On May 7th, 2008, a group of influential Christian leaders including Timothy George, OS Guiness, Rich Mouw, and Dallas Willard gathered together to define what it means to be an evangelical Christian. The document that came out of this meeting is called The Evangelical Manifesto. This document has had its critics and champions. Some notable and well respected Christians have decided not to sign this document for various reasons. Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, did not sign due to its lack of a strong theology in defining evangelicals and their roles in society. Dr. Ergun Caner, the President of Liberty University’s Seminary, did not sign the document either due to the minimizing of the influence that evangelicals can have through politics and political endeavors. Hate it or love it, The Evangelical Manifesto has made some noteworthy points that should be discussed and has made, in my opinion, an overall excellent job at defining evangelicals and the Biblical role that we as evangelical Christians should play in the world around us.
The first quotes that I want to pass along come from the section of the manifesto focusing on the fact that evangelicals have failed to live out what they have claimed to preach:
“We confess that we evangelicals have betrayed our beliefs by our own behavior. All to often we have trumpeted the gospel of Jesus, but we have replaced biblical truths with therapeutic techniques, worship with entertainment, discipleship with growth in human potential, church growth with business entrepreneurialism, concern for the church and the local congregation with expressions of the faith that are churchless and little better than vapid spirituality, meeting real needs with pandering to felt needs, and mission principles with marketing precepts. In the process we have become known for commercial, diluted, and feel-good gospels of health, wealth, human potential, and religious happy talk, each of which is indistinguishable from the passing fashions of the surrounding world.” – p. 11
The manifesto states above that we have taken the message of the gospel, which we have been called to embrace personally first and foremost and then to embody to the world, and have exchanged it for false gospels which come in many forms. This is so true and convicting at the same time. The manifesto then goes on to address the spiritual condition that many evangelicals find themselves:
“All to often we have traced our roots to powerful movements of spiritual revival and reformation, but we ourselves are often atheists unawares, secularists in practice who live in a world without windows to the supernatural, and often carry our Christian lives in a manner that has little operational need for God.” – p. 12
Our false gospels that we have created leave no need for the true gospel. If our whole spiritual lives are based on our own good works and performance or spiritual activities, we have no need for God because we have our acts together.
The manifesto then goes on to describe what a holistic discipleship of embracing and embodying the gospel would look like in today’s world:
“We call for a more complete understanding of discipleship that applies faith with integrity to every calling and sphere of life, the secular as well as the spiritual, and the physical as well as the religious; and that thinks wider than politics in contributing to the arts, the sciences, the media, and the creation of culture in all its variety.” – p. 14
This is the call made by The Evangelical Manifesto to embrace and embody a holistic gospel that impacts culture through contributing in all spheres of life driven by a Christ-centered worldview.