evangelicalism. A broad term for a complex, inter-denominational (see Wikipedia "List of Christian denominations"), global religious movement associated with Protestant Christianity and usually traced back to English minister, John Wesley (1703-1791), and that is generally marked by:
1. A preeminent emphasis on the religious conversion experience, often referred to as being "born again" or "saved," as necessary for salvation, i.e., eternal life, and
The conversion experience being defined as the individual's voluntary acceptance, either over time or at a particular moment, of Jesus Christ's death and bodily resurrection as the only effective mechanism by which eternal life after death is available to people; many evangelicals refer to this conversion experience with variations of the phrases, "accepting Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior," or "committing your life to Christ;"
Belief in The Holy Bible as the primary and divinely-inspired spiritual and religious authority in life; and
4. Emphasis on a divine call that is revealed in The Holy Bible, and often referred to as "The Great Commission," to seek to evangelize other people; that is, to share one's beliefs either directly with other people, or indirectly by supporting missionary projects and evangelistic organizations, in the hope that others will convert to Christianity.
Evangelicals fall along a continuum of political and theological beliefs; but, they are far more likely to be conservative. E.g., among evangelicals in the U.S., according to reasearch by the Barna Group, 66% saw themselves as “mostly conservative;" conversely, 0% saw themselves "liberal" (compared to 13% of all adults in the U.S.). Nonetheless, some evangelicals--including some conservative evangelicals--are committed to fighting for more traditionally progressive causes, including social justice and the elimination of poverty.
(see TheocracyWatch.org "Evangelicals")
usage. Also "Evangelicalism."
key distinctions. Evangelicalism is an older and broader movement than Fundamentalism, Pentecostalism, and the Charismatic movement, and should not be confused with them. (However, the vast majority of Fundamentalist Christians and Pentecostals, and most Charismatics, are also evangelicals.)
note. Evangelicalism is a generations-old global movement whose adherents easily number in the hundreds of millions spread throughout more than 100 nations.
historical note. Evangelicals have been involved in social and political movements both progressive and conservative--in the United States, Canada, Britain, Scandanavia, Germany, and elsewhere--with the most often mentioned examples being the abolition movement, temperance, and--in the U.S.--prohibition and the Christian Right.
U.S. Demographics. 39% of the adult Americans in 2000 described themselves as "evangelical," or approximately 109 million Americans (Barna Group).
"post-conservative evangelical theology." Some see a trend among a small number of evangelicals, mostly academics, away from strident theological conservatism. The trend, if it exists, lacks a clear formalulation of belief, but Millard Erikson, Distinguished Professor of Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, lists characteristics of what he refers to as "post-conservative evangelical theology," which include but are not limited to:
1. Desire to engage in dialogue with nonevangelical theologians, including liberal and [Roman Catholic] theologians.
2. Concern with theology's Eurocentrism.
3. Willingness to broadening of the sources used in theology beyond "propositional truths enshrined in doctrines" to include "Christian tradition, culture, and contemporary Christian experience."
Greater emphasis on Jesus' humanity (but without the rejection of his divinity).
Greater skepticism towards doctrinal and theological truth-claims, and rejection of triumphalism.