We may broadly say that there are three parties within what is commonly called "Evangelicalism."

From apostolic times there have been deviations from "the Faith delivered once unto the saints" (Jude 3). Today's plethora of denominations witness to the sad fact. And yet, "there must be factions among you." In controversies the church holding fast to sound doctrine will eventually come to light.

Thus, today we find evangelicals and liberals. The latter espouse a very broad view of Scripture, hewing its corners and attempting to make it more "presentable" to the modern mind, not realizing that it is the modern mind who needs to be brought to conformity with the Word.

Evangelicals are not as united in their witness as one would wish. We can trace at least three main historic divisions within the camp: The Arminian, the Reformed and the Neo-evangelical.

The Arminian Party

At the beginning of the 17th century there arose in Holland a sharp controversy that reached its culmination at the Synod of Dordt (1619-20) and the rebuttal of 5 heresies proposed by followers of Jacob Arminius. Actually it was little more than a rehash of 5th century Pelagianism, so valiantly fought and resisted by Augustine and condemned at the Council of Ephesus (431) an Orange.

The main presupposition of the Arminians is freewillism: i.e., the ability resident within every man of deciding his own destiny, and of doing (with God's help) all the will of God. Thus they deny absolute double predestination, saying that God predestines upon his knowledge of foreseen faith in man. They deny total depravity, saying that man's will, though weakened by the Fall, can still choose Christ. Of course, they propose that Christ then must have died for everyone without discrimination, making it possible for everyone to be saved, if he uses his gifts properly. But since some men don't, then they insist that God's grace must be resistible. Man can thwart the will of God. If he is not willing to be saved, then God can't save him.

And even if he is saved he can will himself to be lost again. All these points form one complete and consistent (though erroneous) system of theology. The departure from Scripture is serious enough; yet Arminians today are generally considered as Christians.

The Neo-Evangelical Party

This group is of more recent origin, though its roots, once again, can be traced to aberrant movements that have sprung and disappeared in the past. Neo-evangelicals would include the Charismatics and numerous other groups that hold to a low view of the church.

Their theology is selective. To put it blatantly, they teach what they like to teach, disregarding many aspects of divine revelation. Their manipulation of Bible doctrine and misinterpretation throws a dark shadow over evangelicalism as a whole.

Oftentimes they neglect to be separate from the world and are sadly defective in exercising proper church government and discipline. Individualism is the order of the day.

The Reformed Party

Lastly, but not least, is the Reformed party, whose watchword is "Ecclesia Reformata et semper reformanda" (a reformed church and always reforming).

The Reformed stand for the Truth, however unpopular it may be with the world. They embrace all Scripture and are careful to maintain the 5 solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. These grand truths were regained at the 16th century Reformation, and the Reformed rightly desire to uphold them and pass them on as the truth of God. Though they speak much of the doctrines of grace (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints) their theology actually comprises the whole counsel of God.

Sometimes they are known as Calvinists after the great Genevan Reformer, but in reality their allegiance is primarily to the Lord Jesus Christ, by whose prophetic office these marvelous truths are made known to us.


In seeking a greater unity among evangelicals, the Reformed should remember that they should seek to have a humble mind. In God's sovereignty they stand on a solid foundation of doctrine: but "a man can receive nothing except it were given him from above" (John 3).

The healing of the breaches within evangelicalism will not happen in a day. The church is growing "unto a mature man, unto the fullness of the stature of Christ."