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What Do Evangelical Christians Believe?

Updated on September 26, 2016
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Chris spent 50 years in the Evangelical world as a layman, as a student at a prominent Christian University and as a missionary and pastor.

Summary of This Article

Based on my education and several years in professional ministry, here are the main beliefs of Evangelical Christianity as I see them. The following theological concepts will be the main points: The Bible, God, Jesus, Salvation, The Holy Spirit, End Times, The Church.

A Statement of Faith

Bass Lake in the Bitterroot Mountains, Montana, summer 2013.
Bass Lake in the Bitterroot Mountains, Montana, summer 2013. | Source

A Statement of Faith is document, adopted by many religious organizations, which describes in detail what the group believes. When we ask the question, "What do Evangelical Christians Believe?" we are asking for their statement of faith. When I was in my senior year at Columbia International University, we were required to write a detailed statement of faith for ourselves. There was a surprise question at the end of the assignment. We were asked to pick the doctrines in our statement which we felt were essential for a person to call themselves a Christian. I labored over that question for hours. My roommate did not. I whittled the list down to just a few. My roommate picked his whole statement of faith. In other words, he could not have Christian fellowship with anyone who did not believe everything in his statement of faith.

In this and two other hubs, I am attempting to define "Evangelical" both as a word and as a movement. The first hub, called "What is an Evangelical Christian" dealt with the history of the Evangelical Movement. In this hub, I would like to discuss the question, what do Evangelical Christians believe? In other words, what is the doctrinal statement of Evangelicals?

You are probably just ahead of me right now, thinking, "There is no way to nail down a statement of faith for all evangelicals." And you are right. But we also might be surprised at the doctrinal similarities between Evangelical organizations. There are doctrines which all Evangelicals would consider essential in order to be called an Evangelical Christian.

Logos of the Three Evangelical Christian Organizations Used for Doctrinal Comparison

Source
Source

Three Evangelical Christian Organizations

I have chosen the following three Christian Organizations to use in this endeavor: National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Willow Creek Community Church and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). Click on a link to read that organization's Statement of Faith. Notice that I have chosen an association of many evangelical organizations, a non-denominational community church and a Christian Seminary. Two have "Evangelical" in their names.

Each organization lists and delineates certain doctrines they believe are essential to being called a Christian/Christian organization. NAE names seven such tenets, Willow Creek Church lists ten and TEDS has ten.

In the following table, you can compare what each Evangelical Christian organization believes on a certain doctrine. All doctrines listed for each group were used. Notice that the first seven doctrines were chosen by all three organizations. You will also notice that not only do the organizations choose the same doctrines for the most part, but they often also say the same things about the doctrines.

These core doctrines contain Evangelical Christian belief on the folowing topics: God, The Bible, Jesus, Salvation, The Holy Spirit, The End Times, The Church, Faith and Practice, Baptism, Communion, Christian Living, The Work of Christ, The Return of Christ and Eternal Destiny/Heaven and Hell.

A Novel, by Gordon MacDonald

Who Stole My Church: What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century
Who Stole My Church: What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century

Who Stole My Church? is a fictional story that tells the all too real tale of many church communities today. In this book you can walk alongside an imaginary community, led by real life pastor Gordon MacDonald and his wife, Gail, and discover how to meet the needs of all believers without abandoning the dreams and desires of any.

 

A Comparison of Four Evangelical Statements of Faith

Doctrine
NAE
Willow Creek Church
TEDS
The Bible
We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
The sole basis of our belief is the Bible—the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. We believe Scripture in its entirety originated with God and He revealed it to chosen authors. Scripture speaks with the authority of God while simultaneously reflecting the backgrounds, styles, and vocabularies of these human authors. We hold that the Scriptures, in their original manuscripts, are infallible and inerrant; they are the unique, full, and final authority on all matters of faith and practice. There are no other writings similarly inspired by God.
We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.
God
We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We believe there is one true, holy God, eternally existing in three equal persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the beginning, God demonstrated His power, wisdom, and goodness by creating the world and everything in it. Through His divine power and providence, God continues to sustain His creation, operating within history to fulfill His redemptive purposes.
We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
Jesus
We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
Jesus Christ, the eternal second person of the Trinity, was fully united with a human nature by a miraculous conception and virgin birth. He lived in perfect obedience to the Father, voluntarily paid the price for the sins of all people by dying on the cross as their substitute, and satisfied divine justice, bringing salvation to all who trust in Him alone. After His physical death, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father as the only intercessor between God and humans. He promises to return to earth, personally and visibly, to fulfill history and the eternal plan of God.
We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel's promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and
Salvation
We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
The central purpose of God’s revelation in Scripture is to call people into fellowship with Him. Originally created to be in relationship with God, humans defied Him by going their own independent way, resulting in alienation from Him and the innate inability to please God. This fall took place at the beginning of human history; since then all people have suffered these consequences and are in need of the saving grace of God.
We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan. In union with Adam, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from God, and under His wrath. Only through God’s saving work in Jesus Christ can we be rescued, reconciled and renewed.
Holy Spirit
We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
People in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ are to live in holiness and obedience as they submit to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Sent by the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit applies Christ’s saving work by enlightening the minds of sinners to their need to be saved. He renews and indwells each believer upon salvation, becoming their source of assurance, strength, wisdom, and gifting for building up the church. The Holy Spirit guides believers in understanding and applying the Bible. Appropriated by faith, His power and control empower believers to lead a life of Christ-like character and bear fruit for the Father’s glory.
We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that He does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.
End Times
We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
Death seals the eternal destiny of each person. All humanity will experience a bodily resurrection and a judgment that will determine the fate of each individual. Having rejected God, unbelievers will suffer eternal condemnation apart from Him. Believers will be received into eternal communion with God and will be rewarded for works done in this life.
We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
The Church
We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
All who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are united with Him as members of His body, the one true church. Scripture commands believers to gather for worship, prayer, fellowship, and the teaching of the Word; to observe Baptism and Communion as established by Jesus Christ; to offer service to the body through development and use of talents and gifts and outreach to the world. The local expression of the church is wherever God’s people meet regularly in obedience to this command. Cared for and led by Elders and leaders, church members are to work together in love and unity for the ultimate purpose of glorifying Christ.
We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God's grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
Faith and Practice
During Jesus' last days, He gathered the disciples in a room and asked them to consume bread and wine "in remembrance" of Him. Two thousand years later, we regularly observe the act of consuming bread and grape juice as a community for the exact same reason—to remember our Savior, who sacrificed Himself for our sins.
In all matters of faith and practice, Scripture is the final authority. In matters where Scripture is silent, believers should conscientiously seek to be led by God because it is to Him alone he or she is ultimately responsible.
 
Baptism
 
Baptism is an outward expression of an inward commitment to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Willow believes the decision to be baptized is up to the individual and that he or she must fully understand what it means to be a Christ follower.
 
Communion
 
 
 
Christian Living
 
 
We believe that God's justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.
Work of Christ
 
 
We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation.
Christ's Return
 
 
We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
Etermal Destiny
 
 
We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen. TIU A

Based on these three samples of Evangelical Christian Statements of Faith, I believe we are ready to distill a simple doctrinal statement that would be acceptable to most Evangelical Christians. They may want more to be covered, but they would not disagree with what I will suggest. The following theological concepts will be the main points of the statement: The Bible, God, Jesus, Salvation, The Holy Spirit, End Times, The Church.

A Sample Evangelical Christian Statement of Faith

(click column header to sort results)
Doctrine  
Doctrinal Details  
   
The Bible
The Bible-The 66 books of the Old and New Testaments make up the only document which is inspired by God, is inerrant, infallible, authoritative and was communicated to men by God through the personalities and words of men
 
God
There is one God, the Creator of all things, eternally exisent in three equal persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
 
Jesus
Virgin birth; fully God and fully man; died to purchase salvation for all people; rose bodily from the dead; ascended to heaven; will return for believers
 
Salvation
Adam and Eve were created in God's image but rebelled. All men now bear their fallen, sinful nature and need salvation.God offers salvation as a free gift which Jesus provided by dying in our place
 
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit lives within each believer, illuminating, teaching, guiding, convicting of sin and empowering them to live godly lives
 
End Times
When Jesus returns, all who have ever lived will be judged by God. Believers will go on to eternal life and unbelievers to eternal damnation. Death seals this destiny.
 
The Church
Jesus Christ is the head of the Church which is made up of all believers. Jesus left the Church with two ordinances: baptism and communion.
 

50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren W. Wiersbe

Evangelicals Work Together More Than They Oppose Each Other

I am not writing this hub to defend or even represent Evangelical Christianity, but simply to help others to understand who these people known as Evangelical Christians really are. It is common for those outside the Evangelical Christian Church to believe that each individual denomination is absolutely exclusive, having no working relationship with other denominations. This clearly is not the case. The National Association of Evangelicals was formed in order to provide unity and leadership to these diverse groups. Here are a couple of other organizations which were founded for the purpose of uniting Evangelicals of all denominations: Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (EFCA); Accord Network (ending poverty). Check out this wikipedia article which lists dozens of such organizations http://en.wikipedia.org./wiki/Category:Evangelical_parachurch_organisations

Evangelical Christianity: A Maturing Church

The Evangelical Christian Church, in any and all of its incarnations, is a human organization which has all the issues any other business might have. Evangelical Christians claim that they are the Body and Bride of Christ. While history books bulge with reports of horrible things being done by one Christian group to another, it seems that today there has been a maturing of the Church as a whole. Evangelical Christians believe much the same and work together toward the good of the world. This is not the same Church as that in the Middle Ages or even The Enlightenment.

What Does the Future Hold for Evangelical Christianity?

Source

The Future of Evangelical Christianity

Evangelicals have a goal in mind. They have a defined purpose for existing. I would like to speak to that subject in my third and final hub on Evangelicals. What is the future of Evangelical Christianity?

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    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      jonnycomelately, I have to agree with you. I hold to none of this any longer. Error, yes, I suppose, but we were growing as well.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 2 years ago from Tasmania

      I have read through this hub and come to the conclusion: "Thanks for affirming my choice not to be "A Christian." I do not accept any of it's basic beliefs. Period.

      For a long time in my life I did believe. I was in error.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      If all of this was in response to my article, I'm not sure what your point is. My article was not about what Christians should believe, but what they do believe. This article is for information purposes only.

    • profile image

      steve 3 years ago

      WHAT DID THE FIRST CHRISTIANS BELIEVE?

      THE CHURCH OF CHRIST HAD ITS BEGINNING ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST 33 A.D.. WHAT BELIEFS AND ACTIONS DID THE THREE THOUSAND CONVERTS TO CHRIST HAVE IN COMMON? DID GOD APPROVE OF EVOLVING BELIEFS, DIFFERENT REQUIREMENTS FOR SALVATION? IF THAT WERE TRUE, THEN WOULD IT NOT BE FOUND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES?

      Acts 2:41 So then, those who received his word were baptized; and there were added about three thousand souls. Acts 2:47....And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

      All three thousand believed the apostle Peter's message and were baptized in water. Then they were added to the Lord's church by the Lord Himself. The Lord did not add the unsaved to His church. They had to believe and be baptized in water prior to being added to the body of Christ.

      1. Acts 2:22 Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know---

      All three thousand believed Jesus was a miracle worker.

      2. Acts 2:31-32 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32 This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.

      All three thousand believed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

      3. Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ---this Jesus whom you crucified."

      All three thousand believed that Jesus was Lord and Christ.

      4. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

      All three thousand repented in order to have sins forgiven. (repentance meant that they made the commitment to turn from their unbelief and sinful lifestyle and turn toward God).

      All three thousand were baptized in water in order to have their sins forgiven.

      All three thousand received the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit after they believed, repented, and were baptized in water.

      5. Acts 2:40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"

      All three thousand were saved after they believed Peter's message: They believed, repented, confessed, and were baptized in water. (Mark 16:16, John 3:16, Acts 3:19, Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9-10, Acts 8:35-38) THEN THEY WERE ADDED TO THE LORD'S CHURCH! (Acts 2:47)

      WHAT THINGS DID PETER NOT PREACH AND WHAT THINGS DID THE THREE THOUSAND NOT BELIEVE.

      1.Peter did not preach that men were saved by grace alone.

      2.Peter did not preach that men were saved by faith only

      3.Peter did not preach that God had selected a few to be saved and that all others would go to hell.

      4. Peter did not preach that water baptism was not essential to salvation.

      5. Peter did not preach that Jesus was just one of many Saviors.

      6. Peter did not preach that once you were saved, that you could continue in a sinful lifestyle and still be saved.

      7. Peter did not preach that God did not have the power to give us an inerrant translation of the Scriptures.

      8. Peter did not preach that God would provide hundreds or thousands of different Christian denominations, and that they would teach different ways of being saved.

      9. Peter did NOT preach that you had to speak in tongues as evidence that you were saved.

      AS BELIEVERS IN CHRIST, MEN SHOULD USE THE BIBLE AS THEIR GUIDE FOR SALVATION. Looking to man-made creed books, Bible commentaries, denominational statements of faith, and church catechisms, is looking in all the wrong places for the absolute truth!

      YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      I had to write a statement of faith to get out of college and then another later on, so I was used to dealing with the theology. The difficulty is in communicating the difference between fundamentalist and evangelical. Thanks for picking this one to read. Lets just stay here for a while. :)

    • sonfollowers profile image

      sonfollowers 4 years ago from Alpharetta, GA

      This is good and very comprehensive. Obviously there are tons of differences between the denominations, or we wouldn't have hundreds of them. Some of these differences are very small, some are very significant (at least from my perspective). Still, you've done a great job pointing out the key things that the majority of these groups actually agree on.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Thanks for reading Kerry. Always good to see you.

    • profile image

      Kerry43 4 years ago

      Thanks Chris..excellent information, as always.

      See you tomorrow.

      Kerry

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Thanks Mhatter. David Wilkinson. I know of a David Wilkerson. He and the Evangelist I traveled with started at the same time in California in the 60s. Thanks for checking out my hub.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow! great report. the only evangelist I came in contact with was David Wilkinson via a girlfriend.

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