Defining Evangelicals

Defining Evangelicals in an Election Year

Last week, I was asked a question from someone of another religion what the term “evangelical” means.  This young man could be labeled as someone who vehemently “dislikes” Donald Trump.  He also self-identifies as “progressive” and if I were to venture a guess, would most likely vote for Hillary Clinton.

I gave a brief answer, but after reading an article from Christianity Today entitled Defining Evangelicals in an Election Year it seems to me that my more “simple” explanation may not have been enough.  However, I have often found that if I get too “wordy” about it,  people’s eyes glaze over and they could easily tune me out.

Evangelicals CAN and DO have a lot in common. However, as Rush Limbaugh pointed out (sometimes quite humorously!) on his radio show back on March 9, 2016, there is a Ruling Class Disconnect on Evangelicals.

I didn’t know about Donald Trump’s connection with Norman Vincent Peale until I read The Theology of Donald Trump.

Read more about Peale HERE.

Excerpt:

Yet as a Christian minister he [Peale] denied that God was a being, saying “Who is God? Some theological being? He is so much greater than theology. God is vitality. God is life. God is energy. As you breathe God in, as you visualize His energy, you will be reenergized!” (Plus: The Magazine of Positive Thinking). As a Christian minister he told Phil Donahue, “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God, I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine … I’ve been to Shinto shrines and God is everywhere. … Christ is one of the ways! God is everywhere.” He denied the very heart of the Christian faith and replaced it with his doctrine of positive thinking.

When I was growing up, Peale could have possibly been labeled as that era’s Joel Osteen.

For me, relying on God’s Word, the Bible, His Living Word, Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit is far better than man’s “power of positive thinking.”  The first Three are eternal; man’s “power” is temporary.

Donald Trump revealed a lot about himself regarding his brand of Christianity. The following portion of the article is what stood out most for me.

Excerpt from The Theology of Donald Trump:

2. Sin. Trump reveals that many evangelicals have come to embrace a different idea of sin than evangelicals have in the past. First, sin is now seen less a condition that renders us all “miserable offenders” before a holy God than mistakes good people make that fail to contribute to “our best life now.” Card-carrying evangelicals should have gotten it when Trump announced that he has never asked God for forgiveness because he doesn’t really do anything that would require it. This is problematic from a Christian perspective on several levels.

First, even if we were to reduce sin (a condition) to sins, the latter no longer include multiple divorces, significant past support of the abortion industry, lack of any church membership, and unabashed dedication to a “Me First” ethic. Widespread evangelical support suggests that we’re fine with these practices now—they’re normal.

Second, and even more troubling, “sinners” are now apparently the “others” whose very presence makes us feel afraid and disenfranchised. Deflecting sin from ourselves to others, we have helped to provide a foundation for whatever demagogue can rally people “like us” to self-righteous anger against outsiders.

As the graphic at the top of the page demonstrates:

 

 [When] it comes to statistical prediction, four belief statements in particular proved extremely helpful. We asked a representative sample of Americans whether they agree or disagree with the following statements:

1.  The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.

2.  It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.

3.  Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.

4.  Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

Those who agreed with all four statements were also likely to self-identify as evangelicals, thus bridging the gap between belief and belonging. They also attend church on a regular basis—meaning these four questions about belief also correlate with behavior (church attendance).

Though there are many other factors or belief statements many evangelicals would include here, these four, taken together, create a tool that predicts all the other things evangelicals could include.

[The] questions help us reliably identify which Americans hold classic evangelical beliefs.

Those four belief statements are the Gospel of Christ!  It is a good start when sharing who evangelicals are, and if a person wants more information, then we can share more details when they ask to hear more.

I also suggest having the Bible verses handy that support each of the statements.  For example.

Number 1:


2Ti 3:16

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

2Ti 3:17

that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

*******

Number 2:
 Mar 16:15

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Mar 16:16

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

*******

Number 3:
 1Jo 2:2

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

1Jo 4:10

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

*******

Number 4:

Jhn 3:7

“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

Rom 5:15

But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.

Rom 5:18

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

Hat tips to all links.

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5 Responses to “Defining Evangelicals”

  1. GMpilot Says:

    How very interesting, the link between Drumpf and Norman Vincent Peale! It’s amusing to think Peale disliked Adlai Stevenson because the latter was divorced, because in those days ”nobody” got divorced, and those few who did were mostly shamed into silence about it. Stevenson didn’t get into the Oval Office, but Ronald Reagan—also a divorced man–did, and I’d like very much to know what he had to say about that. I suspect nothing.
    But I disagree likening Peale to Joel Osteen. Sure, Osteen’s a hustler, but American Christianity has always had guys like him. Peale was more like…G. Oral Roberts, or your current favorite bugbear Rick Warren. Peale probably would not have lived in a $10-million-dollar estate.

    “Faced with the election of a Catholic, our culture is at stake.” It seems little has changed in 56 years. The alarm sounds the same, and only the perceived threat is different. Even eight years on, certain people of my acquaintance call Obama “the Muslim in the White House” and claim he has put our Republic in danger. Bernie Sanders happens to be Jewish, but no one is stupid enough (or desperate enough) to slander him on the grounds of his religion. Not even Franklin Graham.
    As Horton says in his article, ”…”sinners” are now apparently the “others” whose very presence makes us feel afraid and disenfranchised. Deflecting sin from ourselves to others, we have helped to provide a foundation for whatever demagogue can rally people “like us” to self-righteous anger against outsiders.” But that’s not new, either. Riot gangs and lynch mobs have always been full of such people. Later, after the neighborhood is burned and there are dead bodies in the streets, the sin keeps on being deflected to others.

    Horton: Vague on doctrine, infiltrated by consumerism and a sentimental moralism intent on helping us all “become a better you,” and sort of interested in “family values” as long as they don’t interfere with our own family breakdowns, many cultural evangelicals are tired of losing the culture wars. They want a winner—“a strong leader.” I’m hardly the first to point out that it’s the stuff of which demagogues are made.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Antichrist doesn’t sneak onto the world stage, does he? He arrives bright, noisy and triumphant–”a strong leader”. Trump has wrapped himself in the flag, but he isn’t carrying a cross. At least not yet. He hasn’t asked god for forgiveness because he’s probably never asked anyone for forgiveness. If he becomes president, he certainly won’t ask us.
    There are evangelicals, and there are Evangelicals. The former are quiet but forceful. I’ve known at least one for many years, and sometimes we have long debates where the only hand raised is holding a cup of tea. I respect his arguments enough to give them serious thought, even if they don’t change my mind. For his part, he doesn’t automatically regard me as an agent of Satan.
    Then there’s the other kind. Those are the ones I meet here. The ones who’ve turned Christianity into a political party. History has shown what lies down that road. No thanks.

    The theology of Donald Trump is simple: he believes in Donald Trump. He believes that whatever is best for Donald Trump is best for everyone. He believes, like Yahweh, that threats are an effective method of getting what he wants. He believes that people incapable of threatening him are legitimate targets for his temper. (So do his followers.)
    Gonna be an interesting summer.

    Like

    • christinewjc Says:

      I just added a link to an article about Peale in the original post and included the following excerpt:

      Yet as a Christian minister he [Peale] denied that God was a being, saying “Who is God? Some theological being? He is so much greater than theology. God is vitality. God is life. God is energy. As you breathe God in, as you visualize His energy, you will be reenergized!” (Plus: The Magazine of Positive Thinking). As a Christian minister he told Phil Donahue, “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God, I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine … I’ve been to Shinto shrines and God is everywhere. … Christ is one of the ways! God is everywhere.” He denied the very heart of the Christian faith and replaced it with his doctrine of positive thinking.

      Like

  2. GMpilot Says:

    HA! That does make him sound more like you say Warren is, now.

    Like Peale, I too have been to Shinto shrines. Unlike him, I haven’t seen any presence of any god. Same with St. Peter’s: there were lots of images, but the Big Guy wasn’t home. Just another absentee landlord.

    Thank you for the article. It was informative, although the author doesn’t seem to have mastered the use of the apostrophe. I still have to learn on my own whether the thing that Peale found so heinous in Stevenson (divorce) was acceptable in Reagan, and why or why not. The difference may have been more personal than theological, especially since he accepted a Medal of Freedom from him.

    Maybe, like other clergy before him, he liked his proximity to temporal power more than spiritual power. That defines a great many evangelicals today, too.

    Like

  3. My Refuge and Strength Through The Political Storm | Talk Wisdom Says:

    […] We got on the subject of Trump’s faith, and I shared with my friend the research I had done on him (some of which is in this post). […]

    Like

  4. Sam Vaknin: Evaluating the mental health of a public figure. | Talk Wisdom Says:

    […] We got on the subject of Trump’s faith, and I shared with my friend the research I had done on him (some of which is in this post). […]

    Like

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