Evangelical Manifesto – Part 2

From what I understand, the release of the Evangelical Manifesto was recent. I think I came across May 7 as the date it went public. In case you’re wondering who’s behind it, here are the people listed on the Steering Committee:

  • Timothy George
    Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
  • Os Guinness
    Author/Social Critic
  • John Huffman
    Pastor, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, CA
    Chair, Christianity Today International
  • Rich Mouw
    President, Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Jesse Miranda
    Founder & Director, Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership, Vanguard University
  • David Neff
    Vice President and Editor in Chief, Christianity Today Media Group
  • Richard Ohman
  • Larry Ross
    President, A. Larry Ross Communications
  • Dallas Willard
    Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern California

The introduction to the project is also important because it clarifies motives, and there are three:

An Evangelical Manifesto is an open declaration of who Evangelicals are and what they stand for …

As an open declaration, An Evangelical Manifesto addresses not only Evangelicals and other Christians but other American citizens and people of all other faiths in America, including those who say they have no faith. It therefore stands as an example of how different faith communities may address each other in public life, without any compromise of their own faith but with a clear commitment to the common good of the societies in which we all live together.

For those who are Evangelicals, the deepest purpose of the Manifesto is a serious call to reform—an urgent challenge to reaffirm Evangelical identity, to reform Evangelical behavior, to reposition Evangelicals in public life, and so rededicate ourselves to the high calling of being Evangelical followers of Jesus Christ.

The Manifesto tackles all three areas, with the identity section first, the call for reform second, and the “let’s all get along” section third. OK, my characterization of the last section is simplistic. I wanted a nutshell way of referring to it, but it probably defies such paring. More accurately, the third section (second in their stated purpose in the intro) is to encourage openness and civility in discussion of faith or non-faith, as the case may be.

Yesterday I posted my initial three reactions to the Manifesto. I hope, at some point, you visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction will take a look at the Manifesto for yourselves. It is beginning to create some stir—there are some 1300 blog posts on the subject already. Until then, here are a few more of my random thoughts on the content.

1. The Manifesto’s “identity definition” flies in the face of post-modern thought that resists propositional truth. There are parts of the document that make me think this is purposeful.

2. While I applaud much of what the Manifesto intends, I see areas that I wish were … more accurate, more Biblical.

And speaking of the Bible, one of the weak points is the watered-down statement of belief about the Bible. From the Manifesto itself, not the summary version (which is even weaker):

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.

Compare that to the statement about the Bible from the National Association of Evangelicals:

I. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.

Or how about this statement from my church, First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton:

The Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the inspired Word of God without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men, and the divine and final authority for all Christian faith and life.

Yes, the Manifesto states, in its round-about way, that the Bible is inspired and that it is authoritative. One could suppose that it implies the Bible is without error. But why the ambiguous language on such a pivotal point?

I mention this because I read one blog post in which the writer praises the Manifesto as needed since from his church experience he had not received clear teaching on “these seven foundational points,” referring to the beliefs the Manifesto enumerates as part of the evangelical identity.

Granted, the Steering Committee probably wanted to choose wording that would allow believers with different shades of understanding to agree, but isn’t that what started the slippery slide away from a clear understanding of evangelical—and more importantly of Christian (you knew I’d throw this in one more time, didn’t you? 😉 )—in the first place?

OK, this post is much too long, and I have more to say on the subject. As always, I’m interested in your reaction, either to what I’ve spouted or to the original document that brought these ideas bubbling to the surface.

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