Skip to comments.Why Some Leaders Won't Sign the Evangelical Manifesto
Posted on 05/14/2008 9:23:23 PM PDT by Between the Lines
Some prominent Christian leaders said this week that they will not sign the “An Evangelical Manifesto,” listing reasons such as vague wording and theological differences.
The manifesto’s definition of evangelical itself was among the top concerns for some leaders who refused to sign the document. The document’s description for evangelicals is “Christians who define themselves, their faith, and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth.”
Several evangelical leaders said that while the definition is true, it is too broad and therefore not a good definition to distinguish who evangelicals are.
“Those are wonderful words filled with Christian content, but they are also words that would be claimed by many who would never claim to be Evangelicals,” wrote Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in his blog this week.
“The definition is just not sufficient,” he plainly criticized.
Likewise, fellow Southern Baptist leader Dr. Richard Land, who heads the denomination’s public policy arm, also found the manifesto’s evangelical definition lacking in specificity.
The conservative leaders also questioned why the document left room for inclusivism or universalism. In the manifesto, drafters said there are several beliefs they "consider to be at the heart of the message of Jesus and therefore foundational for us." Both Land and Mohler questioned why the drafters didn't just end at "foundational" but added "for us." That leaves leeway for people who believe there is more than one way to be saved besides belief in the Lord Jesus Christ to be considered evangelicals, the Baptist leaders argued.
“This is one of the most crucial questions for Evangelical identity,” Mohler emphasized, questioning if all the signers affirm that sinners must believe in Jesus Christ to be saved.
Land, who is president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, stated that he fully agrees with at least 90 percent of what the manifesto says but expressed wholehearted disagreement with one statement:
"In our scales, spiritual, moral, and social power are as important as political power...."
“I must disagree, and wholeheartedly so,” said Land, according to Baptist Press. “I can't believe that this is what the Manifesto's authors intended to say, but it is what they said. Spiritual power is, and always will be, more important than political power, however noble its motives and causes.
Still, both leaders praised the manifesto for trying to be a prophetic voice and steering the evangelical movement to refocus on its theological roots.
Mohler praised the document for its analysis of the cultural crisis and for challenging Christians and the integrity of Christian faith.
But both leaders in the end decided against signing the document.
Another evangelical heavy-weight who did not sign the document was Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Dobson, said the board agreed that Dobson should not sign the manifesto “due to myriad concerns about the effort,” according to The Associated Press.
"One of the things that disappointed Dr. Dobson was that when the manifesto was initially circulated, no African-American pastors or theologians were on the invite list," Schneeberger said. "His thinking was, 'How can this purport to represent the voice of evangelicals when people so vital to who we are as a movement are excluded from involvement?'"
Schneeberger did not say what else Dobson was disappointed in about the manifesto.
Other well-known leaders who did not sign the evangelical manifesto, for various reasons, include Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr. of High Impact Leadership Coalition, and evangelist Billy Graham.
Last Wednesday, “An Evangelical Manifesto” was released in Washington, D.C. in hopes of redefining the movement’s image as theological, rather than political or social as it has been painted in the media in recent years.
Supporters also declared that the document’s purpose is to call members of the movement to reform their behavior and rededicate themselves to being followers of Jesus Christ.
The manifesto’s steering committee included Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary; Os Guinness, co-founder of The Trinity Forum; and David Neff, vice president and editor in chief of Christianity Today magazine, among others.
I don’t know what to think.
Manifesto sounds so ...
If you have to sign some type of document to prove you are something there is a problem. His Grace is given freely to the world you don’t have to sign up to get it.
Come On, You Call This a Manifesto? Wall Street Journal
By ALAN JACOBS May 9, 2008; Page W11
The term “evangelical” used to mean what “fundamentalist" came to mean after the 1930s. Bible-believing Christians in the 19th and early 20th century were “evangelicals.”
Then, during the 1930s, many denominations which had been considered “evangelical” actually went liberal in comparison, and those who held the 18th and 19th century line in doctrine and separation from worldliness began to be known as "fundamentalists." In short, a late 20th century "fundamentalist" was a late 19th century evangelical.
If you had talked about any given passage of Scripture with a Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, or independent in 1880, all of them would have been preaching and quoting from the King James Bible. And there was more chance in those days that a city-wide evangelistic campaign could have been conducted by ministers of several of those groups together with little or no compromise of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. (There might have been some friendly disagreements on the correct mode of water baptism and style of local church leadership).
The King James Bible was actually still in most of those pulpits until after 1950, even though many of the ministers had begun to use the RV (1884) and the ASV (1901) in their personal studies.
If you think about it, the KJB could be said to have been the Bible of Christian unity for 350 years in America.
Then I remember that in the late 1960s in my high school Sunday School class, the reading of four or five different versions and paraphrases became popular. And even then, we would look with shock at each other that there were irreconcilable differences between the KJB, the Living Bible, Good News for Modern Man, Berkeley, Phillips and the ASV. But most of us high schoolers were so worldly outside of Sunday School and church that it really didn't matter to us. Kumbaya — Michael Row Your Boat to Shore!
Our church young people used to attend a monthly young people's meeting in Alameda, California at a church that still held fundamentalism in both doctrine and separation. I remember the discussions of our young people at the ice cream parlor after the meeting.
“Why is the power of God so evident in that church?” “Why does it seem that so many of the hundreds of young people in those meetings seem to get real help for their personal lives and Christian walk and testimony in those meetings?” “Why does it seem that there are so many conversions to Jesus Christ among the young people there?” "Why did it seem that so many young men discerned God's call on their life for Christian ministry through those meetings" “WHY DON'T THE SAME THINGS HAPPEN IN OUR OWN CHURCH?”
I was later, at the age of 21, genuinely converted to Jesus Christ by repentance and faith. When looking for churches to attend in my early Christian life, those questions were always present in my heart. Thus my wife and I have always steered clear of the modern-English-version, worldly, no-separation, loose-as-a-goose, young-people-hanging-around-and-hanging-on-each-other kind of church. These today are mainly called “EVANGELICAL.”
So, “EVANGELICALISM” by today's usage impresses us NAUGHT!
I’m just curious, do you still attend a Baptist church?
I not only attend a Baptist church, but I am “unfortunate” enough to be the pastor of a small independent and autonomous Baptist church. You might discern that we are not typical.
Why do you say “unfortunate”?
You left out that “evangelical” was used by Luther for his movement and pre-dates by several years the Roman Catholic pejorative term “Protestant.”
Which of the different descriptions of how we are saved the right one, and why is it better then the other ways people have found in the Bible?
Go to the source you always get your thoughts from.
If Mohler is on one side, and the president of Fuller is on the other, its generally safe to be on Mohler’s side of the fence.