Protestantism today can be divided into two camps: conservative and mainline. Conservative Protestants hold to many traditional Christian doctrines yet also have developed specific beliefs and values that distinguish them from other Christians. Mainline Protestants hold to traditional Protestant values yet may also adopt more modern approaches to theology and the Bible. Conservative Protestants include most evangelicals and fundamentalists in the United States.
The doctrine of the Bible is central to conservative Protestants. Not only do they believe that the Bible alone is sufficient for salvation (a traditional Protestant imperative), but they usually hold to a specific doctrine of inerrancy, which means that the Bible is without error in everything it affirms, including science and history. Many conservative Protestant beliefs flow from this doctrine, such as the belief in a literal 7-day creation and a rejection of scientific evolution. They reject modern approaches to biblical interpretation, including textual criticism.
Conservative Protestants believe human beings are sinful and need to be saved from an eternity in hell. This reflects a classic Christian belief. However, for conservative Protestants, the salvation process is well-defined. A human being, at the moment of conversion, places faith in God and accepts Christ as savior. Only then is the person saved or "born again," and only people who have this experience will spend eternity in heaven.
Beliefs about the end of the world are common among conservative Protestants. Although specifics may vary from one group to another, most believe that Jesus will one day return to Earth and "rapture" believers, taking them to heaven. The Earth will then go through a 7-year "Tribulation Period," during which the Antichrist will dominate the world. At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus will return again and defeat the Antichrist, ushering in a 1,000-year millennial Kingdom of God on Earth.
Politics and Social Issues
Conservative Protestants often hold conservative political views. Most are opposed to abortion, for example. They support the death penalty, the right to bear arms, freedom of religion and lower taxes. Conservative Protestants also often advocate for prayer in schools, stronger national defense and may oppose things like stem-cell research. As of 2013, conservative Protestants made up a significant portion of the Republican Party's base in the United States.
- University of Chicago Press: An excerpt from The Truth about Conservative Christians
- The American Conservative: How Protestantism Lost its Mind
- National Association of Evangelicals: What Is an Evangelical?
- Grace Communion International: What is an Evangelical?
- Truth Magazine: The Attitude of Modernism Toward the Bible
- Founders Ministries: A History of Dispensationalism in America
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