Friday, May 09, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto

A number of prominent American evangelicals have drawn up an Evangelical Manifesto. Although the document very much reflects the situation in the USA, it has much to say to the global evangelical community. The Manifesto seeks to define what it means to be evangelical in biblical and theological terms. The dangers of gospel-denying Liberalism are exposed and the shortcomings of Fundamentalism are assessed critically yet fairly. The authors make persuasive case that evangelicals should be constructively engaged in public life. But they wisely caution against identifying the Christian faith with political parties, be they "right wing" or "left wing". Evangelicals in the West will benefit from what the document has to say about bringing the values of the gospel to bear upon a postmodern and pluralist society. What I liked about the Manifesto was its gospel-centeredness, honesty and humility. Evangelical failings are acknowledged and those who call themselves evangelical are called to wholehearted Christian discipleship. Charter signatories include Kevin Vanhoozer, Miroslav Volf. Here is a summary of the introductory section:
First, we reaffirm our identity. Evangelicals are Christians who define themselves, their faith, and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth. (The Greek word for good news was euangelion, which translated into English as evangel.) This Evangelical principle is the heart of who we are as followers of Jesus. It is not unique to us. We assert it not to attack or to exclude, but to remind and to reaffirm, and so to rally and to reform.
Evangelicals are one of the great traditions in the Christian Church. We stand alongside Christians of other traditions in both the creedal core of faith and over many issues of public concern. Yet we also hold to Evangelical beliefs that are distinct—distinctions we affirm as matters of biblical truth, recovered by the Protestant Reformation and vital for a sure knowledge of God. We Evangelicals are defined theologically, and not politically, socially, or culturally.

As followers of Jesus Christ, Evangelicals stress a particular set of beliefs that we believe are true to the life and teachings of Jesus himself. Taken together, they make us who we are. We place our emphasis on ...
1. Jesus, fully divine and fully human, as the only full and complete revelation of God and therefore the only Savior.
2. The death of Jesus on the cross, in which he took the penalty for our sins and reconciled us to God.
3. Salvation as God’s gift grasped through faith. We contribute nothing to our salvation.
4. New life in the Holy Spirit, who brings us spiritual rebirth and power to live as Jesus did, reaching out to the poor, sick, and oppressed.
5. The Bible as God’s Word written, fully trustworthy as our final guide to faith and practice.
6. The future personal return of Jesus to establish the reign of God.
7. The importance of sharing these beliefs so that others may experience God’s salvation and may walk in Jesus’ way.
Sadly, we repeatedly fail to live up to our high calling, and all too often illustrate our own doctrine of sin. The full list of our failures is no secret to God or to many who watch us. If we would share the good news of Jesus with others, we must first be shaped by that good news ourselves
See here for the Evangelical Manifesto website, which includes the 20 page document in full (PDF). I think you'll find it a thought-provoking read.

2 comments:

Josh Gelatt said...

Glad to see welcoming response to the Manifesto from a another Reformed guy. I, too, thought the Manifesto was well written. Certainly not perfect, but an excellent contribution.

mike rucker said...

josh - don't tell mr. exiled preacher that these are the same comments i posted at your blog... :)

as i told josh, i like that the authors choose not to say that creationism and inerrancy are non-negotiables. for the first, there’s very little biblical justification anymore behind whatever the latest flavor of anti-natural-selection dessert is being served up; for the latter, somehow we can admit that we can’t prove the existence of God, but goshdarnit we have a golden egg this unprovable God laid right here. there’s simply too much of a tendency to add items to the ever-increasing laundry list of ideas and doctrines to which we have to pledge allegiance before we’re allowed into the room marked “Christian.”

i found myself motivated by the very positive nature of the piece - that it isn’t yet another “here’s everything we’re against” rant but an effort to make the gospel again a message of good news.

nothing is going to please everyone, i suppose; so i’m not sure i agree with this statement: We Evangelicals should be defined theologically, and not politically, socially, or culturally. Jesus’ message uses “action” verbs: teach them to DO as I have commanded you, LOVE God and LOVE your neighbor, by this will all men know … if you LOVE one another. any theology that defines us must have feet.

i did, however, like these words:
We are also troubled by the fact that the advance of globalization and the emergence of a global public square finds no matching vision of how we are to live freely, justly, and peacefully with our deepest differences on the global stage.

somehow we've got to figure out how we we're going to happily share the same bathroom over the next few decades in our ever-shrinking world.

one interesting thing: maybe i missed it, but there doesn’t seem to be a great emphasis on evangelism in this Evangelical Manifesto. was that intentional? i didn’t see a single chick tract referenced in the bibliography…

perhaps one unintended benefit of the proposal is a clear opportunity to take this EM (Evangelical Manifesto) and align it with the other EM (Emergent Manifesto) and finally have all our EM & EMs in a row without demonizing the other side.

mike rucker
fairburn, georgia, usa
mikerucker.wordpress.com