Friday, May 09, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto

Earlier this week, a group of evangelical scholars and leaders released An Evangelical Manifesto ( The manifesto seeks to define the evangelical movement as a theological movement, rather than a political or cultural movement. Several news organizations covered the release of the document, probably due to the political ramifications of broadening evangelical Christianity's concerns beyond the stereotype of opposing abortion and same-sex marriages. (Actually, Christians are concerned about those issues, but it would be a caricature to state that we are concerned only about such issues.)

Here are a few excerpts:

"Evangelicals are therefore followers of Jesus Christ, plain ordinary Christians in the classic and historic sense over the last two thousand years. Evangelicals are committed to thinking, acting, and living as Jesus lived and taught, and so to embody this truth and his Good News for the world that we may be recognizably his disciples. The heart of the matter for us as Evangelicals is our desire and commitment, in the words of Richard of Chichester and as Scripture teaches, to 'see him more clearly, to love him more dearly, and to follow him more nearly.'" (Can one be a Christian without agreeing with the sentiments expressed in that paragraph?)

We are simply Christians, or followers of Christ, or adherents of 'mere Christianity,' but the Evangelical principle is at the heart of how we see and live our faith." (This section reminded me of the old slogan circulated among Churches of Christ and Christian Churches: "We are Christians only, but not the only Christians.")

"We confess that we Evangelicals have betrayed our beliefs by our behavior.
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 the process we have become known for commercial, diluted, and feel-good gospels of health, wealth, human potential, and religious happy talk, each of which is indistinguishable from the passing fashions of the surrounding world." (I was most impressed with that paragraph. It takes a lot of humility and courage to admit our faults and our sins with such boldness.)

"All too often we have failed to demonstrate the unity and harmony of the body of Christ, and fallen into factions defined by the accidents of history and sharpened by truth without love, rather than express the truth and grace of the Gospel." (I was touched by this paragraph, because it describes the Christianity that we have inherited. Most of us had nothing to do with the divisions and factions that have arisen within Christianity. Our task is to see if we can return to the unity and harmony intended by God as we seek to follow Jesus Christ as the Scriptures reveal him.)

"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. Although we cannot back away from our biblically rooted commitment to the sanctity of every human life, including those unborn, nor can we deny the holiness of marriage as instituted by God between one man and one woman, we must follow the model of Jesus the Prince of Peace, engaging the global giants of conflict, racism, corruption, poverty, pandemic diseases, illiteracy, ignorance, and spiritual emptiness, by promoting reconciliation, encouraging ethical servant leadership, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, and educating the next generation. We believe it is our calling to be good stewards of all God has entrusted to our care so that it may be passed on to generations yet to be born." (I agree completely with this sentiment. I have no intention of backing away from my pro-life and traditional marriage convictions, but I will not neglect other appropriate concerns if I can help it. You may click on the links at the side and bottom of this blog to find ways to help with these issues. See Pro-Life News, FamilyLife, International Justice Mission to fight slavery and other injustices around the world, Contact Church of Christ ---an urban ministry dedicated to helping Tulsa's urban poor with both physical and spiritual needs, and several other groups featured on this blog.)

"Called to an allegiance higher than party, ideology, and nationality, we 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. In our scales, spiritual, moral, and social power are as important as political power, what is right outweighs what is popular, just as principle outweighs party, truth matters more than team-playing, and conscience more than power and survival." (If we do not embrace this attitude, we are in danger of being used as pawns and we are in danger of committing idolatry. Most of us have seen people who worship and depend on their political parties and leaders as if they were gods. Christians must never be among them.)

Overall, An Evangelical Manifesto is a thoughtful and good document worth reading and considering. I found it to be refreshing in its honesty and its direction.

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