Friday, January 12, 2018

Evangelical

I have been asked if our church is evangelical. Of course it depends on what you mean by evangelical Here is a recent article for the renowned Archbishop Cranmer. Our church is Presbyterian. I would describe it as reformed with a high and evangelical view of scripture.What is reformed?Ask and I shall tell.

"The term 'Evangelical' as applied to Christians has a long and well-chronicled heritage. In 1525, William Tyndale explained in his Doctrinal Treatises (p8): "Evangelion (that which we call the gospel) is a Greek word; and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man's heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance and leap for joy." This gospel is the good news of Christ; the joyful tidings of the New Testament:
...because that as a man, when he shall die, appointeth his goods to be dealt and distributed after his death among them which he nameth to be his heirs, even so Christ before his death commanded and appointed that such Evangelion, gospel, or tidings should be declared throughout all the world, and therewith to give unto all that [repent and] believe all his goods: that is to say, his life, wherewith he swallowed and devoured up death; his righteousness, wherewith he banished sin; his salvation, wherewith he overcame eternal damnation. Now can the wretched man (that [knoweth himself to be wrapped] in sin, and in danger to death and hell) hear no more joyous a thing, than such glad and comfortable tidings of Christ; so that he cannot but be glad, and laugh from the low bottom of his heart, if he believe that the tidings are true (ibid., p9).
The Reformation had placed an emphasis on the individual's need for salvation and faithfulness to the gospel – a faith no longer mediated by the lofty metaphysics of priests and popes, but characterised by immanence, comprehension, and direct relationship with the divine. As Protestantism fragmented, a remnant retained their missionary zeal and a moral fervour. They became known as Evangelicals or 'gospellers' – those whose mission was to preach the message of repentance from sin and of an assured salvation through the blood of Jesus.
Great outpourings of the Holy Spirit followed their witness, such as those seen in the great Evangelical Revival(s) of the 18th century. While many church pulpits had supplanted the life-giving gospel with barren moralism, itinerant preachers like George Whitefield and John Wesley took their message to the streets and fields. Theirs was a clarion call to return to the gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. With the pulpits closed to them, they witnessed wherever the people were – in the workhouses and marketplaces; in hospitals and prisons. John Wesley covered around 5,000 miles a year on horseback, stopping wherever he was led to preach to those who would listen. "I look upon all the world as my parish," he wrote. "Thus far I mean, that in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right and my bounden duty to declare, unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation."
But many Church of England clergy were irked by these self-styled preachers and teachers. Bishops and parish priests were God's appointed guardians of the Faith, by order of the King. Just who were these fundamentalist zealots with their interminable focus on repentance, faith and holiness? But no matter how much the bishops tried to muzzle them, these Evangelicals carried on preaching. No matter how much the Church of England tried to rescue Christianity from the extremists, the spiritually dead turned away from their drunkenness, gambling and licentious behaviour, and were 'born again' in their thousands, being brought into a living personal knowledge of Jesus Christ which transformed their lives.
For Evangelicals, the Word of God is the bread of life, which "ran as fire among the stubble", as Wesley wrote in his journal. "It was glorified more and more; multitudes crying out, 'What must I do to be saved?' and afterwards witnessing, 'By grace we are saved through faith.'" 'Evangelical' became a necessary term to distinguish Protestant gospel preachers from those who were dead in their sin or bound by the pervasive theological liberalism.
The Evangelical Alliance, founded in 1846, was a Protestant fellowship of vibrant fundamental belief, not a denominational church organisation. Their unity was based on fidelity to Scripture and its transformative message of renewal – in both personal morality and societal spirituality. Membership was open to all churches which faithfully preached the Word of God, and to all Christians who had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal God and Saviour. It is no exaggeration to say that Evangelicals instigated and worked tirelessly for some of the most revolutionary policies in British social history, from mass education to the abolition of slavery; from poor law reform to prison reform; from the establishment of trades unions to the foundation of the Labour Party. Evangelical concerns did not stop at the salvation of souls, but extended into sewers, schools, factories and slums. Theirs was a moral mission for the renewal of society.
As it was in England, so it followed in America, where men like Charles Finney conducted 'revivals' for those seeking salvation. For Finney, as with Wesley, the emphasis was on the individual's freedom and responsibility to seek God. Our sin, in all its physical depravity and self-gratification, is overcome when the will is subject to the law of God. There is no middle ground to take; no compromise to be had. We are either dead in sin or alive to God. The moral character is the fruit of moral choice and moral action, and that morality is gleaned from the plain reading of the clearest understanding of Scripture. The progeny of Finney's catalyst includes the Fuller Theological Seminary, the Billy Graham crusades, and the magazine Christianity Today, whose main concern has been to win a hearing for Evangelical orthodoxy.
There have been many other important Evangelicals – such as Peter ForsythBenjamin WarfieldGerrit Berkouwer and Helmut Thielicke – all concerned with the primacy of Scripture, the centrality of the Cross, the imperative of repentance, the importance of personal holiness, and the desire for social reform to conform to biblical morality. They had their theological, soteriological and ethical differences, of course, but were united in their opposition to the pervasive liberalism, which taught the love of God but denied His holy wrath against sin, thus propagating a gospel of sentimental inclusion."

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