Evangelical Glossary

These are common terms and concepts used among evangelicals and fundamentalists. From time to time you will encounter these terms linked to this page in various posts.

Accepting Christ – This common evangelical and fundamentalist concept describes the decision to follow Jesus and become a Christian (see saved). Other ways of expressing this decision are repenting, accepting Jesus into your heart (or life), getting saved, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, making a decision for Christ, committing your life to Christ, praying the sinner’s prayer, or praying through.

Creationism – Creationism is an anti-evolution perspective. One of the most well-known events of the fundamentalist movement of the 1920s was the Scopes Monkey Trial which pitted fundamentalists against those who taught evolution in the public schools. The press reports on the trial caused the creationists to seem ignorant and foolish and hurt the fundamentalist movement. In the 1970s, a revived creationist effort called Scientific Creationism gained attention, as did the later Intelligent Design theory. The key assertions of creationism are the literal and historical understanding of the creation and flood accounts in Genesis chapters 1-11 and rejection of the idea that humanity evolved from lower life forms.

Evangelical – There were some among the fundamentalists who rejected the negativity and narrowness of the movement in regard to other Christians. Although they agreed with their fellow fundamentalists in doctrinal matters, they began to develop a less caustic identity in the 1940s; they were fundamentalists without the attitude. Billy Graham was the most well known of this movement.

Evangelism – A primary focus of fundamentalists and evangelicals involves leading others to Jesus Christ in order that they may become Christians (see saved) and escape hell. Other terms for this activity are witnessing, leading others to Christ, winning the lost, soul-winning, and saving souls. Personal evangelism is the practice of individual Christians talking to people they know or to strangers in order to lead them to Christ. Other forms of evangelism are preaching, mass rallies, literature distribution, and missions.

Fundamentalist – The fundamentalist movement began to coalesce in the late nineteenth century in opposition to biblical criticism scholarship and evolution. The friction intensified in the 1920s resulting in unsuccessful efforts to reverse critical thinking in some denominations. After that, many left those denominations and formed a number of new fundamentalist denominations. Fundamentalists were characterized by scathing attacks on, and separation from, other Christians. After decades of ineffectiveness and isolation, fundamentalism experienced a resurgence in the 1970s that continues today.

Hell – Most fundamentalists and evangelicals believe that all those who are not true Christians (see lost) go to hell after death. Hell is understood as an eternal, torturous, burning fire. Those who go to hell are not incinerated but will burn for eternity. Hell is hot and forever is a long, long time.

Inerrancy – This is a key doctrinal commitment of fundamentalists and most evangelicals. The Bible is understood to be the ‘word of God’ without error, and it is believed that there are no discrepancies in the Bible. The writing of the Bible is thought to have been protected from error by the Holy Spirit. Other similar, but not identical, concepts are infallibility, verbal inspiration, and biblical authority.

Legalism – Many fundamentalists and evangelicals evaluate spirituality in terms of avoiding certain lists of sins. These lists vary, but legalists focus more on the specifics of these lists rather than on general principles of living. Many also believe that violation of these rules (or ‘sinning’) is incompatible with fellowship with God and that they affect one’s salvation. Among legalists there is often much more attention given to ‘sin’ than to God’s love.

Lost – This describes the state of not being saved. The lost are thought to be on their way to hell unless they repent. Other words describing those in this state are sinners, unsaved, and unregenerate. Most of the people who have ever lived are thought to be lost, including many who call themselves Christians.

Salvation – This refers to the process of being saved. Similar terms are redemption, reconciliation, regeneration, and the new birth.

Saved – Most evangelicals believe a person becomes a Christian in a specific decision made at a specific moment. They are then ‘saved’ and are on their way to heaven. Otherwise they are ‘lost’ and on their way to hell. Other words for this status are born again, redeemed, regenerated, being in a state of grace, having eternal life, and washed in the blood of the lamb. (see also Accepting Christ)

Sin – Sin is considered by fundamentalists and evangelicals as offence against God and his holiness. We are understood to be born in original sin because of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, but we also commit our own personal offences against God. Those who are not ‘saved’ are ‘sinners’ and on their way to hell.

Universalism – Some believe that all people will eventually be reconciled to God and that none will be left out of fellowship with God. This belief is not accepted by fundamentalists or evangelicals.

56 Responses to Evangelical Glossary

  1. Chas says:

    Tim, the word ‘salvation’ is largely mis-understood by non-Christians. It comes from the same base as the word ‘salvage,’ so it is perhaps better understood as ‘rescue.’ As we have discussed in our recent posts, this would be being rescued out of our prior separation from God and being brought into His Presence.


  2. Marcus Ampe says:

    It is a pity you only said what many believe “Hell ” would be but did not tell what the real meaning of that word is, just the sepulchre or grave, a place where everybody lands up, even Christ Jesus did. No man or animal can escape it, they all end up in that place to become dust and to know nothing any more, having their life ended and having no feelings or any connection with the world any more.


  3. dover1952 says:

    Tim. You forgot to define the most famous Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical word of all—-usually spoken with an extended arm and gnarled, pointing index finger:


    Used in a brief paragraph:

    I don’t want that woman to hold my baby because she is a United Methodist. All United Methodists are apostate. Therefore, they are all certainly going to Hell.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Yes Dover, that is a word worth defining! Of course this is a limited glossary and ‘apostate’ rarely comes up in my writing; I use other ways of talking about this harmful attitude. But if I were to try to develop a comprehensive glossary ‘apostate’ would be there.


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