Monday, May 12, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto

More than 80 evangelicals have signed the document that was released to the general public on May 7th, 2008. Included in this group is Richard Mouw, president Fuller Theological Seminary, Os Guinness, Rick Warren, and Lieth Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. What, in a nut shell, is the Evangelical Manifesto? This document is an attempt to redefine the term "Evangelical" into a more exact definition and to reverse the negative connotations that have come to be identified with Evangelicalism in the United States in the recent past.

This 20 page document has a two-fold stated purpose: "first to address the confusions and corruptions that attend the term Evangelical in the United States....(and) second to clarify where we stand on issues that have caused consternation over Evangelicals in public life." This purpose is outlined under three main headings:

1. We Must Reaffirm Our Identity
2. We Must Reform Our Own Behavior
3. We Must Rethink Our Place in Public Life

First "Evangelicals are Christians who define themselves, their faith, and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth. (Evangelical comes from the Greek word for good news, or gospel.)" Further the manifesto states that Evangelicals should be defined "theologically and not politically, socially or culturally". In addition seven foundational beliefs are affirmed. Summarized they are:
1.) Jesus Christ is fully God, fully human. 2.) The only ground for our acceptance by God is what Jesus Christ did on the cross and what he is now doing through his risen life. 3.) New life, given supernaturally through spiritual regeneration, is a necessity as well as a gift. 4.) The Bible is the supreme authority, God’s inspired Word, and that makes the Scriptures our final rule for faith and practice. 5.) Being disciples of Jesus Christ means serving Him as Lord in every sphere of our lives. 6.) Jesus is coming again as the blessed hope and provides strength and substance to what we do in the world. 7.) Followers of Christ are called to know and love Christ through worship, love Christ’s family through fellowship, grow like Christ through discipleship, serve Christ by ministering to the needs of others in his name, and share Christ with those who do not yet know him.

Second "All too often we have trumpeted the gospel of Jesus, but we have replaced biblical truths with therapeutic techniques, worship with entertainment, discipleship with growth in human potential, church growth with business entrepreneurialism, concern for the church and for the local congregation with expressions of the faith that are churchless and little better than a vapid spirituality, meeting real needs with pandering to felt needs, and mission principles with marketing precepts." In this section the document affirms the fallacies and errors of both the religious left and the religious right and seems to be an attempt to do some house cleaning as well as soul searching and looking for grace to make a better tomorrow. "We call for an expansion of our concern beyond single-issue politics, such as abortion and marriage, and a fuller recognition of the comprehensive causes and concerns of the Gospel, and of all the human issues that must be engaged in public life."

Third This section is the most controversial of the three headings and will get the most play from the news media as well as bloggers discussing the subject. Here is a quote from the section Rethinking our Place in Public Life, that is bound to cause concern from the religious right. "Christians become useful idiots for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology in its purest form. Christian beliefs are used as weapons for political interests." I am really surprised that someone in the steering committee didn’t come up with a less inflammatory word than "useful idiots". I suppose that this can apply to progressives, moderates, or conservatives equally as well. Although, I personally believe that this is an effort to put some distance between the "Neo-Evangelicals" and those that would identify with a Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson or others. This is tempered, somewhat, with the following statement: "Evangelicals see it our duty to engage with politics, but our equal duty never to be completely equated with any party, partisan ideology, economic system, or nationality." The bottom line (actually) of this document states: "With God’s help, we stand ready with you to face the challenges of our time and to work together for a greater human flourishing."

I would highly recommend that you take the time to read the entire document. (pdf link above) There is something for everyone, secular, religious, progressive, moderate or conservative, to be ashamed of or to be proud of.

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