Myths About Evangelicals – They’re All A Bunch Of Pharisees


512px-House_on_the_rock,_island_of_St_MarkoFrom time to time I get out my soapbox and pull myself to the top in order to decry some of the fantastical things people—even some professing Christians—say about those of us who believe the Bible to be true.

One I find particularly egregious is this notion that Evangelicals, or Bible-believing Christians—you know, those who think Adam and Eve were real people and the Garden of Eden was an actual place—are Pharisees. Some might even add, Pharisees of the worst kind!

This statement shows a lack of understanding, both about Pharisees and about Christians.

I’ve addressed the misconception about Pharisees and Christians before (see “Who Are The Pharisees?” and “Christians Are Not Pharisees”). But as I read through Matthew’s record of Jesus’s encounters with the Pharisees, a couple thoughts ran through my head.

1) “Religious” was not the problem Jesus had with the Pharisees. The main problem He had with them was that they rejected Him as Messiah. Long before the Pharisees conspired to arrest Jesus, try Him, and execute Him, Jesus knew they opposed Him. After all, they did things like demand He prove He was who He said He was and throw out trick questions to get Him to a) blaspheme, b) break the Mosaic Law, or c) denounce Roman rule.

2) The only religious activity Jesus hated was false religious activity. The Pharisees went around praying in public so people could see how pious they were. When they fasted, they made a show of it by neglecting their appearance so people would know they were going without.

3) The Pharisees focused on the external and the trivial, not the internal and the “weightier provisions of the law,” justice, mercy, and faithfulness. [And who today thinks of the law as teaching mercy and faithfulness?]

4) The Pharisees were crooks. They not only ripped off the people buying animals from them in the temple, they falsified their weights and shrank their measuring standard, all so they could get rich at the expense of others.

5) They twisted the law and added their own traditions to it so they could duck out from under the things they didn’t like, so they could stack other things in their favor.

6) They also misled many. The rabbis taught their disciples to do as they were doing and more so. They also “shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matt. 23:13b).

7 On the outside the Pharisees looked as if they were keeping the law, but inwardly they were “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:28b). Lawlessness! Who ever associates the Pharisees with lawlessness? The typical, or stereotypical, view of the Pharisee is someone parsing each tiny aspect of the law and bending over backwards to adhere to it. Legalistic might be a good way of describing the traditional view of Pharisees. And certainly some of what they did or said—tithing the smallest spices, insisting Jesus’s disciples ceremonially wash their hands, criticizing Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, and so on—would fall in the category of legalism.

But Jesus didn’t accuse them of being too picky about their adherence to the Law. Rather, He said inwardly they were without the Law. Can you imagine what these men who had grown up studying the Law must have thought when Jesus told them they were full of lawlessness?

In the end, I do think Christians should learn from the Pharisees (after all, all Scripture is for doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness – 2 Tim. 3:16). We are not insulated from their sins.

In a nutshell, the “woes” Jesus pronounced against the Pharisees stemmed from their pride, their false teaching which mislead others, their misuse of the Law, their neglect of justice and mercy and faithfulness, and their focus on the external rather than their heart attitudes.

The book of James ties what a person does with the reality, or “aliveness,” of his faith. The Pharisees showed their profession of faith was empty and meaningless because of what they did—flaunting their supposed spirituality, taking advantage of widows, cheating worshipers, holding others to a standard they themselves didn’t keep. They were religious phonies.

Anyone professing Christ can be just as much a phony as any of those Pharisees were. And even when we want to put our beliefs in practice, we can be seduced by pride or greed or selfishness. Our Christian walk can become so self-centric we forget that God’s heart is first and foremost for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger.

Too often the American Christian follows our culture into me-ism, into looking out for number one—which can manifest as me, my family, my nation. We forget that God so loved the world. Not just our little corner of the world.

So, no, Evangelical Christians are not Pharisees. That’s a myth!

But that doesn’t mean we can’t fall into Pharisaical behavior. It doesn’t mean we can let down our guard when it comes to the sins the Pharisees were guilty of.

It also means that there may be people professing Christ, in the same way the Pharisees professed a special relationship with God, when in fact they don’t know Him. Jesus said so Himself:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ ” (Matt. 7:21-23)

There’s that word “lawlessness” again. Isn’t it ironic that the Pharisees, so proficient in the Law, were guilty of lawlessness? But apparently the same will be true of some who profess Christ.

And how can we know the difference between Christians who are the real deal and those just pretending? Jesus turned around and told a parable about two guys who built houses, one on rock, one on sand. He prefaced the story by saying, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them . . . ” (Matt. 7:24a)

Kind of the same thing James said about works proving that faith is alive.

Evangelical Myth #2 – God Loves Us Because We’re Special


George Herbert

George Herbert


Western culture influences the evangelical Church. One evidence of this influence is in the development of a Man-centric worldview. Humankind has grown in importance, at the expense of God.

A literature professor of mine gave a generalized view of the philosophical shift that has taken place.

For centuries the culture was God-centric, to the exclusion almost of Man’s responsibility for his sin. God was over all, created all, engineered all, and Man was little more than a puppet or, as the hymn writer said, a worm.

During the Renaissance there was a shift toward valuing Mankind in a different way–in a balanced way. Writers such as John Donne, George Herbert, and a number of others known as the Metaphysical Poets wrote of God in a more intimate, personal way, and some also wrote of their own personal experience.

Today, the pendulum has shifted further so that Mankind is now the chief object of exploration, and God is less so, seen as a mere sidelight, or even thought to be dead.

Evangelical Protestants have not been untouched by this change. Writing friend Mike Duran recently addressed this topic in his article “On Worm Theology,” in which he used the term “worth theology” to describe the current thinking (emphasis in the original):

On the other hand, consider that there is a movement afoot, both in Christian and secular circles, to overemphasize Man’s inherent goodness, giftedness, esteem, and worth. This view swaps worm theology for worth theology, defining God’s redemptive actions in terms of our intrinsic goodness and worth. Rather than self-loathing, worth theology affirms our nature, destiny, and latent abilities. Of course, it can also lead to ego-stroking, gauzy positivism, and an inflated sense of self. Not to mention, denial of the concept of “sin.”

As I understand the rationale for this “worth theology,” it revolves around sentiments like “God don’t make no junk” and “if we are to love our brother as ourselves, then we first have to learn to love ourselves.” Ultimately, we must understand how worthy we are because Christ died for us. Certainly He wouldn’t have died for us if we weren’t worth dying for.

Well, actually He did.

As I understand Scripture, our great worth does, in fact, come from our creation. The “God don’t make no junk” idea is pretty accurate. We learn in Genesis 1 that all God made, including Humankind, was very good.

But if we go no further, we are still not better than worms. What we’ve too often overlooked is that God elevated Humans in a way that forever separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom: He fashioned us in His likeness and breathed His breath, or spirit, into us. We, then, are God’s image bearers!

He also gave us dominion over the rest of creation–not for us to despoil or waste or misuse, but to enjoy, to maintain, to care for. It’s a high and holy charge that God has not rescinded, despite what Humankind did next.

In Adam, we turned our back on God. WE created a barrier between us and God; because of OUR sin and transgressions, God has hid His face from us so that He does not hear. We marred His image in us. It is this state–the absence of the presence of God, the spoiling of the good He made–that makes us wretched.

Some of us are conscious of our state and others deny it with their every breath–still fighting God for control. We want to prove we don’t need Him, that we can do life on our own.

Denial doesn’t change things.

The insidiousness of the “worth theology” is that Humankind climbs into a position of control in a similar way as we do if we choose to deny Him. Man, like a finicky cat, deigns to respond to God’s pleading, as if we are adding worth to His kingdom by coming to Him.

Christianity, then, is all about our best life, our comfort, ease, our safety and welfare.

Not really.

Christianity is about God. That we have been created in His image is a reflection of His creative power. That He saved us is a reflection of His love and mercy. That we have the ability to walk in newness of life is a reflection of His grace and goodness.

Life, even life here and now, is not about us. It’s about God. And wonder of wonder, He turns around and includes us.

– – – – –

    Love
    by George Herbert

    Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
    Guilty of dust and sin.
    But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
    From my first entrance in,
    Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
    If I lack’d anything.
    ‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
    Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
    ‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
    I cannot look on Thee.’
    Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
    ‘Who made the eyes but I?’
    ‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
    Go where it doth deserve.’
    ‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
    ‘My dear, then I will serve.’
    ‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
    So I did sit and eat.

Published in: on June 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm  Comments Off on Evangelical Myth #2 – God Loves Us Because We’re Special  
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Are Christians Not Very Bright?


Sarah_Palin,_Queen_of_PorkI understand when political types attack their opponents by stating or implying they aren’t very bright. It’s a way of undermining public confidence in the person, a la Vice President Dan Quayle and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Hence, as a presidential candidate President Bush was vilified because he earned a C in college, or maybe had a C average at one point–I don’t recall the precise details. Never mind that the college happened to be Yale and most of the people in the US couldn’t even get into that school, never mind pass a single course.

The troubling thing is, that strategy seems to be spreading from politicians to evangelical Christians. And worse, evangelical Christians seem to be agreeing with the idea that evangelical Christians aren’t very bright. (Which begs the question: should we believe someone who isn’t very bright when he says he isn’t very bright? 🙄 ) For example, in “Lots of Stupid Christians,” Dr. Coyle Neal says, “The example of Fundamentalism shows us one possible reason there are so few evangelical intellectuals.”

The distressing thing here is that “so few evangelical intellectuals” is treated as a given. But where are the data supporting such a statement?

And who defines “intellectual”? Are only PhD’s in philosophy considered intellectual?

What’s particularly galling to me is the complete dismissal of theologians as part of the intellectual community. I suspect atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, and the late Christopher Hitchens would be included on a list of intellectuals, but why not men like William Craig Lane, Ravi Zacharias, and Alister McGrath who debate those atheists?

Why not John Piper or R.C. Sproul, Kevin DeYoung or Francis Chan who study Scripture and look at culture through the lens of theology? Why wasn’t the late Professor Howard Hendricks or Dr. Clyde Cook considered an “intellectual”? Because they spent their time in seminaries and Christian universities?

And what about the likes of John MacArthur or Charles Swindoll, men who influenced evangelical Christianity a great deal these past forty years–are they not intellectual enough to be counted as intellectuals?

Then there are all the people living in towns and villages in Asia or Africa, speaking multiple languages, often translating from one to the other, understanding multiple cultures, and bringing a global view of God’s word to their work–are they not intellectuals because they don’t hob-nob with the rich and famous, they don’t lunch with politicians and media types?

If intellectuals must publish in a set of elite journals and expound on irrelevant arguments which the Apostle Paul saw as worthless, then sure, I’ll agree, there aren’t very many evangelical intellectuals. But really, if we’re talking about people who can speak to the cosmic issues of life, who know and understand how to frame an apologetic for the Christian faith, then thankfully, all these naysayers are wrong. The evangelical Christian intelligentsia is alive and well, thank you very much.

Published in: on March 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm  Comments (15)  
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A Christian Is Who Again?


On the eve of the US Presidential election, the great buzz in my little corner of the Internet has not been about politics but about Christianity. It seems my writing friend Mike Duran stirred up a hornet’s nest with his post entitled “The Anti-Evangelical Hate Machine.” In it he called to task a number of “progressive Christians” who have spewed vitriol onto evangelical Christians.

The response included a heap of additional garbage hurled at evangelicals. Here are a few samples:

“Maybe you wouldn’t carry the sign yourself, but do you silently agree with the sentiments of the Westboro Baptist Church… “God hates fags!” Because if you feel these issues have somehow been settled beyond all doubt, you haven’t really been paying attention. Both on the left or the right, it is easier to simply dismiss those who disagree, as opposed to the more difficult and adult work of figuring out how to coexist.

Don’t stay stuck in the sandbox if you feel you can step up and talk to the other adults.” (from Britt)

“Oh, get off the cross already. We need the wood.

The problem with religious liberals is that for far too long we’ve tolerated bullying and bigotry from the likes of you people because we adopted a “turn the other cheek” approach. Well, we’re done with that, and we’re reclaiming Christianity. You’ve turned it into something monstrous, hurtful, and oppressive, and yet you’re whining that we’re persecuting you.” (Ceryle Alcyon)

“You see, if you don’t pay him the respect of taking the time to comprehend what he is writing about, you end up looking even more shallow, petty, and mean-spirited than he could ever depict. ” (Jeri Massi)

As I was thinking about this apparent divide, what Scripture says about the Church popped into mind. We are the bride of Christ; the body of which He is the Head; living stones built into a temple of which He is the cornerstone; branches attached to Christ, the vine.

All these point first to a relationship with Christ and secondly to a unified purpose, though perhaps a diverse function.

I can’t help wondering, then, how it is possible for some in the Church to hate others in the church.

Actually, John seems to be saying it isn’t possible.

The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. (1 John 2:9)

The chapter goes on to elaborate, but the point is clear from this verse. It reiterates what Jesus said about the love between Christians being the winsome quality that would let others know we belong to God.

First He said “This I command you [disciples], that you love one another” (John 15:17). Then in His prayer to the Father about us, He said

I do not ask on behalf of these [disciples] alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23)

Love. Unity. These admonitions and goals Jesus has for His followers don’t seem to lend themselves to hate. Or name calling. Or ridicule.

So why the disconnect? People claiming Christ say they hate Christians, or Evangelicals at least, or “Fundies.” Yet they turn around and say the reason they do so is because of how unloving these Christians, Evangelicals, “Fundies” are.

The love of Christ, then, would seem to be for everyone else, but NOT for brothers and sisters of the faith with whom they disagree. Or are they saying these conservative Christians, Evangelicals, “Fundies” aren’t actually Christians?

Some of these “Progressives” are deeply offended that in comments or conversations conservative Christians, Evangelicals, “Fundies” have suggested the “Progressives” are not Christians, so they wouldn’t be turning around and saying the same thing, would they?

But I have a serious problem. The facts don’t add up.

    Scripture says we are one, that if we hate a brother we are not in the Light.
    Progressive Christians hate on conservative Christians, Evangelicals, “Fundies” who also name the name of Christ.

Why this disconnect?

Published in: on November 6, 2012 at 6:52 pm  Comments (9)  
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The Spiritual Fight Is Spiritual


I realize this title is less than profound, but I think it needs to be said because error abounds on both sides of the Christians-and-politics (or Christians-and-patriotism) struggle. As I pointed out yesterday, God clearly states our enemy is not of the flesh-and-blood kind, yet it seems Christians today are determined to fight either liberal politicians or Mormon commentator Glenn Beck.

Remember, Mr. Beck stirred up all this discussion when he led a restoring honor rally at the end of August, one that many evangelical Christians have embraced.

Here are the salient points as I see them.

* America has drifted from its Puritan roots—morally and spiritually.

* Present-day leadership—corporate, labor, governmental—seems uninterested in more than band-aid treatments of gaping wounds.

* Religious groups who hold to similar moral standards—Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons—find themselves more often pushed onto the same side of controversial issues, ones that only became controversial with the rise of liberalism.

* Siding with someone from a different religious persuasion to accomplish a common goal is not wrong. (We do this every time we do business with a non-Christian, whether it is buying groceries, going to a movie, getting our mail from the USPS, or what have you).

* Assuming someone who agrees with my political stance is a Christian, is wrong. Scripture tells us to be on the alert, to be discerning, to keep watch. Assuming a spiritual truth without examining the facts is contrary to these admonitions.

So back to Glenn Beck and his restore honor rally. Christians need to pay attention and not be swept up by platitudes that sound high-minded.

Please note, I love my country. I’ve lived abroad on three occasions and have visited a couple additional continents. I haven’t seen another country I’d rather live in, for all the US’s faults. I suspect most citizens feel the same about their own country.

The thing that troubles me on one hand is the “America is God’s country” talk. God’s country is actually heaven. He has no intention of setting up His kingdom in America. Even when He erases this old earth and establishes a new heaven and a new earth, His chosen city for His throne is the new Jerusalem, not the new Washington, DC.

That’s hard for some American Christians to take.

Conversely, while we’re here, sojourning for the few odd years God gives us, we are responsible to do our best for our country. Lots of verses point to this. We are to obey authority, pray for our leaders, pay our taxes, and I think, by extension, vote—knowledgeably and prayerfully. In other words, it’s not OK for us to stuff cotton in our ears and start humming when someone talks politics.

However, we are to set our minds on things above, not on the things that are on the earth (Col. 3:2). In other words, we should care a lot more about God’s agenda than we do about a politician’s political agenda (whether liberal or conservative).

Where does that leave us in this Glenn Beck debate?

I suggest these points.

* Christians should know what Mormonism is and isn’t. It is a cult with extra Biblical beliefs. It is not a Christian denomination, nor do its members worship the God of the Bible, know His Son Jesus, or have His Holy Spirit.

* Mormons, like Muslims, adhere to a strict moral code, some of which is consistent with the Bible. When a Christian wishes to fight for the life of the unborn or preserve the meaning of marriage or a variety of other moral issues, teaming up with Mormons may occur.

* Teaming up with Mormons to pray for a restoration of our nation is wrong. What Mormons mean by that is vastly different from what a Christian means, just as a Mormon saying he believes in Jesus is vastly different from what a Christian means.

More on this next time.

Published in: on September 8, 2010 at 5:07 pm  Comments (15)  
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Where’s The Fight?


Two little points of interest (to me, anyway 😉 ) before I get started. I am planning to change my blog template. 😯 I mention this for the benefit of long-time readers. I don’t want you to think you’ve inadvertently come to the wrong site when your browser opens to a page with a different look.

Second, I’m trying to get used to the capitalization rule change for titles listed in the Chicago Manual of Style, sixteenth edition. I only glanced at it, but if I understood it right, all words in a title are now capitalized (which is what Word does already). Feels wrong to me, looks wrong, but I’ll get used to it.

Now to the subject at hand. As I see it, false teaching among Christians is on the rise, and at the same time opposition to Christianity is on the rise. Unfortunately, some believers react to these circumstances the same way a person without Christ would react: either by hiding away or by going on the attack (and some manage to do both.)

The interesting thing is, the “attack Christians” don’t seem to have a clear idea who the enemy is, possibly because these brothers and sisters have become enamored with Egypt and don’t really want to leave for the Promised Land. They believe Egypt was once upon a time that idyllic place, and their job is to restore it to its lost glory.

As you may have surmised, I’m specifically talking about Christians who recently responded to a call for renewal of honor by Fox News commentator and Mormon, Glenn Beck. Yes, he was joined by a host of evangelical spokesmen, but apparently he was the catalyst and the leader of the recent rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

I’ve read two articles that take strong positions, quite different from each other, and both make me think we are missing the fight.

On one hand, believers who joined with Glenn Beck in this call for renewal of honor in America are missing the fight because, for all intents and purposes, they want to see America become the land of promise.

Please don’t misunderstand. I believe strongly that a Christian has the responsibility to be a good citizen. Because we live in a democracy in America, regular citizens have more put on our shoulders as far as being informed and making decisions about our elected officials. We should do all we can to choose wisely and well. We should want to see godly leaders in power. We should want our leaders to pass godly laws.

But fighting those of opposing views is not the fight we should be focused on.

On the other hand are the Christians who see a Mormon leading the way, and they fire shots off the bow against that false religion.

Please don’t misunderstand. Mormonism is a false religion—one I plan to talk about more in the next few days.

But fighting Mormonism or Glenn Beck is still not where the fight is.

Ephesians tells us what we need to know:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
– Eph 6:11-12 (emphasis mine)

Clearly, our struggle is not against liberals, specifically liberal politicians. And it is not against the Mormon Glenn Beck.

Our struggle is against the enemy of our souls, the devil. We’re supposed to wise up and ferret out his schemes. We’re supposed to be on the alert. We’re supposed to stand against him.

So here’s my alert. To the one side, America is not our home, it’s our place of sojourn. We’re passing through. We mustn’t fight so hard for America that we stop fighting against Satan. And a second caution—we need to know what our bedfellows believe.

To the other side, the Glenn Becks who would like to “normalize” Mormonism and get it accepted as part of Christendom are lost sinners, to be loved like any lost sinner, not bashed or mocked or ignored. That they have high moral standards should not fool us into thinking they are saved, but neither should their beliefs cause us to rant against them or treat them with disrespect.

In short, we must not be fooled by Mormonism or about Mormons. Happily, I’ve read a number of blog posts today that seem to understand this. May their tribe increase.

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm  Comments (18)  
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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
    Businessman
  • Larry Ross
    President, A. Larry Ross Communications
  • Dallas Willard
    Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern California
    Author

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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