Protestantism emerged in the 16th century following the Reformation movement that was led by Martin Luther, Huldryc Zwingli, John Calvin, and other leaders to challenge some doctrinal and political issues in the catholic church. The protestant move continue to morph and by the 18th century, a new group of evangelicals emerged from among the protestants. For the most part, both evangelicals and protestants uphold the views of the Reformation movement but they have their distinct qualities.
The differences between protestants and evangelicals
Protestants and evangelicals have the same origins and are therefore somewhat similar. However, they still differ in many areas including their approach to scripture, view of salvation, worship, and rituals, cultural influence, etc. The table below summarises these differences.
|Approach to Scripture
|Often takes a literal interpretation of scripture while emphasizing Bible’s inerrancy.
|Allows for contextual, historical, and critical analysis approaches to interpreting Scripture.
|Puts a lot of emphasis on personal conversion and relationship with God through faith in Jesus.
|Does not emphasize personal conversion and may also include good works as a tenet of salvation
|Takes a more contemporary approach
|A more traditional liturgical approach
|Take a conservative approach to social issues like sexuality, abortion, and traditional family values.
|Focuses more on diversity and seeks to promote inclusion and social justice.
|is Often associated with conservative political movements and is influential in shaping conservative political agendas.
|Can encompass a range of political ideologies and involvement, with some denominations aligning with progressive or liberal causes.
|Vibrant and contemporary worship style, a distinctive subculture with Christian media and events.
|Diverse cultural expressions are influenced by historical, traditional, and contemporary practices within specific denominations.
Let’s take a closer look at these differences below
Approach to Scripture
Both evangelicals and protesters believe in the authority of the Bible. That said, they differ in how they interpret the Bible. Evangelicals generally take a conservative and literal interpretation of scripture. They place great emphasis on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible as God’s word. As such, evangelicals typically interpret Biblical texts literally because they believe the Bible is the literal word of God.
Conversely, protestants have a broader range in their approach to Biblical interpretation. For some protestants, contextual and historical analysis play a huge role in Bible interpretation. This means using authorial intent, cultural contexts, and contextual analysis to interpret a text. Protestants generally reflect an openness to differing views and critical scholarship on scripture.
On salvation, evangelicals and Protestants agree that it only comes by faith in Jesus Christ. The difference, however, is that Evangelicals stress the fact that salvation is personal and each individual must strive to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They believe in the transformative power of faith which every individual is encouraged to experience on a personal level.
The views on salvation amongst the protestants are wide and varied but mainland protestants do not place much emphasis on personal conversion. Even though lots of protestants also teach the importance of personal faith in Christ, others understand salvation to encapsulate both faith and good deeds.
Worship and Sacraments
Evangelical services are typically characterized by contemporary worship styles and music and they tend to promote an individual worship experience. Even though baptism and communion are typically recognized as important sacraments, their relevance and significance will vary from denomination to denomination.
The worship styles of protestant churches vary from church to church. For instance, some protestants like Anglicans and Lutherans have a more traditional liturgical style of worship. Conversely, some protestants have taken a more contemporary style of worship and others have tried to balance between traditional liturgy and modern styles. Additionally, just like for Evangliscals, the sacraments of baptism and communion are observed but with varying significance and meaning across the different protest denominations.
Social and Political Engagements
Evangelicals typically take a conservative approach to social issues and are known for being actively engaged. Some of the important social issues for the evangelicals include sexuality, abortion, and traditional family values at large. Evangelicals do not shy away from being politically active to ensure their stand is known.
Protestants may not have a uniform stand on social issues and their engagement also varies significantly. For some protestants, social justice is a priority and they address things like racial equality, poverty, and human rights. Some protestant churches are more inclusive and even allow non-traditional views on sexuality and family values. The social and political engagement of protestants ranges depending on the theological, contextual, and ethical backgrounds of the denomination.
Cultural Influence and Identity
The cultural expressions and religious practices of evangelicals and protestants differ as well. Most evangelical denominations have a vibrant contemporary style that often reflects the cultural influence of the day. The culture of Protestant churches is mostly influenced by history and tradition although some have started embracing contemporary expressions in their worship. But for the most part, protestants are more traditional than Evangelicals.
Evangelical worship services are characterized by a participatory and emotionally engaging worship experience. Some common elements include contemporary music that is sang by bands, interactive preaching, and spontaneous prayer. The protestant worship styles vary from one denomination to the next depending on their liturgical doctrines. However, most protestants have structured rituals and hymnody that guide their worship services.
Protestantism Core Beliefs and Doctrines
Protestantism encapsulates several denominations with diverse theological perspectives but some common tenets cut across the protestant doctrines. These include the authority of scripture, salvation by faith, and other key theological principles. Let’s have a look at some of the important core beliefs of protestants.
- The Authority of Scripture – protestants believe in the authority of the Bible as the word of God. The Bible is accepted as the ultimate authority on earth for guiding ethics, doctrine, and general Christian living.
- Salvation – protestants generally agree on the Lutheran principle of “sola fide” (faith alone) which affirms that salvation comes only through faith in God and not through some good deeds.
- Priesthood of all believers – all Christians have direct access to God and can therefore approach God without going through an intermediary.
- Sacraments: Protestants generally recognize two sacraments: baptism and communion.
Evangelicalism Core Beliefs and Doctrines
Evangelicalism is a subset of Protestantism that places a particular emphasis on personal conversion, faith in Jesus Christ, and spreading the gospel. Just like protestants, evangelicals have several denominations that differ in doctrine but there are still some core beliefs across the board. These are:
- Authority of Scripture – just like protestants, evangelicals also believe in the authority of Scripture. Both the Old and New Testaments are considered inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, ethics, and Christian living.
- Salvation – Evnagliscals agree that salvation comes by having faith in Jesus Christ and not by performing some good works.
- Evangelism and Missions – Evangelicals are known for their emphasis on evangelism and missions. Evangelicals believe Christians should actively share their faith with others.
- Personal spiritual experience – evangelicals place a lot of premium on their personal experience with God.
To sum it up, evangelicals and protestants are cut from the same fabric and have lots of common ground. However, they still have distinct differences in their approach to Scripture, theological emphases, social and political engagements, as well as cultural influence and identity.