The Guardian reports on the recent publication of The Evangelical Manifesto, a document which seeks to redefine Evangelical Protestantism against both fundamentalism and mainline liberalism. In the words of the document itself:
Evangelicalism must be defined theologically and not politically; confessionally and not culturally. Above all else, it is a commitment and devotion to the person and work of Jesus Christ, his teaching and way of life, and an enduring dedication to his lordship above all other earthly powers, allegiances and loyalties. As such, it should not be limited to tribal or national boundaries, or be confused with, or reduced to political categories such as “conservative” and “liberal,” or to psychological categories such as “reactionary” or “progressive.”
For The Guardian‘s Alan Wolfe, the authors’ rejection of liberalism is not surprising. But
Their harsh words toward fundamentalism are. Fundamentalism “tends to romanticize the past, some now-lost moment in time, and to radicalise the present, with styles of reaction that are personally and publicly militant to the point where they are sub-Christian.” Jerry Falwell is dead. One wonders, were he still alive, how he would react to other religious conservatives calling him “sub-Christian.”
On the Baptist Press website, at least one evangelical, Albert Mohler, explained why he didn’t sign the document: basically, while agreeing with it on many points, he found it too “inclusivist” (in his words, “the door is not adequately closed” to inclusivism) and theologically weak:
Do all of the signatories announced on May 7 affirm that sinners must come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved? This is one of the most crucial questions for evangelical identity.
A summary of the Manifesto is available here. The authors appear to hail from the conservative end of the Evangelical spectrum (regardless of whether they want to wear that label), which, for what it’s worth, sounds promising.
Let me make a prediction. In the future, we will see new alliances and campaigns led by people of faith on a wide range of moral issues – such as poverty, the environment, pandemic diseases, torture, and human rights, and a much wider and deeper focus on the dignity and sanctity of life, including war and peace and even the death penalty along with unborn children – that will involve people of faith across the political spectrum and will shake up politics. The social movements that really change politics are precisely that – public engagement defined by religious and moral commitment that defies normal political categories.
Perhaps it’s just the fact that he’s speaking to a particular audience, but his vision of grand alliances on moral issues that transcend political divides and will change politics does not seem to include the non-religious. Given that non-believers comprise a growing constituency in the United States, Wallis’ (apparent) hidden assumption that they aren’t concerned about moral questions is a disappointing rehash of the tired old you-can’t-be-moral-without-God-belief meme. (I’ll be happy to stand corrected if Wallis has made statements to the contrary elsewhere.)