This is an issue that comes up frequently on this board. Most recently, it’s popped up on the thread “Evangelicals and the Church,” and I think it needs a new thread. I was defending evangelicalism from what I thought were unfair blanket accusations by eden and sadie, and in the process Mickey and magdelaine raised some excellent points that I’d like to address here. Mickey first:
Perhaps this is a silly question. But what does evangelicalism teach? I admit I am not extremely versed on highly esteemed evangelical writers, but is there any kind of doctrinal unity?
On the other thread (post #95) I cited the statement of faith of the National Association of Evangelicals:
We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God. • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
• We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
• We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
• We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
• We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
• We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Evangelical Theological Society has a brief doctrinal statement addressing two points: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.”
Neither the NAE nor the ETS can be said to speak for all evangelicals, but the NAE probably comes closer (the ETS is criticized by some as too close to fundamentalism). I couldn’t subscribe to the ETS statement myself because I think the whole “inerrant autographs” business is deeply problematic (whatever the true sense of Scriptural inerrancy is, it must be something available to us now and not something tied to inaccessible autographs). I could subscribe to the NAE statement (and will have to do so, if I get the job I’m interviewing for next week), although I have problems with what it *doesn’t *say about the Church and sacraments (in particular, the statement on the spiritual unity of all believers could be understood to imply that this is all that the unity of the Church means–which I emphatically do not believe).
The NAE and the ETS are about as close as evangelicals get to any kind of unified structure. Evangelicalism is not and does not claim to be a church or a denomination. It is a broad movement/coalition. And it can be defined in all sorts of ways.