Saturday, May 17, 2008

Manifestly Insufficient

Albert Mohler won't sign it. I have to agree with him. The Evangelical Manifesto has much to applaud, some points to disagree with, and raises perhaps as many questions by what it doesn't say as it does by what it says. Curiously, it seems more comfortable with unequivocal propositional statements about culture than about theology or doctrine, and thus has very little of the latter. This alone causes its attempt to define an evangelical to fall short. The document, which doesn't fill 20 pages (and I'm not criticizing the length) comes with a shorter summary and a longer study guide. The study guide makes a little more obvious the agenda behind the document.

Why does a paper this short even need a study guide? Is it because in the study guide we see that an evangelical is not really being defined by this effort, but instead we see an attempt to coax a redefinition of the term?

For example, in the study guide, Session 1 (six sessions are prescribed), Part 1, question #5 it asserts that while Jesus was Bible-believing,"it was nowhere near the heart of the good news he announced." Wrong. We could spend six sessions covering how many ways that statement is filled with error and still not cover them all. And if that declaration represents the way in which An Evangelical Manifesto wants to redefine evangelicalism, then it misses manifestly.

In the Reformation of Our Behavior section of the study guide, Session 4, Part 2, Discussion question #5, the centrality of the cross is compared with concern about the creation. The reader is asked whether there is "... equally rich teaching...(in concern about) creativity and the arts, or about a proper care and our fellow creatures on the earth?"As my wife often asks, "Are You Serious"? Are they really comparing the cross to the arts? As for the environment, while we should be good stewards of it, concern about one's carbon footprint in no way compares to the importance of the gospel message of the cross. Here, the study guide suffers a huge miss in the attempt to define an evangelical.

On the one hand, the study guide incorrectly asserts that the veracity of Scripture is not central to the gospel message, on the other, it erroneously equates stewardship of the arts and the environment with the centrality of the cross in the gospel message.

There has been quite a bit written already about the manifesto itself, and as more folks read the sub-manifesto in the study guide I think there is going to be even more blogging from various sources about its content.