Mark A. Yarhouse and Stephen R. Russell
Evangelicalism is a word that possesses both historical and theological significance. According to Noll, Bebbington, and Rawlyk (1994), the term describes “a fairly discrete network of Protestant Christian movements arising during the eighteenth century in Great Britain and its colonies” (p. 6). In addition to this historical view, Evangelicalism also may be understood as a category of religious doctrine that transcends denominational and confessional boundaries (Noll et al., 1994; Pierard, 1984). The major components of this theological view include a recognition of the authority of the Bible, an emphasis on individual conversion or “new birth,” an encouragement toward personal and community activism, and a faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
The term Evangelicalism originates from the ancient Greek noun euangelion, which means “good or joyful news,” as well as the Greek verb euangelizomai, to “announce good tidings of or to proclaim as good news” (Pierard, 1984, p. 379). In this way, the term stresses both the historical emphases on spreading the gospel or “good news” as well as an ongoing dedication to sharing faith with others. In order to gain a proper understanding of the Evangelical tradition, one must consider both the historical and theological components.
Although Evangelicalism often is regarded as a contemporary phenomenon, most Evangelicals recognize their roots from the beginnings of the Christian church. Pierard (1984) argues that the “Evangelical spirit” has arisen throughout history:
The commitment, discipline, and missionary zeal that distinguish
Evangelicalism were features of the apostolic church, the fathers, early
monasticism, the medieval reform movements (Cluniac, Cistercian,
Franciscan, and Dominican), preachers like Bernard of Clairvaus and
Peter Waldo, the Brethren of the common Life, and the Reformation
precursors Wycliffe, Hus, and Savonarola” (p. 380).