Several prominent evangelicals released a statement today called The Evangelical Manifesto. Definitely worth reading.
The statement and its signers seek to define evangelicalism in a way that, to many, may sound a lot like someone trying to put new spin on an old idea. But what this manifesto proposes is nothing more (or less) than a return to evangelicalism in its most classical, authentic sense.
This is evangelicalism as John Newton and William Wilberforce knew it.
Unfortunately, one of the most prominent evangelicals of all, Dr. James Dobson, declined to sign, citing a “myriad of concerns.”
What I love most about this manifesto is its humility. The signers distance themselves from some of the more extreme expressions of evangelicalism in recent history—without becoming strident or self-righteous… or falling into the trap of making little more than a desperate appeal for acceptance.
Here are some of my favorite bits. But really, you should skip this part and download the whole thing…
As followers of “the narrow way,” our concern is not for approval and popular esteem. Nor do we regard it as accurate or faithful to pose as victims, or to protest at discrimination. We certainly do not face persecution like our fellow-believers elsewhere in the world. Too many of the problems we face as Evangelicals in the United States are those of our own making. If we protest, our protest has to begin with ourselves….
As the universal popularity of such hymns and songs as “Amazing Grace” attests, our great hymn writers stand alongside our great theologians, and often our commitment can be seen better in our giving and our caring than in official statements. What we are about is captured not only in books or declarations, but in our care for the poor, the homeless, and the orphaned; our outreach to those in prison; our compassion for the hungry and the victims of disaster; and our fight for justice for those oppressed by such evils as slavery and human trafficking….
Above all else, [evangelicalism] is a commitment and devotion to the person and work of Jesus Christ, his teaching and way of life, and an enduring dedication to his lordship above all other earthly powers, allegiances and loyalties. As such, it should not be limited to tribal or national boundaries, or be confused with, or reduced to political categories such as “conservative” and “liberal”….
First and foremost we Evangelicals are for Someone and for something rather than against anyone or anything. The Gospel of Jesus is the Good News of welcome, forgiveness, grace, and liberation from law and legalism. It is a colossal YES to life and human aspirations, and an emphatic NO only to what contradicts our true destiny as human beings made in the image of God….
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….
The other error, made by both the religious left and the religious right in recent decades, is to politicize faith, using faith to express essentially political points that have lost touch with biblical truth. That way faith loses its independence, the church becomes “the regime at prayer,” 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. Christians from both sides of the political spectrum, left as well as right, have made the mistake of politicizing faith; and it would be no improvement to respond to a weakening of the religious right with a rejuvenation of the religious left. Whichever side it comes from, a politicized faith is faithless, foolish, and disastrous for the church—and disastrous first and foremost for Christian reasons rather than constitutional reasons….
We Evangelicals trace our heritage, not to Constantine, but to the very different stance of Jesus of Nazareth. While some of us are pacifists and others are advocates of just war, we all believe that Jesus’ Good News of justice for the whole world was promoted, not by a conqueror’s power and sword, but by a suffering servant emptied of power and ready to die for the ends he came to achieve. Unlike some other religious believers, we do not see insults and attacks on our faith as “offensive” and “blasphemous” in a manner to be defended by law, but as part of the cost of our discipleship that we are to bear without complaint or victim-playing….
3 thoughts on “Evangelical recovery?”
dude, did you see that jim wallis mentioned me on the sojo blog recently? okay, he linked to my blog, he didn’t mention my name, but still…it was cool. i know your head is spinning—you only knew me as a strident conservative and i’m now an independent who is planning to vote for obama.
hope all is well in your corner of the world.
yeah, i’m probably more jazzed by who didn’t sign it than who signed it … serves as a good line of demarcation, if you will…
i’m enjoying reading the various opinions here and there around the web. i had some hesitations and misgivings before reading the document, but i’m actually quite impressed and invigorated after taking in the whole of what it addresses.
one of the things i like is that the authors have chosen not to list creationism and inerrancy as 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. still, some people hold to these positions; so be it. 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.”
nothing’s going to please everybody, and there are a few things i object to. for instance, i don’t 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’re going to peacefully 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. do you think that was intentional? i didn’t see a single chick tract referenced in the bibliography…
more than anything, i find myself motivated and energized 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. imagine that – the gospel being good news. American Christianity has lost this defining characteristic that once served it well.
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.
one can only hope…
fairburn, georgia, usa