a response to “An Evangelical Manifesto”

Those of you who know my blog know that in the past I have blogged quite a bit on the nature of Evangelicalism, and I think I’ve made it clear that I have no problem calling myself an Evangelical. At the same time, I hope I’ve made it equally clear that in calling myself an Evangelical I do not align myself with institutions that claim to speak for Evangelicals, for instance, the National Association of Evangelicals and the institution that is Christianity Today International. I laud and appreciate the work of many persons within these institutions, but as with anything else, commending and criticizing these persons and institutions does not mean that I feel they somehow speak for me.

I begin this way because CTi and the NAE are important institutions behind the recently penned work, “An Evangelical Manifesto.” The work confronts many issues I’ve brought up on my blog, (I’m sure not in answer to me personally) like whether to capitalize the “E” in Evangelical! So I feel indebted to answering the Manifesto. First, I think it is a mistake to use the word Manifesto instead of Credo. This manifesto begins by describing Evangelicalism theologically rather than culturally or politically, and yet it is a manifesto and not a credo. Francis Schaeffer did this in his “Christian Manifesto” as a response to the “Humanist Manifesto.” I for one find this decidedly mistaken.

Secondly, I disagree that anyone can claim that Evangelicalism is creedal and theological but not social. What this does in essence is seek to strip the Evangelical movement of responsibility historically and socially. And to me, that is impossible. We could really learn from Catholics in this regard. The Manifesto claims further that Evangelicalism predates Protestantism in its concerns. This just doesn’t work. To claim to transcend the interests of the Protestant movement, embracing an ecumenical agenda that is at once both based on sola scriptura and catholic in its scope is just plain silly. As a theological statement this is naive. I’m not saying many people aren’t doing it, I’m simply saying you can’t be both theologically Catholic and Protestant at the same time.

Now for what I like about the document. There is a lot of repentance in this work. There’s a lot of pride and repentance at the same time. For that reason I like it. It’s a very human document. I like that it wants to embrace the social concerns for the poor and human life that it does. I like that it wants the movement not to be hierarchal. (But I think honesty demands that we say that Evangelicals are not known for their love for the poor or their egalitarian posture. You can put in on paper and have all the PhDs you like sign it, but it won’t magically make it so.)

My final issue with the document is that at least a few of the names I see appearing (Kay Arthur, Jack Hayford) are unapologetically engaged in an enterprise known as Christian Zionism that blatantly ignores so many of the tenets of this document. Their welcome signatures displays what the manifesto won’t do, namely hold signatories accountable.

I’ve said some harsh things here. I should temper them by saying that I love the signatories as brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m personally grateful for the legacy so many of them leave. I cannot however sign on to this document any more than The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy or any number of other NAE public statements. While noting and dialoging with their concerns, I cannot publicly sign on.

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