Question: "What is evangelical theology?"
Answer: Theology is a field of study in which man tries to explain what God has revealed. The specific focus of theology varies, depending on the intended scope of the field of study (angelology has a narrower scope than general theology) and on the religious predilection of the theologian (Catholic theology will differ from Protestant theology).
One variety of theology is evangelical theology, a study of God’s revelation from an evangelical perspective. Evangelicalism is a popular movement within Protestantism that emphasizes being born again and having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The word evangelical comes from the Greek word translated “gospel” or “good news.” Evangelical theology is intended to describe evangelicals’ entire theological approach to the Christian faith.
Evangelical theology has several basic tenets:
First, evangelical theology is committed to a high view of Scripture. This is in line with the Reformation principle of sola scriptura, i.e., the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice in the Christian’s life (2 Timothy 3:16). Evangelical Biblicism ignores any traditional or oral authority that may exist in some churches and submits only to Scripture’s commands. Furthermore, evangelical hermeneutics generally relies on a literal interpretation of the Bible. That is to say evangelicals believe the Bible should be interpreted literally, historically, grammatically, and contextually.
Second, evangelical theology is largely based on an individual approach to the Christian faith. Evangelicals place strong emphasis on individual conversion and accountability in the faith. According to evangelical theology, each person is responsible for making his or her own decision to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ in salvation. Conversion takes place when a person is born again as a new creation under the power of the gospel for salvation (John 1:12; 3:3; Romans 1:16). The new birth occurs individually rather than corporately. In other words, belonging to an evangelical church doesn’t save a person; each person much exercise personal faith in Jesus.
A third distinctive of evangelical theology is an emphasis on missionary work. True to their name, evangelicals promote the gospel and have been responsible for many, many missionaries going around the world to share the good news of Jesus. Evangelicals also seek to influence culture and law, taking seriously Jesus’ command to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13–16).
The fourth important distinctive of evangelical theology is its focus on the essence of the gospel: the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3–7). That the sin of the world was nailed to the cross with Jesus is of the utmost importance in evangelical theology. As a result, evangelical Christians tend to set high moral and ethical standards and live separated lives.
In short, evangelical theology focuses on the gospel, God’s good news for the world in Jesus Christ. Evangelicals believe the Bible is the sufficient, inspired, authoritative Word of God and that the foundational message of the Word is God’s gracious provision of salvation through His only begotten Son.