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Kind of based off this question contrasting Evangelicalism and Protestantism. My assumption as a Catholic (which you are certainly more than free to trounce upon) is that since modern day televangelists are more than 6 degrees separated from Calvin, Wesley and Luther, that they couldn't in good faith call themselves Protestants since the Catholic Church is not weighing heavily on their consciences.

So is this yet another false assumption?

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+1 interesting question. Though I still find it a little too ambiguous. –  dancek Nov 28 '11 at 19:46
    
Our Churches are similar yet we know so little about each other than we can hardly communicate in any non-ambiguous way any more. –  Peter Turner Nov 28 '11 at 19:57
    
This smells a little bit like a list question. :) I suspect no single answer will be appropriate for all televangelists, pastors, etc. Are you interested in just knowing if any evangelicals consider themselves non-protestants? Or are you looking for a denomination or other group that falls into this category? –  Flimzy Nov 28 '11 at 20:10
    
@Flimzy, I guess I want to know if the protest is over and the ambivalence has begun. –  Peter Turner Nov 28 '11 at 20:52
    
I would say that a protestant is someone that does not believe in the Tradition as an important way to find out doctrines. –  froderik Nov 28 '11 at 21:54

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

A little bit of apples and oranges here, so if you don't mind me clarifying a few terms here.

Protestantism

In the West, most Christians assume that Protestant means anything "not Roman Catholic." Yes, we're ignoring the Orthodox, but I think a strong working definition of Protestantism would be as follows: Any non-Roman Catholic denomination that split from the "universal church" after the Reformations of the 16th Century (1517 onwards). If you don't like the 'accident of history' definition, there is a belief-basis answer as well - see the other response for that.

Protestants differ in a lot of theology, but share a common belief that the Roman pontiff has no special claim to leadership of the church. In this, Protestants really are just picking up the same argument that the Orthodox had before the Reformation, but there is a theological difference between those that split before 1054 and those that split after 1517. This is both geographical (East vs. West) and in terms of theological emphasis. (No Orthodox mysticism, for example, would ever be confused with, say, Scholastic theology or a Spurgeon outline).

Evangelicalism First off, Evangelicalism is a movement, not a denomination. It is a reformed fundamentalism that tends to define itself as reformed fundamentalism. It stresses literal interpretation of the Bible, a return to holiness, engagement with the culture, tends to be missiological, etc... Interestingly enough, the argument is out there that you don't have to be Protestant to be Evangelical, although many assume you have to be. At the risk of self-promotion, I would suggest a quick look at the history here

Evangelical and Protestant In 2007, Francis Beckwith, slated to become president of the Evangelical Theological Society, became a Roman Catholic. Story here. In the end, the Evangelical society basically pushed him out, asserting that part of Evangelicalism is being non-Papist. Tony Blair, when he "converted" to Roman Catholicism was also considered by many to be an Evangelical, and is still considered by many to be both.

Ecumenicalism Recently, amongst most American Christians, we are living in a post-denominational age. As a practical matter, most Christians tend not to care about governance. In a lot of ways, this was due to the fact that Evangelicalism was a movement rather than a denomination. There was an impulse, regardless of denomination, to return to "the fundamentals." This general reforming trend in church politics, as well as the "Culture Wars" of the 80s in which most Protestants realized they had more in common with Catholics than not, has led to a general diminution of denominationalism in general.

The New Evangelicals So, most mega-church pastors (I'm thinking the Rick Warrens, Lon Solomons, John Piper, etc...) tend to be Protestant and Congregationalist. I suspect the reason is more logistical than anything else - the charismatic leadership of a superstar pastor is harder to sustain in a more hierarchical church. I mean think about it - you're a flashy priest in the Roman Church. You start attracting 4000 people on a Sunday. What are the chances you are going to be left to continue your work without any change in orders from above? Doesn't matter if you're being promoted or told to back off - its just harder to achieve a personal following.

What I think you're seeing is a correlation - mega church stars tend to be Congregationalist, because that's the only way to sustain a personality based ministry, and evangelical because, frankly, evangelical churches are growing really strongly in the United States.

I doubt any of these "stars" are going to be hitting "the evils of papistry" very hard - mostly because I doubt most other Christians care. Are they still Protestant? Sure. Buy 'em a beer and they'll tell you they like the Pope but don't believe he's infalliable. Ask 'em to do deep theology, and they'll tell you why. But is important? No. So, Why do I call them protestant? Becuase of time. Why don't they care? Becuase nobody in their churches does either.

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Much depends here on your definition of Protestantism. You don't have to be an expert lexicographer to discern the etymology of the word, its roots being in "protest" against Roman Catholicism. But while I know many evangelical Christians who disagree with Catholicism, I know very few who actively protest against it, or for whom Catholicism is "weighing heavily on their consciences".

To me, and I believe to most, "protestant" simply means non-Catholic Christian. Speaking personally, I do self-identify as a protestant but it's not my first-choice term to describe myself or my faith.

Having given my answer I need to qualify it: i'm not a tele-evangelist or megachurch pastor and can't claim to fully represent them, but I would be very surprised if any evangelical Christian didn't also recognise themselves as a protestant.

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So the Eastern (Byzantine) Orthodox are "Protestants"? The Assyrians? Armenian Apostolic? Copts? –  Steely Dan Mar 7 '12 at 0:17

It seems in your question your assumption is that Protestantism is something akin to Contra-Catholicism. This is not the case. What distinguishes protestants from Catholics and what identifies different denominations both as protestant is the doctrine of Justification by Faith.

If you take that as the working definition of what is to be protestant then it is no stretch of the imagination to think that all of the major evangelical leaders would classify themselves as protestants.

As a member of an extremely large non denominational evangelical church I can say with some authority that we believe and promote the doctrines 'priesthood of all believers' and 'Sola Scriptura' both of which are distinguishing beliefs of Protestantism. I would be shocked if I learned other similar churches did not believe the same.

Have evangelicals (and thereby many protestants) and Catholics moved closer theologically since the reformation? Perhaps; although here is a recent article that discusses remaining tensions between the two (specifically reformed theology).

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I like your definition of 'Protestant' better than mine :) Can I steal it? <grin> –  Affable Geek Dec 12 '11 at 15:29

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