I will continue my attempts to reflect on evangelicalism by starting with the opening sentence of my article on evangelicalism for the Stone-Campbell Encyclopedia (Eerdmans, 2004).
Evangelical: Term used to identify conservative Protestants who distinguished themselves from fundamentalism in the mid-twentieth century.
Well, I think I wrote that -- it's possible that the editors added that in! From there I note that originally the term was used to designate Protestantism as a whole, noting its roots in the Greek euangelion (good news). I also note that in 19th century America the term continued to be used to identify Protestants in contrast to Catholics and new religious movements such as the Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists. It wasn't really until the mid-twentieth century that the term came to be used in a more restricted party designation -- focusing not only on Protestantism, but more specifically conservative Protestantism.
Thus, when I use the term evangelical for myself, I'm not using it in the sense of a conservative party label, but something more broadly. It has to do with a commitment to hearing the voice of God in Scripture, a reception and commitment to live according to the grace of God revealed to humanity in Jesus Christ. It is a faith profession that lacks the political edge, but instead commits me to living and proclaiming the good news that God is present with us in Jesus the Christ!
Rob Johnston, in his concluding essay to the book The Variety of Evangelicalism (IVP, 1991) writes:
For all their variety and particularity, descriptions of contemporary American evangelicalism have a commonality centered on a threefold commitment: a dedication to the gospel that is expressed in a personal faith in Christ as Lord, and understanding of the gospel as defined authoritatively by Scripture, and a desire to communicate the gospel both in evangelism and social reform. Evangelicals are those who believe the gospel to be experienced personally, defined biblically, and communicated passionately. (Variety of Evangelicalism, p. 261).
Note that there is nothing political in this definition, except that it includes a commitment to social reform -- something it would share with the social gospel movement! As for the Bible, I see it as the authoritative witness to the gospel, but that doesn't mean I either taken every element literally or see it as being inerrant. But I do believe that I can hear God's voice present on its pages. So, when it comes to evangelicalism, I guess it all depends on your definition, and recognition of a family resemblance!