More on the Manifesto-Pt. 1

Because in many ways I’ve found it to be such a spiritually beneficial and positively provocative declaration, I thought I’d draw some further attention to “An Evangelical Manifesto,” a document recently endorsed by several respected Evangelical leaders (see my initial post here).

The Manifesto is largely comprised by three major mandates, including the need for Evangelicals to (1) reaffirm our identity, (2) reform our behavior, and (3) rethink our place in public life. Because the document’s discussion of each of these exhortations repays closer consideration, I thought I’d provide a partial summary and relevant excerpts for each. This post will concern itself with the first mandate.

The section opens with this introductory paragraph:

Our first task is to reaffirm who we are. Evangelicals are Christians who define
themselves, their faith, and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth. (Evangelical comes from the Greek word for good news, or gospel.) Believing that the Gospel of Jesus is God’s good news for the whole world, we affirm with the Apostle Paul that we are “not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” Contrary to widespread misunderstanding today, we Evangelicals should be defined theologically, and not politically, socially, or culturally.

This initial statement is soon followed by a salutary list of seven integral beliefs, including affirmations of centrally important doctrines like the deity and exclusivity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, the inspiration of the Scriptures, Christ’s lordship of every sphere of life, and the call for each of his followers to worship, serve, grow, and share him with others.

Then, with refreshing (and accurate) candor, the document goes on to assert:

At the same time, we readily acknowledge that we repeatedly fail to live up to our
high calling, and all too often illustrate the truth of our own doctrine of sin. We
Evangelicals share the same “crooked timber” of our humanity, and the full catalogue of our sins, failures, and hypocrisies. This is no secret either to God or to those who know and watch us.

Finally, the section closes with a list of implications that arise from the previously stated definition of Evangelicalism. Here the discussion includes these notable paragraphs, with which I’ll conclude the post:

Evangelicalism should be distinguished from two opposite tendencies to
which Protestantism has been prone: liberal revisionism and conservative
fundamentalism. Called by Jesus to be “in the world, but not of it,” Christians, especially in modern society, have been pulled toward two extremes. Those more liberal have tended so to accommodate the world that they reflect the thinking and lifestyles of the day, to the point where they are unfaithful to Christ; whereas those more conservative have tended so to defy the world that they resist it in ways that also become unfaithful to Christ.

The liberal revisionist tendency was first seen in the eighteenth century and has
become more pronounced today, reaching a climax in versions of the Christian faith that are characterized by such weaknesses as an exaggerated estimate of human capacities, a shallow view of evil, an inadequate view of truth, and a deficient view of God. In the end, they are sometimes no longer recognizably Christian. As this sorry capitulation occurs, such “alternative gospels” represent a series of severe losses that eventually seal their demise.


The fundamentalist tendency is more recent, and even closer to Evangelicalism,
so much so that in the eyes of many, the two overlap. We celebrate those in the past for their worthy desire to be true to the fundamentals of faith, but Fundamentalism has become an overlay on the Christian faith and developed into an essentially modern reaction to the modern world. As a reaction to the modern world, it tends to romanticize the past, some now-lost moment in time, and to radicalize the present, with styles of reaction that are personally and publicly militant to the point where they are sub- Christian.


Far from being unquestioning conservatives and unreserved supporters of
tradition and the status quo, being Evangelical means an ongoing commitment to Jesus Christ, and this entails innovation, renewal, reformation, and entrepreneurial dynamism, for everything in every age is subject to assessment in the light of Jesus and his Word. The Evangelical principle is therefore a call to self-examination, reflection, and a willingness to be corrected and to change whenever necessary. At the same time, far from being advocates of today’s nihilistic “change for change’s sake,” to be Evangelical is to recognize the primacy of the authority of Scripture, which points us to Jesus, and so to see the need to conserve a form behind all re-form.

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