Saturday, May 17, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto

I read through the recently published Evangelical Manifesto this morning, and decided to post a few thoughts regarding the document.

1. I was glad to see the recognition of global Christianity. A clear understanding is made that we are not the holders of evangelicalism, or Christianity here in America. The document clearly states a recognition of a fresh infusion from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. It also makes me wonder if all these sects of Christianity can indeed be considered "evangelical". If evangelical is to mean a commitment to the teachings and message of Jesus, we can all jump on board, but when the definition constricts to specific theological assumptions and beliefs, we may have a problem on our hands.

2. I appreciated the statement of faith in the manifesto. Broad enough to avoid unnecessary distinctive, and narrow enough to be distinctives to the message of Jesus.

3. The statement is at it's best when recognizing the failures of evangelicals in history. We are not a pure spotless church without the staining of controversy, and behavior that denies the teaching of Jesus.

4. The idea that creeds and tradition are not ultimately decisive is Utopians, but simply untrue when fleshed out. Can evangelicals with any veracity claim that their belief system is not the product of creedal history?

5. Our fight for justice must remain [and in some cases begin] to be a clear demonstration of what being an evangelical is all about.

6. I agree that fundamentalism is deeply sub-Christian in many ways. It's forced interpretation of Scripture, and it's exodus from culture [rather than an engagement to transform it], and its use of labels and divisions are just a few examples of where fundamentalism misses the boat.

7. "Reformers we ourselves need to be reformed. Protestants, we are the ones against whom protest must be made." We need that today more than ever.

8. "All too often we have concentrated on great truths of the Bible, such as the cross of Jesus, but have failed to apply them to other biblical truths, such as creation. In the process we have impoverished ourselves, and supported a culture broadly careless about the stewardship of the earth and negligent of the arts and the creative centers of society." Brilliant.

9. Section 2, in it's recalling of where evangelicals have strayed is by far the most gripping portion of the entire document. An authentic recognition of our failures, and where we need to point our compass to get back on track.

10. The manifesto rightly echoes Greg Boyd by calling evangelicals not to be equated with any political party.

11. The criticism of Constantinian Christianity is wholly accurate, and needs correction. Too many Christians worldview is really the result of a Constantinian Cataract

The manifesto represents a call to a more holistic form of Christianity. It is refreshing to see the honest assessment of American evangelicalism, as well a manifesto for a way forward. A few closing thoughts:

I'm still not sure why some are so persistent to salvage the term evangelical. Would it not be better to drop the label all together, and simply live in the way of Jesus. In an increasingly postmodern society, I think labels will become obsolete.

I worry that the manifesto is a form of colonialism that plagued Christianity in the modern era. Exporting a belief system, or way of Christianity without recognizing the highly contextual nature of the faith can be damaging.

The manifesto only works if we begin to live like Christians, our words on paper will not amount to a hill of beans without the actions to follow them up.

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