Evangelicals need to remember the importance of both what we say and how we say it. We need to be bold and firm in proclaiming our beliefs, while simultaneously presenting these beliefs civilly and respectfully. The authors of the Manifesto reference Augustine's understanding of the relationship between the City of God and the Earthly City. Christians have a higher end in sight than the present world, but we do have a duty to work with the citizens of the Earthly City for the common temporal good. This balance between the present and eternity is difficult, and it is all too easy to ignore the Earthly City or to try to establish the City of God on earth, but Christ left us with no illusions that our tasks would be easy.
It is important to recognize that the authors of the Manifesto are not so much commenting on the specific political positions evangelicals should take, as on the relationship evangelicals should have to the general public sphere. The authors are calling evangelicals back towards a careful, charitable and respectful public discourse with those with whom we disagree, including atheists, people of other faiths, and even our fellow believers. Such careful discourse is the duty of every evangelical, regardless of their political opinions.
Evangelicals are called to be respectful and charitable in the public sphere, but we are also called to be firm in preaching truth. Both can be achieved, but we should not be surprised when presenting the truth, even respectfully, sometimes stings the ears of those who listen. Evangelicals will continue to be called judgmental or mean-spirited, regardless of their approach to politics, but our attempts at respectful civil discourse are not to please other men, but to please our heavenly Father.
The Evangelical Manifesto presented a clear call to evangelicals to define themselves and their place in the world. We ought not bristle at such a call, for it is our duty to examine ourselves humbly when we receive the admonition of fellow believers. We would do well to examine the theology preached from our pulpits and the principles we advocate in politics, to ensure that both are presented truthfully and civilly. We ought to be, after all, people of good will. Nevertheless, let no one confuse our good will with a lack of will. Truth matters, whether people acknowledge it or not.
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