What is an Evangelical?
There are two primary ways to answer this question: According to beliefs and behaviours, and as a movement.
Beliefs and Behaviours
Evangelicals are Christians and, as such, we share the core of our faith with other Christians. British historian David Bebbington noted that Evangelicals have four peculiar emphases (sometimes call the Bebbington Quadrilateral) that give our expression of the Christian faith its character. These include:
- Biblicism: Devotion to the Bible as God's word;
- Crucicentrism: The centrality of the cross of Christ in evangelical teaching and preaching;
- Activism: Cooperating in the mission of God through evangelism and charitable works;
- Conversionism: The conviction that each person must turn from their sin, believe in the saving work of Christ, and commit themselves to a life of discipleship and service.
Others, such as Canadian scholar John Stackhouse Jr., have made additions to Bebbington's Quadrilateral while maintaining that a set of beliefs and behaviours can be used to identify Evangelicals.
Canadian pollster Andrew Grenville has developed a set of questions to measure the elements of Bebbington's Quadrilateral known as the Christian Evangelical Scale (CES). The EFC and others have used this scale in public opinion research to identify those who are "evangelically aligned."
Omnibus polls using the CES have found that about 12 percent of the Canadian population are evangelially aligned and Protestant while seven percent are evangelically aligned and Roman Catholic. Even if you were to restrict these CES findings to Protestants, close to 4 million Canadians would be evangelically aligned.
The other way to identify Evangelicals to say they are those individuals, or denominations associated with the historical movement known as Evangelicalism. Historically this meant those denominations or churches growing out of the eighteenth century revivals. More recently, however, this movement has expanded as groups not traditionally associated with revivalist traditions, such as various Reformed and Anabaptist denominations, have identified with the movement. Ministries, like the EFC's, have been instrumental in faciliating this broadening of the movement.
When Evangelicals are identified as a movement, religious affiliation, that is where an individual self-identifies as part of a religious tradition, is used to count them. Historically, the Canadian census identified and disseminated data on evangelical Christians by religious affiliation. Religious affiliation estimates of the percentage of the Canadian population that are Evangelicals have ranged from about 8% to 12%.
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