Along with many others, I have read The Evangelical Manifesto with great interest. For the most part, I believe it reads extremely well. It speaks into a major (though sometimes unspoken) issue in our day: the gap between what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus and what secular society thinks of Christ-followers. The recent fast-selling book unChristian, for example, explains that “Mosaics and Busters (the generations that include late teens to early 30-somethings) believe Christians are judgmental, antihomosexual, hypocritical, too political and sheltered.” Apparently acknowledging the bad rap, the Evangelical Manifesto explains that evangelicals “have become known for commercial, diluted, and feel-good gospels of health, wealth, human potential and religious happy talk.” Again, the Manifesto observes:
“We repeatedly fail to live up to our high calling, and all too often illustrate the truth of our doctrine of sin. We Evangelicals share the same ‘crooked timber of our humanity,’ and the full catalog of our sins, failures, and hypocrisies is no secret either to God or to many who know and watch us. Indeed, with many of our prominent figures recently caught in scandal and hypocrisy, our failures often rise up today and shout their contradiction of all we claim to be and say.”
I think this is healthy, and accurate. We need less swagger and more broken-hearted boldness, so that we can speak humbly and clearly about the evils of our day. I was also very glad for the doctrinal standard it laid out for what it meant to be an evangelical. Namely:
1. The belief that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He is the only name by which we must be saved.
2. Christ was a penal, substitutionary sacrifice for sinners.
3. Radical God-wrought conversion is necessary for Christian faithfulness. (That is, we cannot work our way to God by our own goodness.)
4. The Bible is inspired by God and the supreme authority for our life and thought.
5. Christians must at-once lay hold of Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord.
6. The return of Jesus Christ is our “blessed hope.”
I also echoed the concern that evangelicalism be defined theologically and not politically, confessionally and not culturally. And I heartily agree that evangelicals should be known not so much for what we’re against as for what we are for; our message (by definition) is one of good news.
So it was with all this as the backdrop that I read of some evangelical leaders being concerned that the Manifesto itself was political — a veiled, subtle attempt to displace issues like pro-life and the defense of marriage in favor of other matters. I was honored that Dr. Guinness, one of the members of the document’s Drafting Committee, was willing to field a few questions from me on this matter. He permitted me to publish his response, only requesting that I mention these are “hasty responses on a hectic day! Above all we are not out to attack or exclude anyone, but to call for reforms that make us all better followers of Christ. So we hope people will not make knee-jerk reactions, but study, think , and pray.” The following post is my interview with Dr. Os Guinness.
Related: Marvin Olasky, writer for World Magazine and author of the newly re-released The Tragedy of American Compassion, pens a glowing endorsement of The Evangelical Manifesto.
[HT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite]