May 09, 2008

Evangelical Manifesto

An Evangelical Manifesto has recently been released. And I'm sure there will be much discussion about its content over the next days all over the blogosphere. And rightly so. The document, written by a committee of prominent "Evangelicals," seeks to define who they are as evangelicals and the to set out a vision for evangelical engagement with the world.

Many others are likewise responding to the document. See, for instance, Darrel Bock.

On first reading, the document seems to be one with which I enthusiastically agree. It begins by defining what evangelicalism is, reclaiming the title as a desire to be biblically, historically Christian. They are careful to define the distinctives of "evangelicalism" but are equally careful to emphasize the commonalities with Christians across time and space, dual emphases that are absolutely essential to our Christian identity.

They then lay out a vision for evangelical social engagement, a vision for what it means to actually live as an evangelical. Amongst the current ills of much current evangelical practice, they point to replacing "meeting real needs with meeting felt needs." What a great and incisive critique of a detached gospel (it smacks of Dallas Willard's influence). In short, they disect the distance between much evangelical rhetoric and much evangelical living. It is a great call to reformation.

The document then moves to something that has been growing closer and closer to my own heart: moving beyond single-issue politics to a broader and fuller vision of how God would have us act in the world. Beside the traditional evangelical concerns, there are so many issues that demand our immediate attention: "the global giants of conflict, racism, corruption, poverty, pandemic diseases, illiteracy, ignorance, and spiritual emptiness." Along with this, I've found myself noticing more and more noticing the too-easy equation of "evangelical" (or, often, even Christian!) with Republican.

In the end, the document is a well-reasoned and faithful call to a faith that is neither "privatized nor politicized." I hope it can be an occasion for evangelical reflection and reformation, and hope it can guide the continuing transformation of evangelicalism in America and beyond.

No comments: