Evangelical is a hotly contested term these days. Here is the definition that I am working with. It comes from researcher David Bebbington who formulated his 4-fold definition after studying the historic British expression.

  • biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible (e.g. all essential spiritual truth is to be found in its pages)
  • crucicentrism, a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross
  • conversionism, the belief that human beings need to be converted
  • activism, the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort

A slightly different way of saying the four keys for an N. American context might be:

  • conversionism: new birth and a new life with God
  • biblicism: reliance on the Bible as for religious authority
  • activism: concern for sharing the faith in word and deed
  • crucentrism: focus on Christ’s redeeming work on the cross

Admittedly, those four emphasis take on a different tone and tenor in each generation. They take on different manifestations in each generation. The presence of these four however is a stabilizing theme that runs through the many historical maturations through the past three centuries and continues around the globe. These four themes also hold together whether ones utilizes a bounded-set mentality for marking boundaries or a center-set framework to encourage a shared focus.

I celebrate these four themes and find them even among my more progressive friends:

  • Relationship with God changes you personally (internal) and your relationships (external).
  • The Bible is central as the Christian Scripture and sets both the agenda and the example.
  • One’s faith should both be shared (relationally) and will consequently impact the world around you.
  • God’s work in Christ is what illuminates and inspires the life of the Christian – Christ revealed God is a unique and significant way. Jesus’ way is to be our way.

An updated version might look a little different:

New Life – expectation of transformed self and community
Bible – I follow N.T. Wright’s ‘ongoing play’ narrative analogy here [How can the Bible be Authoritative]
Activism – faith in Christ should be embodied and proclaimed to impact /transform culture
Cross Centered – the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian message.