You’ve heard of evangelicals, but just who are they?

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1964 File Photo of Billy Graham at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. RNS photo by Billy Adams/The Birmingham News

1964 File Photo of Billy Graham at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. RNS photo by Billy Adams/The Birmingham News

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(RNS) Evangelicals are all over the news, but just who are these Christians? "Actually, that's a question, I'd like to ask somebody, too," evangelist Billy Graham once said. Here's a primer about these religious types, their history, faith and politics. By Peggy Fletcher Stack.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    From my personal Mormon perspective, there apoears to me to be a fundamental contradiction within the Evangelical formulation. The insistence that the Bible is inerrant is not a statement that the Bible ever makes about itself. At the time the books of the New Testament were compised, there was no compiled and authoritative colection of books that could be called “The New Testament”. None of the gospels claim they are comprehensive or complete or even inerrant and perfect in what they do say. The Gospel of John proclaims at its end that there wete so many more things that Jesus said and did that the whole earth could not hold a compkete record of his life and teachings. John says itnis incompke, therefore, imperfect, therefore not “inerrant” in any ordinary sense.

    The gospels also are inconsistent about when certain events took place and who was present. There are multiple manuscripts with variations in wording. There are obvious interpolations in some copies, such as the insertion of a trinitarian formula in one of John’s epistles.

    If the Bible is complete and inerrant, why is the Nicene Creed outside the Bible? What is the authority of the Creed as an extrabiblical writing, created two hundred years after the death of the Apostles? If the church and popes have no authority beside the Bible, why recognize the authority of a nonbiblical statement that bishops created? The Bible has no evidence that Christnor the Apostles asked people to believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were of “one substance. If thatnteaching was clear in the Bible itself, there would be no need for the Creed.

    Sonit seems to me thst there is a logical contradiction at the heart of what some Evangelicals claim are fundamental beliefs. By contrast, since Catholics and Orthodox churches accept the authority of church councils to supplement scripture, and do not insist on biblical inerrancy, they don’t havebthis kind of inconsistency in their doctrines.

    The creeds are at odds with the notion of biblical inerrancy and completeness. But Evangelicals appear to want to be Catholics through at least the 4th Century.