Over the past couple of years, there has been an extensive debate over the definition of "evangelical" and who it does and does not apply to.
The rise of Donald Trump first as a candidate and then as president has exacerbated this question, as many wonder how so many self-identified evangelical Christians could support a politician who differs from them on many issues.
Here are four perspectives offered up on how to define what an evangelical is, as well as cautions on generalizing this large religious community.
In a guest column for The Christian Post published in June 2016, John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, noted for a time people defined "evangelical" using the definition developed by British historian David Bebbington.
"Bebbington's 'evangelical quadrilateral" has noted these distinctives of evangelicalism: biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism," explained Stonestreet.
"It emphasized evangelical reverence for the Bible and the cross of Christ, the need for personal conversion, and acting out of a changed life, with Wilberforce's historic battle against the slave trade as prime example."
Looking for a "more comprehensive definition," Stonestreet endorsed evangelical Anglican J.I. Parker's six-point definition for evangelical, which defined the term as having the following distinctives:
"1-The supreme authority of Scripture for knowledge of God and as guide to Christian living.
2-The majesty of Jesus Christ as incarnate God and Lord, and the Savior of sinful humanity.
3-The lordship of the Holy Spirit.
4-The need for personal conversion.
5-The priority of evangelism for both individual Christians and for the Church as a whole.
6-The importance of Christian community for spiritual nourishment, fellowship and growth."
"As I look at these six distinctives as expressed by J. I. Packer, I say, 'Yes. I believe these things.' These are principles I want to aspire to live out, and to help the next generation of young evangelicals embrace as well," wrote Stonestreet.
Trevin Wax, a Tennessee-based pastor and editor for the LifeWay educational resource The Gospel Project believes that the term evangelical requires a "two-track" definition that involves both using the label as a cultural designation and a professing designation.
Wax of LifeWay posted an entry on the website for The Gospel Coalition on Wednesday where he tackled the much debated question over how to properly define an evangelical.
Wax explained in his post that he took a "two-track understanding of evangelicalism" that included "an aspirational definition and a cultural one."
"There is evangelicalism as a renewal movement based on common beliefs and distinctives and evangelicalism as a sociological and political phenomenon," wrote Wax.
"The first is more aspirational and more closely aligned to the movement's roots (as well as its global connections), while the second is a sociological manifestation of varying traits of evangelical culture (even if the core beliefs and distinctives are no longer present)."
Wax drew a parallel to classifications for Roman Catholic Church members, some of whom would be considered more "culturally Catholic" than religiously so.
"Today, large numbers of Americans identify as Catholic but do not affirm official Catholic doctrine and may, in fact, defy Catholic teaching in their lives," continued Wax.
"Yet they still see themselves as Catholic. Articles from Catholic leaders lament the reality of how many parishioners are not 'practicing.'"
LifeWay Research released the results of a survey in December that centered on "evangelical beliefs and identity" that featured responses from over 1,000 U.S. adults 18 or older that were collected between Nov. 10–12 with a plus or minus 3.1 percentage-point margin of error.
24 percent of respondents considered themselves to be an evangelical Christian, while 12 percent were unsure and 64 percent said they were not evangelical. Meanwhile, 29 percent labeled themselves "born-again."
While 24 percent of respondents claimed to be evangelical and 29 percent claimed to be born again, the survey found that only 15 percent actually agreed with evangelical beliefs defined by LifeWay, which included the following four fundamentals:
"The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Jesus Christ's death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God's free gift of eternal salvation."
The survey found that among respondents who self-identify as evangelical and born again, only 45 percent of them were categorized as having evangelical beliefs.
"There's a gap between who evangelicals say they are and what they believe," said LifeWay Research Executive Director Scott McConnell in a statement.
Based upon Lifeway's crosstabulations, there are three types of evangelicals: 1) those who identify as evangelical but don't hold evangelical beliefs, 2) those who identify as evangelical and hold evangelical beliefs, and 3) those who don't identify as evangelical but hold evangelical beliefs.
Darren Guerra, associate professor and chair of political science at Biola University, wrote a piece published last week by First Things titled "Donald Trump and the Evangelical 'Crisis.'"
In the essay, Guerra broke down the evangelical label into three categories: "Jacksonian Evangelicals," "Tocquevillian Evangelicals," and "Elite Evangelicals."
The Jacksonian category of evangelicals were nominally Christian, residents of rural and blue-collar communities who are marginalized economically and culturally. They overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump during the early GOP primaries.
The Tocquevillian category of evangelicals were regular church attenders and had greater economic and social connections. They largely rejected Trump in the primaries and only came to support him later when more like-minded options were absent.
The Elite category of evangelicals were the leadership of evangelical organizations and churches, who moved in select circles. Because of this, many of them remained opposed to Trump leading up to and even after the 2016 election.
"Trump's candidacy and presidency have bitterly divided not just Jacksonian, Tocquevillian, and elite evangelicals, but evangelicals of all stripes, all of whom continue to address each other in harsh tones and with dismissive rhetoric," wrote Guerra.
"It is curious to see communities formed by grace show so little of it toward fellow believers. Given their theological kinship and belief in a transcendent and knowable moral order, evangelicals have deep resources for modelling sound deliberation about the common good."