In the propagation of the Gospel, evangelicalism has no equal. Its influence has reached to the uttermost parts of the earth. And within the Church, where at times it has been misunderstood and even persecuted, its impact has been momentous. W. E. H. Lecky said that evangelicals “gradually changed the whole spirit of the English Church. They infused into it a new fire and passion of devotion, kindled a spirit of fervent philanthropy, raised the standard of clerical duty, and completely altered the whole tone and tendency of the preaching of its ministers” (History of England in the Eighteenth Century, Vol. II, p. 627).
This high praise is based on facts. In the social life of the country the influence of evangelicalism has been just as great. It was chiefly responsible for producing the self-control, the sobriety, the ethical outlook that made possible the unparalleled series of social reforms in the nineteenth century. Evangelicalism has frequently been accused of being a modern, private, arbitrary, and unscriptural system, but such accusations are far from the truth. Evangelicalism rightly claims, now just as it has in the past, to be the Christianity of Christ and of his apostles. The truths for which it stands, the moral principles which it upholds, and the vision which is possesses—these all are rooted deep in scriptural authority.
Few will deny that one of the weaknesses of evangelicalism lies in its divisions, though it is possible to place too much emphasis upon these inasmuch as there has always been an underlying unity of primary and essential doctrines. These divisions have been used as a weapon against evangelicalism by its enemies. Over a hundred years ago John Cardinal Newman accused evangelicalism of “lacking ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more