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  Evangelicalism is derived from the Greek for ‘telling of good news’, but, over the centuries, the terms ‘evangelicals’ and ‘evangelicalism’ have been subject to many changes and reflect the convergence of a number of traditions. Erasmus used them to describe what he saw as the narrowness and fanaticism of Lutheranism. Luther used them to describe all those who accepted the doctrine of ‘justification through faith alone’, which he saw as the core of the gospel. By 1700 the terms had become synonymous with ‘Protestant’ or ‘Lutheran’. In Britain, the Methodist religious awakening around 1750 was described as the evangelical revival, and revivalists of a slightly later period inside the Anglican and Free Churches also claimed the term.

Evangelicals of all kinds came together to support William Wilberforce\'s crusade against the slave trade, to found the modern missionary societies and to collaborate in the work of the British and Foreign Bible Society. In 1846, Europeans and North Americans whose ideology was founded in Reformation Protestantism, early pietism and the evangelical revival formed in London the Evangelical Alliance to co-ordinate their activities. However, by the late 1910s the Reformed tradition was in upheaval. On one side was the liberal tradition and on the other a revivalist, confessional coalition of parties under the names ‘conservatives’, ‘evangelicals’ and fundamentalists. The final split between evangelicals and fundamentalists came when Billy Graham accepted the help of liberal church leaders for his New York Crusade in 1957. Prominent fundamentalists accused Graham and his evangelical followers of being ‘traitors from within’. The evangelicals are today organized worldwide in the World Evangelical Fellowship and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. KDS

Further reading D.W. Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage.



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