“An Evangelical Manifesto” (2008) and My Response to It

Someone has asked for my response to “An Evangelical Manifesto” which you can read at www.anevangelicalmanifesto.com. This statement of evangelical identity and public commitment was published before my blog began, so I have never publicly commented on it (that I recall).

If you decide to read it, I recommend you begin with “An Introduction” and then read “An Executive Summary.” The manifesto itself is quite long. But I think the summary will draw you (assuming you’re interested in evangelicalism) into reading the whole manifesto.

It was written by a steering committee composed of Timothy George (Dean, Beeson Divinity School), Os Guiness (Author/Social Critic), John Huffman (Pastor, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Chair of Christianity Today, Int’l), Richard Mouw (President, Fuller Theological Seminary), Jesse Miranda (Founder and Director, Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership, Vanguard University), David Neff (Vice President and Editor in Chief, Christianity Today Media Group), Richard Ohman (Businessman), and Larry Ross (President, Larry A. Ross Communications). Perhaps others contributed to it; I don’t know anything about it’s authorship other than the names of the steering committee members. I suspect some of them were most active in its actual wording.

The Introduction says that “An Evangelical Manifesto is an open declaration of who Evangelicals are and what they stand for.” It does not claim to speak for all evangelicals but to all evangelicals (and others).

Over the next few days I will be responding to the Manifesto. I am not sure yet how many blog posts that will include, but I plan to begin tomorrow.

The steering committee includes some weighty evangelical spokesmen (too bad there were no women on it). Someone recently asked me here who I would consider “living prototypes” of evangelicalism. If I made such a list, it would certainly includes some of these steering committee members. (I don’t know them all.)

So, as a person who actively participates in defining and describing “evangelical” and “evangelicalism,” I am interested in expressing my opinions about this Manifesto. But you will need to read it in order to evaluate my responses as to their fairness.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • The big question is what you think of their single endnote. I always thought evangelicalism was supposed to be lower-case, since, unlike “the terms Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, or Christian, Jew, and Muslim,” evangelicalism doesn’t denote a specific religion (or denomination) but is a description of a movement within or approach to Christianity (as the authors themselves argue). Anyway, seems like a weird thing to make a special point of.

    [Also, you forgot to mention Dallas Willard on the steering committee.]

    • rogereolson

      Yes, I forgot him. It wasn’t intentional. In fact, I’m encouraged by his presence on it. I agree that “evangelical” and “evangelicalism” should not be capitalized unless one capitalizes all religious identities and movements. You’ll notice I don’t capitalize them. I’m not sure what their reason for that is. Would they capitalize “charismatic” and “charismatic movement?” Perhaps. I don’t know. I suspect, although I can’t say for sure, the Manifesto’s drafters want to re-start evangelicalism as a movement by locating and publishing an evangelical consensus. I regard it more as an ethos than as a movement.

  • Joe Keysor

    Since the Bible teaches that women are not supposed to be in positions of leadership in the church, I think it was a good idea women were not on the committee. Anyway, what does a “woman’s perspective” add to these basic theological questions? To put it another way, why should there be a woman on it?

    • rogereolson

      First, “evangelicalism” is not a church and it has always had women leaders. Second, how will we know whether and to what extent a “woman’s perspective” would add to these questions unless we listen to them?

      • Good answer Roger but does that mean you see the Bible as excluding them as leaders in church? I’m just wondering, not stirring.

        • rogereolson

          I assume you’re referring to the steering committee members who wrote “An Evangelical Manifesto?” Each one, I assume, is some kind of leader (e.g., elder) in his own denomination and local congregation. Also, each one has earned the respect of evangelicals across denominational lines. Some of them are leaders in non-denominational Christian organizations. None of them, by their own admission, speak for all evangelicals. I would be hesitant to call them “evangelical leaders” as there is no unified movement now to lead. However, they are “leading evangelicals” in the sense of exercising influence.

  • I have read ‘An Evangelical Manifesto’ and my response to it is not positive. It reminded me of the ol’ bear that seeks to protect its territory by leaving claw marks on a tree. It represents exactly what’s the matter with church officiates today: seeking to maintain ecclesiastic control over as many believers as they can corral. The very word “Manifesto” implies an attempt to dictate boundaries and fences of theological thought. At a time when the church is on the brink of a new reformation and freedom of doctrinal inquiry, this so-called “Manifesto” serves as a subtle warning shot across the bow, saying, “thus far and no farther!” My prediction is that few thinking Christians will pay much attention to the Manifesto and that within a short time no one will even remember that it was ever published.

  • John I.

    I also dislike their use of the term “manifesto”. It has too much baggage and is too strident of a term. The last thing this world needs is another manifesto.


    • rogereolson

      But would any other label get as much attention? I assume that’s one consideration they had. I remember when Stan Grenz and I (and two friends) wrote “The Word Made Fresh” we worried that people would interpret it as a statement about the incarnation (“The Word Made Flesh”). Sure enough, numerous people wrote to us or about it and called it “The Word Made Flesh.” Titles are so difficult to manage. That’s why publishers reserve the right to assign titles to books.