More on the Manifesto-Pt. 2

Having already taken a closer look at the need to reaffirm out identity, the first of three mandates within the recently released “Evangelical Manifesto,” today I’d like to focus on the second: the need to reform our behavior. Once again, I’ll provide some of the relevant excerpts, along with a few comments.

This section begins with these pointed words:

Our second major concern is the reformation of our behavior. We affirm that to be
Evangelical or to carry the name Evangelicals is not only to shape our faith and our lives according to the teaching and standards of the Way of Jesus, but to need to do so again and again. But if the Evangelical impulse is a radical, reforming, and innovative force, we acknowledge with sorrow a momentous irony today. We who time and again have stood for the renewal of tired forms, for the revival of dead churches, for the warming of cold hearts, for the reformation of corrupt practices and heretical beliefs, and for the reform of gross injustices in society, are ourselves in dire need of reformation and renewal today. Reformers, we ourselves need to be reformed. Protestants, we are the ones against whom protest must be made.

We confess that we Evangelicals have betrayed our beliefs by our behavior.

All too often we have trumpeted the gospel of Jesus, but we have replaced biblical
truths with therapeutic techniques, worship with entertainment, discipleship with growth in human potential, church growth with business entrepreneurialism, concern for the church and for the local congregation with expressions of the faith that are churchless and little better than a vapid spirituality, meeting real needs with pandering to felt needs, and mission principles with marketing precepts. In the process we have become known for commercial, diluted, and feel-good gospels of health, wealth, human potential, and religious happy talk, each of which is indistinguishable from the passing fashions of the surrounding world.

In my estimation, these thoughts are worthy of serious reflection by the Evangelical community (including both myself and present company, of course). It is nothing short of tragic that many ostensibly Christian leaders and teachers offer teaching and vision that often blends effortlessly with the predominate thought of the corporate America or the self-help section of the local bookstore (among other things). I would add, however, that the huge numbers of Evangelical churchgoers that cannot detect the problem is just as tragic.

Getting back to the Manifesto, it follows this section’s opening salvo with several statements that enlarge on its basic ideas, a sample of which I’ll reproduce here:

All too often we have traced our roots to powerful movements of spiritual revival
and reformation, but we ourselves are often atheists unawares, secularists in practice who live in a world without windows to the supernatural, and often carry on our Christian lives in a manner that has little operational need for God.

……….

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.

……….

All too often we have disobeyed the great command to love the Lord our God
with our hearts, souls, strength, and minds, and have fallen into an unbecoming anti- intellectualism that is a dire cultural handicap as well as a sin. In particular, some among us have betrayed the strong Christian tradition of a high view of science, epitomized in the very matrix of ideas that gave birth to modern science, and made themselves vulnerable to caricatures of the false hostility between science and faith. By doing so, we have unwittingly given comfort to the unbridled scientism and naturalism that are so rampant in our culture today.

These statements are in turn followed by a series of exhortations, including:

We urge our fellow-Evangelicals to go beyond lip-service to Jesus and the Bible
and restore these authorities to their supreme place in our thought and practice.

……….

We call for an expansion of our concern beyond single-issue politics, such as
abortion and marriage, and a fuller recognition of the comprehensive causes and concerns of the Gospel, and of all the human issues that must be engaged in public life. Although we cannot back away from our biblically rooted commitment to the sanctity of every human life, including those unborn, nor can we deny the holiness of marriage as instituted by God between one man and one woman, we must follow the model of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, engaging the global giants of conflict, racism, corruption, poverty, pandemic diseases, illiteracy, ignorance, and spiritual emptiness, by promoting reconciliation, encouraging ethical servant leadership, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, and educating the next generation. We believe it is our calling to be good stewards of all God has entrusted to our care so that it may be passed on to generations yet to be born.

……….

We call for a more complete understanding of discipleship that applies faith with
integrity to every calling and sphere of life, the secular as well as the spiritual, and the physical as well as the religious; and that thinks wider than politics in contributing to the arts, the sciences, the media, and the creation of culture in all its variety.

This section then closes with a reminder “that if we would recommend the Good News of
Jesus to others, we must first be shaped by that Good News ourselves, and thus ourselves be Evangelicals and Evangelical.”

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