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Bebbington On Evangelicalism Essay

1463 words - 6 pages

In the late 1980's, David Bebbington attempted to define what it meant to be an evangelical in America. He came up with a four part definition. The definition has four criteria and they are: biblicism, conversionism, crucicentrism, and activism. He wished to find a definition that would show what unified different evangelical movements and denominations during his time. Bebbington's definition can also be applied to modern or historic denominations and movements. Bebbington's definition should fit with any church that defines itself as evangelical, but what about a modern non-denominational bible church meets that definition? Also what does Bebbington's definition say about the pre-bible belt Baptist movement in colonial America? If both a modern non-denominational bible church and a pre-bible belt baptist movement meet the definition set forth by Bebbington, then they should have some meaningful connection. However, that connection between a “evangelical” church and a “evangelical” movement is not so clear. Bebbington's four part definition is too wide and accepting to different interpretation to be called meaningful. Each part of his definition needs to be explained and evaluated to see if any meaningful connection between a bible church and the Baptist movement of early souther America have have any meaningful connection under Bebbington's definition of evangelical.
Bebbington's definition has four parts. The first part is biblicism. Biblicism is a term which means biblical literalism. The bible is seen as holy and God inspired writing. It is seen as an authoritative guide for Christian living. All other authorities besides the bible must be appointed by scripture. Biblicism is the belief that the bible is the first and last authority given by God. However, the idea of biblicism comes with some problems. Firstly, it brings up the question of interpretation. If everyone does not interpret the bible in the same way, and two people arrive at different conclusions, there is no way to know which one of them has actual authority. Also, there are many different English bibles. Due to different translations, each bible can be interpreted very differently. The bible is also comprised of sixty-six different books. Some of these books are going to have more influence then others. There is also the issue of regarding the bible as the ultimate authority. The interpretation of how one should respond to authority is also a problem. One could always be completely and literally obedient. One could also be defiant, try to overtake authority, read through the lines of what the bible says, or have any other complicated relationship to authority. Bebbington says biblicism is a unifying trait of evangelical denominations and movements, but that does not seem to be the case. Perhaps conversionism will seem more unifying.
Conversionism expresses the idea that there is some specific point where someone becomes a Christian. The process is to admit one is sinful,...

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