Evangelicalism, broadly speaking, is a Protestant Christian tradition, coming out of the late 19th century Holiness Movement and growing throughout the 20th century. It is usually characterized by a belief in the authority of Holy Scripture, the importance of a personal conversion, baptism of adults only, traditional morality, informality in worship, and an emphasis on missionary and evangelistic activity. Within the broad category of "evangelical" there is a wide variety of theological opinion. Some have been strongly influenced by the Reformed tradition of John Calvin, while others have been influenced more by the more Arminian thought of the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition. Regarding practice, some evangelicals worship along more traditional lines (often influenced by Anglicanism), while others embrace a more charismatic worship style.
Although evangelicalism started as a movement which was ecumenical in scope and included clergy and laity from a wide variety of backgrounds, in the 20th century several denominations emerged which viewed themselves as fundamentally evangelical. These include the Christian & Missionary Alliance, the Evangelical Free Church and others. Other evangelicals continue to be found in denominations that would not, as a whole, embrace evangelicalism.
Although it is impossible to speak in any universal way about the beliefs of all evangelicals, it is possible to speak of some central elements of their faith and practice.
Evangelicals emphasize the need for a personal conversion to Jesus Christ. Some have called this a crisis experience. It is also commonly referred to as being born again. Unlike the Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican churches, evangelicals do not consider baptism to be sacramental in its own right; rather, they see it as a symbolic action to take place after one has already converted.
Evangelicals subscribe to a strictly sola scriptura theology, believing the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the only authority in matters of faith and doctrine. Many evangelicals use the term inerrant to describe the Bible.
Some evangelicals subscribe to what could be called a “positive conception of scriptural authority.