The unveiling of “An Evangelical Manifesto,” drafted by theologian and social critic Os Guinness with the affirmation of a nine-person steering committee, nearly all of whom we might readily identify with the religious left, has caused no small stir among those whom we might readily identify as with the religious right. Some of its critics have concluded the document is the religious left’s “broader agenda” come to life, an attempt to solidify a moderate to liberal political agenda in the evangelical conscience. Suffice it to say it is a document with a clear articulation of the gospel in the Reformation tradition exhorting evangelicals to more faithfully live out the gospel in the culture as politically engaged followers of Jesus Christ.
Almost immediately the “Manifesto” was judged (condemned?) on the basis of who did pt didn’t sign it. Within hours of its release the “I follow James Dobson” crowd was pitted against the “I follow Jim Wallis” crowd (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12) in complete contradiction to the spirit of the “Manifesto” expressed in its call for both sides to please stop screaming at each other. (I’ll leave it to the reader to ascertain which side is screaming loudest.)
It’s somewhat pathetic, isn’t it, that rather than making our initial judgments on the merits of the Manifesto we choose first to skip the document altogether and go straight to the signatories to ascertain whether or not we will agree with its contents? This tendency is precisely what ails the evangelical movement. Loyalty to personality has replaced commitment to principle. Whether I allow my name to be seen with yours is determined more by your view of global warming, which may be different from my own, than it is by the distinctives of the gospel. It also betrays an inability to think for ourselves.
Two primary reasons come to mind as an attempt to explain why conservative evangelicals are skeptical about the “Manifesto.”
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