Q: Is it correct to refer to Mike Huckabee as an evangelical?
A: Yes. Huckabee describes himself as an evangelical.
The media are increasingly using the term "evangelical" to describe Mike Huckabee. Is it correct to call Huckabee an evangelical? And what is the difference between an evangelical and a regular Christian?
We’re not sure exactly what constitutes a "regular" Christian, as Christians come in a lot of different varieties. For that matter, so do evangelicals. But we are sure that a Huckabee spokesperson told us that Gov. Huckabee describes himself as an evangelical Christian.
As for what an evangelical is, there are several possible definitions. A good starting point might be to define an evangelical as someone who belongs to a church that is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals. The NAE Web site lists 61 member denominations, including the Congregational Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Conference, the Presbyterian Church in America and the Salvation Army. By this measure, however, it would be improper to label Mike Huckabee an evangelical. Huckabee is a Southern Baptist, and the Southern Baptist Convention is not part of the NAE.
An alternative approach would be to define an evangelical as one who holds a particular set of beliefs. The British historian David Bebbington, for example, defines evangelicals according to what has become known as the Bebbington quadrilateral, which says an evangelical is one who holds the following beliefs:
- Biblicism, or the belief that all spiritual truth is to be found in the Bible
- Crucicentrism, or the belief in salvation through Jesus Christ’s atonement on the cross
- Conversionism, or the belief that humans need to be converted to Christianity
- Activism, or the belief that Christianity should be expressed through effort (e.g., through missions or social work)
That definition is certainly broad enough to encompass both the NAE (see its full statement of faith) and the Southern Baptists (whose basic beliefs are available on the convention’s Web site). For that matter, one could make the case that the Southern Baptists basic beliefs actually include everything present in the NAE’s statement of faith.
On the other hand, the Barna Research Group, which specializes in tracking the role of faith in America, defines evangelicals as those who:
- Characterize themselves as "born again"
- Say that their faith is very important in their life today
- Believe in a personal responsibility to share their beliefs with non-Christians
- Believe that Satan exists
- Believe that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not through works
- Believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth
- Believe in the inerrancy of the Bible
- Describe God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and rules it today
The Barna Group says that according to its definition, there are about 18 million evangelicals in the U.S.
According to Mike Huckabee, he’s one of them.
Bebbington, David W. "Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s." London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.
Chafets, Zev. "The Huckabee Factor." The New York Times Magazine, 12 Dec. 2007.
National Association of Evangelicals. "Statement of Faith." Jan. 2008. National Association of Evangelicals, 30 Jan. 2008.
Southern Baptist Convention. "Basic Beliefs." Jan. 2008. SBCNet, 30 Jan. 2008.
The Barna Group. "Evangelical Christians," Dec. 2007. The Barna Group, 30 Jan. 2008.