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The ‘E-Word’

The growing debate about the word “evangelical” has made it to the USA Today. The article (“Evangelical: Can the ‘E-word’ be saved?”) mentions the difficulty in defining the word and the wide diversity of people who claim the label. The piece suggests:

Now the word may be losing its moorings, sliding toward the same linguistic demise that “fundamentalist” met decades ago because it has been misunderstood, misappropriated and maligned.
Not sure the term “fundamentalist” has actually become obsolete, though it does also suffer from definitional problems and misuse. This is an important debate because we must make sure people understand who we are when we use a certain label to describe ourselves. I have dealt with the questions about the “e-word” in previous posts (here, here, here, and here). While the diversity of people using the term has added to some of the confusion, it has also helped to help move the term away from being a synonym for a Christian Republican. Despite its potential flaws, I still embrace the term “evangelical.”


  1. Brian,

    I just finished reading Tony Campolo's "Letters to a Young Evangelical" in which he in the style of the apostle Paul directs a series of letters to two imaginary evangelicals--Timothy and Junia. He deals extensively with the definitions and stances of evangelicals on the hot-button issues of the day. While he defines himself as an evangelical, his preferred term is "red-letter Christians," emphasizing those who place a priority on living out the teachings of Christ in the gospels. It's an easy read and well worth the time invested.

  2. I don't like any labels but follower of Christ.

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    Gary: I have not yet had a chance to read it, but got it recently as a present. I am glad to hear it is a good book. I had noticed that he—and some others—started using the “red-letter Christians” label, and it is even mentioned in the USA Today article.

    Kevin: I understand the sentiment. I hate to see us lose a word as rich as “evangelical,” but it may become too confusing to be of any communicative good.


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