Sago Boulevard

Monday, July 25, 2005

"Evangelical"

Is anyone else confused by (or interested in) what exactly "evangelical" means and how it's used? According to Webster.com, it means both "of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels" and "protestant". Dictionary.com adds "of or relating to the Lutheran churches in Germany and Switzerland," "of or relating to all Protestant churches in Germany," and "of or relating to the group in the Church of England that stresses personal conversion and salvation by faith." Anybody confused yet? Here's a website devoted to Evangelical Catholicism.

Wikipedia helps a little:
Evangelical has several distinct meanings:

* In its original sense, it means belonging or related to the Gospel (Greek: euangelion - good news) of the New Testament.

* In the United States and the UK, it usually refers to adherents of Evangelicalism.

* In mainland Europe, especially in the German speaking and nordic countries, Evangelical (evangelisch) is a general designation for churches adhering to beliefs of the Reformation, e.g. Evangelical Lutheran Church, Evangelical Reformed Church, or Evangelical Methodist Church, in contrast to Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches. In this sense, it comprises everything from a liberal state church to a conservative free church in the Baptist or Pietist tradition.

* However, in German there are now two words used which are commonly translated "Evangelical": "evangelisch" meaning Protestant, and more narrowly the Lutheran and Reformed churches, and "evangelikal", pertaining to Evangelicalism. In Austria, the United Lutheran and Reformed Church (Evangelische Kirche in Oesterreich) claims a monopoly on the former term and has in the past sued independent churches using the designation "evangelisch".

* Among those who do not adhere to Evangelicalism, it is sometimes confused with "Evangelist," especially when evangelism is practiced aggressively.

Yet, another Wikipedia entry declares: "In Western cultural usage, Evangelical has usually referred to Protestantism, in intended contrast to Roman Catholicism."

It's interesting (and somewhat amusing) that such buzzwords lack anything that resembles coherent definition.