Monday, May 19, 2008

Evangelical Manifesto

The purpose of this document is to clarify confusions about the common term Evangelical and to clarify how they stand on issues that cause concern over our participation in public life. It was written by a group of Evangelical leaders who "do not claim to speak for all Evangelicals, but who invite all other Evangelicals to stand with them and help clarify what Evangelical means." Here is my brief summary:

I. Reaffirm Identity: The seven core beliefs are:
1) Christ was fully God and fully man, without whom there is no hope of salvation.
2) Our acceptance by God is through Christ's death and resurrection alone which we receive freely by grace through faith.
3) Christians receive new life powered by the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
4) The Bible is God's inspired word and is the final rule for faith and practice.
5) Disciples of Jesus worship in every sphere of their life; secular and spiritual, public and private, acts and words, and kindness to those who especially need to be shown mercy.
6) The fulfillment of God's undying kingdom will come when Christ returns.
7) Believers are called to love God through worship, fellowship with other believers, ministering to the needs of others, and sharing Christ with those who do not yet know him.

The defining features of an Evangelical:
1) Holds not just a belief but devotion.
2) This devotion is expressed just as much in our actions as it is in our theology. Followers of Jesus require great change in thinking, acting, and living.
3) Not limited to certain churches or defined by specific movements, ages, or cultures. Recognize that Evangelicalism has its roots outside of America and that in fact there are more in the Global South than in the North.
4) Must be defined by our theology, not our politics.
5) The message is always positive before it is negative. The root of the word comes from the Latin meaning "good news" for that is what the gospel is. But they do not claim this is unique to them, they do not intend to condemn, but to reform.
6) Is not analogous with liberal revisionism or conservative fundamentalism (defined in the full paper below).
7) Looks equally to both past and future.Rethink Place in Public Life: Called to be in the world, but not of the world, and so be engaged in public affairs, but never completely equated with one party, ideology, class, or nation.

From what I gathered it seems like their definition of Evangelical is my definition Christian. On the one hand I'm glad they did not attempt to segment the Church further by narrowly defining this faction of Christianity. On the other, I'm afraid by defining the term so broadly the writers have not really accomplished anything. In fact, I'm not sure what the purpose of this document was supposed to be. Yes the term Evangelical gets thrown around a lot, especially by secular groups, but these groups that misuse the term will not stop because of this. My suggestion to the writers is to not try and redefine a term that has so much baggage. Instead they should reject the use of such a divisive word all together and encourage the global Church to unite under the name and work of Christ.

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