Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Take on the "Evangelical Manifesto"

There are a number of you who will wonder why I am commenting on the Evangelical Manifesto. First, some will wonder what it is and their wondering will last no longer than the time it takes to read this post. That is fine with me because I have no reason to believe the EM will have much lasting effect. It will cause bloggers like me to blog and it will get more than a few pastors and theogians talking over lunch for the next week or so. But beyond that it will get lost in the heap of so many other "manifestos." Cynical? Maybe, but certainly realistic. Second, I'm a student pastor and the EM seems tailor made for my ilk as far as such documents can be made for those who do what I do. Hopefully, I am so not so unusual a student pastor in my theological and ministerial concerns that I am alone in being concerned about those attempts to define what it means to be "evangelical."

So, for those who might care, allow me a few moments to state in bullet point fashion what I thought about the document. Why bullet points? beacuse they are easier to read and to write and I do not have too much time to invest on a document that will be most likely forgotten in a few weeks.

1. It does say a lot of really true things.

2. It says nothing new.

3. It is a PR move intended to put a respectable face on the signatories who want to be deemed evangelical but without the bad press.

4. It claims that Evangelicalism should be defined theologically but is not a very theological manifesto. A theological manifesto would have spelled out the specifics of those theological points which offend the most (the depravity of man, sin, hell, etc.)...after all it is a manifesto.

5. I frankly am unconcerned if someone thinks I am a fundamentalist weirdo who cares nothing about Kyoto. If anyone needs a PR firm to shore up respect for me as an evangelical it is me. I am a white, male, southern Pastor. Geez, I can't win for losing. But I have no confidence a document such as this, if I carried it around or posted a link to it in the sidebar of my blog, would help me be better understood as an evangelical.

6. Jim Wallis, Jack Hayford and Dallas Willard signed it.

Ok, so for really good analysis go to these places: JT, Al Mohler and Denny Burk.

1 comment:

mike rucker said...

good thoughts. i don't have quite the same cynical view you seem to have, but i agreed with / understood most of your bullets.

one of the things i like is that the authors have chosen not to list creationism and inerrancy as non-negotiables. for the first, there's very little biblical justification anymore behind whatever the latest flavor of anti-natural-selection dessert is being served up; for the latter, somehow we can admit that we can't prove the existence of God, but goshdarnit we have a golden egg this unprovable God laid right here. still, some people hold to these positions; so be it. there's simply too much of a tendency to add items to the ever-increasing laundry list of ideas and doctrines to which we have to pledge allegiance before we're allowed into the room marked "Christian."

nothing's going to please everybody, and there are a few things i object to. for instance, i don't agree with this statement: We Evangelicals should be defined theologically, and not politically, socially, or culturally. Jesus' message uses "action" verbs: teach them to DO as I have commanded you, LOVE God and LOVE your neighbor, by this will all men know ... if you LOVE one another. any theology that defines us must have feet.

i did, however, like these words: We are also troubled by the fact that the advance of globalization and the emergence of a global public square finds no matching vision of how we are to live freely, justly, and peacefully with our deepest differences on the global stage. somehow, we've got to figure out how we're going to peacefully share the same bathroom over the next few decades in our ever-shrinking world.

one interesting thing: maybe i missed it, but there doesn't seem to be a great emphasis on evangelism in this Evangelical Manifesto. do you think that was intentional? i didn't see a single chick tract referenced in the bibliography...

more than anything, i find myself motivated and energized by the very positive nature of the piece - that it isn't yet another "here's everything we're against" rant but an effort to make the gospel again a message of good news. imagine that - the gospel being good news. American Christianity has lost this defining characteristic that once served it well.

perhaps one unintended benefit of the proposal is a clear opportunity to take this EM (Evangelical Manifesto) and align it with the other EM (Emergent Manifesto) and finally have all our EM & EMs in a row without demonizing the other side.

one can only hope...

mike rucker
fairburn, georgia, usa