International Testimony to an Infallible Bible

We BelieveHistory

The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation

Chapter 9
The New Evangelicalism

In past chapters we have referred to Evangelicalism or the New Evangelicalism with only passing reference to what those terms mean. Although the word evangelical has a long history, it has come in the twentieth century to have a distinct meaning. Fundamentalists are technically Evangelicals, but the more precise use of that term identifies a position that consciously rejects part of the Fundamentalist position.

What's in a Name?

The word evangelical derives from euangelion, the Greek word for "good news" or "gospel." It is from this root that we derive other words such as evangelize. During the Reformation the Protestant churches were often called "evangelical." Even today in Germany the "Evangelical Church" refers to the state Lutheran Church.1

In Great Britain and America, the term Evangelical took on a new meaning in the 1700s as a result of Britain's Evangelical Awakening (led by John Wesley and George Whitefield) and America's Great Awakening. In English-speaking countries and some other parts of the world, Evangelical now refers to a Protestant with specific beliefs. Although there is no set definition of what an Evangelical believes, the following are among the most common tenets: the authority of Scripture alone in religious matters, the importance of the substitutionary atonement of Christ, a stress on the experience of the new birth and individual conversion, an emphasis on good works and holy living after conversion, and the evangelization of non-Christians.2

Fundamentalists obviously fall into this category. But since the 1950s the term Evangelical has come to denote something even more specific. As John Sanderson notes, "If anything, 'Evangelical' is a more Biblical word than 'Fundamentalist' since the former is derived from the word we translate 'Gospel.' But words take on new meanings and different emotional colorings."3 Today the term Evangelical is a catch-all for "any non-Fundamentalist conservative who does not accept or practice the principle of ecclesiastical separation."4 The reason for this narrow use of the term is the influence of a movement beginning in the 1940s called "the New Evangelicalism." That movement, and its influence, is the subject of this chapter.

Before we discuss this movement, however, we should mention a point concerning the term New Evangelical. Fundamentalists are virtually the only group that uses the term today. Most people who belong to what Fundamentalists call "New Evangelicalism" would see themselves as simply "Evangelical" without anything "New" about it. Fundamentalists, however, are loath to surrender the term Evangelical completely, and they want to note the disagreement over separation marked by the terms Fundamentalist and New Evangelical. Fundamentalists need to realize, however, that most of the people they call "New Evangelical" do not recognize the term. David Beale has suggested the aptly descriptive term Broad Evangelicalism, as distinguished from Fundamentalist Evangelicalism, but the term has not yet caught on.5 Bowing to common usage, we will use the terms Evangelical and New Evangelical for the most part interchangeably in this chapter.

The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation. By Mark Sidwell. ©1998. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited. This work is available for purchase at the Bob Jones University Campus Store (phone: 1-800-252-1927; web address:

Permission must be obtained from to link to this page.


contact us
History | We Believe | Resolutions | Committee | Articles |Congresses | Home