The general editor behind an award-winning book assessing the history, culture, and beliefs of the 600 million Evangelicals around the world, says that the American Christian Right does not define the Evangelical experience and reflected on reasons for growing secularization in the West.
Evangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century, which has been recognized with the Gold Award for Education Resources in the third annual Illumination Book Awards, explores numerous far-ranging topics affecting the lives of Evangelicals around the globe, including the central pillars of what it means to be an Evangelical.
Dr. Brian C. Stiller, the global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance and former president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, who is also the general editor of the book, shared with The Christian Post in an interview that David Bebbington, a professor of history at the University of Stirling in Scotland, provided in 1989, a four-pillar definition of what it means to be an Evangelical, which continues to be "quite conclusive."
Stiller summarized the pillars: "That the Bible is trustworthy; Jesus and His death and resurrection are the only means of salvation; conversion is the means by which the spirit enters us and transforms us into the likeness of Christ; and we're called to be His witnesses in all aspects to a suffering and lost world."
As for the inspiration behind such an ambitious project, Stiller, who lives in Toronto, Canada, noted that he wanted to correct the impression that is often made in media that an Evangelical is defined by the American Christian Right.
"Living as a Canadian, you are overwhelmed with American information and news. Along with that comes a defining of an Evangelical out of the American religious right. It's so dominant, that one assumes in Canada that an Evangelical here is like they are in the States," he told CP.
Stiller said that he found there were not many books at all attempting to tackle the history and beliefs of Evangelicals on a global scale, and felt that it was time for a project to look at that diversity and separate the term from how it is often defined in the context of the American social-political sphere.
"I realized how important it was to define who we are as followers of Christ in a larger context," he said.
The question of what is an Evangelical has been hotly debated in the midst of the 2016 U.S. election season, with some, such as Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, even stating that he is starting to "hate" the word.
Stiller insisted, however, that around the world "Evangelical" is still seen as a good word.
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"It's a good word, it's a wonderful biblical word – 'The Good News.' It's a word that [Martin] Luther used to describe those who left the Catholic church. Around the world, the word 'Evangelical' is a good word."
He repeated that just because it is used by a particular group in the U.S., does not mean that "we should let that small group define it for the world."
A number of chapters in Evangelicals Around the World address the growing number of believers in the Global South, and the marked progression of secularism in the West. Stiller offered that the number of Evangelicals in America, Canada and Europe has not changed dramatically over the last few decades, but said there are several different reasons for why the larger public is turning away from faith.
"There's no doubt that public dishonoring of the name of Christ will hurt some people. That has been true in America, Africa, Latin America, and Asia, as we know," he said, referring to church and leadership scandals.
"I don't thinks statistically you can draw a line between those public failures and people leaving the church, but I'm sure on an individual basis you can find many who have left the church," he noted.