The Many Evangelicalisms


Over at the Christian Post, Michael Gryboski reports on a recent session at the American Historical Association (sponsored by the Conference on Faith and History) on race and the meaning of American evangelicalism.  Some of you may recall that Matt Lakemacher also reported on this session here at the blog.

Here is a taste of Gryboski’s piece:

There are “many evangelicalisms” and people should be wary about trying to attach a single definition to the religious movement, a history professor says.

Kristin Kobes Du Mez, associate professor of History and Gender Studies at Calvin College, presented a paper on Saturday titled “Race, Gender, and the 81 Percent: Defining Evangelicalism and What’s at Stake” at an American Historical Association conference in Chicago, Illinois.

The ”81 percent” in the title refers to the much touted yet highly disputed 2016 presidential election exit polling data that claimed 81 percent of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump.

Some, including Joe Carter and Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition, and Napp Nazworth at The Christian Post, argued that the polling data was problematic on multiple fronts. The 81 percent, they point out, only includes whites, doesn’t include people who didn’t vote, and is based upon self-identification, rather than beliefs or participation in an evangelical church. 

Further illustrating the problem, a 2017 LifeWay poll found that less than half of those Americans who identify as evangelical hold evangelical beliefs, and one-third of Americans who hold evangelical views don’t identify as evangelical. 

Du Mez explained in her presentation the modern debate and different perspectives over how to define the term “evangelical,” including whether to accept self-identification or to base it on theological views.

Read the rest here.


One thought on “The Many Evangelicalisms

  1. It does indeed depend on who you ask. Is “evangelical” a noun or an adjective? I’m a Baptist pastor, who also works full-time in the real world. I think the word is properly an adjective, acting as a shorthand to describe the “true Gospel” faith. I believe this is the historic use of the term. I would guess the use of the term as a noun is a recent phenomenon; from 1970-ish forward. You could argue, from the root noun of “Good News” in the New Testament (and allusions in the Old), that “evangelical”‘s proper use is as an adjective to describe the noun of the faith.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean people won’t appropriate the term in their own image, today – as your post suggests!


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