Why I am still an Evangelical
In the final part of this trio of letters for the Breda Messenger I’d like to outline why I am not just an Anglican Christian, but an Anglican Evangelical Christian. Although not particularly en vogue today, there has been a noble tradition of Evangelical belief in the Church of Ireland stretching back hundreds of years and indeed at the time of Disestablishment (around 1871) the vast majority of clergy would have been classed Evangelical.
Bishop JC Ryle in his famous book, Knots Untied, describes five leading features of Evangelical belief, and I can do no better than summarise them here. The first leading feature is the absolute supremacy of Holy Scripture. There is no guide for a person’s soul other than what is in God’s Word written (Article 20). It is the final rule of faith and the only judge in controversy.
Secondly, Evangelical faith recognises the depth of human sinfulness which leaves us all in a state of guilt before God. Without understanding the serious spiritual condition we are in we will never see our need for serious spiritual medicine. Merely formal, external Christianity will never get to the heart of our profound, spiritual problem.
This leads to the third feature, which is the paramount importance of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelicals love to dwell on the person of Christ, personally known to us through simple faith and trust. He has, by his life, death and resurrection, become our Substitute and Saviour, bringing forgiveness and right-standing before God.
Fourthly, Evangelical Faith is concerned with the inward work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a believer. Until God performs a real, experiential work within a person’s heart, their religion is an empty husk. The presence of the Holy Spirit brings inner repentance, inner faith, inner hope, inner hatred of sin and an inner love for God’s Word. It is of absolute necessity to a person’s salvation.
This inner work of the Spirit results, fifthly, in a distinctive, holy lifestyle. The fruit of the Spirit (e.g. Galatians 5.22-23) is the only certain evidence that a transformation has occurred in a person’s life and that they have become a Christian.
Together, these five main features combine to create the foundation of Evangelical Belief. The New Testament clearly affirms them, as do the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church. While other church people may assert them to a degree, the evangelical Christian prioritises them above every other doctrine. This is why I am an Anglican, Evangelical Christian.
Sincerely in Christ