12 May 2008

June 2008

by Rod Benson

Most Baptists are evangelicals, and many evangelicals are Baptists. Among other things, evangelicals love to define what they believe. The latest significant attempt appeared in Washington, D.C., on 9 May.

Titled “An Evangelical Manifesto: A Declaration of Evangelical Identity and Public Commitment,” the 20-page document was drafted by prominent evangelical thinker Os Guinness and eight other scholars, pastors and theologians, and signed by at least 80.

It seeks to address the confusions and corruptions that attend the term Evangelical in the Western world today; and seeks to clarify where Evangelicals stand on issues that cause consternation in public life. The Manifesto suggests three “mandates.”

First, Evangelicals must define themselves, their faith, and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus. Almost half the document expounds this task, defining Evangelical faith and conduct Christologically, and identifying seven “defining features” or implications of being Evangelical.

Second, Evangelicals must reform their own behaviour, in the light of repeated failure to be shaped by the Good News of Jesus before recommending its life-changing power to others. The authors highlight numerous forms of religious myopia and hypocrisy within Evangelicalism, ranging from replacing “biblical truths with therapeutic techniques, [and] worship with entertainment,” to attacking “the evils and injustices of others … while [living] captive to forces such as materialism and consumerism in ways that contradict our faith.” A five-fold call responds to these shortcomings.

Third, Evangelicals must find a new understanding of their place in public life. Specifically, “to be Evangelical … is to seek to be faithful to the freedom, justice, peace, and well-being that are at the heart of the kingdom of God, to bring these gifts into public life as a service to all, and to work with all who share these ideals and care for the common good.”

There is much more to the Manifesto, and much to question, clarify and qualify. Australian Baptists surely have important things to say on these matters. Links to the Manifesto and selected responses appear below.

Rev Rod Benson is an ethicist and public theologian with the Tinsley Institute, an activity of Morling College, Sydney.


The Evangelical Manifesto

Defence of the document by lead author Os Guinness

News report in Christianity Today

News report in USA Today

Criticism by Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Criticism by respected evangelical Alan Jacobs in The Wall Street Journal