The Evangelical Manifesto of Os Guinness et al was released during final exams so I didn’t get around to reading it — and the related news and commentary on the web — until last night.
Conclusion #1. This is a document that should be read slowly and given serious consideration by all who call themselves Christian, regardless of church affiliation. It has much to say to all of us. After reading, if you agree with what it has to say, I encourage you to join me in signing it.
“Our first task is to reaffirm who we are. 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.) Believing that the Gospel of Jesus is God’s good news for the whole world, we affirm with the Apostle Paul that we are “not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” Contrary to widespread misunderstanding today, we Evangelicals should be defined theologically, and not politically, socially, or culturally.”
Conclusion #2. They’re not listening.
The Manifesto, while addressed to the media and aimed at giving a working definition of the word “evangelical” to the general public — which it does — for the most part is intended for those who call themselves “evangelicals”. And the vast majority aren’t listening.
The above quote is the Manifesto’s definition of an Evangelical Christian. In most of the Christian blogs that disagreed with it, the definition was cut down to only one sentence (the italicized one) and then accused of being incomplete or of omitting the salvation message. The only conclusion I can draw is there are many who claim to be walking in the light who are very much walking in darkness.
“…we are troubled by the fact that the confusions and corruptions surrounding the term Evangelical have grown so deep that the character of what it means has been obscured and its importance lost. Many people outside the movement now doubt that Evangelical is ever positive.”
Not that the general public is listening either. There are an awful lot of people out there who are tired of hearing anything at all about Christianity, and they’re taking this opportunity to express just how pissed off they are. In a way I can’t say I blame them. On the other hand, many secular critics of the Manifesto are unwilling to see and discuss what’s good in the document, and in their own way they’re being just as closed-minded as the people they’re condemning.
Conclusion #3. Without actually saying it, the Manifesto implies that Fundamentalists have essentially hijacked the Evangelical movement in America, both in the public eye and in many of our churches. I couldn’t agree more. It’s about time somebody stood up to these schoolyard bullies.
“Evangelicals have no supreme leader or official spokesperson, so no one speaks for all Evangelicals, least of all those who claim to. We speak for ourselves…”
People who blindly follow and agree with organizations like OneNewsNow and the American Family Assn and the vast majority of radio and televangelists are Fundamentalists and not Evangelicals. Contemporary Fundamentalists are simplistic in Biblical interpretation and extremely rigid in their beliefs. Evangelicalism on the other hand is a far older and broader movement, more generous and more balanced, and is by definition broad enough to include people who are either conservative or liberal on political issues.
Conclusion #4. The fact that this document is written in a very civil tone and is being received very uncivilly by believers and nonbelievers alike says to me the authors are onto something — people reacted the same way to Jesus. Corollary: the document is also finding some very interesting allies — and so did Jesus.
I’ll leave you with this summary of the Evangelical vision:
“…certain beliefs that we consider to be at the heart of the message of Jesus and therefore foundational for us — the following seven above all:
“First, we believe that Jesus Christ is fully God become fully human…
“Second, we believe that 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, whereby he exposed and reversed the course of human sin and violence, bore the penalty for our sins, credited us with his righteousness, redeemed us from the power of evil, reconciled us to God, and empowers us with his life “from above.”
“Third, we believe that new life, given supernaturally through spiritual regeneration, is a necessity as well as a gift; and that the lifelong conversion that results is the only pathway to a radically changed character and way of life.
“Fourth, we believe that Jesus’ own teaching and his attitude toward the total truthfulness and supreme authority of the Bible, God’s inspired Word, make the Scriptures our final rule for faith and practice…
“Fifth, we believe that being disciples of Jesus means serving him as Lord in every sphere of our lives, secular as well as spiritual, public as well as private…
“Sixth, we believe that the blessed hope of the personal return of Jesus provides both strength and substance to what we are doing, just as what we are doing becomes a sign of the hope of where we are going…
“Seventh, we believe all 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…”
I have to ask: who is the Christian who would disagree with this?