiness message was less exclusive and censorious.[39]

John Nelson Darby was a 19th-century Irish Anglican minister who devised modern dispensationalism, an innovative Protestant theological interpretation of the Bible that was incorporated in the development of modern evangelicalism. Cyrus Scofield further promoted the influence of dispensationalism through the explanatory notes to his Scofield Reference Bible. According to scholar Mark S. Sweetnam, who takes a cultural studies perspective, dispensationalism can be defined in terms of its Evangelicalism, its insistence on the literal interpretation of Scripture, its recognition of stages in God's dealings with humanity, its expectation of the imminent return of Christ to rapture His saints, and its focus on both apocalypticism and premillennialism.[40]

In the latter half of the 19th century, Dwight L. Moody of Chicago became a notable evangelical figure. His powerful preaching reached very large audiences.[41][42]

An advanced theological perspective came from the Princeton Theologians from the 1850s to the 1920s, such as Charles Hodge, Archibald Alexander and B.B. Warfield.[43]

20th century[edit]

Services at the Pentecostal Church of God in Lejunior, Kentucky, 1946

By the 1890s, most American Protestants belonged to evangelical denominations, except for the high church Episcopalians and German Lutherans. In the early 20th century, a divide opened up between the fundamentalists and the mainline Protestant denominations, chiefly over the inerrancy of the Bible. The fundamentalists were those evangelicals who sought to defend their religious traditions, and feared that modern scientific leanings were leading away from the truth. After 1910, evangelicalism was dominated by the fundamentalists, who rejected liberal theology and emphasized the inerrancy of the Scriptures. Evangelicals held the view that the modernist and liberal parties in the Protestant churches had surrendered their heritage as Evangelicals by accommodating the views and values of secularism. At the same time, the modernists criticized fundamentalists for their separatism and their rejection of the Social Gospel. A favored mode of fighting back against liberalism was to prohibit the teaching of Darwinism or macro-evolution as fact in the public schools, a movement that reached its peak in the Scopes Trial of 1925, and resumed in the 1980s. The more modernistic Protestants largely abandoned the term "evangelical" and tolerated evolutionary theories in modern science and even in Biblical studies.

Following the Welsh Methodist revival, the Azusa Street Revival in 1906 began the spread of Pentecostalism in North America.

During and after World War II, evangelicals increasingly organized, and expanded their vision to include the entire world. There was a great expansion of Evangelical activity within the United States, "a revival of revivalism." Youth for Christ was formed; it later became the base for Billy Graham's revivals. At the same time, a split developed between evangelicals, as they disagreed among themselves about how a Christian ought to respond to an unbelieving world. Many evangelicals urged that Christians must engage the culture directly and constructively,[44][page needed] and they began to express reservations about being known to the world as fundamentalists. As Kenneth Kantzer put it at the time, the name fundamentalist had become "an embarrassment instead of a badge of honor".[45] The National Association of Evangelicals formed in 1942 as a counterpoise to the mainline Federal Council of Churches. In 1942–43, the Old-Fashioned Revival Hour had a record-setting national radio audience.[46][page needed]

The fundamentalists saw the evangelicals as often being too concerned about social acceptance and intellectual respectability, and being too accommodating to a perverse generation that needed correction.[citation needed] In addition, they saw the efforts of evangelist Billy Graham, who worked with non-evangelical denominations, such as the Catholic Church (which they claimed to be heretical), as a mistake.[citation needed] The post-war period also saw growth of the ecumenical movement and the founding of the World Council of Churches, which was generally regarded with suspicion by the evangelical community.[citation needed]

The term neo-evangelicalism was coined by Harold Ockenga in 1947 to identify a distinct movement within self-identified fundamentalist Christianity at the time, especially in the English-speaking world. It described the mood of positivism and non-militancy that characterized that generation. The new generation of evangelicals set as their goal to abandon a militant Bible stance. Instead, they would pursue dialogue, intellectualism, non-judgmentalism, and appeasement. They further called for an increased application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas. The self-identified fundamentalists also cooperated in separating their "neo-Evangelical" opponents from the fundamentalist name, by increasingly seeking to distinguish themselves from the more open group, whom they often characterized derogatorily by Ockenga's term, "neo-Evangelical" or just evangelical.

More dramatic than the divisions and newfound organization within Evangelicalism was its expansion of international missionary activity. They had enthusiasm and self-confidence after the national victory in the world war. Many evangelicals came from poor rural districts, but wartime and postwar prosperity dramatically increased the funding resources available for missionary work. While mainline Protestant denominations cut back on their missionary activities, from 7000 to 3000 overseas workers between 1935 and 1980, the evangelicals increased their career foreign missionary force from 12,000 in 1935 to 35,000 in 1980. Meanwhile, Europe was falling behind, as North Americans comprised 41% of all the world's Protestant missionaries in 1936, rising to 52% in 1952 and 72% in 1969. The most active denominations were the Assemblies of God, which nearly tripled from 230 missionaries in 1935 to 626 in 1952, and the United Pentecostal Church International, formed in 1945. The Southern Baptists more than doubled from 405 to 855, as did the Church of the Nazarene from 88 to 200.[47] Overseas missionaries began to prepare for the postwar challenge, most notably the Far Eastern Gospel Crusade (FEGC; now named "Send International"). After Nazi Germany and fascist Japan had been destroyed, the newly mobilized evangelicals were now prepared to combat atheistic communism, secularism, Darwinism, liberalism, Catholicism, and (in overseas missions) paganism.[48]

The evangelical revivalist Billy Graham in Duisburg, Germany, 1954

The Charismatic Movement began in the 1960s and resulted in Pentecostal theology and practice being introduced into many mainline denominations. New Charismatic groups such as the Association of Vineyard Churches and Newfrontiers trace their roots to this period (see also British New Church Movement). The closing years of the 20th century saw controversial postmodern influences entering some parts of evangelicalism, particularly with the emerging church movement.[clarification needed]

Congregation at Angelus Temple during 14-hour Holy Ghost service led by Aimee Semple McPherson in Los Angeles, California in 1942.


Socially conservative evangelical Protestantism plays a major role in the Bible Belt, an area covering almost all of the Southern United States. Evangelicals form a majority in the region.
National Association of Evangelicals, a part of World Evangelical Alliance, represents the majority of evangelicals in the United States

Currently, there are three interpretations of the term evangelicalism. The first is to view all Christians as evangelicals if they adhere to four certain beliefs. These are conversionism, or the doctrine that one must change his life to be a Christian; biblicism, a special emphasis on the teachings of the Bible; activism, the expression of the gospel through effort and crucicentrism, which is an emphasis on the importance of Christ's crucifixion.

The second view is to describe evangelicals as an umbrella group of movements and churches in which the term evangelical can mean a form of worship as well as a list of set doctrines. Consequently, many other denominations also come under the term of evangelical, such as Baptists, Dutch Reformed Churches, Mennonites, Catholic charismatics and Pentecostals.

A third view of evangelicalism is a more self-described description for the group that formed in the 1940s. It was formed as a counter-movement to the fundamentalist movement of the 1920s and 30s, which was seen as aggressive, separatist and anti-intellectual. Individuals such as Harold John Ockenga and Billy Graham as well as organizations such as the National Association of Evangelicals and Youth for Christ assisted this movement in achieving unity that extended outside this view of evangelicalism.[49]

John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, used polling data to separate evangelicals into three broad camps, which he labels as traditionalist, centrist and modernist:[50]

  1. Traditionalist evangelicals, characterized by high affinity for certain Protestant beliefs, (especially penal substitutionary atonement, justification by faith, the authority of scripture, the priesthood of all believers, etc.) which, when fused with the highly political milieu of Western culture (especially American culture), has resulted in the political disposition that has been labeled the Christian right, with figures like Jerry Falwell and the television evangelist Pat Robertson as its most visible spokesmen.
  2. Centrist evangelicals, described as socially conservative, mostly avoiding politics, who still support much of traditional Christian theology.
  3. Modernist evangelicals, a small minority in the movement, have lower levels of church-attendance and "have much more diversity in their beliefs".[50]


An event at Gateway Church's 114 Southlake Campus

Anywhere from 6 percent to 35 percent of the population is evangelical, depending on definition.[51] The Pew Research Center 2014 survey in the United States identified the evangelical percentage of the population at 25.4 percent while Roman Catholics are 20.8 percent and mainline Protestants make up 14.7 percent.[52] In the 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States, the figures for these same groups are 28.6 percent (evangelical), 24.5 percent (Roman Catholic), and 13.9 percent (mainline Protestant.) The latter figures are based on a 2001 study of the self-described religious identification of the adult population for 1990 and 2001 from the Graduate School and University Center at the City University of New York.[53] A 2008 study showed that in the year 2000 about 9 percent of Americans attended an evangelical service on any given Sunday.[54][55] The Economist estimated in May 2012, that "over one-third of Americans, more than 100 M, can be considered evangelical," arguing that the percentage is often undercounted because many black Christians espouse evangelical theology but prefer to refer to themselves as "born again Christians" rather than "evangelical."[56] These estimated figures given by The Economist agree with those in 2012 from Wheaton College's Institute for the Studies of American Evangelicals.[57]

The Barna Group reported that 8% of Americans in 2006 were born-again evangelicals, defined as those who answered yes to these nine questions:[58][51]

  • "Have you made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today?"
  • "Do you believe that when you die you will go to Heaven because you have confessed your sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior?"
  • "Is your faith very important in your life today?"
  • "Do you have a personal responsibility to share your religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians?"
  • "Does Satan exist?"
  • "Is eternal salvation possible only through grace, not works?"
  • "Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life on earth?"
  • "Is the Bible accurate in all that it teaches?"
  • "Is God the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today?"

The movement is highly diverse and encompasses a vast number of people. Because the group is diverse, not all of them use the same terminology for beliefs. For instance, several recent studies and surveys by sociologists and political scientists that utilize more complex definitional parameters have estimated the number of evangelicals in the U.S. in 2012 at about 30–35% of the population, or roughly between 90 and 100 million people.[57] Because Caucasian evangelicals as a whole reliably vote for the Republican Party, and African American Protestants reliably vote for the Democratic Party, researchers also measure the number of white, non-Hispanic evangelicals, which are less than a fifth of the population.[51] As of 2017, white evangelicals overall account for about 17% of Americans, while white evangelicals under the age of 30 represent about 8% of Americans in that age group.[59] In 2016 Merritt reported low retention rates among evangelical churches.[60]

The National Association of Evangelicals is a U.S. agency which coordinates cooperative ministry for its member denominations.


Christian right[edit]

Jerry Falwell, whose founding of the Moral Majority was a key step in the formation of the New Christian Right

Evangelical political influence in America was first evident in the 1830s with movements such as the prohibition movement, which closed saloons and taverns in state after state until it succeeded nationally in 1919.[61] The Christian right is a coalition of numerous groups of traditionalist and observant church-goers of every kind: especially Catholics on issues such as birth control and abortion, Southern Baptists, Missouri Synod Lutherans, and others.[62] Since the early 1980s, the Christian right has been associated with several nonprofit political and issue-oriented organizations including the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.[63][64] In the 2016 presidential election, 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump according to exit polls.[65]

Christian left[edit]

Evangelical political activists are not all on the right. There is a small group of liberal white Evangelicals.[66] Most African Americans belong to Baptist, Methodist or other denominations that share evangelical beliefs; they are firmly in the Democratic coalition and (with the possible exception of issues involving abortion and homosexuality) are generally liberal in politics.[67]

The evangelical left or progressive evangelicals are Christians aligned with evangelicalism in the United States who generally function on the left wing of the movement, either politically or theologically or both. While the evangelical left is related to the wider Christian left, those who are part of the latter category are not always viewed as evangelical.

Typically, members of the evangelical left affirm the primary tenets of evangelical theology, such as the doctrines of the Incarnation, atonement, and resurrection, and also see the Bible as a primary authority for the Church. Unlike many evangelicals, however, those on the evangelical left support what are often considered progressive or left wing political policies. They are often, for example, opposed to capital punishment and supportive of gun control and welfare programs. In many cases, they are also pacifists. Theologically they also often support and utilize modern biblical criticism, whereas more conservative evangelicals reject it. Some promote the legalization of same-sex marriage or protection of access to abortion for the society at large without necessarily endorsing the practice themselves.

There is considerable dispute over how to even characterize the various segments of the evangelical theological and political spectra, and whether a singular discernible rift between "right" and "left" is oversimplified. However, to the extent that some simplifications are necessary to discuss any complex issue, it is recognized that modern trends like focusing on non-contentious issues (like poverty) and downplaying hot-button social issues (like abortion) tend to be key distinctives of the modern "evangelical left" or "emergent church" movement.

While members of the evangelical left chiefly reside in mainline denominations, they are often heavily influenced by the Anabaptist social tradition.

Recurrent themes[edit]


Some evangelical Christians strongly dispute the scientifically accepted Neo-Darwinian theory of evolution and have influenced schools to teach Creationism or "Intelligent design" (the position that God or another active intelligence intervened at various points over the course of an otherwise uninterrupted natural evolutionary history to produce the complexity and diversity of life observed on Earth). There have been a variety of court cases over the issue.[68] Young Earth Creationist evangelicals also reject the scientific consensus on the age of the Earth and the cosmos, believing the physical universe to have originated between six and ten thousand years ago, a claim based on a literalistic reading of the first chapters of the Book of Genesis and of other Biblical texts.[citation needed]

Not all evangelicals believe that evolution is incompatible with Christianity. Prominent evangelicals such as B.B. Warfield and Billy Graham believed the theory could be reconciled with Christian teaching.[69]


Since 1980, a central issue motivating conservative evangelicals' political activism is abortion. The 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, which legalized abortion, proved decisive in bringing together Catholics and evangelicals in a political coalition, which became known as the Religious Right when it successfully mobilized its voters behind presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980.[70]


In the United States, Supreme Court decisions that outlawed organized prayer in school and restricted church-related schools (for example, preventing them from engaging in racial discrimination while also receiving a tax exemption) also played a role in mobilizing the Religious Right.[71] In addition, questions of sexual morality and homosexuality have been energizing factors—and above all, the notion that "elites" are pushing America into secularism.[citation needed]

Christian nation[edit]

Opponents criticize the Evangelicals, who they say actually want a Christian America—in other words, for America to be a nation in which Christianity is given a privileged position.[72] Survey data shows that "between 64 and 75 percent do not favor a 'Christian Nation' amendment", though between 60 and 75 percent also believe that Christianity and Political Liberalism are incompatible.[73] Evangelical leaders, in turn, counter that they merely seek freedom from the imposition by national elites of an equally subjective secular worldview, and feel that it is their opponents who are violating their rights.[74]

Portrayal in mass media[edit]

Many films offer differing views on evangelical, End Times, and Rapture culture. One that offers a revealing view of the mindset of the Calvinist and premillennial dispensationalist element in evangelicalism is Good People Go to Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven.[75]

Other issues[edit]

According to recent reports in the New York Times, some evangelicals have sought to expand their movement's social agenda to include poverty, combating AIDS in the Third World, and protecting the environment.[76] This is highly contentious within the evangelical community, since more conservative evangelicals believe that this trend is compromising important issues and prioritizing popularity and consensus too highly. Personifying this division were the evangelical leaders James Dobson and Rick Warren, the former who warned of the dangers of a Barack Obama victory in 2008 from his point of view,[77] in contrast with the latter who declined to endorse either major candidate on the grounds that he wanted the church to be less politically divisive and that he agreed substantially with both men.[78]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b FitzGerald 2017, p. 3.
  2. ^ FitzGerald 2017, p. 2.
  3. ^ Vickers, Jason E. (October 7, 2013). The Cambridge Companion to American Methodism. Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 9781107433922.
  4. ^ FitzGerald 2017, p. 4-5.
  5. ^ FitzGerald 2017, p. 5.
  6. ^ Marsden 1991, pp. 3–4.
  7. ^ FitzGerald 2017, pp. 5–6.
  8. ^ FitzGerald 2017, pp. 8–10.
  9. ^ Sweeney 2005, p. 24–25.
  10. ^ Balmer 2002, pp. vii–viii.
  11. ^ Kidd 2007, p. xiv.
  12. ^ a b Kidd 2007, p. 12.
  13. ^ Youngs 1998, pp. 40–41.
  14. ^ Youngs 1998, p. 41.
  15. ^ Kidd 2007, Chapter 1, Amazon Kindle location 183–184.
  16. ^ Kidd 2007, Chapter 1, Amazon Kindle location 186–187.
  17. ^ Kidd 2007, Chapter 1, Amazon Kindle location 179.
  18. ^ Kidd 2007, Chapter 1, Amazon Kindle location 158.
  19. ^ Kidd 2007, Chapter 1, Amazon Kindle location 221–249.
  20. ^ Kidd 2007, pp. 24–25.
  21. ^ Kidd 2007, pp. 25–26.
  22. ^ Kidd 2007, pp. 26–27.
  23. ^ Kidd 2007, p. 30.
  24. ^ Kidd 2007, p. 37.
  25. ^ Lantzer 2012, pp. 19–20.
  26. ^ Noll 2004, pp. 76.
  27. ^ Bebbington 1993, pp. 74.
  28. ^ Bebbington 1993, pp. 42.
  29. ^ Bebbington 1993, pp. 43.
  30. ^ a b Kidd 2007, p. 13.
  31. ^ Noll 2004, pp. 76–78.
  32. ^ Kidd 2007, pp. 13–14,15–16.
  33. ^ Kidd 2007, pp. 19–20.
  34. ^ Noll 2004, pp. 87, 95.
  35. ^ Bebbington 1993, p. 20.
  36. ^ Kidd 2007, pp. 36–37.
  37. ^ Snead, Jennifer (2010), "Print, Predestination, and the Public Sphere: Transatlantic Evangelical Periodicals, 1740–1745", Early American Literature, 45 (1): 93–118, doi:10.1353/eal.0.0092.
  38. ^ Stout, Harold 'Harry' (1991), The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism.
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Further reading[edit]

  • American Evangelicalism and Islam: From the Antichrist to the Mahdi, Germany: Qantara.
  • Balmer, Randall Herbert (2004), Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism (excerpt and text search) (2nd ed.); online.
  • ——— (2010), The Making of Evangelicalism: From Revivalism to Politics and Beyond, ISBN 978-1-60258-243-9.
  • ——— (2000), Blessed Assurance: A History of Evangelicalism in America
  • Bastian, Jean-Pierre (1994), Le Protestantisme en Amérique latine: une approche sio-historique [Protestantism in Latin America: a sio‐historical approach], Histoire et société (in French), Genève: Labor et Fides, ISBN 2-8309-0684-5; alternative ISBN on back cover, 2-8309-0687-X; 324 pp.
  • Beale, David O (1986), In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850, Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University: Unusual, ISBN 0-89084-350-3.
  • Bebbington, D. W. (1989), Evangelicals in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, London: Unwin.
  • Carpenter, Joel A. (1980), "Fundamentalist Institutions and the Rise of Evangelical Protestantism, 1929–1942", Church History, 49: 62–75, doi:10.2307/3164640.
  • ——— (1999), Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-512907-5.
  • Carter, Heath W. and Laura Rominger Porter, eds. Turning Points in the History of American Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 2017). xviii, 297 pp
  • Chapman, Mark B., "American Evangelical Attitudes Toward Catholicism: Post-World War II to Vatican II," U.S. Catholic Historian, 33#1 (Winter 2015), 25–54.
  • Freston, Paul (2004), Evangelicals and Politics in Asia, Africa and Latin America, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-60429-X.
  • Griffith, R. M. (2017). Moral combat: how sex divided American Christians and fractured American politics. New York: Basic Books, ISBN 9780465094769. History of sexual politics in the United States, 1920-2017, and how it has influenced the formation of political identities in American Christian denominations.
  • Hindmarsh, Bruce (2005), The Evangelical Conversion Narrative: Spiritual Autobiography in Early Modern England, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Knox, Ronald (1950), Enthusiasm: a Chapter in the History of Religion, with Special Reference to the XVII and XVIII Centuries, Oxford, Eng: Oxford University Press, pp. viii, 622 pp.
  • Luhrmann, Tanya (2012) When God Talks Back-Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, Knopf
  • Marsden, George M (1991), Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (excerpt and text search).
  • ——— (1987), Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans.
  • Menikoff, Aaron (2014). Politics and Piety: Baptist Social Reform in America, 1770–1860. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
  • Naselli, A. D., and Collin Hansen, eds (2011), Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ISBN 9780310293163.
  • Noll, Mark A (1992), A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, pp. 311–89, ISBN 0-8028-0651-1.
  • Noll, Mark A; Bebbington, David W; Rawlyk, George A, eds. (1994), Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies of Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles and Beyond, 1700–1990.
  • Pierard, Richard V. (1979), "The Quest For the Historical Evangelicalism: A Bibliographical Excursus", Fides et Historia, 11 (2): 60–72.
  • Price, Robert M. (1986), "Neo-Evangelicals and Scripture: A Forgotten Period of Ferment", Christian Scholars Review, 15 (4): 315–30.
  • Rawlyk, George A; Noll, Mark A, eds. (1993), Amazing Grace: Evangelicalism in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States.
  • Schafer, Axel R (2011), Countercultural Conservatives: American Evangelicalism From the Postwar Revival to the New Christian Right, U. of Wisconsin Press, 225 pp; covers evangelical politics from the 1940s to the 1990s that examines how a diverse, politically pluralistic movement became, largely, the Christian Right.
  • Smith, Timothy L (1957), Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War
  • Spencer, Michael (March 10, 2009), "The Coming Evangelical Collapse", The Christian Science Monitor.
  • Stackhouse, John G (1993), Canadian Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century
  • Sutton, Matthew Avery. American Apocalypse: A history of modern evangelicalism (2014)
  • Utzinger, J. Michael (2006), Yet Saints Their Watch Are Keeping: Fundamentalists, Modernists, and the Development of Evangelical Ecclesiology, 1887–1937, Macon: Mercer University Press, ISBN 0-86554-902-8.
  • Ward, WR, Early Evangelicalism: A Global Intellectual History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wigger, John H; Hatch, Nathan O, eds. (2001), Methodism and the Shaping of American Culture (essays by scholars).
  • Wright, Bradley (March 21, 2013), What, exactly, is Evangelical Christianity?, series on Evangelical Christianity in America, Patheos (Black, White and Gray blog)

External links[edit]