JBU's Evangelical Identity

From the earliest days of the church, Christians have used the term εὐαγγέλιον (gospel or good news) to describe the message of hope in Jesus Christ’s birth, death, resurrection and return, a gospel summarized so well in John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Historian David Bebbington suggests that “evangelicalism” as a term was first used to describe the Protestant, interdenominational movement in the 1730s with the preaching of this gospel message by John Wesley and the First Great Awakening. Evangelicalism has flourished over the last three hundred years, becoming a global movement of the church, with over 25% of the Christians in the world identifying as evangelical, 84% of whom are from Asia or the global south.

Bebbington identifies four defining features of evangelicalism: the need for conversion and lifelong discipleship; the centrality of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for the redemption of human beings; high regard for, and obedience to, the Bible as our authority; and active involvement in missionary and social reform efforts (see National Association of Evangelical (NAE) definition ). JBU affirms these four distinctives as central to its identity and aligns itself with the global, interdenominational, Protestant evangelical tradition. In the early 1960s, JBU adopted the NAE statement of faith as its own and later joined NAE as a member. JBU has also been a charter member and active participant in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), two of the most prominent national evangelical organizations. JBU also identified itself as intentionally interdenominational within that global Protestant evangelical tradition, which makes us distinct from other Christian colleges in our region, almost all of which have been founded by a denomination. It has always been one of JBU’s strengths that we were able to recruit faculty, staff and students from a broad range of evangelical churches.

Consistent with its evangelical identity, JBU’s board of trustees has articulated institutional commitments on certain theological issues or university practices, including our Biblical understanding of diversity, of marriage, friendship and human sexuality, of creation, and of non-partisanship; and the role of chapel at the university. These institutional commitments are not the only or even primary way that JBU understands its evangelical identity, but they answer the questions that we are most frequently asked. With God’s help, JBU seeks to live out these commitments faithfully and humbly with grace and truth.